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Speaker Biography

Dr Nancy J Hafkin

Dr Nancy J Hafkin
Dr Nancy Hafkin, WISAT Senior Associate, is featured in the Heroines of Computing exhibit of the Women in Computing Gallery at The National Museum of Computing (UK). She was included for her work to bring about email connectivity in more than 10 African countries during the 1990s. Nancy Hafkin was pivotal in bringing the Internet to Africa.

Born in the US, she moved to Ethiopia in 1975. Nancy Hafkin has been working to promote information and communications technology in Africa and other developing areas, with particular emphasis on gender, for more than three decades. She was chief of research for 12 years in the program for women and development at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa — the first international women and development program in the world — and went on to head the ECA program to Promote Information Technology for Development in Africa, where she worked to establish the African Information Society Initiative (AISI -- eight years before WSIS).

Through her work at the UN, Nancy was instrumental in bringing about email connectivity in more than 10 African countries during the 1990’s, as a first step towards full internet connection. She championed the Pan African Development Information System, launched in 1980, which sought to improve information sharing and helped pilot electronic networking in the region. Nancy’s key achievement was helping remove structural barriers to telecommunications in the region. Through her UN work, she convinced governments to lift the blocks on connectivity—including dismantling ISP monopolies, getting rid of customs duties on computers and lifting bans on the import of modems.

Nancy has written widely on information technology, gender and international development, including Gender, Information Technology, and. Developing Countries: An Analytic Study, and with Sophia Huyer, Cinderella or Cyberella: Empowering Women in the Information Society and Engendering the Knowledge Society: Measuring Women’s Participation. Most recently she contributed the chapter on gender issues to the World Web Foundation volume edited by George Sadowsky, Accelerating Development Using the Web: Empowering Poor and Marginalized Populations. She currently serves on the advisory boards of a number of initiatives to encourage the use of the Internet in Africa. From 2001-2010 she was variously a member of the board and chair of the board for Healthnet-Satellife, a pioneering health and information technology project for developing countries founded by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Bernard Lown.

In 2012 she was in the first group of honorees inducted into the Internet Society Hall of Fame, in the category of “Global Connectors.” In 2000 the Association for Progressive Communications established the annual Nancy Hafkin Communications Prize competition.