In early 2009 the Grameen Foundation went to Uganda with the idea of creating a fluid and effective two way communication channel between rural farmers and the world of agricultural experts, development agencies, traders and commercial players. Through this loop, rural small holder farmers would be given livelihood saving agricultural information generated by the experts and the big players would keep informed on conditions on the farm from adoption of best practices to available produce for sale. Grameen has now published its Community Knowledge Worker pilot report to share some of the lessons learned on what it takes to sustainably build and expand such a network of information intermediaries.
The Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA), the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and other partners, with support from the Open Society Institute of West Africa (OSIWA) is launching the West Africa Internet Governance Forum. It aims are:
- To facilitate Internet policy discussions on a multi-stakeholder platform for issues relating to the development and the governance of the Internet in West Africa.
- To increase awareness of Internet governance issues in West Africa
- To facilitate the participation of a broad range of West African stakeholders in the IGF process.
- To create an opportunity for West Africans to engage in/contribute towards discussions regarding spam, Internet and Security, and other IGF related issues at the global Internet Governance Forum.
- To create a systematic, bottom up, national, regional and global policy dialogue process in West Africa.
ERINA4Africa (Exploiting Research INfrastructures potentiAl for boosting Research and Innovation in Africa) is an EC-funded project which aims to provide African and EU policy makers with a detailed analysis of exploitable scenarios of existing and new e-Infrastructures in Africa. Due for completion at the end of 2010 at a cost of €450,000, the project, led by the Department of Information Systems and Computing (DISC) at Brunel University, is expected to deliver:
- A Virtual Observatory mapping the trends of current evolution of e-Infrastructures in Africa and its application to e-Health, e-Government and e-Learning, and its innovation potential for Industry
- A Foresight Study helping to align directions and ensure coherency in e-Infrastructures policy in Southern Africa
- Robust results validated by the community, via a series of virtual conferences and local meetings
The project aims to map the demand side of Africa e-Infrastructure potential to understand what projects are being run, with which technology, how it these are financed, who are the partners and what geographical scope. It will also map the supply side to evaluate innovation potential of e-Infrastructures in Africa, in the areas of e-Health, e-Government and e-Learning. Three events (workshops in Malawi and Rwanda, and a final conference) are planned. The project has close working relations with the eIAfrica and IST-Africa initiatives.
Kenya is one of three countries that are eyeing software developed by the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) to market and sell agricultural products through an internet portal. The others are Zimbabwe and Tanzania who believe the tool that can improve farmer’s earnings. This was announced by ECX chief executive Dr Eleni Gadri-Madhini said at the seventh African Fine Coffee Conference and Exhibition held in Mombasa last week.
The software serves farmers, traders, processors, exporters and consumers. It provides a secure and reliable system of handling, grading, and storing commodities, matching offers and bids for commodity transactions, and a risk-free payment and goods delivery system. Once adopted, farmers will have increased access to market information and be able to trade coffee directly.
Red Hat has launched opensource.com as a community site for open source. The Drupal powered site has been created by Red Hat but Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat’s President and CEO, says “This will not be a site for Red Hat, about Red Hat. Instead this will be a site for open source, about the future”. He added that “this site is one of the ways in which Red Hat gives something back to the open source community”
The site is currently structured into five channels on business, education, government, law and life and features a number of articles on those subjects, but Whitehurst says that this is just the initial format and invites a conversation with the community over how the site should develop. Red Hat hopes that all the content on opensource.com will be published under a Creative Commons licence and sets out other rules for community participation.
Mobile-Based Livelihood Services In Africa: Pilots And Early Deployments is a paper by Jonathan Donner, a researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research India, presented at a Conference on Development and Information Technologies. Mobile Phones and Internet in Latin America and Africa: What benefits for the most disadvantaged? last October.
The paper describes a collection of initiatives delivering support via mobile phones to small enterprises, small farms, and the self-employed. Using a review of 26 examples of such services currently operational in Africa, the analysis identifies five functions of mobile livelihood services: Mediated Agricultural Extension, Market Information, Virtual Marketplaces, Financial Services, and Direct Livelihood Support. It discusses the current reliance of such systems on the SMS channel, and considers their role in supporting vs. transforming existing market structures.
A Ugandan government plan to wire all district local governments on a virtual platform to popularise e-governance and minimise burgeoning administrative spending has been blocked by Parliament. The House committee on Information, Communication and Technology says it will authorise implementation of the $60 million (Shs114b) project only after officials offer proper accountability for the national fibre-optic backbone Phase I expenditures.
Suspecting hefty finances for the project could have been squandered, MPs directed the Auditor General to investigate the anomalies, including complaints of inflated costs and “delayed and incomplete” works. The country’s $106 million (Shs2 trillion) massive three-phase project, pioneered by China’s Huawei Technologies initially at $30 million (Shs57b), has been fraught with alleged fraud and mismanagement.
via Tabu Butagira of the Daily Monitor, 11 Jan 2010
Makerere University has embarked on a programme to decongest the university by opening regional centres across Uganda. Students from rural areas will be able to access lectures via a video conference system at five regional centres. The programme, which kicks off next month, follows an agreement signed on Monday between the university and Uganda Telecom which will provide the communication infrastructure and 2,000 computers. The university will have to pay for the bandwidth.
A report on “New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks” has been published by the United Nations Foundation. It provides a useful summary of risks and challenges which apply to all information systems:
… governments, humanitarian agencies, and local communities face challenges and risks associated with modern technological innovation. These include:
- Information flows must be two-way to be effective — from the external world to the affected community, but also from those affected to the agencies seeking to help them in useful ways.
- Information will not be used unless it is trusted. The utility of any technologies will depend on the social context. People are a vital part of the communication system.
- Information will be helpful only if it is accurate. There are risks in unregulated information flows, especially when these are spread rapidly online, and these risks need to be managed. Authentication is a key challenge.
Cameroon (.cm) has overthrown Hong Kong (.hk) as the Web’s riskiest domain, according to McAfee’s third annual Mapping the Mal Web report. Cameroon jumped to the number one spot this year with 36.7 percent of the .cm domain posing a security risk, but did not even make the list last year. Because the domain .cm is a common typo for .com, many cybercriminals set up fake typo-squatting sites that lead to malicious downloads, spyware, adware and other potentially unwanted programs. The only other African domain in the top 100 is South Africa’s .za at 96.
via McAfee Newsroom