Negotiating the Net in Africa: The Politics of Internet Diffusion

In This Review

Negotiating the Net in Africa: The Politics of Internet Diffusion

Edited by Ernest J. Wilson III and Kelvin R. Wong
Lynne Rienner, 2006
238 pp. $49.95
Purchase

The essays in this book focus on the early years of the Internet in Africa. The spread of the Internet has been slowed down by the region's low income and the poor quality of its communications grid. Nonetheless, the authors find fairly striking differences in the speed of innovation and diffusion across African states, and they try to explain them through a political-economy approach. There are no overarching patterns across the cases, but the key role of individual entrepreneurs, their connections to the public sector, and their ability to get both political support and funding for their projects appear to have been key to the early spread of Internet connections. Early development also seems, perhaps ironically, to have been abetted by the technological illiteracy of political leaders. In addition, the crisis of the traditional telecommunications sector, which was largely bankrupt in the early 1990s, created space for Internet entrepreneurs and lessened opposition to its development. Readers who are not afraid of technical acronyms will be rewarded with often rich analyses of this important emerging sector of African economies.