Internet Geographer


Posts tagged broadband
New article published: Imagining a Silicon Savannah? Technological and Conceptual Connectivity in Kenya’s BPO and Software Development

Laura Mann and I have just had a paper about Kenya’s ‘Silicon Savannah’ published in the Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries.

Check out the brief abstract below or the full, open access, link to the paper: Graham, M. and L. Mann. 2013. Imagining a Silicon Savannah? Technological and Conceptual Connectivity in Kenya’s BPO and Software Development Sectors. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries 56(2). 1-19.


This is a paper about expectations surrounding a potentially highly transformative moment in East Africa’s history: the arrival of underwater fibre-optic broadband communications cables into the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa. It combines a media content analysis with findings from interviews with business owners in Kenya’s nascent business process outsourcing (BPO) and software development sectors in order to explore how such moments of technological ‘connectivity’ are imagined, marketed and enacted within economic development. It argues that connectivity is not just a matter of boosting physical/material capacity but also about redressing conceptual connectivity; bringing places ‘closer together’ involves rehabilitating the images of places in peoples’ minds and removing imagined senses of distance. As such, technologies of connectivity are marketed not just as tools of altered communications affordances, but more importantly, as momentary opportunities for revisiting the image of places from afar. Additionally, the cables reveal the importance of fostering internal linkages in order to better build international recognition and connections. ‘Moments of expectation’ that surround new ICT technologies reveal how discourse and representation play a strong role in enabling markets to form and change. The very idea of ‘connectivity’ itself is driving plans and policies throughout the region.

Hiring a Research Assistant (or Postdoc) to work on a Project to Study the Impact of Broadband Internet in East Africa

I am currently hiring a 28 month Research Assistant (or Postdoctoral Research Fellow) to work on an ESRC-DFID funded project titled “The Promises of Fibre-Optic Broadband: A Pipeline for Economic Development in East Africa.”

Employing case-studies, interviews, surveys and textual analysis in Kenya and Rwanda, this project examines the expectations and stated potentials of broadband Internet and compares those expectations to on-the-ground effects that broadband connectivity is having in three economic sectors: tea production, ecotourism, and business process outsourcing.

Applicants should have a graduate or postgraduate qualification in one of the social sciences, experience of social science research, and be willing to conduct extended fieldwork in East Africa. The successful candidate will be able to take a lead in project management, data collection and analysis, and the dissemination of results.

Based at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, this position is available from 1st October 2011 for 28 months in the first instance, with the possibility of renewal thereafter funding permitting. It may be possible to hire at Postdoctoral Research Fellow level given the right candidate.

Full job details and online application are available at this link.
Salary £25,751 - £30,747 p.a.
More details about the project available here.

Please share this position widely and feel free to get in touch with any questions about the position or the application procedure.

Pictures from the East Africa Fibre Optic Broadband Cable Landing Site
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the SEACOM cable landing site in Mombasa, Kenya. The main reason for visiting is that I am at the early stages of a multi-year project to investigate the social and economic effects of the cable. Peter Ouko Odhiambo from SEACOM (pictured below) kindly showed me around. This SEACOM cable is the first of three that will carry most digital information between East Africa and the rest of the world (before the arrival of the cable all data had to travel via costly satellite infrastructure).

The photo below is the first place at which the cable emerges from the ocean after its long trip from Mumbai, Marseilles and London. The landing site is actually next door to Fort Jesus: an old Portuguese fort in the heart of old Mombasa (long a symbol of a very different kind of economic integration with the outside world).

This photo shows a discarded piece of cable in front of the landing site. Almost all of the cable is made of steel rods and other types of padding.

The actual fibre optic cables are incredibly thin. You can just make out the six thin strands to the right of my head in this photo. These strands carry almost all internet data (and international phone calls) between East Africa and the rest of the world.

See also:
New Africa broadband ‘ready’
East Africa gets high-speed web (BBC)