Research & Innovation

Stevens Professor Victor Lawrence’s Research and Business Efforts Support Construction of Continental Fiber-optic Cable to Spearhead Internet Expansion in Africa

Throughout his illustrious career as an inventor, business leader and academic, Dr. Victor Lawrence – Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Stevens – has championed the expansion of broadband internet capabilities to developing, third-world nations.

Lawrence’s pioneering work in global telecommunications during his 30-year career at Bell Laboratories helped to spur the growth of the Internet worldwide.

Since then, he founded the Baharicom Development Corporation (BDC), a co-builder of the African Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine communications cable – a 17,000-kilometer broadband, fiber-optic underwater cable which will run from France to South Africa, along the way bringing high bandwidth internet access to 23 countries on the west coast of Africa.

On April 18, 2013, Lawrence hosted a videoconference at Stevens which brought together an international alliance of eminent scientists who are also focused on improving the living standards of African nations by “reducing the digital divide.” During the three hour videoconference, the scientists discussed how the expansion of communications capability in West Africa could enhance basic human services for millions of people.

Currently, Lawrence said only 4 percent of the African population has internet access, but the new telecommunications network being created could ultimately increase access to 20 or 30 percent of the population. While that number lags greatly behind the world’s most advanced nations – where 60, 70 or even 80 percent of the population typically have internet access – the ongoing African communications expansion could help spur significant economic development and social growth throughout the continent.

At the videoconference, the scientists discussed how greater access to affordable, high-speed internet can enable the spread of information and the sharing of knowledge; promote literacy, education, innovation and entrepreneurship; teach tolerance, open-mindedness and a global mindset; allow for critical human services to be delivered where they are most needed; and even create more knowledge-based and professional jobs. They specifically focused on various applications for e-health, e-education, e-commerce and e-agriculture made possibly by the international cable.

Lawrence, who holds several patents for telecommunications inventions, is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

See his interview about the videoconference on Cablevision’s Neighborhood Journal – Hudson News Edition.