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5. It applications in the service sector

In this section, application of IT in the sectors most affected by IT is briefly reviewed through some government organizations that represent some of the priority sectors.

It should be noted that although the agriculture sector has not been directly affected by IT it still remains and is expected to remain the largest sector of the economy in the foreseeable future: 15 per cent of the working population are in the transformative and services sectors, while 85 per cent are engaged in the agricultural sector, with a negligible number in the other extractive sectors forestry, fishing, and mining.

Central Statistics Office

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) started using data-processing equipment in 1964. Its first rented brand was an IBM 421 model 14. This was a mechanical machine with a reproducer, collator, sorter, and printer. The CSO used the equipment for processing statistical and research-oriented applications. The B14 was in use until 1968 when the magnitude of data-processing activity outgrew the capability of the system. The B14 was a first step up from manual processing.

In 1969, the CSO's activities justified migration to equipment that was another step forward in technological advancement. The CSO rented an IBM system 360 model 20, which was a typical card-oriented computer with a monthly cost of US$1,269. The 360/20 electronic computer had a card reader of 250 cards per minute and a printer with a speed of 200 lines per minute (LPM), and had 15 KB of memory of which the operating system used only 2 KB. The computer was limited to the Report Program Generator (RPG) compiler. The major activity of the CSO was statistical tabulation based on data collected from sample surveys conducted from time to time.

Table 2.2. Ethiopian Telecommunication Authority Development Programme target objectives

  6th Development Programme 1984-88 7th Development Programme 1989-94
At start At end Growth % At start At end Growth %
No. of automatic exchanges 25 46 84 46 78 70
Capacity of automatic exchanges 100,400 169,700 69 169,700 335,100 98
No. of manual exchanges 392 545 38 545 945 73
Capacity of manual exchanges 23,500 31,500 34 31,500 37,500 19
No. of telephone service stations 435 675 42 675 1,080 60
No. of PBX 972 1,267 30 1,267 1,867 47
No. of coin boxes 845 1,015 20 1,015 2,215 118
No. of direct exchange lines 89,544 139,400 56 139,400 245,700 76
No. of telephones 115,833 174,000 55 174,000 374,000 115
No. of telex subscriptions 585 911 53 911 1,535 68
Fixed assets(US$'000) 129,159 281,982 107 281,982 661,141 134
No. of employees 5,036 5,839 16 5,839 6,570 13

Source: Ref. 3.

The memory was too small to contain a complete compiler plus a program to be run, and several passes, each involving the reading of the program, must be made through the system in order to compile a program. Naturally these operations of reloading the input deck or tape took quite a long time.4

As the bulk of incoming transactions increased and timely information from the CSO's electronic data-processing (EDP) centre was requested, the centre failed to respond adequately owing to the small size and slow processing power of the computer. It would take 150,000 cards on 5 columns about 15 hours to generate a single tabulation report, and operators had to attend to the sorting routine throughout since there were no media to store cumulated information for further processing.

In 1973, the CSO rented an IBM system 3 model 10 computer at a cost of US$1,990 per month. System 3 was a transition from a card-based system to a magnetic tape system. The physical size of the equipment was very much reduced and the processing power and performance were increased.

Additional statistical applications were introduced since the facility provided RPG 11 and FORTRAN IV for array processing and closed subroutines. The CSO computer centre performed its major task of processing the first census made in 1968 with the system 3 computer.

The CSO rented out excess computer time outside normal working hours. Users who had their own programs, punched data, and continuous paper were charged for the central processing unit (CPU) time at 100 Birr per hour plus 10 Birr per hour for the computer operator. The average charge for data capturing was 3-7 cents per record depending on the magnitude of the record length. Program preparation was negotiated according to the complexity of the application. In most cases the average charge amounted to Birr 75,000.

System 3 was used for seven years in an environment that was next door to sawmill dust. The malfunctioning was intolerable and frequent jamming of cards delayed normal work processing. In addition, the maintenance and rental charges, which were payable in US dollars, had increased excessively owing to the vendor's policy and world inflation.

In 1980, the CSO installed the NCR 8455 model. The 8455 was a multiprogramming and multi-tasking system with a virtual storage capacity. It had 512 KB of memory and 200 MB high-capacity disk storage. The computer centre supervisor reported that the NCR 8455 had never been operational during its period of two years at the CSO centre.

At the beginning of 1983, the CSO purchased the HP 3000 series 44 computer system. The system initially had 1 MB of memory and 800 MB of mass storage with 12 block mode terminals. The computer was set up to deal with the first nationwide census ever held in the country. It was then upgraded to series 48 with 2 MB of memory and 42 terminals, with an additional 24 micros used for data capture; total disk space available is 2 GB. At this period the computer centre was highly organized with additional staff and expatriate consultants. It is said that the generation of timely reports of the census was credited to both the capacity of the computer and the organized effort of the EDP staff.

The software library has FORTRAN, COBOL, RPG 11, SPL, BASIC, and PASCAL. The CSO uses packages like SPSS, CONCOR (used for editing), CONCENTS (COBOL census tabulation system)? and X TALLY and CO X TALLY for report generation.

EDP Personnel and Organization

The CSO established its data-processing centre with a staff of one supervisor, one machine operator, and five key punch operators. Two program trainees who joined the centre were assigned different levels of work as operators or control clerks.

The giant data-processing centre of CSO does not have qualified systems analysts and this level of work is covered by the EDP supervisor. The current number of staff is 25, of whom 19 are data entry operators and coding clerks. Contract employees are used for large volumes of data entry.

The Ministry of Finance

The Ministry of Finance was first introduced to mechanization in 1968. The primary factor in the introduction of automation was that large volumes of transactions of the government accounts had to be consolidated and presented annually to the then parliament.

In 1968 it was decided to rent an IBM system 360 model 20 computer. The computer had 16 KB of memory, three tape units, a card reader, and a 200 LPM printer. The monthly rental charge was US$5,000.

Government accounts were the first to be computerized. Once the computer power and the capability of staff had been appreciated, subsequent applications like budget authorization, capital authorization, foreign loans, and payroll were installed in the period 1969-1976.

Excess computer time was rented to the Addis Ababa University and the Ministry of Education, with a charge of 100 Birr per unit CPU time. Applications were accounts and student registration.

The programming language used by the 360/20 was RPG 1 and most applications were developed in-house. Nevertheless, problems used to arise between the computer centre and user sections in cases where incoming data were not in accord with given system specifications. Frequent coding errors, negligence, and inconsistency in data transmission were causes of irregular outputs. Most of the computer time was engaged in data certification and this hindered the overall process and sometimes caused delay in generating final outputs and timely reports.

At the end of 1976 the ministry acquired Burroughs B3700 model with 200 KB and 256 MB of storage and a 700 LPM printer. This was a change from a tape-oriented to a disk-based computer. It was on a rental basis with a monthly charge of Birr 14,000. The power of the processor and the speed of the peripherals gave rise to timely presentation of reports. However, since no additional applications were introduced, the ministry was left with excess computer time.

Higher officials of the ministry decided that an overall systems review must be done and that future applications and growth must also be studied in a more comprehensive manner. Foreign systems experts were invited to conduct the operation. On their recommendation, in 1987 a Burroughs A3 model replaced the Burroughs B3700. The A3 has 6 MB of main memory and a disk storage capacity of 750 MB. There are 13 on-line terminals for data capturing and program development.

The major application of the A3 is the Inland Revenue system, and systems development and programming are under way to use modems and telephone lines for the network system to utilize the immense power of the A3 computer.

The centre is oriented predominantly towards financial operations. It is headed by a manager with substantial computing experience.

Ethiopian Air Lines

Ethiopian Air Lines (EAL) was one of the first organizations to introduce modern management information systems and mechanization for work simplification and efficiency. Data-processing (DP) activity started in EAL in 1961 with IBM class 421. The DP centre was mainly organized for financial operations and most of the early accounting routines were processed using the unit recorder.

In 1964, EAL replaced its ageing and outdated 421 with an IBM 1440. This early computer had 8 KB of memory capacity with a card reader and sorter. It was then a step forward and EAL utilized the system to develop more applications such as asset control and inventory control systems. At the time the inventory files were reloaded onto 15 removable disk packs with a capacity of 2 MB each. As the need for a more efficient system arose, a Burroughs B3500 was installed in 1970. The computer had 120 KB of memory and all of the applications that were running on the 1440 were remodified for the B3500. There were then 20 staff in the data-processing centre, of whom 8 were analysts and programmers. The EDP staff of EAL are highly trained and even senior staff are given computer appreciation courses locally and abroad.

The involvement of EAL and its reputation among international airlines required a highly advanced system, and in 1981 two HP computers were bought. The HP 3000/40 and HP 3000/44 each had 2 MB of memory. The HP 40 was exclusively used for data capturing and verification, while the HP 44 was for data processing.

The data-processing centre was reorganized as a decentralized system. Every department has a terminal for data entry and is directly responsible for its major activity. The data entered are processed in a batch mode at regular time intervals. All major areas of activity are currently computerized, and decentralization has helped user departments to participate and engage fully in their day-to-day activity using mechanization.

Ethiopian Air Lines, being a member of SITA, an international airlines body that uses its own communication network, uses the facility for a reservation system for its ticket offices throughout the world.

In 1984, EAL purchased the IBM 4361 as an additional computer. It had 4 MB of main memory and data storage capabilities used for applications such as ARACS (Airlines Revenue and Accounts System), EMPACS (Engineering and Maintenance Planning), and IPOCS (Integrated Flight Operation System).

EDP Personnel and Organization

EAL's data-processing centre is organized under the Corporate Planning Department. Every department of EAL is directly affected by the data-processing centre. They are linked to various applications on the mainframe.

EAL has taken care to organize qualified personnel for the operation. After rigorous training schedules, it now has 42 staff members, of whom 24 are programmers. This is the highest number of programmers in an EDP centre recorded by this survey.

EAL's plan for the future is to develop a real-time processing environment for some of the applications that are now running in a batch mode, and to utilize communication facilities for networking systems.

Ethiopian Electric Light and Power Authority

The Ethiopian Electric Light and Power Authority (EELPA) was one of the earliest users of mechanical and electrical accounting machines.

It started with an NCR class 299 and IBM 421 for head office bookkeeping in 1962. Later, in 1964, the data-processing centre was organized under the Finance Department. The first computer to process payroll and billing systems was an IBM 1440. Organizing the DP centre and setting up the system was done by a British data-processing expert. The expatriate also managed the centre until the end of 1967.

The capacity of the 1440 was unable to meet the increasing volume of customers' billing and a decision was reached to rent a more powerful computer system, an IBM system 3/20. In 1973, the EELPA rented the system at a monthly cost of US$15,000. It has 32 KB of memory and model 5445 removable disks with a total capacity of 20 MB each. A high-speed printer of 1100 LPM and two tape drives were also part of the peripherals. Previously installed applications of payroll and billing were redesigned and applied. General accounting and inventory systems were the major achievements of the data-processing division on the system 3/20 computer.

In addition to the EELPA's applications, excess computer time was leased to different organizations. The first customers to use EELPA's system were the Addis Ababa Water and Sewerage Authority and Nazareth Water Supply Office. The application developed by EELPA for the customers was billing, a customer being charged 10 cents per bill.

EELPA also developed a payroll system for the Ethiopian Navy, which paid 120 Birr per unit CPU time. Another customer was Rental Housing Administration, which had a statistical application to generate household inventory and reports of lessee and rental charges of government houses.

In 1982, EELPA rented an NCR V8455 for a period of five years at a monthly charge of 30,000 Birr. The V8455 had 2 MB of memory, 600 MB of disk storage capacity, and 12 on-line data capturing terminals. According to the DP manager, Mr. Assefa Shifa, conversion from IBM RFGll to NCR RPG was a painful job. It was delayed because the NCR system, which is COBOL oriented, had to be equipped with additional software facilities. As a result, the memory was upgraded to 6 MB and the disk storage to 1 GB. The manager said that, on account of the available staff, most of the work done on the NCR was conversion and modification of existing systems. No additional application was installed despite the computer's unexplored facilities. However, spare computer time was rented to the Transport Construction Authority at 300 Birr per hour. The NCR computer was also engaged to process engineering designs for Gilgel Gibe Project. At the end of the lease period it was decided to return the computer to the supplier.

In May 1987, EELPA purchased an IBM system 36 model D21 with a capacity of 4 MB and 1 GB of disk storage. The system configuration consists of two high-speed tape drives and two printers with a capacity of 1200 LPM and 400 LPM. For program development and data capture, the system 36 has 15 terminals stationed in the DP centre. EELPA was predominantly RPG oriented for 15 years but has now caught up with micro developments. Currently each department of EELPA has one IBM PC used for staff computer appreciation courses and small desktop applications. Mr. Assefa further stated that the user relationship is now satisfactory. However, this has been achieved gradually as management's confidence in the DP centre increased. The billing system in particular, which is the major source of income for the EELPA, was closely scrutinized by management. Mr. Assefa recalled that there were times when the computer centre was blamed by customers for any mistakes in meter reading.

In order to increase the level of awareness of users, the data-processing division has organized an information support section. Its main objectives are to arrange computer appreciation and advanced training for users and EDP staff, to plan capacity, and to develop standards and procedures.

EDP Personnel and Organization

The EELPA data-processing division is organized under the Special Services Department. The division is further subdivided into the sections of operations, systems and programming, and information support. The number of staff in the DP department grew from 4 persons in 1967 to 60 in 1988, of whom 1 is a systems analyst, 2 are analysts/programmers, and 14 are programmers.

The manager stated that, apart from the EDP head, all other staff were trained locally by IBM. The courses given were predominantly at the level of the operating system only and it was left to the programmers to catch up on the techniques and facilities in the course of their normal work. Since EELPA applications mostly use RPG compilers, programmers do not have the motivation to learn other high-level languages.

The future plans of the EDP division are to mechanize all technical areas using IBM PC, and to create networking facilities and lines. To expedite the plan, an overall pilot survey is under way, and EELPA is expecting an expert group in data communications from Canada in the near future.

Maintenance and Supplies

Problems of computer down-time were experienced by EELPA as far back as the 421 period. It was reported that local engineers were few in number and did not have the necessary training and experience. Software support was lacking in all areas. Mr. Assefa said vendors did not keep spare parts locally and it took months to repair major breakdowns. The El LPA keeps its own supplies and has never experienced shortages.

Ethio-Djibouti Railways

The Franco Ethiopian Railways (later renamed Ethio-Djibouti Railways) was one of the earliest "organized" business establishments in the country. Along with its management system it brought some level of mechanization in office activities. Early mechanical machines and desktop calculators were employed for processing routine accounting procedures.

In 1969, an IBM system 360/20, along with its peripherals of verification machines and sorters, was rented. The only application that was running smoothly on the computer was payroll. The staff used the machine to acquaint themselves with it and to explore its facilities. No apparent reason was given and information could not be obtained why there was eventually a need to change to an IBM system 3.

However, the installation of system 3 in 1972 gave rise to more applications, such as inventory control, general accounts, and the movement of trains and locomotives. Computer time was rented to Addis Ababa Water and Sewerage Authority, Humbergen Vendergen Amsterdam (sugar manufacturers), and the Tourist Organization. Computer time was charged at the hourly rate of the computer monthly rental in Birr.

Four years later, the card-based system 3 was replaced by a tape (cassette) oriented NCR 8200 at a monthly rental charge of 7,404 Birr. It has 64 KB memory and 9.6 MB of fixed and removable disk space. The data capturing mode is by off-line cassette encoders, model 7200. This system is still in operation, using IMOS operating system and COBOL software, unlike the previous IBM machines. Mr. Tsigie, the head of the data-processing centre, said that they had big problems with the conversion from one mode of operation to the other. This was mainly due to lack of qualified manpower, and also system conversion procedures were not discussed with the vendor in advance. File handling was completely reorganized. It took a very long time to normalize operations.

The additional application installed on the 8200 is a ticketing system, which provides a receipt from one destination to another along the railway lines. The system is integrated with the accounting system and run frequently.

EDP Personnel and Organization

The EDP centre is organized under the direct supervision of the General Manager. The centre has a head of data processing, a supervisor for all operations, a programmer, three encoders, and three operators.

The head said that initially the qualifications of the staff recruited did not meet the minimum required level for the profession. Intake was from 10th graders and below and as a result any attempt to upgrade the level was futile. Staff from the EDP centre were sent to local training centres, but they did not gain from the training or develop their level of understanding of computers.

The other major factor affecting the growth of consciousness was past work methods. All programming and operation activities were done by a single person. Other staff were allowed to do clerical jobs only. Currently the system has only one console/terminal, which is always occupied by the operator. Even the programmer does not have the opportunity to develop programs, let alone other staff. Mr. Tsigie's concluding remarks were about the future plans of the EDP. The railway will in the near future acquire an NCR 9020 with five on-line terminals on a rental basis.

Library and Information Services

Present Situation

Automation of library and information services in Ethiopia is a recent phenomenon. Although several government bodies such as Addis Ababa University, Ethiopian Air Lines, the National Bank of Ethiopia, the Central Statistics Authority, and the Ministry of Industry have introduced computers to their systems for efficient operation, their application for information and documentation work remains at only a conceptual level.

A survey conducted in 1987 by the Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission to assess library and information services and resources in the country indicates that, among a total of 63 libraries and information centres covered by the survey, apart from documentation centres of international organizations such as ILCA (International Livestock Centre for Africa) and ECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) and government organizations such as the Central Statistics Authority, the National Meteorological Services Agency, Ethiopian Airlines, and the Development Project Study Consultancy Agency, none of them had automated their services.5

Although the automation of library and information services in Ethiopia is at an early stage, the efforts being made by some government bodies could be cited as an example of a good practical step forward towards the provision of accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information to the scientific community in general and to researchers in particular. In line with this, it is worth mentioning the effort that is being made by the National Scientific and Technological Information and Documentation Centre (NASTIDC), which was established in 1987 under the auspices of the Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission.

Computer applications for NASTIDC bibliographical and non-bibliographical services activity were developed in two stages. The first started immediately after its establishment in 1987 with an NCR IBM-compatible microcomputer with Unesco's software package CDS/ISIS. The second stage started in January 1988 when NASTIDC acquired an HP3000XE minicomputer and terminals. All the records on CDS/ISIS were then down-loaded to the minicomputer, where the International Development Research Centre's MINISIS software is used. The application of MINISIS has enabled the centre to develop different in-house databases based on users' requirements. In addition, external databases from ILCA and the ECA's Pan African Documentation and Information System have been acquired on magnetic tapes, thus giving access to data sources beyond the centre itself as required.

A further development in NASTIDC's services and its effort to utilize modern information technologies is the acquisition and application of CD-ROM technology for retrospective literature search service. Some of the CD-ROM databases include AGRICOLA and MEDLINE. Reference materials such as Groiler Electronic Encyclopedia and Science and Technology Reference Index are also considered.

In support of these and other developments with respect to IT application and automation activities, NASTIDC had given prior consideration to manpower development. To this effect, in 1988, five of NASTIDC's core staff were trained at Masters level in information science and technology.

Furthermore, the visit made by the core staff to various similar centres in the country and abroad, and the experiences developed from NASTIDC's automation activities, have been used to assist other government organizations in computerizing their own libraries and documentation centres.

In addition to government bodies such as NASTIDC, the libraries and documentation centres of international organizations such as ILCA and ECA play an important role in creating an environment conducive to the promotion of IT innovation in libraries and information services in Ethiopia.

The ILCA's documentation centre has its own computerized information storage and retrieval operation, using an HP 3000/111 minicomputer and 25 terminals with MINISIS software. Furthermore, the centre owns three HP125 microcomputers and a computerized typesetting machine.

The ECA's Pan African Documentation and Information System had installed an HP3000XE minicomputer and 60 terminals with MINISIS software for its information storage and retrieval system, and it offers an on-line search service on its bibliographical databases such as PADDEV, which covers economic, technological, and social development information on Africa.

Future Trends

Progress is being made in the area of on-line networking, on-line ordering, and electronic document backup services, which have been seen as major functions of NASTIDC since 1989.

The network is envisaged to include nine sectoral systems in the first instance. This trend is expected to help professionals involved in information processing, storage, and dissemination to exploit the potential of IT and thereby encourage and promote innovative development of IT in the country.

In addition, NASTIDC's plan to create a remote on-line link for literature search services is one of the measures that would contribute to the high degree of the involvement of this sector in the application and utilization of IT products, including telecommunication facilities.

The existing modern telecommunication network, which is digital, will inevitably facilitate and ease the networking project. The Ethiopian Telecommunication Authority attested to the fact that there would not be any technical problem in implementing the proposed networking plan. Besides the national network, linkage with regional and international data banks seems possible since Ethiopia owns a communications satellite earth station.

Automation of library and information services should be backed by rigorous training of the required personnel. Therefore, it is NASTIDC's future plan to arrange regular training schedules for library/information professionals at different levels. In this programme, automation of library and information services will be given major emphasis.

6. Education and training in IT

Computer training was started by companies such as NCR and BURCO, and most of the training was provided at their customers' installations. However, recently NCR and BURCO have conducted training courses at their offices. The computer courses provided by the NCR Corporation, BURCO Systems, and the Bureau for Electronic Computer Services are listed in the Appendix.

The National Computer Centre

The NCC started providing training courses in 1988. The training programme was designed and given by practicing engineers and their assistants, who form the core of NCC's R&D staff.

The courses are offered to three categories of trainees. The first category comprises those interested in word processing, database management, and the preparation and use of spreadsheets. The second category comprises those with an in-depth knowledge of either computer software or hardware. Courses in programming, digital techniques, etc., are offered to this group. Lastly, there are courses for professionals such as engineers, architects, and economists, who use computers to facilitate and improve their work. For these there are courses on packages relevant to their field of specialization like CAD, MICROSTAT, SYSTAT, and SPSS.

Training on the Amharic disk operating system and other Amharic application software is also given. NCC also organizes tailor-made training programmes to institutions by special arrangement.

Addis Ababa University

Minor and diploma programmes in computer science are among the regular programmes offered by the Department of Mathematics of Addis Ababa University since 1986. The department has now revised the previous programmes so that it helps satisfy the present requirements as seen by the department.

Appendix: Computer courses

Course subject Duration Fee/person (Birr)
NCR Corporation    
TIME: Monday through Friday, 5.00 to 8.00 p.m.    
1. Introduction to data processing 7 days 500
2. COBOL 74 14 days 700
3. IMOS III Operating Systems 7 days 500
4. BASIC 14 days 700
5. FORTRAN 14 days 700
6. Basic systems analysis skills 14 days 700
7. PASCAL 14 days 700
8. Personal computer operation 14 days 500
Bureau for Electronic Computer Services    
TIME: Monday through Friday, 5.00 to 8.00 p.m.    
1. Electronic data processing concept 14 days 350
2. Basic COBOL programming 30 days 645
3. Intermediate COBOL programming 30 days 710
4. BASIC programming 21 days 645
5. FORTRAN IV programming 21 days 645
6. Systems analysis and design 14 days 475
BURCO Systems    
TIME: Monday through Friday, half-days    
1. Introduction to computers & programming 5 days 300
2. BASIC programming 12 days 550
3. ANSI '74 COBOL programming 30 days 950
4. FORTRAN programming 12 days 550

Source: Information is based on 1988 catalogues.


1. Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission. "Assessment of the Current Situation and Problems of S&T in Ethiopia." Conference on National Science and Technology Policy of Ethiopia, ESTC, 1988.

2. Development Project Study Agency. Technology and Development Perspective Studies, No. 3, 1983.

3. ETA Bulletin. August 1988.

4. Statement by Mr. Behabtu Degu, Central Statistics Office supervisor, 1969.

5. Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission. "A Survey on Library, Information and Documentation Activities in Ethiopia." ESTC, 1987.

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