Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Internet Diffusion and Government Intervention: The Parody of Sustainable Development in Africa

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Internet Diffusion and Government Intervention: The Parody of Sustainable Development in Africa

Article excerpt


This paper argues that the current attacks on Internet access in terms of legal constraints, political intimation, Internet shutdown, unlawful arrest of Internet users, and the purposeful disruption of Internet services by government agents will become more pronounced unless African nations technologically develop public institutions to compete constructively with private Internet service providers, in terms of information communication. The data utilized for this study were basically sourced from secondary data collection, and thus contently analyzed based on the nature and practical experience of how the access and the use of Internet has been hindered through undue intervention by governments in Africa. The paper also outlines a set of recommendations for improvement.

Keywords: Internet access, governance, sustainable development, Africa


The right to communicate in whatever forms has become part of basic international human right as endorsed by the UN General Assembly in December 1997. By implication the endorsement has committed the UN to ensure the objective of universal access to basic communication and information services for all people without any exception of race or regional locations in order to secure sustainable human development (CIPESA, 2016).

Similarly, the right to share, receive and seek information or ideas regardless of the medium used are enshrined in many international legal frameworks such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and in the constitutions of respective African countries (ibid). However, some of these national and international legal frameworks have been skewed by some African governments.

In essence, access to Internet has remained on the front burner in driving and sharing of ideas and information for good governance and development in the global system. According to Towela & Tesfaye (2015), the emergence of the global Internet can be linked to the US-based ARPANET in the 1960s; however, Africa gained access to its first Internet network in 1988 nearly thirty years after the US, at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. The first data packet transmitted from Africa was sent from South Africa to Portland, Oregon in 1991 which signified the arrival of the Internet in Africa and subsequently led to the surge of Internet Service Providers supplying both dial-up and leased Integrated Services Digital Network connections on a commercial basis.

As observed by Mike Jensen (1997) more than three-quarters of the capital cities in Africa have evolved some form of Internet access: either in terms of a local dial-up store-and-forward e-mail service with a gateway to the Internet or a full leased-line service. Notably, out of the 43 in the 54 counties in Africa, only 36 countries have attained live Internet public-access services in the capital cities that includes: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (ibid).

More importantly, Africa has seen the growth of Internet connectivity in recent years, mainly due to the availability of undersea cables and the ubiquity of mobile phones. More than a quarter of the African population (341 million) had access to the Internet as of 2016, the majority of which are potential Internet learners. To Alvin Toffler (1980), the Internet revolution has tremendously conditioned society into an 'infosphere' in which technology driven information and communication have increasingly changed the social, political, economic and work environments in the world. Toffler further stressed that to a large extent, the "infosphere", information has become the key resource for citizens' active and efficient functioning and participation in society. …

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