Plans laid for West African Internet Governance Forum

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:

  1. 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.
  2. To increase awareness of Internet governance issues in West Africa
  3. To facilitate the participation of a broad range of West African stakeholders in the IGF process.
  4. 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.
  5. To create a systematic, bottom up, national, regional and global policy dialogue process in West Africa.

via FOSSFA on 27 May 2020

EC e-Infrastructure research project launches website

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.

Ugandan district e-governance project delayed

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 to decentralise using video conferencing

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.

via Patrick Jaramogi of New Vision on, 12 Jan 2010

Free internet for Nigerian universities

The Nigerian Federal Government has said it will establish free universal internet service and viewing centres across tertiary institutions in the country. This is aimed at tackling the problem of low access to cutting-edge ICT  resources among Nigerian students. Minister of State for Information and Communications, Ikra Bilbis, announced this at the weekend while commissioning a public viewing centre built by the ministry in collaboration with the Universal Service Provision Fund in Kaduna.

He said the importance of information technology cannot be over-emphasised, adding that the idea aims at putting information at the fingertips of the Nigerian students and their school communities in order to equip them to meet global challenges. “We are committed to ensuring that facilities of these nature are provided in all the tertiary institutions in the country. Already, we have finished constructing the first phase of the centres in all the six geo-political zones of the country and very soon, we are going to ensure that all schools, including some secondary schools across the six geo-political zones, benefited from the community-based communication programme,” Bilbis said.

via Imam Imam of This Day on

Ghana 2010: Infrastructure and policing

Ghana’s Finance Minister Kwabena Duffuor delivered his 2010 budget last week with modest plans for ICT development.

The national fibre optic backbone will be extended to the northern parts of the country and all district capitals will be linked to high speed broadband. A criminal intelligence database will be developed.


“A business and performance based framework, known as the Enterprise Architecture, to support cross-agency collaboration and transformation of government-wide network and other public sector improvement in pursuit of a vibrant egovernment service delivery.”

Can anybody figure out what this could possibly mean?

Ghana report exposes Vodafone rip-off

by Bismark Bebli in The Chronicle via (see also BBC)

Contrary to reports that UK Company, Vodafone Plc bought 70% of Ghana Telecom (GT) for $900 million, it has been revealed that the country received a paltry Two Hundred and Sixty-six Million, Five Hundred and Seventy Dollars ($266.57m) in payment.

Former President John Agyekum Kufuor, whose government sold off the national telecommunications company, according to details in the report of the inter-Ministerial review committee on Vodafone, worked against the interest of Ghanaians.

Broadband, infected PCs and botnets

via  IntelFusion

Africa is home to about 100 million PCs, 80% of which are estimated to be infected with some kind of malware. This has occurred because the intense poverty throughout the continent has resulted in a pervasive distribution of pirated software and the inability to pay for Anti-Virus protection. Currently, most Internet access is via dial-up, but once broadband comes to Africa, all of those infected PCs will become an easy target for bot herders looking to build the next mega-botnet; Think about it. Almost a hundred million PCs with little to no AV protection connected to the Internet backbone via a super highway instead of a dirt path. What could a bad operator do with a botnet of that size? Pretty much anything he wants, including paralyzing an entire nation’s networked infrastructure. That’s all systems connected to the Internet, including power, water, communications, commerce, etc.

If this were a public health risk, (a) it would never have been allowed to get this far out of hand, and (b) labs would be working around the clock to produce enough anti-virus serums to stop the pandemic in its tracks.  If every infected PC in Africa were a person, this would rank as the second worst pandemic in the history of the world.

Study on Internet Exchange Points

via  Balancing Act

Africa’s Internet Exchange Points score well on lowering latency and local download speed but did not contribute to lowering of end-user costs, says new study

from Balancing Act Issue no 474, 2 Oct. 2009

Those promoting Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Africa (and Balancing Act was one of them) made several broad arguments. They would enable cost savings as a larger proportion of traffic is exchanged using local rather than international bandwidth; They would improve access speeds for users and cut down delays in downloading through reducing latency. They would create revenue opportunities because they allow easier hosting of local domains and improved access speeds make certain types of applications possible. Thirteen years after the first IXP was launched in Johannesburg a research report has been published assessing their impact.

The purpose of this research entitled “Impact of IXPs – A review of the experiences of Ghana, Kenya and South Africa” commissioned by OSI was to look at the evidence for these three different kinds of impact outlined above. Crucially, whether the cost-savings IXPs may or may not have made helped local ISPs to pass on price changes to the end-user.

Calestous Juma and the future of African communications

 from  …My heart’s in Accra

Professor Calestous Juma from Harvard’s Kennedy School leads off the annual luncheon series at the Berkman Center with an overview of policy issues surrounding broadband internet in eastern Africa. Professor Juma has been a pioneer on issues around education and technology on the continent, and we’re lucky to have him here, thinking about ways in which broadband technology is and isn’t transforming East Africa.

To contextualize our conversation, Juma reminds us that the continent is large enough to fit in the US, China, India, Western Europe and Argentina, and to squeeze in the UK. It’s not realistic to scale up pilot projects – connecting South Africa and Mozambique, for instance. We’ve got little infrastructure to build on – power grids and even road grids are radically underdeveloped. The major infrastructure we’ve seen grow is mobile phones, which “provision their own infrastructure”, to a certain degree. To illustrate the problem, he shows the BBC story about a South African consultancy demonstrating that you can transmit data faster via a USB key strapped to a pigeon’s leg than you could download via a Telekom SA line. (Telekom, needless to say, disputes the validity of the test.)

A “speculative” cable map of Africa, showing cables proposed to be built by 2011. A much better .svg version is here.
Professor Juma had the opportunity to see the launch of the SEACOM cable in Tanzania. “I took the trouble to go down into the manhole to actually see the cable. It’s a very modest thing.” Indeed – the actual cable is slimmer than your forearm, a very expensive and very fragile thing. He walks us through some of the existing and proposed cables, mentioning that SAT-3, the West African cable, has less than 5% utilization (I plan to follow up and make sure I understood that figure correctly.) He nods to the London – Lagos cable intended to suplement SAT-3, and new cables, like the Mauritius/Madagascar LION cable.
More visible for most Africans has been the transformation brought about by the mobile phone. A technology that initially was so heavy, it was only useful for the military and had to be carried in a car, is now light, cheap and pervasive. Not only has the mobile phone swallowed the land-line phone business, it’s now likely to swallow the banks, with technologies like M-PESA, which allows inexpensive money transfer from one mobile phone to another.
The driving force between the aggresive timetable to connect Africa more thoroughly to the internet, Juma argues, is the World Cup. To convince Europeans that South Africa could host the cup, there needed to be reassurances that the world would be able to watch the games in realtime. Hence, there’s been intense pressure to improve connectivity. While the cables proposed mostly help urban (and coastal) areas initially, Google’s support for a cluster of middle-earth orbit satellites shows a possible pathway to data services in very rural areas.
The spread of connection infrastructure into Africa now points to the need for devices that can access the internet, content to be delivered and applications. These, in turn, point to the need for institutions, laws and policies to regulate this space, which are currently lagging far behind the technology.
Professor Juma sees dramatic interest on the continent around call centers, and around more creative industries, like animation. (As a side note, Juma wonders whether we’re going to see African entrepreneurs beginning to protect dance as intellectual property, since movement is so critical in African cultures.)
We should expect to see convergence – a world without desktops, the mobile phone as the primary information device – Juma argues. We’re also seeing countries trying to leapfrog into cloud computing, because governments see it as reducing the costs of extending infrastructure. (Juma defines cloud computing as “where you throw everything up, including the kitchen sink. If it rains, you’re in luck. If not, duck, and try again.”)
Making technology mobile and rugged makes it significantly more appropriate for Africa. Juma has been deeply involved in the OLPC project and shows us schoolchildren sitting outside Kigali airport in Rwanda – the airport has one of few open wifi networks the children can use. Perhaps nodding to some of the criticism of OLPC, Juma points out that OLPC has helped spur the netbook movement, and notes that roughly 30 million netbooks will ship this year. But ruggedization affects other technologies as well – he shows us a handheld ultrasound unit that can transmit images to mobile phones.
To embrace the potential of these new technologies, some African countries are creating universities designed to educate a new generation of technologists. Nile University in Egypt is embedded in the Telecoms ministry, supervised by the Education ministry. Ghana has established a new university following the same model. Kenya has built a multimedia university based around a similar model in Malaysia. The idea is to be educating students with contemporary skills, not the skills the education ministries have been teaching for years.

I was struck by the idea that the SAT-3 cable had only seen 5% usage. If that cable usage is so low, why is there such enthusiasm for a web of new cables? Is usage so low simply because SAT-3 is so badly priced? Professor Juma argues that SAT-3 was built to serve a very few users at very high prices. He believes the new cables are being built to serve a much larger audience, with lower per-unit prices. The possibility for monopoly is reduced by having multiple players, he argues, and points to a reduction in broadband pricing of 50% by one South Africa country. Instead, Juma is worried about access devices, and is writing a paper arguing that countries should eliminate duty on refurbished and new imported computers.
Christian Sandvik pushes forward this question about monopolies, wondering if we’re really going to see competitive pricing in East African cables. Professor Juma points out that the TEAMS cable is open access – anyone can buy into the system – and pricing information is supposed to be public.
Rob Faris asks about 03b, a new, venture-backed project to put high capacity data networks above the equator, providing low cost data to developing nations. Professor Juma expects that this won’t be the only MEO constellation of satellites we’ll see, and that with more satellite networks, we’ll see competitive effects. He expects a Chinese network focused on the developing world, and wonders whether the former head of Google China might be heading this new company.