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.