A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria

A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria

The American University of Nigeria provides a modern education right in the backyard of Boko Haram, Nigeria's homegrown terrorist group. One clue: The campus claims 55 percent of all the Internet traffic in Nigeria.

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By Latitude News

It’s tough to get an Internet connection in northern Nigeria. That’s why Google was surprised to see – on their user map, where they track the locations of people Googling around the world – a big bright dot of activity in the Nigerian city of Yola, right on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.

Nigeria has 170 million people, the most populous country in Africa and 7th largest in the world. But Yola has fewer than 100,000 people, and is close to the home of the Boko Haram terrorist group.

So when Google sent a team out to Nigeria last fall to figure out who was doing all that Googling, the California-based company was surprised to find a scene right out of an American college campus. In fact, they sort of did stumble on an American university – the American University of Nigeria (AUN).

RELATED: What is Nigeria's Boko Haram? 5 things to know

According to AUN’s president, American Margee Ensign, Google was pleasantly surprised to find the campus.

“Google told us we were 55 percent of their traffic in the whole country,” Ensign says.

Latitude News caught up with Ensign as she was traveling from California to Nigeria. During a brief layover in Belgium, Ensign talked about what it meant to be an “American-style” university in a country associated in many people’s minds with spammers and Boko Haram.

AUN is the youngest American-style university abroad. The American University of Beirut was founded when Andrew Johnson was president in 1866. The American University in Bulgaria was founded in 1991, shortly after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. These schools, along with their counterparts in Rome, Cairo and the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, offer a liberal arts education – easy to come by in the US, but not so in other parts of the world.

AUN does not have an explicit connection with these other universities, although it has received critical support from American University in Washington DC. The Nigerian school, which opened its doors to students in 2005, was the brainchild of Nigeria’s former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, who credits the Peace Corps for inspiring him to found the school.

As a child, Abubakar was orphaned in a town near Yola, right around the time Nigeria gained independence from Britain.

“[Abubakar] had American Peace Corps teachers and British teachers,” Ensign says. “He has said to me and others the British teachers slapped his hands and said, ‘Repeat after me,’ and the Peace Corps teachers actually asked his opinion.”

Ensign says Abubakar’s fortune ”is coming to the university.”

By Nigerian standards, the university is a hub for technology and infrastructure. Ensign says the campus is home to the largest building in northern Nigeria, and is the country’s only university with electricity around the clock. Students get laptops and have wireless, another unusual feature at a Nigerian university.

“We’re an entirely eBook community, all on iPads,” Ensign says, “and we’re introducing that same technology to a very poor community.”

“I would like to show the world that this technology can be used anywhere and can really allow people to leapfrog the challenges of poverty and illiteracy,” she adds.

AUN’s infrastructure is utilized by young Nigerians (and, increasingly, Rwandans, Ugandans, and Cameroonians) who are eager to pursue a liberal arts education. Like most American universities, undergraduate students study a diverse range of courses for two years, then focus on one field for their remaining two years. The campus is also home to a graduate program and a K-12 school – and a small army.

“When I was recruited for this position, like many, I was quite skeptical and worried about coming to Nigeria,” says Ensign.

Even though she feels at home now, Ensign says she faces constant, atypical challenges. Last week, there was a boa constrictor on campus.

“We had to deal with the local snake charmer,” Ensign says. She adds that in northern Nigeria, a big snake is a small challenge compared with “a terrorist organization about 100 miles from the university.”

The charmer got rid of the snake. A 350-person security force is there for the rest.

The security force, one-third of whom are women, are there to protect the 1,400 students and 90 or so faculty from Boko Haram, an Islamist group labeled as a terrorist group by the US government.

Ensign wouldn’t speak to specific threats from Boko Haram, instead saying the security force is there as a precautionary measure. She says students do not live under the constant threat of violence.

The international press, including Latitude News, has widely reported that Boko Haram literally means, “Western education is forbidden.” But Ensign claims even locals who speak the language don’t know what the phrase means.

“It’s much more complicated than it’s been portrayed in the West,” she says. “Everyone from the BBC to Al Jazeera has gotten it wrong.”

As Latitude News has reported, Boko Haram’s rise is the result of complex ethnic, social, and political causes. In 2012, the group’s attacks have grown bolder, and the Nigerian government has had little success in thwarting the movement. In July of this year, the militant Islamist group took the lives of five people.

The State Department recently issued a travel ban that prevents its diplomats in Nigeria from visiting the north where the university is located.

Boko Haram’s existence, Ensign says, means her No. 1 goal is to keep students and faculty safe. Those students seem to have good prospects once they graduate – with an economic growth rate of about7 percent, fueled by oil exports, Nigeria was the fifth fastest-growing economy in sub-Saharan African in 2011, according to the World Bank’s most recent Global Economic Prospects Report.

As Nigeria’s economy booms, the fortified campus will keep Google’s map glowing.

This article originally appeared at Latitude News, an online news site that covers stories showing the links between American communities and the rest of the world.



Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Ajibs posted on 08-08-2012, 09:50:34 AM
QUOTE:
What is the origin of that Nigerian Internet usage figure of about 44 million. From some Nigerian sources? Could you rationalise that one in every four Nigerians has internet usage? That includes the aged pensioners, men and women. That includes all the children.
Why do you accept this type of information without questions? Is 44 million a plausible figure given Nigerian circumstances?

If you believe that figure, my old grandma, long dead since the 70s used the Internet as well.


Oga Ewuro,

Yes oh! That figure can be correct, first see:

QUOTE:
We believe that a definition must be as general and as simple as possible. Therefore, for analyzing and comparing Internet users on a global scale, IWS adopts as its benchmark a broad definition and defines an Internet User as anyone currently in capacity to use the Internet. In our opinion, there are only two requirements for a person to be considered an Internet User:

(1) The person must have available access to an Internet connection point, and
(2) The person must have the basic knowledge required to use web technology.


So with that above, I find as of 2011:

QUOTE:
Nigeria now has 83m active GSM lines
TUESDAY, 08 MARCH 2011 00:00

-MTN - 38.6m; Globacom - 19.6m; Airtel - 15.8m; Etisalat - 6.7m

Nigeria's GSM subscriber-base continues to rise n a strong and growing telecoms market. Latest figures received from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) indicate 83 million active GSM lines.

Of this figure, MTN has 38,683,520; Globacom 19,627,415; Airtel 15,834,243 and Etisalat 6,791,986. Meanwhile, Globacom has emerged the number two operator by subscriber number in one of the telecoms market upsets emerging out of the 2010 telephone subscriber information, according to the NCC.


Most people in Nigeria access the internet via their mobile devices. So if we have 83 million active lines we can certainly have over 44 million active internet users. As we now know not all GSM phones are smartphones.
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
MsMak posted on 08-08-2012, 11:08:11 AM
For the record, while i believe their usage in that school is probably high, i still question it being over half the usage of the entire country. What I'm more interested in is - how can we co-opt this conversation into something bigger and more useful to us than just debating numbers (real or fake)?

For example, I would be interested to know more about:

a) Their Source of Electricity: how exactly AUN is achieving 24-hour electricity uninterrupted. Are they using generators? Natural gas? Solar energy or wind turbines? Or do they have their own small local dam? Maybe we can take the positives from this information and try to replicate it around the country.

b) Internet Service: who provides their service? Correct me if i'm wrong but i thought we don't even have true broadband/high speed internet in Nigeria. Abi did they lay their own fibre optic cables? Is Main One operational? Abi na Satellite?

c) Accountability: how are all of these things possible in the first place? In the midst of Boko Haram terror all around students and faculty are completely safe and free of attacks! If Atiku could make it happen for his private school and Obasanjo can make his own private schools and farms so prosperous, why the hell couldn't they do it for the country they were both ruling????

I wonder if we can dig up more information on these things...
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Mikky jaga posted on 08-08-2012, 12:02:06 PM
What is happening at AUN is what happens when there is unlimited fund to channel to a single project. Such feat can only be replicated in either Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. Nigeria has unlimited problems with limited funds.
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Bill Carson posted on 08-08-2012, 12:32:56 PM
When we were in secondary school, we had a senior that always (convincingly) told us that Gowon regularly visits Buckingham Palace to shag the Queen & this AUN story is the same. Just the Yahoo boys using Internet services along Bode Thomas Surulere sends more traffic than the AUN kids searching for Sharia compliant Porn sites.
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Abraxas posted on 08-08-2012, 13:04:45 PM
Hi, Ms. MsMak!

Well spoken, my small sister.

The American University of Nigeria
(AUN) in Yola is an glaring anomaly: supposedly, a citadel of AMERICAN education and values, right in the middle of Sharia-centric, anti-intellectual, anti-western education, anti-American, pro-Boko Haram, al-Qaida compliant enclave!

It is a miracle of sorts, so Atiku thinks!

Muchas gracias.

Don Juan-Carlos ABRAXAS
(III)[COLOR=#2f4f4f][/COLOR]
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Ewuro posted on 08-08-2012, 13:49:32 PM
QUOTE:
Oga Ewuro,

Yes oh! That figure can be correct, first see:



So with that above, I find as of 2011:



Most people in Nigeria access the internet via their mobile devices. So if we have 83 million active lines we can certainly have over 44 million active internet users. As we now know not all GSM phones are smartphones.


The level of literacy does not support the figure you are quoting. Are they surfing the internet using Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ijaw etc.?

All those kids who dont go to any school in Kano or Sokoto are also surfing the internet communicationg with Boko harams.

On the phone figures, how many of them are active even if the figures you quote are true. Most the phones are dead anyway. The tokunbo phones purchased from all sorts of dodgy places. Again I hear people go to church on sundays just to charge their phones. So 99 % of the time the phones at Ajegunle, Owerri, Aba, Katsina Ala, Zaria, Sokoto, Funtua, Ilorin , Oyo,lagos are dead anyway.

83 million active lines in Nigeria. Oh yes, the Nigerian space ship has just landed on Mars as well. That is how ridiculous this is.
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
First-lady posted on 08-08-2012, 14:06:41 PM
QUOTE:
The level of literacy does not support the figure you are quoting. Are they surfing the internet using Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ijaw etc.?

All those kids who dont go to any school in Kano or Sokoto are also surfing the internet communicationg with Boko harams.

On the phone figures, how many of them are active even if the figures you quote are true. Most the phones are dead anyway. The tokunbo phones purchased from all sorts of dodgy places. Again I hear people go to church on sundays just to charge their phones. So 99 % of the time the phones at Ajegunle, Owerri, Aba, Katsina Ala, Zaria, Sokoto, Funtua, Ilorin , Oyo,lagos are dead anyway.

83 million active lines in Nigeria
. Oh yes, the Nigerian space ship has just landed on Mars as well. That is how ridiculous this is.


Sorry sir but you sound like one of those people that left Nigeria shortly after the civil war and their memory of Nigeria is of the early 70s and stories they have gathered here and there.
FYI the average Nigerian has 2 or more active phones
You need to visit home more often
Nigeria has moved far beyond what you are describing
Seriously
Little teenagers in Nigeria have working phone lines with Internet
Many of my younger cousins and Nieces and nephews I chat with from time to time on FB are doing so with a GSM
Women selling akamu and akara by the roadside have active phones
The vulcanizer that patches your tire will call you on the phone when he is ready
Your mechanic
Electrician that comes to wire your house for your generator
The man that repairs your borehole in the village
Your maiguard
House helps
My step grandmother has 2 phones and she lives in the village
In today's Nigeria a cab driver or kabu kabu will pick you and offer you his phone number for future transactions
You are totally removed from the reality of Nigeria in 2012
Take a trip home and confirm these things for yourself,you are speaking out of ignorance,no offence
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Igboamaeze posted on 08-08-2012, 14:40:38 PM
------

@FL et al,

Abeg make una no mine Chief Ewuro. Whenever he's under the influence of Odeku he'll come up with impossible propositions and when that fails he'll try to change the topic.

For the avoidance of doubt, this thread is about 1. Internet usage/traffic and 2. Google traffic. It's not about Nigerian population, mobile phone penetration, dead or active lines, tokunbo phones or smart phones, power supply and such like.

The question is, even if there're only 10,000 Internet users in Nigeria, can it be possible that 5,500 of them are in a university with combined population of less than 2,000? Two, is it possible that the students of AUN account for 55% of Google traffic even if they're children of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs and such like? Let Chief Ewuro address these posers when Odeku clears from his eyes.

I dey laff Okirika laff...
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
First-lady posted on 08-08-2012, 14:52:54 PM
Like I said earlier when the thread was bouncing off posts and hiding them
The average life expectancy in Nigeria is 50
So the 160 million of Nigerias population is made up of many young people and these are the people on the Internet
Those figures are very possible

@ Igboamaeze,the American university story is rubbish
I await a direct link to google confirming their claims not the he said,she said cockamamie bull
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Ewuro posted on 08-08-2012, 15:11:48 PM
QUOTE:
The question is, even if there're only 10,000 Internet users in Nigeria, can it be possible that 5,500 of them are in a university with combined population of less than 2,000? Two, is it possible that the students of AUN account for 55% of Google of traffic even if they're children of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs and such like? Let Chief Ewuro address these posers when Odeku clears from his eyes.


Your question was already answered here.

QUOTE:
Internet usage has to do with bandwith, intensity or rate of use and duration. If you download very large data, video, grapghics, databases or you exchange very large information with a remote sever in the US, several hours a day, your Internet usage could be several millions more than an individual who uses the internet for just tweeting, Facebook or the NVS.

I have tried to break it down in a layman's language.
It is technically possible. Considering the level of usage and the general technology in Nigeria, it is even more plausible. Look Igboamaeze, these are technical issues. They are not beyond understanding. But you need to appreciate that Internet usage in Nigeria is still elementary when compared to what subsists in developed countries like South Korea, as an example. Usage intensity is beyond mere browsing or emails, or excahange of pictures or use of bloggsites.
To those who say Google may not know. Have you ever visited a commercial website, maybe to purchase or just browse for another vacuum cleaner or microwave. Next time you visit Facebook or NVS, you see the advert of that commercial site you visited earlier adverising the vacuum cleaner or microwave.
This shows that Google knows exactly where you are located. They are also gathering information about which website you visit and what you purchase. If you are googling or you use their browser, they know so much about you.

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