Internet user penetration in Africa is less than 10 percent in 2016. Nii Quaynor is worried. Largely heralded as the “Father of the Internet in Africa,” he was one of the first to establish Internet connections on the continent. With a deep commitment to African development and participation on a global level in the Internet age, Quaynor is an overwhelming presence in the tech scene across the continent. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about Prof. Nii Quaynor.
Quaynor was born and raised in Accra, Ghana
Quaynor grew up in Accra, Ghana in the 1950s and 60s, but left the country for the U.S. three years after the coup that overthrew President Kwame Nkrumah and his government. He siad he did not leave directly because of the coup, but because many of his brothers and friends moved overseas for their university education.
He comes from a family of scientists
Quaynor’s siblings have all been drawn to various scientific fields including eye surgery, dentistry, wood technology, and highway civil engineering. He was attracted to physics, math, and chemistry at a young age.
He earned an engineering degree from Dartmouth College In 1972, Quaynor earned a degree in engineering science from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, U.S., and a bachelor of engineering degree from the Thayer School of Engineering there the following year. He then went on to earn a master of science degree in computer science from the State University of New York at StonyBrook in 1974. Not yet satisfied, he followed this with a Ph.D. from the same institution in 1977.
The U.S. civil rights struggle impacted his decision to help liberate and develop Africa
While studying in the U.S. during the civil rights struggle, Quaynor was consistently reminded of his African roots and role in the African diaspora. He realized only Africans could liberate and develop Africa, and that the continent’s potential for participation in the global economy was enormous. His continuing studies were spurred on by a desire to acquire knowledge to contribute to his homeland.
Quaynor is a propfessor at University of Cape Coast in Ghana
Quaynor played a key role in establishing the computer science department at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana in 1977, and has been a professor there since 1979. He is motivated to prepare students for the new computer industry of Internet-based solutions.
He was inspired by “techno-liberation” leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela
Quaynor names former Ghanaian President Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela as the inspiration for his foray into science and technology. Both leaders saw technology as key to socioeconomic development in Africa. Both stressed the value of highly specialized skills that can contribute in the supply chain.
He established some of Africa’s first Internet connections
After returning to Ghana from the U.S. in the early 1990s, Quaynor established the first Internet service provider in Ghana and West Africa, operated by Network Computer Systems Ltd. He helped set up critical organizations to ensure the success of those connections, such as the African Network Operators Group (AfNOG).
Quaynor was the first African to be elected to the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
Quaynor became the first African citizen elected to the board of ICANN, one of the world’s leading Internet organizations dedicated to keeping the Internet “secure, stable and interoperable.” From 2000 to 2003, he served as at-large director for the African region.
He was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2013
On June 26, 2013, Quaynor was selected for induction into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society – an international nonprofit whose mission is promoting “the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.” He joins other “Fathers of the Internet:” Jon Postel, Robert Kahn, and Vint Cerf.
Quaynor leads dozens of boards and committees related to Internet advancement
In addition to his role as chairman of Network Computer Systems Ltd., Quaynor is a member of the U.N. Secretary General Advisory Group on ICT; the ITU Telecom Board, the Worldbank Infodev TAP; chairman of the OAU Internet Task Force; and president of the Internet Society of Ghana. Additionally, he serves as commissioner for the Global Commission on Internet Governance.
Quaynor is concerned about Africa’s participation in the Internet age
Internet user penetration in Africa is just 9.4 percent in 2016 compared to 90.6 percent for the rest of the world. Quaynor is concerned that Africa will miss out on enormous opportunities. “Africa is about to miss a great development opportunity in much the same way Africa lost on the industrial revolution, unless serious and truly committed efforts are made by Africa to address the rapid expansion on the Internet-user gap between Africa and industrialized countries.”