Category Archives: Africa

Cornell OLPC goes to Mauritania

I have so much to write about, including updates from my experience at WTPF, but literally no time.  Between writing the A-exams, grading, writing the A-exams, traveling, and writing the A-exams, blogging moved to the second stage.  But this is really exciting news and I will make it brief.

So here is the update: a group of Cornell undergraduate students won a grant from the OLPCorps scheme and in a few weeks they are going to Tidjikja, Mauritania, to distribute 100 XO laptops to children and tutor them for about two months.  I am trying to help these guys with some advise, but they are doing great in spite of that :)

If you are interested, you can take a look at a wiki with the details of their proposal (PDF) and you can follow a blog they have recently started.  As I said, they received 100 XO laptops, USD 10,000 for expenses, and a week long training in Rwanda.  So, just two members of the team are actually going to Mauritania, but nevertheless they are still about USD 1,000 short.  If you happen to have an idea where they can apply for money on such a short notice, please share.  If you wish to contribute yourself (not necessarily the entire sum), you can do that as well (thank you in advance!).

I am really excited for the guys and I am sure this is going to an interesting experience from which we all will learn a lot.

OLPCorps Africa – March 27 deadline

Although it received quite a lot of (somewhat just) criticism on OLPC news (here and here with the second post trying to make sense of the first one), I think this is quite an interesting move on behalf of OLPC.  I think there is a lot of the youth potential, which the author of the blog post is overlooking and I would like to share this opportunity with those of you who are interested in OLPC-related activities.  For example, I think it may particularly interest those of you who were at the last ITU YF in Bangkok and had an opportunity to be thoroughly introduced to the XO laptops.

Here is the gist of the initiative:

What?

OLPCorps Africa is a unique grant program focused specifically on learning in Africa. Student teams are equipped with the tools, resources, and know-how to develop grassroots learning environments in an African country of their choice. OLPC is drawing upon the world’s student leaders to spark a university-led grassroots initiative in this global learning movement. Through OLPCorps Africa, OLPC is creating a global network of student leaders who will create a lasting impact at the local level, build a network of student activists, and initiate a grant program that will become renown.  (source)

Eligibility? - Undergraduate and graduate students, over 18 years old, from any country.

How?

$3,500,000 for 100 teams of college students to get $35,000 in support for 10 week projects in Africa. Each group gets 100 XO laptops, assorted hardware, a $10,000 stipend, and 10-day training in Kigali, Rwanda, before being sent out to projects. (source)

When?

The workshop will begin June 8th and end June 17th. Teams should arrive at least 1 day before. However, teams are encouraged to arrive as early as the 6th in order to adjust to the time-difference and leave room for flight-delays or any other unexpected circumstances which may arise. (source)

The duration of the Grant Program is 10 weeks (June – August), including the orientation in Kigali. Teams should arrange with their local partner to stay for at least 9 weeks. (source)

Proposals deadline is March 27th.

Please consult the wiki of the project for further details.  Note that there are many people there who are looking for local partners to form a proposal team.  So, if you are in Africa, you may find good partners there.

I was also excited to see that there is a group of Cornell students who have applied for this opportunity.  I hope to get in touch with them and offer them my help.  If any of you is applying, I would be also glad to hear about that!  Please let me know if I can help, particularly with linking people who are looking for partners.

Good luck everyone!

Credibility of a blog

If this is not your first time reading my posts, you know that a while ago I started posting digests of interesting things i spot while reading (primarily) blogs and some other resources.  Given my interest in telecom policy with a particular focus on developing countries, it is not surprising that one of the blogs on my RSS feeds is called “IT News Africa“.  I started following it a few months ago as I thought it brings interesting and relevant information.  However, the more I follow this blog, the more doubts I start having about its credibility.

My main problem with this source is that it never links back to its sources.  Many times it looks pretty clear that the article is re-posted from elsewhere, which is a common practice, but there is no link back.  Sometimes they would even mention the source (like Business Africa Daily, but would still provide no link to the original.  Sometimes the post would be signed by ITnewsAfrica.com Reporter, but if you check out the about page, it does not have any reporter on staff, which raises questions.  In fact, I even tried contacting them once, asking for the source of one of their items, but I have never heard back.

The “about” page is also weird.  It has a very concise description of the project, which boils down to the fact that they syndicate their content across various platforms, and a list of names with titles.  There are no bios and no other information about the people behind the project, which does not add at least to my level of trust.

I think I’ve reach a point where I feel I should finish that semi “trial period” with this website and I am left with a few thoughts and concerns.  On the one hand, I wonder how people judge the trustfulness of individual blogs.  To what extent people are concerned with crediblity of information they encounter online.  Specifically, how do they establish what blogs to trust and to what extend?  On the other hand, I wonder if there are really good information sources about telecom news from the African region and other parts of the world that are less covered by the mainstram media in the US.  Any ideas?

Eyes on Africa

Some time ago I shared my thoughts about Africa’s potential as the next Asia in terms of socioeconomic development, particularly when it comes to the MICT related issues.  Recently I have encountered a couple of observations that support this intuition.

First, it seems that mobile equipment manufacturers and service providers discover more interest in the African market.  Here are a number of examples: MTN, the South Africa based telecom was recently voted as the most preferred place to work for in Uganda; originally Kuwaiti Zain group has announced that is going to invest “$1bn per annum in Nigeria till 2011″; Nokia is about to ship 3G enabled phone with Amharic interface to Ethiopia; and Telecom Kenya is about to start selling iPhones in the country under the Orange brand.  Some of these moves can be of course viewed as political, but nevertheless, i think they indicate a development in the African telecom market.

Second, I am noticing that a number of countries in the region are taking off in terms of their activity in the field of telecom.  For example, Egypt is becoming a major telecom hub in the region.  Here is an article suggesting that it is becoming Africa’s leading market.  But not only that.  It is also becoming a major venue for international telecom policy debates.  Just a few months ago it hosted ITU Telecom Africa, later this year it is going to host a major ICANN meeting, and it has a record of hosting other internainal telecom related events in recent past.  Also, South Africa, a more veteran leader on this scene, has been hosting telecom related venues with global impact such as the upcoming World Telecommunication Standartization Assembly (WTSA).  Again, I realize that the processes in Egypt are probably due to the efforts of the Mubarak family, which seems to be in a not very stable political situation.  Nevertheless, it is bringing more of the global policy debates to the continent, which contributes to my argument of Africa starting to play a more prominent role.

Have you had any observations like that?  Do they make sense?  Or have you encountered information that supports/chllanges my observations?  Please share.

A thought a day

Thinking about development, Asia is recognized as a region that enjoyed a real boost in the recent couple of decades.  The more I read about Africa, I start thinking whether or not it is going to be the Asia of the next few decades.  Here is an interesting post from John Daly, with some of the similar thinking.