October 10, 2007, 04:13 PM ET
'A Digitally Isolated Africa'
How desperately do many African colleges need improved Internet access? At many institutions, the current connections are so spotty that campus presidents trek to Internet cafes just to conduct business.
If top administrators don’t have reliable Web access, it’s a safe bet that faculty and students aren’t getting that access either, says Calestous Juma, director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. “The result,” Mr. Juma writes in Business Daily Africa, “is a digitally isolated Africa that cannot effectively educate its students and conduct quality research.”
The near-extortionate cost of bandwidth in Africa has proved to be a major impediment to progress, and African governments haven’t stepped in to help: Most national leaders “have abdicated their role in providing digital infrastructure to universities,” Mr. Juma says. Independent groups like the Bandwidth Consortium have managed to strike halfway-decent deals for African institutions, the professor notes, but it’s high time for governments to try and secure free Internet access for their colleges and universities. —Brock Read