Last updated at 18:54 GMT, Friday, 14 January 2011

West African internet conference


27 July 2009

Internet enthusiasts, web designers and entrepreneurs have been meeting in Ivory Coast for the country's first major conference on developing the internet.

John James in Abidjan

Computer keyboard


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Most of us who use the internet are in contact with internet users in Ivory Coast. In the French-speaking world - and increasingly in the English-speaking world - Ivorians are developing a reputation similar to Nigeria for fraud emails, scams and credit card abuse. Ivorian web developer Jean-Patrick Ehouman, who's organised these discussions, says this makes it even more difficult for West Africans to catch up with the rest of the world:

Jean-Patrick Ehouman:
Oh, it's a great barrier. Cyber-criminality is a big barrier here because most of cyber-criminality action is related with Ivory Coast. So our work now is to do the most that we can to populate the web with good action so that we can erase this image of cyber-criminality in Ivory Coast.

Aside from criminality, the industry faces a number of other obstacles. There's only one undersea cable running down the West African coast connecting it to the rest of cyberspace. That means internet is both more expensive and slower than many other parts of the world.

There was some debate about whether the region should be developing the web for overseas markets or, as local blogger and journalist Theophile Kouamouo argues, developing an African web for Africans.

But others argued it was near impossible to make money from the internal market; very few people have credit cards to buy products and only about 5% of Africans use the internet. But a report by an American technology research company, Forrester Research, suggested internet use in Africa will skyrocket over the next few years, and that should provide new opportunities for West Africa's aspiring web entrepreneurs.

John James, BBC News, Abidjan


Click to hear the vocabulary:


developing a reputation

becoming widely known (for what they do or how they behave)

fraud emails

illegitimate email messages that are sent to deceive the users and/or obtain money from them


schemes for making money dishonestly


when criminal actions are performed through the use of the internet

we can erase this image

here, other people no longer think of Ivory Coast as a centre of internet related crime

the industry faces a number of other obstacles

here, there are many other factors that make the development of the internet difficult


another word for the internet, specifically the space where online communication takes place


supports and gives the reasons (for a point of view or an idea), says


grow very quickly and significantly


entrepreneurs are people who start their own businesses (especially when it involves a risk)

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