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Africa: ICT Updates

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Sep 9, 2007 (070909)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Africa, with only 3% of world internet users and some 14% of the world's population, is still the least connected continent. But it is also the one with the fastest growth rate in connectivity. The number of internet users has increased more than 7 times the number in the year 2000, to almost 34 million.

[For these and related statistics, see
http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm]

With such rapid growth, the opportunities for creative use of information and communications technology (ICT) as well as for business ventures in the sector, are also rapidly expanding.

This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several recent updates covering ventures as diverse as e-agriculture for Togolese farmers to wireless access in Egyptian tourist destinations. The updates are selected from Highway Africa News Agency (http://hana.ru.ac.za) and Balancing Act News Updates (http://www.balancingact-africa.com). Along with the Association of Progressive Communications (http://www.apc.org), these sites are ones that AfricaFocus regularly relies on for updates in this field.

For earlier issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin on Information and Communication Technology and Africa, visit
http://www.africafocus.org/ictexp.php

In addition to a listing of back issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin in this area, you will feed a new custom Google search that allows you to search the three key sites noted above. If you have other sites to recommend for inclusion in this custom search, please send the URL and information about the site to africafocus@igc.org.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

E-agriculture for Togolese farmers

By: Noel Kokou Tadégnon

Highway Africa News Agency
http://hana.ru.ac.za

September 3, 2007

A 'Center for Commercial and Agricultural Information' (PICA) for the collection and the publication of price lists via the internet has been launched in Togo to enable farmers and traders to interact over prices and availability of products. of the products by ICT

The center is equipped with computer and Internet facilities with a web page www.tradenet.biz with a strong integration of data and mobile technology.

The center will allow producers and tradesmen to consult in real time over price lists that are in conformity with the ECOWAS region.

Farmers will also consult over business opportunities in the area -the availability of products and stocks - in short farmers and traders will be able to conclude commercial transactions with partners from West Africa and other destinations.

The platform is also equipped with a system that makes it possible to send SMSes to producers, to salesmen and to purchasers.

The center will also equip farmers with packages to receive free information on mobile phones on the prices of 400 agricultural producers of the regional markets in West Africa, that is Benign, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Togo.

D‚t‚ Yachina, the webmaster of the http://www.tradenet.biz explained that in fact , people will know at home or their fields how much a product costs and where to get it if not available in one's country.

"Via this facility, one will seek the market where one can find it and where one can better sell, by selling their products, one has enough money and that can contribute to the improvement of our living conditions" said Denis Mbadia chair regional Rooms of agriculture of Togo

"The project has placed at our disposal an electronic facility to break down information concerning the agricultural produce and to seek markets abroad, we received formations on the use of the machines and the setting on line of information", said Akou‚t‚ Foly chair grouping of the market-gardeners farmers of south Togo.

Denis Mbadia said that the project will contribute to the promotion of the agricultural sector of Togo and will promote research of markets where to sell products.

"For having produced, it is necessary to sell and monetarized its production and the market should be sought", explained Mbadia.

This project is supported by the regional network of information systems of market and agricultural trade in West Africa (MISTOWA) http://www.mistowa.org and its aims are to increase regional agricultural trade and food security by improving and linking the existing regional efforts to generate, disseminate, and make commercial use of market information.

The center will also help the regional networks of Market Information Systems (MIS) and trade partners to address other constraints, so that strong and dynamic commodity chains emerge that will use the information to enhance production, handling, credit, and trade; and value added services such as post-harvest, processing, packaging, and quality control.


SA Government's OSS plans revealed

By: HANA Reporter

Highway Africa News Agency
http://hana.ru.ac.za

September 4, 2007

Doctor Daniel Mashao, the chief technology officer at Sita (the South African State Information Technology Agency), announced the launch of the government-wide free and open source programme at the GovTech conference on Thursday.

While many welcomed the February announcement of government's intention to adopt and promote open source software, the subsequent months saw disillusionment within the open source community that very little had actually happened.

Mashao addressed these worries, describing what had been happening behind the scenes and showing a systematic timetable of how this process will indeed be implemented. He outlined the government's policy, which came into being with government's February 22 announcement. The five key points are:

  • Choose FOSS
  • Migrate to FOSS
  • Develop in FOSS
  • Use FOSS/open content licensing
  • Promote FOSS in South Africa

"That is a very strong statement," he said, expressing his confidence in the policy. However he also quoted the minister of public services, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, saying that the implementation would not be a "big bang", but rather a gradual process.

"I feel I am very fortunate, I was not there when people were fighting about it," he said, referring to the long process of decision making over open source's adoption that began in 2000.

"I don't have to say we must use open source. The government policy now says that we are migrating... I don't see any reason that we won't," he added.

Under the policy, when introducing new software, the SA government will implement open source solutions unless a proprietary option is demonstrated to be "significantly superior".

In any instances where proprietary software is implemented, reasons must be given to justify its use. Migration of current systems is also planned. This will be done in a phased approach, beginning with applications such as replacing MS Office with Open Office or KOffice and replacing Internet Explorer with Firefox.

This will in time lead up to the operating system, replacing Windows with a Linux distribution. Migration to Apache for the running of government websites has already occurred within a number of departments.

Mashao said that the Sita CEO's office was already running open source applications. "We at Sita have already tested the main government systems on open source... what it means is that we do not have to go and do any new work," he revealed.

All new software developed for or by the government is to be based on open standards and licensed under an open source licence where possible

He outlined the plans of the FOSS Programme Office (FPO), which is to begin operating in September, and the current status of open source implementation.

The FPO will be established on September 3, when Arno Webb, formerly the chief information officer of the department of arts and culture, begins in his position as programme manager.

The role of the FPO will be to coordinate all FOSS work in government, create FOSS skills, ensure that government procurement is FOSS compliant and to partner all migrations of government departments.

The first of these departments to migrate will be Sita itself, where the CEO has already been using a number of open source programs.

This year's target is to migrate two agencies, starting with Sita within the next three months. The other department, although not confirmed, is likely to be that of science and technology, where Mashao said there has already been a pilot migration. For 2008, a further four departments will be migrated, then 15 in 2009 and 50 in 2010.

Talking on the challenges faced, he said that the CSIR had made progressive steps but that it was halted due to problems with the document management system.

"If you are secretary in a normal office, migration is very easy, you don't even see anything, you use open office evolution and firefox," he said, adding that it was backend issues such as the conversion of the document management system that presented more of a challenge.

In order to help facilitate these plans, eight tender companies have already been appointed to supply open source solutions. These are Choice Technologies, Impi Linux, GijimaAST, Obsidian, SourceCom, BCX, Novell and IBM.

Sita is currently in the process of training 30 students with computer science diplomas to become LPI certified.

As Mashao explained, there is a chicken and egg challenge in that in order for OSS to be adopted, the necessary support skills have to be available, but until there is the demand for skills, they will not be developed.

This first wave of students will address this problem. For next year it is planned to train a further 100 students and 1 000 the following year.

While training of 10 000 is planned for 2010, Mashao expects that by this point there will be sufficient demand that the private sector will have caught up and these skills will be fairly commonplace.

Source: Free Speech Publishing


Internet edges out postal services By: David Muwanga

Highway Africa News Agency
http://hana.ru.ac.za

September 3, 2007

Growth in the use of the Internet and mobile messaging in Uganda have led to a gradual decline in volume of letters posted and received domestically and abroad.

The volume of traffic is measured by the number of letters, parcels and registered items over a specific period of time.

According to a report released by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), for the financial year 2006/2007 the average decline was by twelve percent as a result of competition from the new services such as internet and mobile messaging.

Statistics from the commission indicate that in the year 2002 nine million letters were posted but these excluded official letters while five million were received from abroad.

In 2003 there was a sharp decline in the letters posted to seven million but there was an increase from the five million received to about 5.5 million.

However in 2004 there was an increase in the letters posted to 8.5 million while letters from abroad reduced to 4.5 million.

"In the year 2005 letters posted dropped to about 6.5 million and those received from abroad were about 3 million," said the commissions executive director, Patrick Masambu in a report released by Uganda's postal and telecommunications sector.

In 2006 the letters posted declined further to 4. 8 million and those received went down to 2.8 million and by June 2007 posted letters dropped to 5 million while letters received dropped 2.6 million.

He said that however parcels and registered mail continued to register increased growth and for the financial year 2006/2007 the volume grew by 33 percent.

"Increased activity in the international market accounts for this development.", he said.

The report says that internet subscribers grew by thirty percent during the same financial year from 11 000 to 15 500.

"This number however is very low relative to other countries but 40 percent of the data access is through dial-up."

New internet pricing schemes have emerged in the market such as capacity based pricing among others.

"Although internet prices have dropped but prices are still relatively high compared to regional and international markets."

"The challenge is to ensure that we maintain an efficient and competitive market and ensuring affordable and universally available services which should translate into productivity and economic growth of the country," he said.

He said the country is still faced with an absence of a national competition law required for the holistic regulatory and competition guidance at the multi-sectoral level.


CyberTrackers of the Kalahari take out their PDAs in Botswana

Balancing Act News Update
http://www.balancingact-africa.com

Issue No. 363

July 15, 2007

That indispensable electronic tool of every rising young executive, the personal digital assistant (PDA), has been matched to the traditional knowledge of the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert to give Africa a new profession: digital wildlife tracker.

The high-tech wildlife trackers have been used against poachers, in ecotourism, environmental education, research and monitoring. The free software that links up traditional knowledge to electronic data mapping has been applied around the world to social surveys, organic farming, integrated pest management and disaster relief.

The new profession sprang from the work of Louis Liebenberg, a South African conservation scientist who learned tracking from bow-and-arrow hunters in Botswana. He recognized the importance of their skills and knowledge for conservation - and how little it was valued by protection authorities, partly because the Bushmen could not read or write.

With former University of Cape Town computer scientist Justin Steventon, Liebenberg developed a hand-held computer and software to capture their knowledge. He called the system CyberTracker. The computer displays a palette of symbols representing more than 40 animal species, subspecies and plants. The icons also cover activities such as drinking, feeding, running, fighting, mating and sleeping. Pressing an icon records a sighting or other indications. Each screen allows the user to record increasingly detailed information. They found that one tracker might record up to 300 observations in a day.

Connected to a satellite navigational system in 1996, the hand-held computer automatically recorded the details, time, date and exact location. This information was processed on a base-station computer to create maps and charts of animal movements and feeding habits. Today, all the data collection can be done on a PDA and worked on a personal computer. The free software used to turn a tracker into a digital wildlife tracker has now been downloaded over 25,000 times in more than 50 countries.

When Liebenberg received a Rolex Award for Enterprise for his work with CyberTracker, the European Union funded work that enabled him to set up a non-governmental organization to develop and distribute the software as part of his effort to establish a worldwide network to monitor wildlife (http://www.cybertracker.org). Mr Liebenberg's plan was to hand over management to someone else and go back to research exclusively, but so far that remains a dream, and he now also spends time evaluating trackers for certification.

The scientist's efforts had a social development goal from the start. "I set out to show that there is an alternative for the desperately downtrodden and impoverished Bushmen whose understanding of nature and its rhythms is unparalleled," he says. The illiterate trackers who carried out the first project, a detailed study of the black rhinoceros, were able to publish their findings in a respected scientific journal with the aid of Liebenberg and Steventon.

Certified trackers now run into the hundreds. Liebenberg runs tracker certificate programmes in South Africa at the Thorny Bush Nature Reserve, a private reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park, and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. Others are now also organized in the United States.

(Source: International Trade Centre)


Tourist destinations the latest places to join Egypt's hot-spot roll-out

Balancing Act News Update
http://www.balancingact-africa.com

Issue No. 368
August 24, 2007

The tourist destinations of Sharm el-Sheikh and Luxor are the latest cities to get on board Egypt's fast-moving roll-out of Wi-Fi hot-spots. Although prices in these places will be expensive, they are considerably cheaper than the current alternatives in local tourist hotels.

Under a USAID-sponsored project, "While in Egypt Stay Connected," tourist destinations in Sharm el-Sheikh and Luxor are serving as pilot cities for Wi-Fi deployments. In each city, sixteen Wi-Fi access points swathe tourist areas. Visitors purchase prepaid Internet access cards for about US$6.74 an hour.

Although hotels in Cairo have been offering Wi-Fi, there has until this point been little in the other two tourist destinations. Cairo's Marriott with its relaxing courtyard garden offers a 24 hour access card that lasts three months for US$30 and it is always full of people using laptops. What they might lose one way, they gain by users paying for their premium price drinks.

In Luxor, Wi-Fi covers a 5 km stretch of the Nile Corniche, connecting users in outdoor cafes and on Nile cruise ships at 256K. Connectivity even extends into Luxor and Karnak temples, allowing the novelty of instant messaging while seated in a 4000-year-old monument. Also benefiting from Wi-Fi coverage, connected users can logon from pedestrian areas in Sharm el-Sheikh's Naama Bay, or even a chaise longue along a beach promenade.

Before this roll-out, there were only a very small number of hot-spots. The cost of rolling out the hot-spots has been paid for by different equipment vendors: SR Telecom in Luxor and Redline and Colubris in Sharm el-Sheikh. The Luxor hot-spots are run by Telecom Egypt's ISP TE Data and the Sharm el-Sheik operation by local ISP Egynet. Both ISPs paid the equipment installation costs.

There is no revenue split with site owners because the networks are outdoors and the ISPs have done all the aerial site leases themselves. However, they are selling the pre-paid scratch cards to vendors at a small discount.

Connected tourists, who travel with laptops or other Wi-Fi devices, have greater income and are bigger spenders when on holiday. According to research carried out by the project, 15% of UK tourists take a laptop and 30% of Germans.

This USAID project aims to boost tourism revenues by establishing Egypt as a 'connected' destination, with Wi-Fi and 3G Internet attracting visitors who prefer to visit a country with fast and easy data access. It is part of a wider initiative to persuade local hotel owners to accept credit cards and put in place online booking procedures.

Hot-spots in these destinations will add to Egypt's already burgeoning hot-spot culture. In Cairo there are a great deal of places offering free access including coffee shops, Macdonalds and a local chain called Cilantro. In each of these places, you will see a mix of tourists, expats and locals working away on their laptops.

Interestingly, these include people using Skype with headsets as PC to PC calls are legal in Egypt. One local visitor reported that the bandwidth was of sufficiently high quality that he was able to use the SIP client on his Nokia N80 to call home for virtually nothing.

Further south, with the exception of South Africa, public hot-spots are still a relatively exotic offering. However, both pay-for and free hot-spots in hotels can be found increasingly widely in a range of countries. Perhaps public hot-spots will become the next wave of growth in the coming year.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org