Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vatacan Supports iPhone Prayer Application

Behold the New iPrayer: Vatican Embraces iTunes Prayer Book, Says It Can Spread Church Message

The Vatican is endorsing new technology that brings the book of daily prayers used by priests straight onto iPhones.

The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications is embracing the iBreviary, an iTunes application created by a technologically savvy Italian priest, the Rev. Paolo Padrini, and an Italian Web designer.

The application includes the Breviary prayer book — in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Latin and, in the near future, Portuguese and German. Another section includes the prayers of the daily Mass, and a third contains various other prayers.

After a free trial period in which the iBreviary was downloaded approximately 10,000 times in Italy, an official version was released earlier this month, Padrini said.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Botswana Introduces Electronic Passports

Botswana to introduce electronic passports

MUNICH, Germany -- The government of Botswana has awarded a contract to Giesecke & Devrient for the manufacture and delivery of 150,000 electronic passports, according to a news release. G&D also will supply the data acquisition and personalization systems for travel documents.

In addition, the Munich-based technology company will be delivering Botswana's border control system with card readers. The contract was signed in Gaborone, the country's capital. It will take two years to implement the system, with passports scheduled for issue to the citizens of Botswana from 2010. The contract is worth roughly 15 million euros (U.S. $19.3 million).

Botswana is the first South African country to introduce the electronic passport.

"We are proud that the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs has entrusted us with this demanding project," said Hans Wolfgang Kunz, head of G&D's government solutions business. "The new electronic passport will fulfill the extensive ICAO and EU specifications and achieve international recognition and validity. In conjunction with an efficient border-control system, it will ensure Botswana is well prepared to meet the increasing security requirements of international travel."

Algeira To Conduct $1B In Electrical Distribution System Upgrades

GE Securites $1 Billion Contract In Algeria

Atlanta-based GE Energy announced Tuesday a $1 billion deal to upgrade Algeria’s gas-fueled power plants.

The sale allows Sonelgaz, the North African country’s state-owned gas company, to boost electricity production at 13 power plants nationwide. The services contract, which could top $1 billion, will also improve the efficiency and reliability of 51 gas turbines installed at those plants.

As Algeria’s economy grows, so too do its energy needs. Two years ago, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mining, the country’s electricity generating capacity reached 7,077 megawatts. By 2010, it should rise to 14,000 megawatts.

“Energy companies around the globe are working to get the maximum efficiency out of their existing power plants,” Luis Ramírez, general manager of contractual services for GE Energy, said in a statement. “As they break ground on new projects they are also implementing service agreements to make the most of their investment.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Geographic Information System Used To Plot Election Results Get An A+

As a person who has to know about Location Based Services and related technology as part of my job I was blown off of my feet by the advancement in the technology to represent election results down to the county level. All of the major news organizations knocked it out of the park with their ability to provide web based information in graphical form that translated into data once the user clicked through.

I will be pissed if they take down these Interactive maps any time soon. I need to learn this stuff

Here are is a sampling of who got it right:

Fox News - Love the drill down effects and animation

CNN Gets Their Props as well - they have their local election result details in a more straight forward and presentable format

MSNBC - I like the pop up summary sheet that provides information

Wall Street Journal - comprehensive information

Thursday, October 16, 2008

East African Internet Capacity To Double

EASSy more than doubles its network design capacity

OCTOBER 15, 2008 -- Alcatel-Lucent (search for Alcatel-Lucent) has signed a contract with the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) consortium to more than double the design capacity of the optical submarine cable network landing in East Africa. EASSy will now be able to deliver a regional capacity of 1.4 Tbits/sec, the highest capacity in the region.

The EASSy submarine cable network will provide connectivity across the continent to support the increase in local traffic from both traditional and new broadband services. Additionally, with interconnection to other submarine cable systems to the north and south, this project will provide an international gateway.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Association of African Internet Service Provider Associations - Connecting A Continent

Association of African Internet Service Provider Associations

AfrISPA is a non-profit organisation, whose members are themselves non-profit organisations, The members of these national ISP Associations in turn are mostly commercial organisations. Formed in 2001, AfrISPA has grown over the years in membership numbers, in effectiveness, and in influence.

Several years ago after working to architect a global data network for a large American company - I began to appreciate how developed the USA and many parts of Europe were in their communications infrastructure and how much further many African nations had to go.

In certain regions of Africa a call from country A to country B must connect through a switch in Europe for the two people to communicate. There are so many interconnect fees that are streaming out of Africa as a result of this inefficient network design which has a legacy in colonialism.

The various blog subjects that are discussed on the web site of the AAISPA show to me that they are working to build a world class Internet infrastructure. Financial resources are their key challenge.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Last 8 Years We Have Lost Our Technological Leadership?

CSPAN - The Communicators - William Kennard

I hate when people make broadbased, politically biased claims that they don't offer proof. William Kennard says that "the US has fallen behind as the world's technology leader".

This is complete bull.

Look at the next wave of technology and consider it's source - the United States

* Social Networking

* Web 2.0 Technologies

* Open Source Software

* Software As A Service

The key talking point that some people use to claim that the USA has fallen behind is the STATISTICS on "broadband penetration rates". In their view, despite the fact that the USA has nearly 70 million subscribers they point to the rate (subscribers / total population). This sounds good except that the other nations with a better rate have about 5 million subscribers and are far more dense in population per square km.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The "BroadBand Penetration Rates" Trick

I can't stand the presence of certain "agendized activists" who are present in the Internet space advancing their warped theories.

One hot topic for debate is the availability of high speed Internet links for Americans to make use of at home. If you do research on the web you'll see that they are making the case that the United States is woefully behind a good portion of the "developed world" in our "broadband penetration rates". We are 17th. We are bad.

Then the story goes - it is the big American ISPs (phone companies, cable companies) who are raking in money for their investors yet FAILING to reinvest these funds back into their network so that more Americans can gain access to high speed Internet and the jobs and higher standard of living this will afford.

This argument under-girds their claim for MORE GOVERNMENT REGULATION. A "properly guided FCC" (read - get a Democrat into office so that they can take over the FCC) would put the interests of AMERICANS ahead of the interests of the big corporations. This all SOUNDS GOOD until you notice the facts.

One thing that I notice is that these various articles which slam the United States on the penetration rates - rarely discuss the total subscribership numbers for these same nations. Thus in the classical use of STATISTICS (and hiding the stats that don't support your argument) they can paint the picture as such.

The United States has 66 MILLION broadband subscribers. Their darling - the Netherlands has 5 million people. Can anyone argue that a nation that has a land mass of 9,826,630 km and a POPULATION DENSITY of 31/km as compared to a country that has a land mass of 41,526 km and a population density of 395/km is a FAIR COMPARISON?
Just as a reference - China is (9,598,086 km² land mass and 140/km population density). India is 3,287,590‡ km land mass and 390/km in population density.

Those who argue this point have no concept of the capital expendutures necessary to build a network.

Despite the fact that Verizon Wireless has spent $23 billion to build their national Fios network and the same for AT&T and the various cable companies - they would like you to believe that the USA is behind in the technology race. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth does not matter to them.

The USA has the fastest network backbone trunks in the world (OC-768 or 40Gbps between major cities as well as the most developed, expansive network of any nation). Please don't allow them to tell you otherwise.

Lastly - don't forget about WIRELESS BROADBAND via the cellular networks. Just as wireless has assisted Africa to "light up" it will do the same in the United States.

Statistics Lie

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Washington Mutual - Rearchitected Banking Process That Increases Security

My wife hit me up for some cash today so I had to go inside of the bank to draw the funds since the ATM has a daily maximum. Though I had been inside to make deposits previously and made note as to how they have done away with the standard teller window I was not previously aware of the new processes that they had implemented. Since this is not my primary bank I don't have many interactions with them anyway.

I was impressed with their cash handling system. Upon writing a check against our checking account for cash I was given a receipt instead of cash money by the teller. She also asked me if I wanted small bills or large. I had to go over to another counter which was basically a safe that dispenses money. I typed in the security code that was at the bottom of the receipt and I was given my money. I thought that this was great.

The tellers don't handle money and thus it is not stockpiled in their drawers.

OK - I'll be honest - I saw some "FBI-type" show last night in which some radical group in Idaho was robbing banks by setting off pipe bombs in the lobby. As I think about it - this WaMu system would indeed slow them down because the money is not sitting in the drawer but I believe that some of them would be foolish enough to hit the bank when there is 3 or 4 tellers and then force the tellers to run a transaction that clears out the customer's checking accounts while they wait. Of course the police could be summoned while the customers are forced to make the withdrawals thus increasing the chances of them being captured. I think that it is a good system and is a likely effective deterrent to armed hold ups.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Migration From The "Nation-State" To The "Creative Centers"

Richard Florida: "Who's Your City"


There are 40 mega regions that are key "creative centers" being developed around the world due to technology, transportation and communications. These centers represent 2/3's of the world's economic activity.

This sounds like a great book. I am now watching the author on C-SPAN
'Who's Your City'

Monday, June 30, 2008

Study: Social networks may subvert 'digital divide'

By Caroline McCarthy – June 20, 2008 4:50 AM PDT 2 comments

Social networks like Facebook and MySpace have reputations as time-sucking procrastination tools, but a new study from the University of Minnesota says au contraire.

Social networks build beneficial technological, creative, and communication skills, the study says, leading the researchers to actually describe social networks with the adjective "educational." Who knew?

"What we found was that students using social networking sites are actually practicing the kinds of 21st century skills we want them to develop to be successful today," Christine Greenhow, a learning technologies researcher from the school's College of Education and Human Development, said in a release Friday.

Data from the study came from teenagers ages 16 to 18 in about a dozen urban high schools in the Midwest.

"Students are developing a positive attitude towards using technology systems, editing and customizing content and thinking about online design and layout," Greenhow continued. "They're also sharing creative original work like poetry and film and practicing safe and responsible use of information and technology."

As an added bonus, social networks may be part of the reason that low-income students are largely just as technologically proficient as their peers, contradicting parts of a 2005 Pew study that detailed an economic "digital divide." According to the new study, a full 94 percent of students use the Internet, 82 percent use it at home, and 77 percent have social-networking profiles.

The "digital divide," obviously, goes far beyond Facebook profiles, and social networks come with a whole host of new problems like cyberbullying, but at least there are signs that it could be leveling the playing field a bit.

Originally posted at The Social

Pew Study: Digital divide has not disappeared

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Futility of Free Municipal WiFi - I Could Not Have Said It Better

This is a reprint of a newsletter by industry expert
Andrew M. Seybold

Sadly for some people - their ideology of 'dragon slaying' against large communication carriers gets in the way of logical and reasoned moves forward.

Sunday, June 22, 2008
One of the questions I am most asked is how I decide what to write about. Well, sometimes I receive a call or email that sparks my interest, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with a question and sometimes the articles are handed to me by everyday news reports and wireless happenings. This Commentary is a combination of all three. First, I have been a critic of Muni-Wi-Fi for a long time, second, I received a number of phone calls about failing systems and third, within two days of each other, articles have been published about the Philadelphia system acquiring new investors while s! ystems in Concord, Cupertino, Foster City, San Jose and Santa Clara, California (the heart of Silicon Valley) and Portland, Oregon are being shut down. And over the past few months, a number of other systems have been shut down with or without fanfare, some simply going dark and disappearing.

In spite of this, a group of investors in Philadelphia has decided that keeping the systems installed by EarthLink up and running in the city is a good thing. The deal was put together by the mayor, several council members, Wireless Philadelphia, a not-for-profit entity established to run the network, and some investors. The investors will be taking over the network from EarthLink, which will, reportedly, get something for it. (EarthLink is said to have invested $17 million in the network so far, but no one is talking about the exact figure.) Of particular interest to me is the following statement in the press release:

"There is a transition period, during which the local investor group will assess the current state of the network and create a plan and timeline to bring the network up to specification. During this time, service will continue to the current digital inclusion customers subject to interruptions for network upgrades. The local investor group will fund citywide free wireless by providing integrated wire/wireless telecommunications services for large customers such as hospitals, universities, and wireless extensions as well as moving to an advertising-based model."

In an Associated Press article the next day, we learned more. "EarthLink's service didn't attract enough customers in Philadelphia to be financially viable because of connection problems, poor customer service and prices that weren't much cheaper than competitive DSL services." And further into the story, "Investors in the deal include Mark Rupp, a director at equity investment firm Boathouse Communications Partners who will be chief financial officer of the new company. Derek Pew, chief executive of Boathouse and former interim CEO of Wireless Philadelphia, a nonprofit that oversaw the city's Wi-Fi effort, will be CEO."

"The two other investors are David Hanna, chairman of wireless Internet equipment maker Tropos Networks, and former Philadelphia mayoral candidate and businessman Tom Knox."

These few paragraphs provide enough information for me to know that the investors never opened a spreadsheet and made assumptions about becoming a "wired and wireless" operator and selling services to major organizations and companies. Okay, are they going to run fiber around the city? Will they lease wired capacity from cable companies and the wireless incumbents? How, exactly, are they planning to convince the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University or the Philadelphia National Bank to do business with them? Just a thought here, most of the major companies and hospitals and other organizations I know of in Philadelphia have branches or offices outside the city in New Jersey, Delaware County, Bucks County and perhaps even Northern Delaware. How will these investors deal with that?

Next let's look at the statement, "The group will assess the current state of the network." I see two issues here. The first is that if I was thinking of investing in a network, I would want to know the current status of the network and how much more than the initial purchase price I would have to spend to "bring it up to specifications" before I put in any money. I would also want to know how well it penetrated into homes and offices-the Anaheim EarthLink network was built to cover "90% of outside walls of buildings in 90% of the City." I wonder if that was the criteria for Philadelphia as well. It sounds as though the cost of bring the network, which is only about a year old, up to specifications could prove to be expensive. I never attempted to put a Wi-Fi network in Philadelphia, but I did help design and install more than thirty two-way radio and paging networks while I worked there, including some of the major first ! responder networks. The Wi-Fi network supposedly covers 135 square miles and was designed back in 2005 to have 20-25 nodes per square mile. In reality, EarthLink ended up building out using an average of 42 nodes per square mile, which also increased the number of backhaul access points, thus driving up the cost of the system. (Note: In the Anaheim system, which we tested extensively, EarthLink started with 30 nodes per square mile for phase one and by the time it got to phase 3, it was installing as many as 70 nodes per square mile and back-filling the phase 1 and 2 build-outs.)

The services in Philadelphia were $21.95 per month from EarthLink or, if you qualified, $9.95 per month from the not-for-profit organization working with EarthLink. Free Wi-Fi was offered only in parks and other public outdoor areas of the city. Today, the new investors are talking about offering free Wi-Fi everywhere in the network in addition to a higher-speed paid access system. According to the press release, the investors plan to offset the "free" Wi-Fi costs by selling both wired and wireless access to major organizations and companies and through advertising. My bet is that none of these options will pay the bills for the day-to-day operation of the system, let alone the initial investment.

To existing customers, they say that the network will stay up "except for times when it won't be up because of the system upgrades." Remember here that existing customers are paying customers, and they will not tolerate downtime, regardless of the reason. And I don't think those putting this system together realize that even people who receive free service expect the service to be perfect-just because it is free does not mean it can work some of the time and not all of the time. The expectations will be that it will work, and work it had better!

The Internet site wirelessphiladelphia.org seems to be the focus point of the not-for-profit portion of this operation. It has posted a lot of information about what has transpired and what will happen. There is also a blog and one post is really telling to me. It says, "I hope that part of the new plan centers on fixing the awful system that earthlink had in place before expanding further. As a subscriber to the service for a period of 9 months, I can say it was truly the worst service I have ever utilized- or rather tried to utilize as it rarely worked and I was promised solutions and updates on a weekly basis for a 3 month period of time. Free service is a nice idea- but I'd rather pay for something that works and I can rely on." I hope the investors are hearing this message loud and clea! r.

I am very puzzled about why a group of investors would swoop in and buy up a dysfunctional Muni-Wi-Fi network and then claim they will make money on a free service by becoming both a wired and wireless provider. I guess I am naive. I was not aware that I could simply wake up one morning, decide I would offer wired services and begin selling them to major corporations. I wonder if they have heard of network reliability or 99.999% uptime.

As those who are investing in the Philadelphia network are congratulating themselves, I suggest they not read the newspapers or visit the Internet and search on Muni-Wi-Fi. It would probably change their mood. Most recently, MetroFi, whose business model for Muni-Wi-Fi was to give it away and pay for the services with advertising, just shut down networks in the cities in Silicon Valley mentioned in the first paragraph and in Portland Oregon.

The Portland network was only about one third completed and had already cost MetroFi (and its investors) $2 million, and this was on top of the study Portland contracted for. The city has said that its direct cost for this failed project was more than $250,000, most of it for a study about Muni-Wi-Fi and the advertising/free business model. Perhaps I should charge a city a quarter of a million dollars and give it the articles I have written over the past three years about the dangers of deploying a Muni-Wi-Fi system!

No matter what has gone before, it looks like there will always be some cities that think they can beat the odds with Muni-Wi-Fi. It appears Philadelphia is one, and in April of this year, the state of Georgia gave the city of Augusta $600,000 to be matched with the city's $281,000 to build out four square miles and there are a few more projects in the planning stages. As I have said before, the only ones making money on Muni-Wi-Fi are equipment vendors and consultants who are pro-Muni-Wi-Fi and seem to be able to provide reports and financial projections that "prove" Muni-Wi-Fi will work, or who are glib enough to convince city fathers that it is their duty to provide Internet access for all.

It seems to me that it would be less expensive and more productive for a city that really wanted to help its citizens who cannot afford Internet access to work at a more basic level. You would start with indentifying areas of the city where incomes are the lowest, which is not very difficult to do in these times. Then you would determine, within those areas, who really needed Internet access first-households with kids, for example-and set about providing them with service. Meanwhile, you would make sure your senior centers, boys and girls clubs, etc. have some computers and Internet access that could be shared-shared is better than nothing. It would certainly cost a whole lot less. Why provide wireless (Wi-Fi) to areas of the city where people who want Internet access and have a choice of at least DSL and cable can afford to pay for it? Since! Wi-Fi is not a mobile service, and in my estimation should never be used to replace voice and data services in city vehicles, the idea of mobile (which is not truly possible) or outside coverage need not be considered in large areas of a city.

Light up a park with free Wi-Fi and watch to see how many people use it for what. Light up a recreation center and a library and let people know where they can go to get free service and see if they use it. Don't simply assume that if the network passes by their house they will run out and buy a computer and sign up for Internet services. In other words, committing to a citywide system when the city will not be a major tenant makes no sense. In today's world, cities need broader and more reliable coverage than can be provided by a bunch of hotspots put together to form a citywide system. Such systems have no back-up during power outages and are constantly in need of a "tune-up" as more private access points pop up. Even when it is running like clockwork, if it ever is, it will not reach indoors. And it will not provide enough money for the company or organization that paid for the network to realize a return on investment.!

I have said this before and I will probably say it again. Having money to invest does not make you a genius or right about every business decision you make. In 1999 and 2000, the words "Internet business" were enough to make otherwise smart investors part with a lot of money, which most of them lost within a few years. The words "wireless business" seem to be having the same effect today.

I wish the new investors in the Philadelphia Muni-Wi-Fi system well, and I will repeat what I said the first time I wrote about the Philadelphia Wi-Fi system in 2005: The access points can always be used for filler for all of the potholes in Philadelphia's streets!

Andrew M. Seybold

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My First Full Tank Of Ethanol

I received a mailing from General Motors which listed the gas stations in the area that sell E85 Ethanol. The vehicle that I purchased 2 years ago has a qualifying engine. I decided to give it a try.

I see no differences in performance even though they stay that my gas mileage will not be as good.

It was strange for me to see paying $3.45 per gallon as being a bargain. This is only because the standard stuff is now $4.05 per gallon.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hydrogen Generation Set - Directly From China - Global Shipping

I am amazed. After listening in on the various debates about alternative energy I decided to purchase a science kit which uses solar power to separate hydrogen and oxygen out of H2O. Having seen a kit in Fry's Electronics I decided to wait and go onto the Internet to see a broader set of options.

I ended up purchasing the car pictured above and the kit pictured below. They both take in water and use the solar cell to separate the two elements into their basic forms.

I was shocked, however upon looking at the box. I figured that the company that I purchased it from was in California or Oregon. The shipping label as sent from UPS was actually from Lan 2041 Jinshajian Rd Shanghai, 200335 People's Republic Of China.

The package arrived in about 3 days. This is the first time that I had ordered something on the Internet and received it directly from China. Now I have ordered items on Ebay and received them from Taiwan. This is to be expected. I have only ever received Chinese goods through retail outlets that did the procurement and sold through American stores.

Clearly UPS, who I received the package from, has increased their capacity on the US/China shipping route. In fact that shipping costs were embedded into the purchase price. Where as years ago I would have expected to pay about $35 more for international shipping - clearly the infrastructure is established and China which is halfway around the world - is virtually next door.

Now all I need to do is to keep my science project car away from my son. I assure you that this car will be torn up in 2 days if I allow him to touch it unmonitored. He will treat it like his other cars and tinker with it till the wheels fall off and the motor is destroyed. The little RC helicopters that I purchased while reliving my childhood through him.....when I relaxed my mandate that he not touch them without my presence - every single one of them is now destroyed.

I am not mad at China. This is a global marketplace and they are clearly mixing their competitive advantage regarding low cost manufacturing with their increasing advanced capabilities to now engineer and manufacture consumer goods that Americans are attracted to.

Technology Offers A Marketplace For "Knowledge"

Over the past few days I have been exposed to two amazing innovations per the exposure afforded by my job.

Last night I learned of a company that acts as a "Marketplace for Knowledge". They have a roster of "industry experts" in various areas. They document their area of expertise, their qualifications and their hourly rate. They market their service in general to various individuals and corporations in need of guidance from these experts. The service then draws upon their extensive database of experts and attempts to make a match.

Effectively the expert's "smarts" are extended to buyers around the world that they would not otherwise have access to. The people in need of advice as they make a business deal, for example, get exposed to different perspectives.

This is a brilliant use of information technology and the Internet. The key competitive advantage that this firm has going for it is it's algorithm which they use to select the industry expert most qualified to answer the question. As their service is used - the intelligence contained within also improves.

I was impressed at the amount of transactions and related value that was associated that this company is clearing on a daily basis. This is a business concept that can only exist in an advanced system of commerce where "business intelligence" is a premium. Connecting humans together and monetizing the exchange is what the "capitalistic Internet" is all about.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Giving Credit To A Technological Innovator

As I have said plenty of times - I have an equal ability to rain praise upon those who deserve it as much as I am able to critically scrutinize those who need to be put in check.

Audio Link: Discovery Communications is hosting a science project for middle school kids and hi-tech companies are looking for untapped talent to create cool applications for digital products

From what I can tell Mario Armstrong deserves such a pat on the back.

He talked about the Discovery Communications science project where young people are asked to provide a scientific description about a given topic and can win award money in exchange. Mr. Armstrong talked about how he would be willing to assist in the video production in support of these children.

This caused a shift in priorities for me. I work with a set of public housing kids on a reading program. In the same facility that I volunteer within is a room full of computers that are underutilized. I keep saying that I am going to sneak away from my office during lunch time and talk to the administrators about teaching a class on how Voice over IP works. There is about to be a major transition to this technology and many small and medium sized companies are going to be willing to purchase the talents of someone who is able to transition them from the current analog voice systems to the new VoIP PBX technology.

I am going to round up the "brothers" who are in my peer group that is always talking about how we have amassed so many skills and talents in the telecommunications industry and wondering what should we do next - to develop a plan for us to engage young people and leverage the cellphones and video phones that they have in their pockets to resolve some particular challenge that we have facing our community - the distribution of knowledge or some other key initiative.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Africans Change the Face of Mobility

Some African nations are already doing what the USA is only just beginning to do.

The lack of landline infrastructure and the absence of a credit card based economy makes for the expanded use of cellphones and the type of electronic commerce detailed in this story.

Africans Change the Face of Mobility

Mobile money transfers, payments, how to charge customers and e-health are some of the areas where the rest of the world can look to Africa for inspiration.

"The Africans are using their mobile phones in a very entrepreneurial way, because it's their lifeline, and small businesses depend on them," said Pertti Johansson, president Middle East and Africa region at Qualcomm.

The first service Johansson mentioned is mobile payments and transfers. M-PESA ("M" for "mobile" and "PESA," the Swahili word for "money") in Kenya is the most famous such system in Africa, with about 2 million users a year after its launch.

It can be used for someone in an urban area to forward money to relatives in rural areas, and people in rural areas can pay off a loan in an urban area.

"You do it instantaneously with an SMS, you don't have to travel for a day," said Gabriel Solomon, senior vice president for public policy at industry organization GSM Association.

"You're having more economic transactions, which stimulates economic growth," said Solomon.

M-PESA has taken off is because it's difficult for many people to get a bank account. Getting cash can also be difficult in rural areas, it also adds a sense of security, according to Mohamed Ragab, channels and activation team leader at Vodafone, which has developed the service.

The origin of the concept is also interesting.

"It started probably four or five years ago when operators allowed for airtime to be transferred between users, airtime effectively became a property for cash," said Solomon.

That M-PESA has evolved from how operators charge doesn't come as a surprise. Because most customers haven't got that much money operators have had to think outside the box.

Something that also has had a profound impact on universal access in Africa is shared access, according to Solomon.

"It's an amazing phenomenon. A handset, a bit of software, where you're reselling airtime. In Uganda, for example, MTN estimates for every shared phone it serves 500 people," he said.

See the rest of the article at PCWorld

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cisco official says Africa needs 1.3 million IT pros

The old saying that success is when preparation converges with opportunity. Sadly relatively few African-Americans are prepared to take up this challenge, traveling with their IT skills in hand to benefit these people as they hit the ground running.

This news will cause me to redouble my efforts to get more young people into the Open Source development project that I have in mind.

Cisco official says Africa needs 1.3 million IT pros
By Michael Malakata , IDG News Service , 05/02/2008
Sponsored by:

Africa requires 1.3 million network professionals by 2012 for technology in the region to operate effectively, according to a Cisco official.

South Africa-based Cisco Systems area academic manager Elfie Hamid said in Lusaka, Zambia, on Thursday that Africa is facing a massive shortage of ICT, both in industry and training institutions. To make effective use of ICT, Africa needs to train 1.3 million professionals in the region in the next four years, he said.

Cisco is holding its annual conference here for all of its network academies in Southern Africa, including Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Malawi.

The conference is dubbed African Networking Academy Safari 2008. After the conference, Cisco will hold instructor training courses for network academies.

"Cisco targeted the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) so that new ideas and experiences could be shared on how to improve IT systems in the region," said Hamid at the conference earlier this week.

Zambia Education Minister Geoffrey Lungwangwa agreed that vigorous training of IT professionals is needed to overcome the technology skills shortage. Cisco conference attendees should appreciate the difficult terrain Africa is in.

In March, Cisco launched an ICT training initiative aimed at addressing the IT skills shortage in Africa and strengthening its own workforce.

The initiative, under the auspices of the company’s Global Talent Acceleration Program, will first be implemented in South Africa this year before being rolled out to other countries in Africa.

The entire African region is experiencing tremendous IT growth, but finding the right talent to support the expansion is becoming a critical challenge for governments and organizations.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

African Billionaire Translates Technology Into Billions For The Benefit Of Other Africans

Audio Report: African Billionaire Talks Governance, Charity

Mo Ibrahim Foundation

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation is an African initiative that has been established to:

* Stimulate debate on good governance across sub-Saharan Africa and the world
* Provide objective criteria by which citizens can hold their Governments to account
* Recognise achievement in African leadership and provide a practical way in which African leaders can build positive legacies on the continent when they have left office

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Own Off Shoring

I am not going to lie to you - I make use of Off-Shoring as a means of getting web design work done for my clients.

I just got off the phone with a web developer that I have been using for several years. A friend who owns his own IT consulting firm told me about the site called "Elance". It is an on-line market place that pairs skilled practitioners up with project opportunities.

Several years ago I had a client that needed a web site created for his transportation business. My skill set is with systems and project management. The first web site that I did in Microsoft Frontpage was "butt ugly". After they used the site for a few months they realized that they needed to do on-line order taking and that they needed a more polished web site that was attractive to their customers. I setup a project profile on Elance and then I provided the link to the existing web site as it was 'content complete'. Amazingly after posting the project in the morning this small company in India had a complete mark up web site WITH ANIMATION sent to me in less than 5 hours. I received about 80 responses to my request from all around the world - USA, various nations in Europe, South America, Asia. I ended up choosing this company after going through about 9 of the 80 responses. After being so impressed by their sample - I didn't even bother to look any further.

The production web site was based on the mock up. This is how good they were. When I showed my client the mock up - they were blown away as well. Interestingly enough they had secretly tried to "cheat on me". They had paid an alternate web site development company to redo their web site. We both were frustrated by each of our inability to communicate. He did not communicate his vision for his web site, I did not capture what he was looking for well enough. With these update, however, the work of this talented 3rd party MADE ME LOOK GOOD TO MY CLIENT.

Yes I leveraged the services of domestic talent. I employed a local graphic artist. I paid her $200 to develop a new logo and artwork for the company. Interestingly enough it was never delivered upon, mostly because of the delays with my client. At the same time the COST of the entire web site, animation included was far less with these guys from India than what an American based developer would have charged me. I only needed to do project management, communicating with the client and relaying the changes to the developer. There was both cost savings and value provided to all interested parties.

The bottom line of it all is that the INTERNET IS THE GAME CHANGER. It provides the grounds for truly global commerce and communications. I was able to talk to the developer a few minutes ago via phone and instant messenger as we collaborated.

As to my personal interests - I am frustrated in that I see many young African-American people who I would love to push my network support activities off on - thus allowing me to operate more as a manager and a deal maker. The lack of skills where I need them and the informal business relationship does not afford me the opportunity to operate in such a manner.

Where as I currently teach literacy to poor young males I would like to expand into computer literacy. With so many skilled Open Source developers around the world that showcase their talents on a daily basis - I make heavy use of their products - it is a crime that so many young people are oblivious to what is going on around them. We need to get them plugged in.

Friday, March 14, 2008

New Farming Technologies Key To Our Food Future

The recent debates regarding the applicability of ethanol as a fuel because the corn used in the United States as a source of energy is corn taken away from the food supply has prompted me to do some key research on alternative farming techniques.

The recent price increases for commodity grain products is being caused by the increase in demand around the world with a supply that is far short of this current demand. This is not going to change until more supply is brought onto the market. When we add the variable of food transportation costs it is clear that there needs to be LOCAL solutions to the food production problem. It makes little sense to transport American grain over to China or African nations because their local production is short. If this is done on a routine basis rather than in response to some exceptional condition - clearly this is a gross market inefficiency.

As I evaluated the two leading options for alternative farming - hydroponics and areoponics I was given a further set of constraints in the debate. Others were critical about the water and energy that is used in farming. Hydroponics requires that the plants roots be submerged in large tubs of water throughout the process. This might be a violation of the constraints to both not use an oversupply of water and to be able to deal with areas around the world where water is scarce.

This constraint has led me to focus on aeroponics which seemingly use less water. With aeroponics - the plants are suspended in air with their roots exposed. The water and nutrients are sprayed into an enclosed chamber as a fine mist. This allows the water droplets to penetrate into the innermost roots that might be mangled together in a mesh. This has proven to be an effective means of producing crops. This technique is surely used for plant cloning as part of scientific research.

I did note, however, that corn, the initial subject of my research does not appear to be a lead corp for hydroponic/aeroponic farming. I would assume that the long stalk of the corn plant is problematic and no doubt would need to be supported in two or three places along the stalk to be grown. Most of the plants that I have seen - tomato, lettuce and peppers - are shorter, bush-like plants by comparison.

I will continue my research. I have committed that for the summer I will augment my usual crops of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers grown on my rear deck with an aeroponic contraption of some type so that I can conduct my own research on the matter. At minimum the enclosure will keep my dog from eating my crop as he did before I roped the area off from his access.

Today my deck - tomorrow some part of Africa that is in need of agricultural innovation!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

One Laptop Per Child Comes To America!!

Article: OLPC America aims to distribute low-cost laptops to needy students in the United States

The reason OLPC had not included the U.S. in its low-cost laptop program was because of the huge difference in need, Negroponte said. In the U.S., people spend $10,000 per year per child in primary education, but in Bangladesh, a developing country, they spend $20. It's a huge difference, and many people in the U.S. can afford more expensive laptop PCs for their kids anyway.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Michael Lee Chin & High Speed Broadband In The Caribbean

My recent trip to the island of Jamaica was greatly enhanced by the efforts of Michael Lee Chin. Chin is the billionaire financier of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese descent.

Wikipedia Page on Michael Lee Chin

He recently purchased Columbus Communications which serves several islands in the area. Jamaica now has a competitor to the former monopoly of Cable & Wireless. Via Columbus, the communications company, not the so called "explorer", Jamaica now how high speed DSL and voice services being offered into the homes throughout many parts of the island. Internet connectivity is the cornerstone to so many other academic, economic and entertainment services that will soon flow into people's houses. Yes Jamaicans will soon be overweight couch potatoes just like many Americans are.

I could tell from my own testing that there is now high speed trunk lines between Jamaica and the USA now. Several individuals were streaming movies over the Internet without out any sort of bottleneck on the International circuit or the DSL metropolitan area network. Also I was able to use VoIP to make calls back to the United States, bypassing the sticker shock upon my US based cellphone bill when I returned to the states.

The vision, leadership and financial resources as provided by the men like Michael Lee Chin will make sure that people who are outside of the "low hanging fruit" of Europe, the USA and Canada will be provided access to first rate telecommucations services.

Intra-Caribbean Fiber Ring