"Riding the Digital Express"
Op-Ed, BBC News
September 15, 2009
Author: Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development; Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project; Principal Investigator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa
The first undersea fibre optic cable, Seacom, reached the east African coast in July 2009.
This "Digital Express" is the most important infrastructure investment in eastern Africa since the construction of the Uganda Railway which integrated colonial east Africa into the British Empire.
Unlike the railway, dubbed the "Lunatic Express" by its critics, the Seacom network will integrate the region with the rest of the world and provide a crucial gateway to the global knowledge economy.
The $700m (£426m) project — largely funded by African investors — will reduce business costs, create an e-commerce sector and open up the region to foreign direct investment.
New industries will emerge to create content and software, new markets for access devices will grow, and research centres will flourish. Its impact will be unparalleled in contemporary African economic history.
The closest comparison is Africa's runaway adoption of mobile telephony but at scale previously unimaginable.
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