The GEONET project at the Oxford Internet Institute investigates the geographies, drivers, and effects of Sub-Saharan Africa’s emerging ‘information economies.’ It asks whether these economies represent a new era of development, and how information and communication technologies impact on older processes of dependence, underdevelopment, and economic extraversion.
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has traditionally been characterised by stark barriers to telecommunication and flows of information. Rates for long distance phone calls throughout Sub-Saharan Africa used to be some of the highest in the world. Internet costs and speeds similarly were out of the reach of all but the most privileged citizens. However, in the last few years, there have been radical changes to SSA’s international connectivity. Fibre-optic cables have been laid throughout the continent and there are now about one hundred million Internet users and over seven hundred million mobile users in the region.
This rapid transformation in the region’s connectivity has encouraged politicians, journalists, academics, and citizens to speak of an ICT-fuelled economic revolution happening on the continent. However, while much research has been conducted into the impacts of ICTs on older economic processes and practices, there remains surprisingly little research into the emergence of a new informationalised economy in Africa. It is now that we need empirical research to understand precisely what impacts are observable, who benefits, and how these changes match up to our expectations for change.
This is a five-year project, funded by a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant.