This dissertation offers a critical analysis of development communication in Africa by studying how the global computing industry transformed schools, the state, and educational culture in Ekiti State, Nigeria. It brings post-development theory together with critical approaches to communication to examine how discourses of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D), Information and Communication Technology for Education (ICT4E), and the digital divide are materialized institutionally and culturally in the context of a specific development project. It relies upon corporate and governmental policy documents, including site visits to schools, and interviews with government officials, consultants, industry partners, parents, students, and teachers to provide a comprehensive account of the failures of a flagship ICT4E project in Nigeria: the Ekiti State e-School Project.
The Ekiti State e-School Project involved the distribution of 30,000 laptops to students in 183 public secondary schools located both in the rural and urban areas at the cost of US$12.5 million. The project was implemented in 2012 in anticipation of a digital future for the Nigeria economy that rested upon the liberalization of the telecommunication sector and precipitated intense forms of collaboration between Ekiti State and global computing corporations, most notably Samsung and Microsoft. My dissertation illustrates how the discourses of education, communication, and development mediated this relationship in ways that failed to solve the problem of social inequality underpinning the digital divide in the state. In addition, it situates the failure of the project within the broader history of telecommunication, modernization theory, and development communication in Africa, as well as the experiences of those participating in and affected by the events described in this dissertation. By bringing post-development theory together with critical communication studies in a novel fashion, I displace the contemporary fascination with ‘access to information’ and ‘digital divide’ to discuss the politics of development failure in a wider context.