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African youths and ICT: opportunities abound
By Jonathan Kalan
Africa Renewal Magazine
June 27, 2013


 
Somali athlete Abdullah Bare Kuulow browses the internet at a cyber-cafe after a training session as part of their preparations for the 2012 London Olympic Games in Somalia`s capital Mogadishu March 14, 2012. Picture taken March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Feisal Omar


In a tiny sweltering tin-roofed shack inside one of Mogadishu`s bullet-riddled neighbourhoods, two brothers, Ali Hassan and Mustafa Yare, sit hunched over one of eight humming desktop computers. Together they show Nasteexo Cadey, a young veiled student at Mogadishu University, how to set up her Facebook account, browse YouTube videos and check her e-mail.


Business has been growing at the brothers` Kobciye Internet Coffee, one of the several makeshift Internet cafés that have emerged in Mogadishu since the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab fled the city. ”I wanted a business,” Hassan says, “and this is something that I`m good at. I have skills in computers and IT.” The café costs around $600 a month to run, and the brothers manage to bring in around $1,000 from their 40 or so daily customers, mostly university students.


Although Somalia`s Internet penetration still stands at just above 1% of the population, demand in Mogadishu is growing rapidly. For millions of unemployed yet tech-savvy youth across Africa, increased connectivity is bringing tremendous opportunities.


“ICT brings tremendous opportunity” to Africa`s youth, argues Ahmed Alfi, chief executive officer of Sawari Ventures, a venture capital firm in Egypt that focuses on new technology. “With software development, there`s nowhere else you`ll start with a thousand dollars and end with a million,” he told Africa Renewal. An Internet café may not itself be a million-dollar business but what`s created in it could be.


Over the past five years, fibre-optic cables have connected the continent in unprecedented ways, slashing the cost of Internet access and opening up new markets for content, software, mobile phone apps and social media. From Dar es Salaam to Dakar, Cape Town to Cairo, Africa`s youth are finding ways to use ICT to drive growth, build businesses and shape their futures.


Currently, six out of the 10 fastest-growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is the second-biggest mobile market in the world — smartphones outsell computers four to one. Over the 18 months to February 2012, Facebook had a user growth rate of 165% in Africa, according to the blog ICTworks.


“By 2016, it is estimated that there will be one billion mobile phones in Africa,” said Mark Casey, director of technology, media and telecoms at the financial consultancy firm Deloitte, in a recent report. “Mobile Internet usage in Africa is among the highest in the world.”


Five years ago, BusyInternet, West Africa`s largest Internet provider, opened an Internet café in Ghana`s capital, Accra. It had a lounge featuring 100 computers, and Ghanaians would pay about 50 cents an hour to use its high-speed connection. With Internet penetration in Ghana at about 10% in 2011, according to government statistics, BusyInternet was one of the few places young folks could go to get online.


Mac-Jordan Degadjor, 26, is one of Ghana`s preeminent technology and social media bloggers and Ghana`s first Internet Freedom Fellow. The fellowship is awarded by the US State Department to individuals who champion freedom of expression and assembly online. He says that “BusyInternet opened a lot of doors for young people living in Ghana,” he told Africa Renewal.


According to the US Embassy in Accra, which gave Degadjor the fellowship, these initiatives served to “inspire youth to get online wherever and however they can, making sure they have Ghanaian peers available to walk them through tech challenges.”


Yet business is not the only thing emerging from Ghana`s young tech scene. @GhanaDecides, a movement monitoring Ghana`s elections via social media, received international acclaim during the run-up to Ghana`s 2012 general election for fostering a better-informed electorate. It advocated free, fair and safe elections and ran online election-related campaigns.


BusyInternet`s “hub” effect reflects a pan-African movement towards technology hubs that encourage the formation of communities and empower young developers and entrepreneurs. Erik Hersman — co-founder of a software company Ushahidi and of Nairobi`s iHub, one of the best-known hubs in Africa — claims that the continent is undergoing a “tech-hub boom.” There are now more than 90 hubs, labs, incubators and accelerators in Africa, covering more than 20 countries. According to recent research, African hubs are springing up at the rate of nearly one every two weeks.


iHub emerged from the success of Ushahidi`s software platform used to capture and monitor citizen reporting during Kenya`s post-election violence in 2008. Started in 2010, iHub now has over eight thousand members spread across the world, with dozens of people using the space regularly.


Nearly 75% of people using iHub are working in or developing startups, according to a recent report by iHub`s research branch. Many of these startups have a social mission, like eLimu, which is distributing e-learning tablets to improve education in Kenya`s primary schools.


A thousand kilometres away in Kigali, Rwanda, a new government-sponsored ICT hub called kLab also targets young software developers and recent college graduates. Rwanda, a small, poor, landlocked country has put ICT development at the centre of its Vision 2020 — President Paul Kagame`s plan to turn Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020.


Jean Niyotwagira, a young Rwandan and one of kLab`s first “tenants,” has already founded a mobile applications development company, a social networking platform company and a digital supply-chain management platform company, among others. Mr. Niyotwagira maintains that kLab “helps entrepreneurs who don`t have enough funds to start their own office.” An ability to “try and fail” is a key advantage. In the past, failure usually meant economic disaster for young entrepreneurs, but now these hubs provide crucial support for entrepreneurs to take more risks.


Yet many entrepreneurs still struggle to get their companies past the initial seed-funding stage, since few local investors seem willing to take risks on technology ventures with potential for high profits. ”We need more tech-savvy investors,” Mbwana Alliy, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur who now manages the Savannah Fund, a Nairobi-based investment fund specialising in high-growth technology, told Africa Renewal.


But Mr. Alliy also complains that many young entrepreneurs are ”unfocused” and “lack discipline.” They may be great developers, but they do not have the skills to build and manage a company. This, many claim, is invariably a result of the education system. However, “ICT is one of the few areas where you can supplement your academic education online,” says Mr. Alfi of Sawari Ventures. “You can bring yourself up to world class through online training. You can`t do that with medicine.” Although people can learn software-coding skills online quite easily, learning the ins and outs of business management and finance is not so easy in Africa.


Despite the challenges, youth across the continent are getting connected and creating opportunities for themselves. Whether it`s safely inside Africa`s hubs or along the bullet-pocked streets of Mogadishu, they are finding ways to use technology to innovate, create employment and improve the societies in which they live.


Source: Africa Renewal www.un.org/africarenewal


Note: Africa Renewal promotes (social, economic political, human rights, communication technology, trade...) issues of interest to Africa. Africa Renewal contributed this article, free-of-charge, to Biyokulule Online.


Satellites to bring `fast, cheap` Internet to `under-connected`
Bangkok Post Online
Tuesday,
June 25, 2013


 
Inside TanzICT`s innovation space. The Dar es Salaam hub, opened in 2011, was co-funded by Finland. Photo: Jonathan Kalan.


The first four of 12 satellites in a new constellation to provide affordable, high-speed Internet to people in nearly 180 “under-connected” countries, will be shot into space on Tuesday, the project`s developers said.


A Soyuz rocket lifts off on December 16, 2011 from Europe`s space base in Sinnamary, 12km from Kourou, French Guiana. The first four of 12 satellites in a new constellation to provide affordable, high-speed Internet to people in nearly 180 “under-connected” countries, will be shot into space on Tuesday, the project`s developers said.


The orbiters, part of a project dubbed O3b for the “other 3 billion” people with restricted Internet access, will be lifted by a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kourou in French Guiana at 1854 GMT.


“We are very close to launching a network that has the potential to change lives in very tangible ways and that is a tremendous feeling,” O3b Networks chief technical officer Brian Holz said in a statement.


The project was born from the frustrations of Internet pioneer Greg Wyler with the inadequacy of Rwanda`s telecommunications network, while travelling there in 2007.


“Access to the Internet backbone is still severely limited in emerging markets,” Wyler said in unveiling the O3b venture in 2008 -- promising multi-gigabit Internet speeds to countries “whether landlocked in Africa or isolated by water in the Pacific Islands”.


“Only when emerging markets achieve affordable and ubiquitous access to the rest of the world will we observe locally generated content, widespread e-learning, telemedicine and many more enablers to social and economic growth, which reflect the true value of the Internet,” he said.


Wyler`s plan was to bypass costly ground-based infrastructure like fibre-optics or cables by deploying a constellation of small satellites around the equator to serve as a spatial relay between users and the world wide web using only satellite dishes.


Such a system would cover a region between the latitudes of 45 degrees North and 45 degrees South -- the entire African continent, most of Latin America, the Middle East, southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands.


There are already geostationary satellites providing this type of services, but at a prohibitive cost for many end-users.


Existing satellites generally obit at an altitude of some 36,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) above Earth, weigh in at a hefty four to six tonnes each, and take much longer to bounce a signal back to Earth -- about 500 milliseconds to be exact, according to an O3b document.


“It is such a long delay that people speaking over a satellite link will shorten conversations, interactive web has an extremely poor experience and many web-based software programmes just won`t function,” it said.


The O3b satellites, built by the Franco-Italian company Thales Alenia Space, will orbit at 8,062 km and will weigh only 650 kilogrammes (1,400 pounds) each.


Crucially, they will communicate with Earth four times faster, said the company, and six would be enough to assure permanent coverage.


“O3b`s prices will be 30 - 50 percent less than traditional satellite services,” said the document.


And it added that a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo could move from being one of the most poorly-connected on Earth to one of the best.


Launch company Arianespace, which will put the satellites in orbit, said the O3b constellation will combine “the global reach of satellite coverage with the speed of a fiber-optic network”.


Project investors include Internet giant Google, cable company Liberty Global, satellite operator SES, HSBC bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.


The first four satellites were due to be boosted into space on Monday but the launch was postponed by a day due to unfavourable weather conditions.


The next four satellites will be launched within weeks, according to Arianespace, and a final four “backup” orbiters early next year.


To refine its coverage, the constellation could in the end have as many as 16 supplementary satellites in addition to the 12 main ones, said O3b networks.


(Description of Source: Bangkok Bangkok Post Online in English -- Website of a daily newspaper widely read by the foreign community in Thailand with conservative stance typically critical of former Prime Minister Thaksin Chinnawat and the ruling Phuea Thai Party; provides good coverage on Indochina. Audited hardcopy circulation of 83,000 as of 2009. URL: http://www.bangkokpost.com)


© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


RSA: Global Non-Profit Corporation Chief To Add 6 New Representatives on Africa
IT News Africa
Thursday,
March 14, 2013


Unattributed report: “Internet Corporation President: “Africa Will Not Wait”“


The President of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said he is moving ahead immediately with plans to have six new ICANN representatives on the African continent.


“ICANN used to say if you want to participate in Internet governance come to ICANN,” said Fadi Chehade. “We`ve changed that, now ICANN is coming to the stakeholders. We`re not waiting for you to come. We`re coming to you.”


Chehade made his comments during a two-day Africa Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance meeting of Internet leaders from across the continent, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


“We will have ICANN staff, at least one, in each of the six regions of Africa. North, South, East, West, Central and the Indian Ocean,” said Chehade. “I want African on-ramps into the ICANN structures. I will give you the on-ramps, but you need to climb them.”


The ICANN leader also said he would like to see a dramatic increase in the number of accredited Domain Name Registrars on the African continent.


Currently there are only five accredited Registrars in Africa among more than one thousand worldwide, but Chehade said he wants to see that number increase five-fold in less than two years.


“This is about us moving the needle forward. Africa will not wait,” said Chehade.


The meeting in Addis Ababa was attended by some two hundred people, including Ministers and other government representatives, leaders from the African business community, civil society and from ICANN structures in Africa; AFTLD and AFRALO.


The multi-stakeholder IG event was co-organized by the African Union, ISOC-Africa, AFRINIC and the African IGF. It was preceded by a two-day workshop about the development of the DNS Industry in Africa.


During the event the implementation of an African Strategy for better engagement in Africa was discussed in detail. This strategy was prepared by representatives from the African community last summer and announced during the ICANN meeting in Toronto in October. Fadi Chehade reiterated ICANN`s commitment to help implement the three-year strategy in coordination with global and regional partners in Africa.


(Description of Source: Johannesburg IT News Africa in English  A privately-owned website that claims to be the “premier” source of reporting on African information and communication technology; URL: http://www.itnewsafrica.com)


© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


 



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