Wednesday, March 24, 2010

the internet in africa

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on a special series for BBC about the internet in Africa. It’s provided me with some surprising and amusing insights into what’s happening across the continent.

Take for example the Lagos reporter Fidelis Mbah, who like many Nigerians is enjoying facebook. Before he left for a training course in Kenya, he put up a facebook status update announcing his arrival. When he got to Nairobi he found a number of his facebook friends (who he’d never met before) waiting to meet him – including one who’d driven all the way from Kampala in neighbouring Uganda!

In Kenya, a woman from Migori, Leah Okeya, has started using a site called ‘pulse wire’ to communicate with other people around the world living with HIV and Aids. She says despite having to use the village’s only internet cafĂ©, which often suffers from breakdowns and power cuts, being able to discuss her illness with people who live outside her community has ‘changed her life’.

One thing which I hadn’t anticipated, having spent the last 18 months in Chad where the internet connection was appalling, was that so many people in Africa are now accessing the internet via their mobile phones. In fact in South Africa, the editor of the Mail and Guardian online Chris Roper, estimates that more people get online that way than using a fixed computer. Africa is already jumping over the technical limitations in the way it jumped over the limitations of landlines.

But one of the most interesting things was asking the reporters themselves to write a blog about their experiences of compiling reports about the internet.