Communications and info tech in developing countries, especially wireless broadband and high-value applications
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Bruce Sterling update:
Now calling his concept "cybergreens": "They're all about creating irresistible consumer demand for cool objects that will yield a global atmosphere upgrade. It's the Net vs. the 20th-century fossil order in a fight that the cybergreens are winning. Why? Because they're not about spiritual potential, human decency, small is beautiful, peace, justice or anything else unattainable. The cybergreens are about stuff people want, such as health, sex, glamour, hot products, awesome bandwidth, tech innovation and tons of money.
We're gonna glam, spend and consume our way into planetary survival. My own favorite sci-fi planetary-saving scheme
for naming, numbering and linking to the Internet every piece of junk we create so that it can be corralled and briskly recycled, creating a cradle-to-cradle postindustrial order and averting planetary doom, may sound pretty shocking and alien. But I wrote that book while in residency at a famous design school. I received an honorary doctorate there and the book was published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It gets great reviews, designers love it. It's not even science fiction -- it's a cybergreen manifesto.
In 1998, I had it figured that the dot-com boom would become a dot-green boom. It took a while for others to get it. Some still don't. They think I'm joking. They are still used to thinking of greenness as being "counter" and "alternative" -- they don't understand that 21st-century green is and must be about everything -- the works. Sustainability is comprehensive. That which is not sustainable doesn't go on. Glamorous green." 11:15:08 PM
Monday, March 12, 2007
Coltan and Your Mobile:
Disturbing effect of a key electronic material on the ongoing disaster in the Congo. "Columbite-tantalite (from here on referred to as Coltan). On its own it looks and feels like a very fertile soil, but when refined you get a highly heat-resistant metal powder called tantalum. Once refined, coltan has myriad uses, all of which pertain to its particular properties of being a dense mineral with the ability to withstand high temperatures and stress.To the high-tech industry this tantalum is a magic dust that is essential in making computer chips, stereo’s, VCR and DVD players and mobile phones. As such, coltan derivatives are used as capacitors in devices such as mobile phones and even complex missile guidance systems. ..
Coltan is mined by hand in the Congo by groups of men digging basins in streams by scrapping off the surface mud. They then “slosh” the water around the crater, which causes the Coltan ore to settle to the bottom of the crater where it is retrieved by the miners...
While a fair majority of the worlds tantalum supply comes from legitimate mining operations in Australia, Canada and Brazil the recent demand for tantalum has caused a more sinister market to begin flourishing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where 80% of the world’s known coltan supply is subject to “highly organized and systematic exploitation.” There, warring rebel groups - many funded and supplied by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda - are exploiting coltan mining in the Eastern DRC to help finance political and human oppression, child enslavement, torture and war. The mining area is also within one of the main ranges of the threatened Eastern Lowland Gorilla .. In April of 2001 the United Nations issued a report on the rape of resources from the DRC. In their findings field investigators reported that Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian rebels had looted and smuggled thousands of tons of coltan from the Congo into their countries to export to the global market, using the profits to finance their militias. ..Coltan smuggling has also been implicated as a major source of income for the military occupation of Congo which is also linked to forced child enlisting, rape and the rampant spread of HIV. ..
Manufacturers rely on their “suppliers” which are Tantalum capacitor makers like Kemet of Greenville, S.C., the world’s largest tantalum capacitor maker and on the companies trading the minerals. .. some 80 percent of the worlds Coltan comes from the DRC and most of that passes through several black market hands before its finally delivered to the refineries it what appears to be legitimate means." 7:34:46 AM
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Global Voices Online:
Interesting compilation of current blog material from citizens of many counties, including Lebanon, Libya, China, Iran, with coverage of local news. Would provide interesting inputs to the "open source intelligence
" movement. 11:24:52 PM
Inflated influence of India's IT-factor:
"In 2003, for example, India claimed to have exported US$8.7 billion
worth of software, most of which went to the United States. But US
companies recorded just US$420 million worth of software imports from
India — a remarkable 20-fold difference. The GAO believes that this huge inconsistency arises, in part, from
India misreporting financial data. For instance, India counts the
earnings of all temporary workers in the United States as part of their
exports figures. But this is against universally-accepted financial
disclosure conventions suggested by the International Monetary Fund.
The result is a gross over-representation of Indian software exports.Several factors also point to a relatively small impact on economic
development from India's IT industry. In 2005, for instance, the IT
exports industry was a marginal job-creator, employing 770,000 people —
just 0.21 per cent of the total labour force." 11:16:04 PM
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
WaterHealth International Closes Series C Funding:
, Inc. (WHI)
today announced the final close of its Series C funding for a total
equity investment of more than $11 million. SAIL Venture Partners,
L.P., anchored the latest investment of $4 million. Series A investor
Plebys International LLC, founded and led by WHI CEO Tralance Addy,
also invested in this round. The new investments are in addition to
the $7.25 million equity investment anchored by Dow Venture Capital
that WHI announced last month.
WHI has more than 450 installations of its water purification and
disinfection systems in developing countries around the world. This
additional funding further strengthens WHI and will allow for
accelerated growth in the company's target markets, primarily India and
South Asia, West Africa, the Philippines and Mexico." This is the product developed by Ashok Gadgil, which I've been following for a few years. Glad to see it get substantial backing. 12:25:16 AM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Strong Angel 3 lessons:
This year's Strong Angel
exercise has received extensive coverage
. An excellent long summary is provided by Sanjana at his ict4peace
blog. The linked magazine article provides a few tech takeaways:
- "Perhaps the most popular technology used during Strong Angel was the Fossil Abacus smart personal object technology (SPOT) watch. This is a wristwatch with an embedded FM radio receiver designed to receive text messages. Although the watches are primarily intended for personal use, a portable and configurable FM transmitter with a 50-mile radius allows the devices to operate in areas without infrastructure, power or Internet connectivity. Messages can be sent to selected groups of SPOT wearers, such as police, fire department personnel and National Guard troops. ..
- [Also popular were] satellite dishes manufactured by GATR Technologies, Huntsville, Alabama. The dishes resemble oversized beach balls and are available in several sizes. The smallest antennas weigh 70 pounds and provide a two-megabit-per-second Internet connection. ..
- Route 1 Incorporated, Toronto, Canada, provided all of the event’s participants with a device called a Mobikey. Roughly the size of a data stick, it fits into a computer’s universal serial bus port to create a virtual private tunnel from any terminal or computer that users are operating in the field back to their organization’s server or personal desktop. ..
- One assumption that was quickly dispelled was that wireless Internet connectivity could be easily established. “Everybody showed up with a Wi-Fi [wireless fidelity] router and nobody could get online,” [Microsoft's] Kirkpatrick shares."
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Record-Breaking Governance Prize Launched:
Great idea: reward leaders to leave office peacefully. "Mo Ibrahim Foundation
announced today a $5 million annual prize for African leaders who were elected fairly, improved their country's standard of living, and handed over power peacefully to the next elected government.
Recipients of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership will get $500,000 a year in their first 10 years out of office, and $200,000 a year for the rest of their lives. The prize will be the world's most generous award, according to the foundation. .. [Ibrahim] hopes to make the first award by the end of 2007.
The prize's selection committee will choose winners with the help of a governance index that is being developed by Dr. Robert Rotberg at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The foundation will spend about $500,000 a year to develop and update the index. ..
Rotberg told AllAfrica that most existing measures rely on interviews and other forms of documentation for comparison, but that he will use only quantifiable, objective measures. For example, in measuring changes to the national infrastructure, the index may count the miles of paved road in a country. To measure political freedom, team members may identify the number of journalists or opposition leaders held in prison. ..
Ibrahim said his financial models assume that leaders will live 25 years after leaving office, making the estimated net prize worth $8 million. With new winners being added each year, the cost to the foundation will quickly rise into the tens of millions, but Ibrahim said .. "We are fully funded. We are not seeking money from anybody."
Much of Ibrahim's personal fortune comes from last year's sale of his African telecommunications company, Celtel, to Kuwait's MTC for $3.4 billion." 11:18:45 PM
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Windows XP Multiuser Remote Desktop:
With a couple file renames and a registry change, XP can run three remote desktop sessions (normal desktop plus 2 more).
Combined with the $20-30 terminals that are available from outlets like www.surpluscomputers.com, and the $150-250 LCD screens, you can extend an ordinary PC to multiple users (with very low power and zero noise to boot). 9:55:29 PM
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
: Grameen Foundation USA is sponsoring teh open-source development of an ambitious system for microfinance management. "Mifos is a universal, flexible and scalable software platform for information management for the global microfinance community. Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) will use Mifos as their base operational software to administer their client accounts and financial portfolio. Loan officers will use it to create loans as well as savings, insurance and other financial services. Mifos will be used to record all transactions. It will manage the user and client database, define the products, and create reports for internal use and outside reporting to regulators, funders and supporters. Finally, it will include surveys to help measure the social impact of the MFI operation." 6:13:57 PM
Sunday, July 02, 2006
I'm back from my trip to the Conservation International conference in Madagascar. I kept a travel blog, which is now finished, at http://kensroad.blogspot.com/
. Feel free to visit. 10:39:11 AM
Friday, January 27, 2006
Lessons of post-Cold War development:
Summarizes and links to papers by Harvard's Dani Rodrik, especially an excellent review of economic development policies since 1990, "Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion?"
For example: "While it is true that over the past ten years scores of developing nations have not experienced economic growth, and in some cases have actually fallen backwards, despite following the rules of the Washington Consensus, paradoxically, that doesn't mean the era of globalization has been an unmitigated disaster. Quite the contrary: "From the standpoint of global poverty," writes Rodrik, "the last two decades have proved the most favorable that the world has ever experienced. Rapid economic growth in China, India, and a few other Asian countries has resulted in an absolute reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty."
But what's fascinating is that China and India made their march forward, according to Rodrik, not by willy nilly opening up their markets with neoliberal abandon, but with great attention to policy choices, and with explicit government involvement in the economy that can only be described as industrial policy. The same was true of many of the East Asian nations who developed earlier, like Taiwan and South Korea, which only started to seriously open up after
they had achieved substantial economic growth through a mix of protectionism, export subsidies, and other policy choices." 11:17:30 PM
Text messaging, thumb drives, and Web mail for disasters:
"Communications systems were largely useless when
Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region, “but text messaging
did work,” said John Lawson, CIO of Tulane University in New Orleans. Lawson and other officials who were on the ground
during Katrina’s aftermath told a gathering of public-sector CIOs that
because text messaging requires so little bandwidth, and in very short
bursts, it became a primary means of communicating during
“Our young folks figured that out for us,” said Joe
Castillo, chief of operations for the Coast Guard district serving New
.. Castillo [also] said the Coast Guard relied on thumb drives to
courier data around the area. The miniature storage devices contain
flash memory and typically connect to computers through a USB port. “I
bought a ton of them,” Castillo said.
Agencies on the ground also relied heavily on
commercial e-mail services and recommended off-site e-mail systems as
part of a continuity of operations plan (COOP). Eric Rasmussen, a
director of emergency medicine for the Navy, said his group set up
accounts on Yahoo Mail, Google and others in order to share
Lawson said he learned to have an off-site e-mail
system in place in case of disaster. Tulane was eventually able to find
an offsite partner to set up accounts for students and personnel, but
the school was unable to populate the system on the fly with all user
Rasmussen was pleased with the Groove peer-to-peer
collaboration tools his team employed in New Orleans, but they weren’t
perfect. In order to establish secure collaboration, Groove’s
communications are encrypted end to end. Therefore, an emergency
response official must be invited to a Groove workgroup in order to
collaborate. COOP plans should include technologies for workgroup
discovery, Rasmussen said.
.. “The ability to find out who is doing collaborative
work … by having some Web-based discovery capability or some
e-mail-based discovery capability would be very useful,” he said. “A
lot of work that was done in a collaborative workspace was not
available to anyone else.”
" 10:38:17 PM
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
111m surfers in China:
"The number of Web users in China, the world's second largest Internet market, grew by 18 percent in 2005 to 111 million, the Economic Daily reported on Wednesday. Some 8.5 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people now had access to the Internet, the newspaper reported, citing a survey released by the China Internet Network Information Center. .. The 2005 gains represented an acceleration from 2004, when the number of Internet users grew 16 percent to 94 million. More than half of China's Web population -- or about 64 million people -- accessed the Web via broadband connections, suggesting a 50 percent increase versus 2004 as China strongly promotes the development of its broadband networks. ..
China is the world's No. 2 PC market, with nearly 16 million units shipped in 2004 and the number expected to have grown another 13 percent last year, according to data tracking firm International Data Corp." 8:30:58 AM
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Why Do Some Turks Have Bird Flu Virus but Aren't Sick?: I wonder if surviving a mild version of bird flu immunizes against the bad version. "five cases in Ankara hospitals are different from those elsewhere in Asia. Four of the five display only mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all.. Doctors are unsure whether they are for the first time seeing human bird flu in its earliest stages or if they are discovering that infection with the A(H5N1) virus does not always lead to illness. ..
Since none of the five have died, it is raising the possibility that human bird flu is not as deadly as currently thought, and that many mild cases in Asian countries may have gone unreported. Turkey is the first country outside eastern Asia to have human cases, and the first one anywhere to have so many separate animal outbreaks simultaneously.
In one week, Turkey announced 15 confirmed human cases of A(H5N1); Asia has seen only about 140 in the space of five years. .. In Ankara, where the government has been sending out vans with loudspeakers urging people to report symptoms and avoid contact with animals, even people with mild symptoms are being checked for bird flu, meaning that milder cases are more likely to be detected than they are in other parts of Asia. "I'm sure that part of the explanation for the high number of case in Turkey is better surveillance," said Maria Cheng, a spokeswoman for the W.H.O. in Geneva." Again, better surveillance and quick communication are key. 9:06:49 AM
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Getting in early as China cleans up: "Stories on environmental disasters come out of China and other Asian developing countries regularly. A review of impacts and the resulting investments: "Environmental damage from pollution is costing China the equivalent of 7.7 percent of gross domestic product annually .. Other sobering statistics in the report, called "Connecting Asia," include estimates of 6.4 million work years lost annually in China to air pollution, 178,000 premature deaths in major cities every year caused by the use of high-sulfur coal and the fact that 52 urban river stretches have been so contaminated that they are no longer suitable for irrigation. ..
[Investment manager] Sorenson said that in terms of environmental standards, "China is now where the U.S. was in the late 1960s" [when disasters and new laws] changed the way U.S. companies conducted business. A similar process was seen in Japan, spurred by the Tokyo Olympic Games of 1964, and in South Korea, when Seoul was host of the Olympics in 1988. There is much hope that the 2008 Games in Beijing will prove as seminal in China's environmental development. .. In November, [China's] State Environmental Protection Administration estimated that the government would spend around $156 billion in environmental protection from 2006 to 2010. ..
Sorenson's FE Clean Energy Group is currently putting together an Asia fund, which Sorenson expects to total around $75 million. .. [Another is] the China Environment Fund, set up in 2001 by Tsinghua Venture Capital Management, a fund management company affiliated with Tsinghua University in Beijing. Catherine Cao, executive director of the firm, said that its third fund should be ready by the end of 2006 and aims to raise $50 million. Two previous funds [were] $13 million and $30 million..
The easiest means of entry for small investors still remains the mutual fund. The Impax Environmental Markets fund of £45 million, or $79 million, rose by around 32 percent in 2005. Among its biggest holdings are Casella Waste, a U.S. waste disposal company, Kurita Water of Japan and Horiba, a Japanese environmental testing company." Other options: big utilities, especially European, operating in Asia; Shenzhen Dongjiang Environmental, listed in Hong Kong; canada's Zenon Environmental; Nordex of Germany; solar companies Kyocera and Sharp. [via Salon] 11:33:41 AM
Monday, January 09, 2006
Uganda in trouble:
Uganda's government has been a model of moderation and economic liberalization for over 10 years. But now the long-standing Museveni government is cracking down on opponents. This reports on a demonstration for an opponent just released from jail, which was attacked with teargas and batons by police. "From 1986 to 1996, one of them told me, crowds of this size would meet Museveni wherever he went and whomever he was with. A decade later, a growing number of Ugandans wonder why their
president doesn't seem ready to emulate his colleagues in East Africa
and leave power peacefully, as Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania has done. No amount of tear gas or water can erase the doubts about Museveni, but using them often seems to increase public anger. ..
Britain's [decided] last month to cut $26.5 million in aid to
Uganda due to concerns over Besigye's arrest .." 10:09:51 AM
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Gapminder: An interactive presentation for the "Human Development Report 2005" by UNDP, relating population, income and health across countries and regions over 50 years. Much improved in recent months. In 10 minutes, it conveys a lot about where the world is going. 12:50:27 AM
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Nanotechnology for Development:
More groups are studying the potential impact of nanotech on developing countries. The World Bank Development Gateway has a site, with a few familar names (editor John Daly
, and advisor Anil Srivastava
) . The Merdian Institute Nanotechnology and Development News
provides daily updates via RSS or email. From a Press Release:
" Several recent reports, including the report of the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Science, Technology, and Innovation, conclude that science and technology, in particular nanotechnology, can contribute significantly to alleviating poverty and achieving the MDGs. "The use of nanotechnology applications for water treatment and remediation; energy storage, production, and conversion; disease diagnosis and screening; drug delivery systems; health monitoring; air pollution and remediation; food processing and storage; vector and pest detection and control; and agricultural productivity enhancement will help developing countries meet five of the Goals," states the Task Force Report. .. Over 20 countries, including innovative developing countries such as China, South Africa, Brazil, and India, have national nanotechnology programs.." 9:23:34 AM
Monday, November 21, 2005
People Finder Interchange Format: For Katrinalist.net, an "all volunteer team created a searchable directory of persons displaced or affected by Hurricane Katrina, consolidating over 25 different online resources into one central, searchable repository. PeopleFinder Interchange Format, (called 'PFIF') is a new, standardized data format implemented in XML. ..
The Katrina PeopleFinder Project mobilized hundreds of volunteers over the Labor Day weekend to make an immediate difference. .. The team plans to turn its attention to housing and job solutions next, creating a centralized technology solution that aggregates acomprehensive resource set from sites all across the web, standardizes them, and makes them searchable from anywhere." 1:33:09 PM
Friday, November 11, 2005
NearlyFreeSpeech.NET Web Hosting: Hosting with "long tail" pricing. "no contracts and no commitments .. If you'd like to talk to one of our sales reps to get a quote, you're out of luck. We don't have any. We also don't have any commissions, referral payments, or kickbacks. With NearlyFreeSpeech.NET, your money goes straight to the services you actually use"
- Data Transfers (Bandwidth): $1.00 per gigabyte
- Disk Space (Storage): $0.01 per megabyte-month
- DNS at $0.02 per registered domain per day, no matter how active your domain gets.
- Domain registration at $7.45 for a one-year .com and $7.68 for .net or .org.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Mobile Comms Satellite Launches Into Orbit: Inmarsat bGAN broadband network nearly complete. "The second step in a $1.5 billion program to create a mobile broadband communications network spanning the globe for users at sea, in the air and on land roared into space today. .. When [The Inmarsat 4-F2 satellite] enters service from geostationary orbit 22,300 miles (35,888 kilometers) above Earth next year, the craft will join the Inmarsat 4-F1 satellite that was successfully launched on Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5 rocket in March from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Together, the two craft will deliver broadband communications to 85 percent of the world." Connections are expected at around 400 kbps in each direction.
Also interesting is how it got there. It was launched SeaLaunch, a private company using a floating platform and Ukranian and Russian rockets. 8:07:35 PM
Sunday, October 23, 2005
The Year of Rewards: Penestanan 2
: When I travelled in Africa and Asia in the 80s, I shot a lot of slides. I dreamed then of a digital future where my camera would record sound as well as pictures, and where I could annotate the recordings and beam them out to my friends at home in real time. Even in 1983 you could see it would come, eventually. Now, here's a fine example from my friend David Lincoln. Today he's in Bali, taking a walk with villagers in their rice paddies. 11:44:11 PM
Monday, October 03, 2005
Hurricane Katrina Relief
: IT providers like Microsoft, Novell, etc, are providing assistance to businesses recovering from Katrina. "For businesses, organizations, and institutions whose computing systems were adversely effected by the hurricane, InsynQ and a community of ASP, technology, and software providers are donating various virtual computing solutions to help them transition to recovery. .. " 11:56:01 PM
Monday, September 26, 2005
Current BPL Internet Service Plenty Fast
: An early user of BPL (Broadband over Power Line) Internet service from Current Communications
over a local Cincinatti power company, Cinergy. "To use the service, you get a BPL modem. It looks like a largish wall-wart power plug with some LEDs on it. It has an RJ-45 jack on it to connect to a computer or a router. That's about it. We opted for the Cadillac level service: 3mbps up, 3mbps down, and a dedicated IP. That runs $49.95 a month, but the price decreases as more people in my neighborhood sign up (my current price with >3 neighbors signed up is a paltry $42.46)" Measured performance: 3.5 mbps downline, 4.2 mbps uplink (!). 12:58:35 PM
Friday, September 09, 2005
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
FTC Message Switching Systems
: A blast from the past, the project I worked on 20 years ago. "The Sombers Group built the company's fault-tolerant Tandem Computer-based switching systems, which were installed both in the U.S. and overseas. " By "overseas" they mean Cameroon, where I installed the message switch at Intelcam
in 1983. I also upgraded the switch in 1986, and then hosted their staff for TCP/IP training in 1995 in California. 1:08:19 PM
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Wildlife trade on the web: "Internet shoppers in search of the exotic have sparked a booming trade that is threatening the existence of many endangered species, according to a report released Tuesday by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. .. “Trade on the Internet is easy, cheap and anonymous,” said IFAW UK director Phyllis Campbell-McRae. .. The report “Caught in the web - wildlife trade on the Internet” found in just one week 146 live primates, 5,527 elephant products, 526 turtle and tortoiseshells, 2,630 reptile products and 239 wild cat products for sale." 8:33:51 AM
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Cellphones Catapult Rural Africa to 21st Century: 20 years ago I travelled in Africa, telling people that wireless phones would be the IT that would matter there. Nice to read the stories of how that works today. "Bekowe Skhakhane does even the simplest tasks the hard way. Fetching water from the river takes four hours a day. To cook, she gathers sticks and musters a fire. Light comes from candles. But when Ms. Skhakhane wants to talk to her husband, who works in a steel factory 250 miles away in Johannesburg, she takes out her mobile phone. .. "It is a necessity," said Ms. Skhakhane.. "Buying air time is part of my regular grocery list." She spends the equivalent of $1.90 a month for five minutes of telephone time. ..
One in 11 Africans is now a mobile subscriber. .. cellphones are enabling millions of people to skip a technological generation and bound straight from letter-writing to instant messaging. .. One woman living on the Congo River, unable even to write her last name, tells customers to call her cellphone if they want to buy the fresh fish she sells. "She doesn't have electricity, she can't put the fish in the freezer," said Mr. Nkuli of Vodacom. "So she keeps them in the river," tethered live on a string, until a call comes in. Then she retrieves them and readies them for sale. ..
William Pedro, 51, who deals in farm and garden plants, said he tried for eight years to lure customers to his nursery in a ragtag township near George.. "now [customers] can phone me for orders and I can deliver them the same day." ..
Congo was in the midst of a civil war when Alieu Conteh, a telecommunications entrepreneur, began building a cellular network there in the 1990's. No foreign manufacturer would ship a cellphone tower to the airport with rebels nearby, so Mr. Conteh hired local men to collect scrap and weld a tower together. Now Vodacom, which formed a joint venture with him in 2001, .. [hauls] each satellite dish into place with ropes. Base stations are powered by generators. .. Vodacom Congo has 1.1 million subscribers and is adding more than 1,000 daily. ..
How does an African family in a hut lighted by candles charge a mobile phone? .. the solution is often a car battery owned by someone who does not have a prayer of acquiring a car. Ntombenhle Nsele keeps one in her home a few miles down the road from Ms. Skhakhane's. She takes it by bus 20 miles to the nearest town to recharge it in a gas station. For 80 cents each, Ms. Nsele, 25, lets neighbors charge their mobiles from the battery. She gets at least five customers a week. "Oooh, a lot of people," she said, smiling. "Too many." " 11:14:36 AM
Monday, August 22, 2005
Global University Phone System
: "The GUPS Initiative provides universities with a voice over IP (VOIP) system they can easily install and configure to connect their phone networks with other academic institutions around the globe. Calls are routed over the internet using VOIP thus bypassing traditional telecommunication charges for phone calls " 10:35:13 PM
Monday, August 15, 2005
Royal Philips Electronics development pilots: Three projects, including one launched by Paul Rankin from the Reuters Digital Vision Fellowship at Stanford. "Voices in Your Hand is a pilot project running in Recife, Brazil, to bring digital connectivity to people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. .. Using modified MP3 players, people can listen to personalized web casts of audio information offline in their homes, talk back and use voice email. Then they visit a public utility point to link their sets to the Internet. The customer here may be a family or a village, rather than an individual. .. The pilot will be completed mid 2005, learning will be captured and results will be used to test the feasibility of possible scale up scenarios." 8:48:26 PM
The Africa You Never See: Africa, "according to the U.S. government's Overseas Private Investment Corp., offers the highest return in the world on direct foreign investment, [yet] it attracts the least. Unless investors see the Africa that's worthy of investment, they won't put their money into it. .. Consider a few facts: The Ghana Stock Exchange regularly tops the list of the world's highest-performing stock markets. Botswana, with its A+ credit rating, boasts one of the highest per capita government savings rates in the world, topped only by Singapore and a handful of other fiscally prudent nations. Cell phones are making phenomenal profits on the continent. Brand-name companies like Coca-Cola, GM, Caterpillar and Citibank have invested in Africa for years and are quite bullish on the future.
The failure to show this side of Africa creates a one-dimensional caricature of a complex continent. .. With good governance and sound fiscal policies, countries like Botswana, Ghana, Uganda, Senegal and many more are bustling, their economies growing at surprisingly robust rates.
Private enterprise is not just limited to the well-behaved nations. [In Somalia] private enterprise is flourishing. Mogadishu has the cheapest cell phone rates on the continent, mostly due to no government intervention. In the northern city of Hargeysa, the markets sell the latest satellite phone technology. The electricity works. When the state collapsed in 1991, the national airline went out of business. Today, there are five private carriers and price wars keep the cost of tickets down. .. Obviously life there would be dramatically improved by good governance -- or even just some governance -- but it's also true that, through resilience and resourcefulness, Somalis have been able to create a functioning society.
Most African businesses suffer from an extreme lack of infrastructure, but the people I met were too determined to let this stop them. It just costs them more. Without reliable electricity, most businesses have to use generators. They have to dig bore-holes for a dependable water source. Telephone lines are notoriously out of service, but cell phones are filling the gap. .. As I interviewed successful entrepreneurs, I was continually astounded by their ingenuity, creativity and steadfastness. These people are the future of the continent. " 8:33:32 PM
Are We Prepared for Avian Flu?: An interview with "Laurie Garrett, the only reporter to win all three of journalism's big "P" awards (the Peabody, the Polk and the Pulitzer) .. resigned from Newsday earlier this year [citing] a deteriorating climate for journalism .. Today, Garrett is Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her story "The Next Pandemic?" was published in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs ..
"Avian influenza comes from aquatic birds, including migratory ducks, geese and herons. The loss of these birds' migratory routes in China has brought them into direct contact with humans in farms and parks. In this way, influenza is spread from migrating birds to domestic birds, then to pigs and ultimately to humans. This chain of events involves veterinary science, ecology and medicine, the triumvirate studied by the science of conservation medicine." One general issue: we lack "respectful mutual lines of communication between those protecting human health, those protecting animal health and those dealing with ecology."
On avian flu response specifically: "I think the CDC is doing a lot. But what I keep trying to get across to people is that flu starts in Asia. We're a lot better off if we can stop it in Asia than if we wait until it is here and try to figure out some means to minimize the damage. And that means a whole lot more multinational agreements, and this is difficult at a time when our Congress is full of members saying really terrible things about China [and Vietnam]..
In a recent study published in Nature, a team at Oxford University did a computer model just simply asking if it is possible to stop pandemic flu. And the good news is their answer is yes, it is possible, but the bad news is it can be stopped only if you identify it when there are just 30 human cases. Well, we're not going to spot those first 30 human cases before it spreads to hundreds or thousands of people unless we have a much better infrastructure of public health, vigilance and surveillance in poor countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and in countries with more money but completely lacking in sophisticated public health infrastructure, like China." " 2:04:44 PM
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Mobile phones in Kenya:
Good anecdotes on small business' use of phones. "When handyman Alex Theuri puts down his wrenches after laying water-pipes in buildings, he picks up screwdrivers and pliers to install electric wiring elsewhere -- but there's one tool he's never without. The mobile phone has become the most essential work item for Theuri, a Kenyan plumber, electrician and small businessman who, like so many others in the East African nation, makes a living from various different jobs at the same time." 12:57:04 PM
Friday, August 12, 2005
Internet Scammers Keep Working in Nigeria
: "In Festac Town, an entire community of scammers overnights on the Internet. By day they flaunt their smart clothes and cars and hang around the Internet cafes, trading stories about successful cons and near misses, and hatching new plots. Festac Town is where communication specialists operating underground sell foreign telephone lines over which a scammer can purport to be calling from any city in the world. Here lurk master forgers and purveyors of such software as "e-mail extractors," which can harvest e-mail addresses by the million. Now, however, a 3-year-old crackdown is yielding results, Nigerian authorities say.
Nuhu Ribadu, head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, says cash and assets worth more than $700 million were recovered from suspects between May 2003 and June 2004. More than 500 suspects have been arrested, more than 100 cases are before the courts and 500 others are under investigation, he said." 11:12:31 AM