A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

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Book Review: Digital Diaspora: A Race for Cyberspace
By Natalie Goode

It’s hereeee!

The digital age of Facebook users, BlackBerry clingers and a steady stream of blogs have arrived, setting the stage for a new form of interactivity that can trace its origins to contributors Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Yet, African architects of the Internet have largely gone unrecognized by the mainstream media, writes Anna Everett in the book, Digital Diaspora: A Race for Cyberspace (SUNY PRESS). After eight years of studying “how pervasive the use of the Internet was in African American communities, universities, colleges and African governments,” Everett produced a book that weaves culture, history and social commentary into a framework of case studies that illustrate technology’s impact on African’s lives, and their interaction with it.

In doing so, Everett tracks down the Nigerian computer scientist dubbed “a father of the Internet” by CNN, and reports on Phillip Emeagwali's achievements in supercomputing and the challenges he faced to be recognized.

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The book also shines a light on how women utilize the Web to form a united front (i.e., the Million Women March) and to teach technological development. In the book Everett introduces us to three community-based networking centers in Africa; one of the most inspiring was the International Women's Tribune Center, a network of women activists whose focus is to improve the lives of deprived women in budding nations. Everett records the organization’s association with the Nakaseke Telecenter Project in Uganda. The Telecenter’s aim was to introduce women agricultural workers to technology that could be integrated into their daily lives. In the process, the center created a CD-ROM tool for first-time users of the Web, and a seventy-year-old woman became the project’s “techevangelist” and chief spokesperson.

An enlightening aspect of the book is that Everett unveils the Black early adopters of the Internet, such as the first Afro-centric virtual community, Naijanet, which was developed in 1991. According to the online journal West Africa Review, six related sites were spun off Naijanet in 1995. In 2008, Africans’ use of the internet continued to grow. According to the Nielsen Online South African site, web-users and web-pages increased by 25% between December 2007 and December 2008, creating a whole new generation of “Afrogeeks”.

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