The Information Age is already here and Africa will become poorer by refusing to take advantage of this modern technology.
The Information Superhighway is a technology that will create wealth, make it more difficult to plan coups and indirectly reduce famine and war.
African telephones and electricity services are unreliable and three-quarters of the residents have never made a telephone call. In many African countries, it is faster and cheaper to travel than to make a telephone call.
My answer is that the Internet and Information Superhighway is cheaper and more of a necessity than the telephone.
I will use our interview as an example. You will deliver our, say 10,000-word, interview to the Guardian headquarters by email in Nigeria in 30 seconds. The same 10,000-word interview will take ten minutes to fax and 50 minutes to read aloud. Based on these estimates, an email message is 20 times cheaper than a fax message and 100 times cheaper than a telephone conversation.
More importantly, the new fiber optic lines will greatly reduced the cost of sending emails to Nigeria.
The Internet email should be more popular in Nigeria than telephone conversations since the low cost will put it within the reach of the average Nigerian. Since the cost of sending emails from Lagos to Onitsha will be the same as sending from Kaduna to New York, the barriers of space and time will be erased and the average Nigerian would rather send an email than hold a 150 Naira a minute telephone conversation or mail a letter that takes two months to arrive at their destinations, if there are not completely lost.
Seventy percent of the oil in Nigerian oilfields are not being recovered and Nigeria will run out of oil much sooner than expected. We should start planning how to survive when we run out of oil.
With the new fiber-optic lines, that will be completed in 1999, I can demonstrate for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) how to use those lines to access a $55 million supercomputer in the United States, 7,000 miles away. This supercomputer can then be used to generate a three-dimensional images or an X-ray of subsurface formations of non-petroleum producing locations in Nigeria which, in turn, will enable NNPC to discover more oil fields. Geologists will study the X-ray of each subsurface formation to identify impervious layers of soil that can contain hydrocarbons. Only those layers that seem to contain hydrocarbons will be drilled.
Without this technology, up to $20 million could be spent to drill each well. At the $20 million per well, Nigeria cannot afford to drill hundreds of exploration well in which 90 percent of them could be dry.
The above is only one example out of hundreds.
Developing nations need the Information Superhighway more than developed nations. The Information Age is already here and Africa will become poorer by refusing to take advantage of this modern technology.
I will also like to point out that most African countries like Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Malawi are far ahead of Nigeria in using the Internet. Should the Giant of Africa not be first in embracing modern technology?
Letters to Emeagwali
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