Africa took a major step into cyberspace last week with the official launching of the continent's largest information technology center, "BusyInternet" in Accra, Ghana. The center is the result of a partnership between Ghanaian investors and a U.S. based technology company.
Housed in a former factory building, the center offers web browsing on over 100 super-fast computers, office rentals, meeting rooms, and - thanks to its own generator and rooftop satellites - the fastest internet connection in Ghana.
BusyInternet's 38-year-old founder, Mark Davies, a Welshman and U.S. Internet entrepreneur, sees the center as an "enabling environment" - a place where smart people can come together. Mr. Davies sadi, "In a place like Accra it is very difficult for young entrepreneurs to find the right tools, not only in terms of hardware to start a high tech business, but also the social environment. If you are looking to be an entrepreneur, the most important thing is sharing ideas with other people with similar interests."
The opening of the BusyInternet center coincided with the launching of ITAfrica.org, a database of local information-technology professionals.
If you are a businessman looking for a software developer or a web designer or a bandwidth provider, Ghanaian Crosby Tekyi-Mills says, you can just go to ITAfrica.org and click into the appropriate category. "You go in and you look for someone who can provide a service you need," he said, "and there will be comments from old customers who have received that service previously from the professional you are choosing to work for you. It will serve for accreditation purposes."
Mr. Tekyi-Mills expects the database directory combined with BusyInternet's incubator facility to generate a powerful business stimulus. "BusyInternet's arrival on the scene," he said, "in this point of our development is very strategic in that all the professionals who are entering the IT [information technology] theater can set their businesses up for a start. After some time when they are settled, they could move out of the incubator. There is a lot of excitement."
And, Mark Davies says, the excitement is not limited to Ghana. "The response has been overwhelming," he said. "Even without us looking to additional markets, we have already got interest in Tunis, Abuja, Lagos, Abidjan, Dakar. These are all places where we have had partners come and approach us."
And, in Accra, Mark Davies says, just days after the BusyInternet center's official opening, 80 percent of the office space is rented.