East Africa was the world’s last major region without fibre-optic broadband Internet access, and until the summer of 2009 had been forced to rely on slow and costly satellite connections for access. However, the region has recently been connected via fibre-optic cable thus, in theory, allowing much greater speeds at much lower prices. Employing case-studies 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.
The project begins by performing a detailed textual analysis of discourses produced and reproduced by influential figures in the public, private and civil society sectors surrounding the perceived effects of broadband connectivity. Surveys and in-depth interviews will then be conducted at 240 selected small and medium sized firms to study the existing communications ecology, and any potential effects of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and broadband connectivity on the three selected economic sectors.