Calestous Juma on how Seacom will change everything

In addition to censorship in China and Twitter in Tehran, I spent a decent part of this summer writing about Internet infrastructure in Africa. The summer had plenty of stories: damage to the SAT-3 cable in western Africa caused major Internet blackouts in Nigeria, Niger, Togo and Benin, a situation that hopefully won’t happen again now that Nigeria’s new GLO-1 cable has arrived.

But the biggest story of all was Seacom: a new cable connecting eastern Africa to the global undersea cable system. For years eastern Africa has been the only part of the continent without access to this system. Seacom’s arrival will bring faster, cheaper broadband Internet to a number of countries that have long relied on expensive satellite connections.

While I haven’t personally experienced the joys of Seacom yet (though here’s hoping I’ll be back in Uganda at some point before the end of the year), friends tell me it’s mindblowing. The 27th Comrade writes:

Something big—quite big—and fast—very, very fast—is happening here.

As excited as the blogren and I are about Seacom, Harvard professor Calestous Juma is even more thrilled. Professor Juma is one of the world’s leading experts on how science and technology can contribute to sustainable development, and here’s what he has to say about Seacom:

The launching of Seacom’s fiber optic cable in July was the single most important infrastructure investment in eastern Africa since the construction of the Uganda Railway, then dubbed “The Lunatic Express.”

The single most important infrastructure investment since the construction of the Uganda Railway. For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Lunatic Express, its construction began in the 19th century.

Professor Juma will be at Harvard’s Berkman Center on Tuesday afternoon to discuss broadband and Internet policy in East Africa. I’ve been debating how many of my limbs I would be willing to give to be able to see his talk in person, but unfortunately you can’t buy time or a train ticket with bodily extremities these days. I’ll settle for watching the webcast.