Now, before I get to the credibility of Philip Emeagwali, let us first listen to the man.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/digital_giants/8561413.stm (will open a link to the video)
So two things he mentioned didn't sit right with me, so I did a little research:
1. "Nigeria will become the 3rd most populous Nation in the world according to the United Nations" - This was a major surprise to me. So I did what the BBC should have done, I went to the United Nations website to check their population projections. The furthest date projected is 2050, by which they think the population of Nigeria will be 289 million people. Which is less than the USA (403 million), Pakistan (335 million), India (1.6 billion) and China (1.4 billion), putting Nigeria firmly into 5th place. In fact the current population of the USA(313 million) is more than Nigeria's population will be in 2050. So, this is an untruth.
2. "There will be more internet connections in Nigeria than in the USA in 50 years time." Again, see point number 1. Even if Nigeria's population managed to surpass that of the US (which it won't), the penetration of the internet in Nigeria can never match that of a developed Nation. Unless of course, he is predicting that Nigeria will become a developed Nation by then. But if you've been reading the News headlines coming out of my beloved homeland over the last few weeks, then like me, you wouldn't hold your breath. Basically, I don't see how this will be achieved, even in 50 years.
So how did the BBC editorial process allow this interview to be published on their website?
Now, let us talk about the man himself.
In 2000, when I was in my final year in University in Nigeria, the internet was becoming mainstream in Nigeria, while my family had been using a dial up connection since 1995, my university was finally connected, and we used to go into the office of my friend's dad (who was a lecturer) and browse at SUPER SLOW speeds. Around that time, we started to hear about a Professor Philip Emeagwali, who was meant to be "Africa's Bill Gates", "The father of the Internet" and apparently, Bill Clinton had called him "one of the great minds of the information age”. His website http://emeagwali.com/ was full of praise of the man and contained claims like he was the "most searched for scientist in the world". (I have visited it today after such a long time, and it has been toned down, but just a bit. However, there is already a link to the BBC interview under the heading "BBC Hails Emeagwali as "Digital Giant" ")
However, the Internet being the Internet, information is easy to come by. And soon we discovered that :
1. He could not be a professor because he didn't have a P.hd. Emeagwali studied for a Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan from 1987 through 1991. His thesis was not accepted by a committee of internal and external examiners and thus he was not awarded the degree. Emeagwali filed a court challenge, stating that the decision was a violation of his civil rights and that the university had discriminated against him in several ways because of his race. The court challenge was dismissed, as was an appeal to the Michigan state Court of Appeals.
2. According to Philip Emeagwali, the Gordon Bell prize he won in 1989 is the “highest honor in computing,” and he has referred to it as “Computing’s Nobel Prize.” In fact, it is not, but I will leave that to others to discuss with you (see list of articles below). However, he shared the prize with 9 other people that year. And I don't see any of them bragging about it like he does.
I could go on and on, but I'll just post links to certain articles which have all the facts:
Self-Promotion and Self-Authentication: the Abuse of Cyber pseudo-Anonymity: Part II "Father of the Internet"
So my question is, why did the BBC see it fit to interview this man? And after the interview, could they not see that some of his 'facts' were clearly plain WRONG?