Monday, August 16

Information De-Evolution I - back in the day

In the Beginning

In Oct 1901 Emperor Menelik II appointed Kanyazmatch Beyene Yimer as Director of Post and Telegraph. He was from the staff of Empress Taitu's household. On 17 June 1907 he was appointed Superintendent of Post and Telegraph. Source.

There is an old story about the first telephone line used in Ethiopia - but first some background on its introduction ...
Railway construction was accompanied by the installation of the country's first telephone and telegraph line, which followed the railway track from the capital to the coast. This line, which was erected by the technicians working on the railway, and led from Addis Ababa to Jibuti.

The line was supplemented, after the battle of Adwa, by a second one, installed by Italian electricians. It ran from the Ethiopian capital to the frontier of Eritrea, as well as to a number of provincial capitals to the south and west of the country.
Begun in the 1890s the railway was not completed until 1915 because of contract difficulties and the engineering challenges of the country's terrain.

However, the phone lines to Addis were completed by 1897. At a palace ceremony to innagurate the telephone system the invited Orthodox priest was not pleased - the new technology was allegedly 'the work of the devil'.

A compromise was reached by the Emperor Menelik. The first words spoken were ordered to be from a Bible passage in Ge'ez (the ancient liturgical language of Ethiopia akin to Latin in its use in the Church and its relationship with modern languages).

Satisfied, the priest proceeded to bless the use of phones in Ethiopia.

The Telecoms history is also discussed in this February 2002 article from The Independent Magazine on Information and Communications Technology (ICT)"The Evolutionary Development of ICT in Ethiopia".
The Imperial Board of Telecommunications of Ethiopia was established after the victory over Italian invaders as the sole telecom operator to develop and manage this sector ... It (is now renamed) the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC).
At the ETC website there is a good historical summary. More on the history of the telecommunications sector and of government policies in the next posts on Information De-Evolution.

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