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.


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Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Denker posted on 08-07-2012, 08:49:22 AM
QUOTE:
Google told us we were 55 percent of their traffic in the whole country,\" Ensign says.


maazi igboma, ya dey absolutely correct..google neva gonna say dat...a rational/logic mind nust know dat the quote above na fallacious statement...bokoharam..indeed!

anywaz,...mallam odeku ewuro dey suffer from too much consumption of odeku...

..the only way to make meaningful statistics is when ya fit capture IPs from different locations..anywaz...make una see live statistics here:

http://myip.ms/browse/states/1/countryID/NGA
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Ajibs posted on 08-07-2012, 08:58:35 AM
Just saying, one can use the internet and not only Wikepidea...

user posted image

user posted image

QUOTE:
INTERNET USERS, POPULATION AND FACEBOOK STATISTICS FOR AFRICA

AFRICA Population Internet Users Internet Users Penetration Users Facebook
(2011 Est.) Dec/2000 31-Dec-11 (% Population) % Africa 31-Mar-12

Nigeria 155,215,573 200,000 45,039,711 29.0 % 32.2 % 4,312,060
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Ajibs posted on 08-07-2012, 09:00:30 AM
And other sources...

QUOTE:
1 China 389,000,000
2 United States 245,000,000
3 Japan 99,182,000
4 Brazil 75,982,000
5 Germany 65,125,000
6 India 61,338,000
7 United Kingdom 51,444,000
8 France 45,262,000
9 Nigeria 43,989,000
10 Russia 40,853,000
11 Korea, South 39,400,000
12 Mexico 31,020,000
13 Italy 29,235,000
14 Spain 28,119,000
15 Turkey 27,233,000
16 Canada 26,960,000
17 Vietnam 23,382,000
18 Colombia 22,538,000
19 Poland 22,452,000
20 Pakistan 20,431,000
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Auspicious posted on 08-07-2012, 11:03:13 AM
-

We need to factor-in the population of those locales, viz the percentage with internet access, into our conclusions. That, say Nigeria or China, have 44 and 470 million users respectively (higher, respectively, than both Britain and United States) does not mean either of the former enjoy better access than either latter.

Going with percentage - the density of users - gives far more realistic data and makes for a more objective argument than otherwise. Still, it appears implausible for an environment with a population of, tops, 3,000 people to account for about 55% of internet usage within a larger environment of 160 million.

Yes, things are dire in Nigeria. But I doubt it is that bad. I doubt.
--
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Wizard posted on 08-07-2012, 11:19:09 AM
QUOTE:
And other sources...


These numbers seem unbelievable. However, if mobile internet (including BB users) are taken into consideration in these numbers then it might not be so crazy.
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
MsMak posted on 08-07-2012, 11:37:04 AM
I think there is some confusion here between internet "users" and internet "usage".

a) Users - how many people have access to the internet, whether via phone, internet cafe, personal dial up, etc

b) usage - how much of that access is actually utilized.

We may have 44 million internet users in Nigeria, but how much of the internet access we use (usage) is another matter. To help clarify - let's say all of Lagos has access to electricity, and all use it. But if we check rates we might find that the Ikeja Industrial Area consumes more power than most other areas. That is usage.

With 24 hour electricity supply and fast connection rates, it is quite possible that 2000 students plus faculty members and staff of AUN have higher user rates that other internet users in Naija. Constant blogging, downloading, facebooking, online shopping, skyping, movie watching, etc will do that. And they probably never have to log off unlike other Nigerians who are worried about NEPA blowing up their laptops.

That is not to say we should just accept every statistic thrown to us by foreigners without verifying info on our own. Afterall like Mark Twain said, "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics".
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Mikky jaga posted on 08-07-2012, 12:20:19 PM
Another American way of promoting what is their own (at least by name)
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Igboamaeze posted on 08-07-2012, 12:29:56 PM
QUOTE:
I think there is some confusion here between internet \"users\" and internet \"usage\".

a) Users - how many people have access to the internet, whether via phone, internet cafe, personal dial up, etc

b) usage - how much of that access is actually utilized.

We may have 44 million internet users in Nigeria, but how much of the internet access we use (usage) is another matter. To help clarify - let's say all of Lagos has access to electricity, and all use it. But if we check rates we might find that the Ikeja Industrial Area consumes more power than most other areas. That is usage.

With 24 hour electricity supply and fast connection rates, it is quite possible that 2000 students plus faculty members and staff of AUN have higher user rates that other internet users in Naija. Constant blogging, downloading, facebooking, online shopping, skyping, movie watching, etc will do that. And they probably never have to log off unlike other Nigerians who are worried about NEPA blowing up their laptops.

That is not to say we should just accept every statistic thrown to us by foreigners without verifying info on our own. Afterall like Mark Twain said, \"there are lies, damned lies, and statistics\".


-------

You've got some logic going on up there. If you check through the report, it has two different but important Internet usage statistics. First, it talked about 55% Internet traffic and then Google traffic.

It's simply impossible - even if all the students and staff and messengers of AUN, are logged on permanently -for them to surpass Internet traffic from, say, I Rivers State alone. To think that they can remotely match traffic from the whole country will amount to stretching logic.

On Google traffic, well, it night well be substantial if all they do 24/7 is google. But again it's unbelievable that they generate more traffic than the rest of the country put together. If they're saying that there's a high concentration of traffic at AUN, that's understandable. But more than, again, the whole country put together?

Common, Google...
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Ajibs posted on 08-07-2012, 14:37:06 PM
MsMak,
Notes some important point, but regardless I find it had, very hard to see how AUN will indeed command 55% of all internet traffic in the whole of Nigeria! Nigeria ke!

I mean Lagos is Nigeria's commercial center, so people are online a lot also surfing, downloading with all kinds of devices computers et al. A city like Lagos also has the University of Lagos much larger than AUN and also LASU and other institutions. For example how many students are in the Nigerian Law School... Are they not online? How about the Lagos Business School...? How about the American International Kids School...? And that of the British... Germans and others...? Then you have most embassies still in Lagos... Then you have banks on Island and VI...

This is all before you consider the traders and general population of the state. This is precisely what the woman said

QUOTE:
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.


From the AUN Website I find this:

QUOTE:
In May 2009, AUN graduated its first entering class of students admitted as freshmen in 2005. Student enrollment has grown rapidly over the past four years and now numbers [B]1300 with approximately 90 faculty members.[/B]


Even with their 24 hour electricity and 1390 online people 26 hours a day, they can absolutely not be responsible for 55% of Google's traffic in Nigeria!!! No matter how we slide or dice the "definitions"

How can AUN with 1390 staff and students have not internet traffic that Unilag with over 45,000 Students, ONLY simply because AUN has 24 ours electricity??

Somebody is lying. After reading the report again, I can see that it was a publicity stunt for AUN... That their president has a 419 look sef...

user posted image

We have not even mentioned Abuja, Port, and other areas... 55%...???
Re: A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria
Ajibs posted on 08-07-2012, 14:41:56 PM
For who is an "internet user" from the site I pulled stats from:

QUOTE:
1.1 INTERNET USAGE
Before we can measure or forecast Internet Usage, we must first answer a basic question: Who is an Internet user? Research firms, analysts, consultancies and other sources all disagree on how to answer this seemingly simple question.

The ITU subscribes to the definition of an Internet user as someone aged 2 years old and above, who went online in the past 30 days. The US Department of Commerce, in contrast, defines Internet users as those 3 years or older who 'currently use' the Internet. The CNNIC defines the Internet user as a Chinese citizen, aged 6 or above, who uses the Internet at least one hour per week.

Other market researchers and market research organizations have their own definitions. For example, Nielsen Online in its reports presents two figures for the Internet users: the first is \"Active Internet User\", which is defined as the number of users that viewed the Internet at least once during the last month, and the other figure is, of course, the total universe estimate of Internet users in a country, region, or city.

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.


That's it. No need to make complex something that is really quite simple. In many Third World countries one same Internet connection may be shared by many individual users. Due to this reason, Internet users generally outnumber the amount of Internet access subscribers and also outnumber the telephone lines available in each country.

The Internet today offers users more options for access, for example: mobile, G2, G3, and so forth. Our definition and stats (statistics) consider ALL the ways a user or a subscriber connects. Internet World Stats numbers represent the \"universe\" of Internet users in any region, country or territory. These figures are useful for estimating Internet market size at a global, regional or local scale.

1.2 INTERNET GROWTH
In order to establish the relative growth rate of the Internet on a global basis, we compare the current (latest) Internet usage figures for each country or region with the year 2000, our baseline year for Internet usage figures, and express this ratio as a percentage. For information on the Historic Internet Growth data please click here, a new page will open. For the Current Internet World Usage Statistics, visit this page.

1.3 INTERNET PENETRATION RATE
The Internet Penetration Rate corresponds to the percentage of the total population of a given country or region that uses the Internet. Internet users are defined in 1.1. No adjustments have been made for infants or illiteracy in the Internet penetration rate calculations. Indeed very few countries have 100% literacy, Norway is one of them. Regarding the children, they are early adopters, when given the chance to surf the Internet.

For countries with penetration rates above 50%, the data will be marked in bold letters in the corresponding pages. The list of the countries with Internet Penetration Rates over 50% may be found here. At Internet World Stats we support the 50x15 Initiative and invite you to do so also. Read about this important project for the future growth of the Internet at the Digital Divide page.
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