GlobDev Paris – Unintended Consequences of ICT4D

Notes from the workshop on Global Development, December 13 2008 in Paris.

Plenary session II – The unintended consequences of ICT4D in sub-saharean Africa
Session Chair:
Sajda S Qureshi – University of Omaha, USA
Oneurine Ngwa, Shu John Shu, Daniel Kudi, Victor Mbarika – Southern University and A&M College, Irene Mbarika – AGWECAMS Inc.

The claim that IT will transform lives in Africa has proven true in many aspects nowadays. There are also major issues with these great technologies which are negative and issues which were not originally intended.

Based on interviews, some of the negative consequences were identified.


  • People use cell phones to cheat on their husbands, there is a certain “beeping” code which means “get out of the house and call me”.
  • Cellphones have brought a lot of prostitution, as it is nowadays as easy as sending a picture to potential customers. This is of course promoting HIV. On the other hand, also e-health is promoted (e.g. nurses write an sms to a doctor to get advice).
  • Teenage boys write emails to deceive western people (spam – “Nigeria-connection”). Those people are surprisingly tech-savy.

Advances in IT in Africa:

  • Usage of Internet
  • Cellphones
  • Use of CreditCards, IPods

“mix blessing”:

  • IT for advance fee fraud
  • Nigeria as the country of focus
  • Scam is 3-5th largest industry in Nigeria


  • Internet sex tourism
  • Sex tourism in Africa is advertised
  • Even government can’t stop it because it is such a boost for the economy
  • Internet prostitution
  • Pornography
    Child & adult
    there even exist consultants
  • How to track down these people?
  • The people are even known, government turns their eyes away
  • Child trafficking
  • Identity theft

Advance fee fraud is called the 419 game (419 = the police code for these crimes).

Has it been started in Nigeria? What about the before-after state? How to relate the results to academia?

Factors that facilitate growing criminal activities:

  • Unemployment
  • Greed
  • Desire to travel abroad

Attempts to tackle prevention of these things:

  • Association of all night browsing
  • Nigeria cyber working group
  • Several government initiatives

Questions & Comments:
This whole thing should not be pinned down to Nigeria of Africa, there are collaborators in Europe and other continents, too.

The Nigerian government has done a lot recently to prosecute these crimes.

Suggestion: You should find a way to be part of it to get track of the whole thing.
– This is already happening.

The regional approach are to simplistic, it’s a bigger thing than just Africa.

Biggest problems: sensationalism & anecdotes.

How significant is it for the community? Is crime a substantial source of income?
– A priori the research was done without theoretic approaches, they will appear in time.

Maybe it’s a good idea to present the research in another community (e.g. organized crime researchers).

We can’t speak about differences if we don’t know the initial state.

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GlobDev Paris – Unintended Consequences of ICT4D
was published on 17.12.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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