Imagining a Silicon Savannah? Technological and Conceptual Connectivity in Kenya’s BPO and Software Development Sectors

Mark Graham, Laura Mann


This is a paper about expectations surrounding a potentially highly transformative moment in East Africa’s history: the arrival of underwater fibre-optic broadband communications cables into the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa. It combines a media content analysis with findings from interviews with business owners in Kenya’s nascent business process outsourcing (BPO) and software development sectors in order to explore how such moments of technological ‘connectivity’ are imagined, marketed and enacted within economic development. It argues that connectivity is not just a matter of boosting physical/material capacity but also about redressing conceptual connectivity; bringing places ‘closer together’ involves rehabilitating the images of places in peoples’ minds and removing imagined senses of distance. As such, technologies of connectivity are marketed not just as tools of altered communications affordances, but more importantly, as momentary opportunities for revisiting the image of places from afar. Additionally, the cables reveal the importance of fostering internal linkages in order to better build international recognition and connections. ‘Moments of expectation’ that surround new ICT technologies reveal how discourse and representation play a strong role in enabling markets to form and change. The very idea of ‘connectivity’ itself is driving plans and policies throughout the region.


Software; Nairobi; BPO; connectivity; ICT4D

Full Text:


The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries.
ISSN: 1681-4835