Meet the Ghanaian man who introduced internet to Africa: Prof. Nii Narku Quaynor, widely renowned as the “father of the internet in Africa,” has a remarkable history closely tied to the development of the internet and the emergence of internet service providers on the African continent. While the world was entering the new era of information in the mid-20th century, it may come as a revelation to many that a Ghanaian played a pivotal role in leading the internet’s evolution across Africa.
Born in Accra in 1948, Prof. Nii Narku Quaynor hails from a family with a strong inclination toward science and technology. His educational journey began at the prestigious Achimota School in Accra, after which he pursued further studies abroad.
In an interview with New African Magazine, Prof. Quaynor reflected on his family’s experiences during the turbulent times following the coup d’état in 1966, which saw the overthrow of President Kwame Nkrumah’s government. While some students left Ghana for education abroad due to the instability, Prof. Quaynor’s decision to study in the United States was influenced more by a family tradition of overseas university education.
His academic journey abroad allowed him to explore subjects like chemistry, physics, and pure and applied mathematics, in which he excelled during his A-Level education at Achimota School. He pursued his passion for science and technology, earning a BA in Engineering Science and a BSc in Engineering at Dartmouth College in 1973. Later, he achieved a Ph.D. in Computer Science at SUNY Stony Brook in 1977.
In 1979, after completing his education, Prof. Quaynor returned to Ghana, where his deep-rooted love for science and technology led him to initiate the transformational integration of the internet throughout sub-Saharan Africa. He founded Network Computer Systems Limited, a pivotal organization that played a crucial role in developing and expanding internet connectivity across Africa over nearly two decades.
During this time, Prof. Quaynor was instrumental in establishing some of Africa’s earliest internet connections and actively contributed to the formation of key organizations, including the African Network Operators Group. His influence extended to setting up the Computer Science Department at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.
Despite these achievements, Prof. Quaynor encountered significant challenges as his pioneering firm navigated the complexities of developing and expanding internet usage in Africa. He faced conflicts with government officials due to rapidly changing policies while striving to implement a network-based system in Ghana.
Prof. Quaynor’s dedication to advancing the internet in Africa earned him recognition on a global scale. He became the first African to serve on the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and served as an at-large director of ICANN for the African region from 2000 to 2003.
His contributions also extended to international organizations, as he became a member of the United Nations Secretary-General Advisory Group on ICT. Prof. Quaynor held various leadership roles, including Chair of the OAU Internet Task Force and President of the Internet Society of Ghana.
In 2007, the Internet Society honored him with the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award, acknowledging his pioneering work in advancing the internet in Africa. Prof. Nii Narku Quaynor’s remarkable contributions led to his induction into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2013, further solidifying his legacy as a driving force behind technological evolution through the internet in Africa.