While the world emerged into the new era of information in the mid-20th century, it may come as a surprise to many that a Ghanaian was at the forefront of leading evolution in Africa. Prof. Nii Narku Quaynor is widely known as the ”father of the internet in Africa.” He is known for establishing the first internet service provider in Ghana and west Africa.
He was born in Accra in 1948 into a family of scientists and engineers. He attended the Achimota School in Accra before going abroad for additional education.
Although the instability of the coup d’etat in 1966 [that toppled President Kwame Nkrumah’s government] was sufficient to send several students abroad for education, Prof. Quaynor recalls that his family did not face any particular hardships at the time in an earlier interview with the New African Magazine that was noted by 1Family radio.
Three years after the coup, “I personally left Ghana and proceeded to the US for my academic degree. I was simply following a line of elder brothers who all went abroad for their university degree, not because of the coup,” he told the magazine.
Prof. Quaynor, who excelled in chemistry, physics, pure mathematics, and applied mathematics throughout his A-level studies at Achimota School, had a knack for these subjects when studying overseas.
He received a Ph.D. in computer science from SUNY Stony Brook in 1977 before going on to become known as “the father of the internet in Africa.” He studied BA Engineering Science and BSc Engineering at Dartmouth College in 1973.
Following the completion of these academic requirements, he returned to Ghana in 1979, where his passion for science and technology led him to start rolling out the revolutionary new technology of the internet across sub-Saharan Africa.
He founded Network Computer System Limited, which for almost 20 years aided in the growth and expansion of the internet throughout Africa.
At the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, he contributed to the development of the computer science department.
Despite these achievements, Prof. Quaynor discusses several difficulties his pioneering company faced while trying to advance and increase internet usage in Africa.
In an interview with Africa News Magazine, he talked about his team’s struggles to build a network-based system in Ghana and the numerous confrontations they had with government authorities as rules changed at random.
He became the first African on the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) after serving in a variety of capacities across multiple organizations focused on the development and extension of the internet in Africa.
In addition, he represented Africa as an at-large director of ICANN from 2000 to 2003.
Prof. Quaynor also joined the United Nations Secretary-General Advisory Group on ICT in addition to receiving this distinction. He served as the OAU Internet Task Force’s chair and the president of Ghana’s Internet Society.
He received the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award from the Internet Society in 2007 for his innovative efforts to advance the Internet in Africa.
For his outstanding contribution to the advancement of technology in Africa via the internet, Prof. Nii Narku Quaynor was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2013.