Sunday, December 09, 2007

We're behind Nigeria on the cellphone front

Wow!!! Africa such a backwards place so I have always thought are in the middle of a communications revolution. An interesting piece found on InstaPundit...
OK, I'm something of a tech junkie. As such, I've been particularly pleased to see the communications revolution taking hold in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. Back in the early '90's when I was doing my fieldwork, calling home to the US was a big deal. I had to schedule a call a day or two in advance with NITEL (Nigerian Telephone and Telegraph, the State Monopoly), and then I would pay $6 a minute for the call.

Now, however, cell phones have smashed NITEL's monopoly, and in many ways, Nigerians have access to better communications technology than most Americans, since their phones are all "unlocked." One of my Nigerian brother-in-laws was shocked to hear that I didn't have wi-fi internet access on my cell phone. "Hot spots are everywhere here now... so I never pay for international calls anymore." As a result, I get calls from Nigeria all the time (occassionally even during class... always a hoot for my students here in Kentucky).

On a more academic note the real significance here is that the communications revolution is finally providing a more even playing ground for African academics. One of the ugly realities of Area Studies fields such as African History is the degree to which the center of academic power has been in the US. Education and Publishing for African Studies are centered in the US. So much so that the best career move for an African Africanist is to get a position in an American university -- and getting your PhD in the US sure didn't hurt, either.

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