In This Review

Beyond Boundaries: Cyberspace in Africa
Beyond Boundaries: Cyberspace in Africa
Edited by Melinda B. Robins and Robert L. Hilliard
Heinemann, 2002, 197 pp

Although in some respects Africa is only at the starting gate in the race for full connectivity, Internet access is now available in the capital cities of all 54 countries on the continent, and the impact of new information technologies is gradually spreading to other urban areas. This collection surveys Internet use and its potential in nine countries, including a chapter on ways in which African women are using the Web to promote their collective interests. High illiteracy, poor telecommunications infrastructure, shortages of trained personnel, and reluctance by some governments to allow development of independent service providers all create obstacles to rapid progress. Nevertheless, the authors find that some governments, including those of Nigeria, Namibia, and Senegal, are facilitating broader access to the Internet, and that journalists and nongovernmental development organizations everywhere are increasingly relying on Web information and contacts in their work. No specific political effects of increased connectivity are demonstrated, but several authors express confidence that as more individuals gain the ability to bypass the gatekeepers of government and established mass-media sources, authoritarian systems will be undermined by the freer flow of knowledge and opinion.