I’ve been mulling over the news that the new fiber-optic cable has finally been laid to connect East Africa directly to the world via high-speed Internet. Tanzanians and the East African press are greeting it with a lot of excitement. That shouldn’t be surprising — Internet connectivity is a big headache here unless you’ve got good money to spend, and even then, it’s hard to do a lot of things taken for granted in the States, like watch YouTube. Still, some of the promises about the boon to the economy and dramatic reductions in Internet access cost seem a bit outlandish. (Reading that last article I can’t help but hear echoes of the monorail episode on The Simpsons.)
Then I came across this great post on Jackfruity describing the chaos that took over West Africa last week when the main cable connecting the region to Europe went down.
Five days ago, the Appfrica tech blog reported an Internet blackout in Benin, a West African country roughly the size of Ohio. The outage, which also affected neighboring Togo, Niger and Nigeria, was caused by damage to the SAT-3 submarine communications cable, which links Portugal and Spain to South Africa via the West African coastline. (Read the whole post here.)
One-dimensional networks are so vulnerable. Seems the fibre-optic cable is a good first step, but hardly a cure-all. Nevertheless, I’m excited about it as well. It may not be quite all it’s hyped up to be, but it’s no monorail.