Digital Giant? Says who?

The BBC has interviewed some people who they have called "Digital Giants". The list of names reads like a who's who in the world of the Internet and Computing: Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Steve Ballmer (Current CEO of Microsoft), Martha Lane Fox (lastminute.com).....and a certain Philip Emeagwali from Nigeria.

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:

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?


  1. Hello Boso,

    When I saw the BBC reference to Philip Emeagwali, I did not even give it a second look - I suppose you were too curious to let it go.


    .-= Akin´s last blog ..Nigeria: Can Jonathan have your support now? =-.

  2. Very well considered and written Boso, we really should expect better fact checking from our public broadcaster.
    .-= Pete´s last blog ..Pushkin: With him, we dream. =-.

  3. @Akin: There was no way I could let it go. Especially after listening to the interview.

    @Pete: Correct, they should have checked their facts.

  4. To be frank, I think the BBC's editorial standards have been slipping for a few years now. I've seen hyperbole of the sort applied to Mr Emeagwali in reports from time to time and their coverage of Iranian news has been so partisan as to tread a line with outright distortion of facts. While the BBC are still better than most, I don't think there is such thing as a truly thorough or neutral news service any more.
    .-= Scary Rob´s last blog ..Painting the Roses Red =-.

  5. Ogunyemi Bankole Taiwo26 March 2010 at 06:09

    Boso..We all are Nigerians. I see no reason why you are castigating Your Fellow Nigerian. If BBC has decided to Eulogize him, Leave them to do that which is based on there credibility. Philip has sown a seed in Nigeria which he is reaping now. My Question is this What seed have you sown?

  6. Mr. (or Mrs or Miss) Taiwo, I am a proud Nigerian. I am not castigating the man, I am simply speaking the truth. So if Philip tells me that he has discovered that all Nigerians have immunity to the common cold, do I just accept that without questioning it? I will celebrate anyone who has achieved anything great, Nigerian or not. but I cannot listen to a pack of lies and sit down quietly.

  7. Ogunyemi Bankole Taiwo26 March 2010 at 13:37

    Hi Boso,Nice Response.
    However, Can you Stand an Open Debate/Discussion with him on this issue?

  8. Read the facts in my post. If he (or anyone else) has evidence to prove I am wrong, I will be more than happy to apologise.

  9. @ Ogunyemi Bankole: the truth is that we have sang the praises of Mediocrity for too long. I was inspired as a young person by Emeagwali's story that I read in the Guardian newspaper as a kid in 1996. When I carried out more research on the guy recently, I found out the he is nothing but a Chalartan. this is not about being patriotic or not; its about standing up for the truth. I would rather tread the path of honesty rathet than national "altruism". the other guy name Oyibo is even worse; he is simply deluded. we know our intellectual icons; the Soyinkas, Achebes etc

  10. @Jokobaba: Thank you. I only found out about Gabriel Oyibo today, from facebook, where I also posted this story. Like you said, no one can dispute the achievements of Soyinka and Achebe, but we need real heroes, not imagined ones.

    I would also like to say that I am not attacking Emeagwali because he in Nigerian. I would have written this if he was Chinese, Indian, British or American, as long as I had the facts to back me up.

    This is not about nationality. Actually, it is about poor editorial control at the BBC.

  11. http://www.saharareporters.com/report/how-philip-emeagwali-lied-his-way-fame

    The story continues to unravel. Sahara Reporters tears him a new one.

  12. [...] Comments Boso on Digital Giant? Says who?Scary Rob on Never Forget……….jrpb on Big Fan?BOSO.ME » Blog Archive » [...]

  13. I support you Boso.

    Honesty should not be redefined if our brother is involved. It's not about pulling anyone down, but more about standing up for the truth with evidence to back it up.

    This would be a warning to other intellectual 419s. Kudos Boso

  14. He is wearing a football strip with ball in hand in one of his pictures, does that mean he never played for arsenal? or is this a coded message.. "foul"

  15. Just checked PE website, saw a pic of him in full football strip with ball in hand. does that mean he did not really once play for Arsenal? Or is this a coded maessage to all of us..handball.. U get it? FOUL

  16. He is wearing a football strip with ball in hand in one of his pictures, does that mean he never played for arsenal? or is this a coded message.. "foul"