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Africa: ICT Updates
Sep 9, 2007 (070909)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Africa, with only 3% of world internet users and some 14% of the
world's population, is still the least connected continent. But it
is also the one with the fastest growth rate in connectivity. The
number of internet users has increased more than 7 times the number
in the year 2000, to almost 34 million.
[For these and related statistics, see
With such rapid growth, the opportunities for creative use of
information and communications technology (ICT) as well as for
business ventures in the sector, are also rapidly expanding.
This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several recent updates
covering ventures as diverse as e-agriculture for Togolese farmers
to wireless access in Egyptian tourist destinations. The updates
are selected from Highway Africa News Agency (http://hana.ru.ac.za)
and Balancing Act News Updates (http://www.balancingact-africa.com). Along with the Association
of Progressive Communications (http://www.apc.org), these sites are
ones that AfricaFocus regularly relies on for updates in this
For earlier issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin on Information and
Communication Technology and Africa, visit
In addition to a listing of back issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin in
this area, you will feed a new custom Google search that allows you
to search the three key sites noted above. If you have other sites
to recommend for inclusion in this custom search, please send the
URL and information about the site to firstname.lastname@example.org.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
E-agriculture for Togolese farmers
By: Noel Kokou Tadégnon
Highway Africa News Agency
September 3, 2007
A 'Center for Commercial and Agricultural Information' (PICA) for
the collection and the publication of price lists via the internet
has been launched in Togo to enable farmers and traders to interact
over prices and availability of products. of the products by ICT
The center is equipped with computer and Internet facilities with
a web page www.tradenet.biz with a strong integration of data and
The center will allow producers and tradesmen to consult in real
time over price lists that are in conformity with the ECOWAS
Farmers will also consult over business opportunities in the area
-the availability of products and stocks - in short farmers and
traders will be able to conclude commercial transactions with
partners from West Africa and other destinations.
The platform is also equipped with a system that makes it possible
to send SMSes to producers, to salesmen and to purchasers.
The center will also equip farmers with packages to receive free
information on mobile phones on the prices of 400 agricultural
producers of the regional markets in West Africa, that is Benign,
Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea
Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone,
D‚t‚ Yachina, the webmaster of the http://www.tradenet.biz
explained that in fact , people will know at home or their fields
how much a product costs and where to get it if not available in
"Via this facility, one will seek the market where one can find it
and where one can better sell, by selling their products, one has
enough money and that can contribute to the improvement of our
living conditions" said Denis Mbadia chair regional Rooms of
agriculture of Togo
"The project has placed at our disposal an electronic facility to
break down information concerning the agricultural produce and to
seek markets abroad, we received formations on the use of the
machines and the setting on line of information", said Akou‚t‚ Foly
chair grouping of the market-gardeners farmers of south Togo.
Denis Mbadia said that the project will contribute to the promotion
of the agricultural sector of Togo and will promote research of
markets where to sell products.
"For having produced, it is necessary to sell and monetarized its
production and the market should be sought", explained Mbadia.
This project is supported by the regional network of information
systems of market and agricultural trade in West Africa (MISTOWA)
http://www.mistowa.org and its aims are to increase regional
agricultural trade and food security by improving and linking the
existing regional efforts to generate, disseminate, and make
commercial use of market information.
The center will also help the regional networks of Market
Information Systems (MIS) and trade partners to address other
constraints, so that strong and dynamic commodity chains emerge
that will use the information to enhance production, handling,
credit, and trade; and value added services such as post-harvest,
processing, packaging, and quality control.
SA Government's OSS plans revealed
By: HANA Reporter
Highway Africa News Agency
September 4, 2007
Doctor Daniel Mashao, the chief technology officer at Sita (the
South African State Information Technology Agency), announced the
launch of the government-wide free and open source programme at the
GovTech conference on Thursday.
While many welcomed the February announcement of government's
intention to adopt and promote open source software, the subsequent
months saw disillusionment within the open source community that
very little had actually happened.
Mashao addressed these worries, describing what had been happening
behind the scenes and showing a systematic timetable of how this
process will indeed be implemented. He outlined the government's
policy, which came into being with government's February 22
announcement. The five key points are:
- Choose FOSS
- Migrate to FOSS
- Develop in FOSS
- Use FOSS/open content licensing
- Promote FOSS in South Africa
"That is a very strong statement," he said, expressing his
confidence in the policy. However he also quoted the minister of
public services, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, saying that the
implementation would not be a "big bang", but rather a gradual
"I feel I am very fortunate, I was not there when people were
fighting about it," he said, referring to the long process of
decision making over open source's adoption that began in 2000.
"I don't have to say we must use open source. The government policy
now says that we are migrating... I don't see any reason that we
won't," he added.
Under the policy, when introducing new software, the SA government
will implement open source solutions unless a proprietary option is
demonstrated to be "significantly superior".
In any instances where proprietary software is implemented, reasons
must be given to justify its use. Migration of current systems is
also planned. This will be done in a phased approach, beginning
with applications such as replacing MS Office with Open Office or
KOffice and replacing Internet Explorer with Firefox.
This will in time lead up to the operating system, replacing
Windows with a Linux distribution. Migration to Apache for the
running of government websites has already occurred within a number
Mashao said that the Sita CEO's office was already running open
source applications. "We at Sita have already tested the main
government systems on open source... what it means is that we do
not have to go and do any new work," he revealed.
All new software developed for or by the government is to be based
on open standards and licensed under an open source licence where
He outlined the plans of the FOSS Programme Office (FPO), which is
to begin operating in September, and the current status of open
The FPO will be established on September 3, when Arno Webb,
formerly the chief information officer of the department of arts
and culture, begins in his position as programme manager.
The role of the FPO will be to coordinate all FOSS work in
government, create FOSS skills, ensure that government procurement
is FOSS compliant and to partner all migrations of government
The first of these departments to migrate will be Sita itself,
where the CEO has already been using a number of open source
This year's target is to migrate two agencies, starting with Sita
within the next three months. The other department, although not
confirmed, is likely to be that of science and technology, where
Mashao said there has already been a pilot migration. For 2008, a
further four departments will be migrated, then 15 in 2009 and 50
Talking on the challenges faced, he said that the CSIR had made
progressive steps but that it was halted due to problems with the
document management system.
"If you are secretary in a normal office, migration is very easy,
you don't even see anything, you use open office evolution and
firefox," he said, adding that it was backend issues such as the
conversion of the document management system that presented more of
In order to help facilitate these plans, eight tender companies
have already been appointed to supply open source solutions. These
are Choice Technologies, Impi Linux, GijimaAST, Obsidian,
SourceCom, BCX, Novell and IBM.
Sita is currently in the process of training 30 students with
computer science diplomas to become LPI certified.
As Mashao explained, there is a chicken and egg challenge in that
in order for OSS to be adopted, the necessary support skills have
to be available, but until there is the demand for skills, they
will not be developed.
This first wave of students will address this problem. For next
year it is planned to train a further 100 students and 1 000 the
While training of 10 000 is planned for 2010, Mashao expects that
by this point there will be sufficient demand that the private
sector will have caught up and these skills will be fairly
Source: Free Speech Publishing
Internet edges out postal services By: David Muwanga
Highway Africa News Agency
September 3, 2007
Growth in the use of the Internet and mobile messaging in Uganda
have led to a gradual decline in volume of letters posted and
received domestically and abroad.
The volume of traffic is measured by the number of letters, parcels
and registered items over a specific period of time.
According to a report released by the Uganda Communications
Commission (UCC), for the financial year 2006/2007 the average
decline was by twelve percent as a result of competition from the
new services such as internet and mobile messaging.
Statistics from the commission indicate that in the year 2002 nine
million letters were posted but these excluded official letters
while five million were received from abroad.
In 2003 there was a sharp decline in the letters posted to seven
million but there was an increase from the five million received to
about 5.5 million.
However in 2004 there was an increase in the letters posted to 8.5
million while letters from abroad reduced to 4.5 million.
"In the year 2005 letters posted dropped to about 6.5 million and
those received from abroad were about 3 million," said the
commissions executive director, Patrick Masambu in a report
released by Uganda's postal and telecommunications sector.
In 2006 the letters posted declined further to 4. 8 million and
those received went down to 2.8 million and by June 2007 posted
letters dropped to 5 million while letters received dropped 2.6
He said that however parcels and registered mail continued to
register increased growth and for the financial year 2006/2007 the
volume grew by 33 percent.
"Increased activity in the international market accounts for this
development.", he said.
The report says that internet subscribers grew by thirty percent
during the same financial year from 11 000 to 15 500.
"This number however is very low relative to other countries but 40
percent of the data access is through dial-up."
New internet pricing schemes have emerged in the market such as
capacity based pricing among others.
"Although internet prices have dropped but prices are still
relatively high compared to regional and international markets."
"The challenge is to ensure that we maintain an efficient and
competitive market and ensuring affordable and universally
available services which should translate into productivity and
economic growth of the country," he said.
He said the country is still faced with an absence of a national
competition law required for the holistic regulatory and
competition guidance at the multi-sectoral level.
CyberTrackers of the Kalahari take out their PDAs in Botswana
Balancing Act News Update
Issue No. 363
July 15, 2007
That indispensable electronic tool of every rising young executive,
the personal digital assistant (PDA), has been matched to the
traditional knowledge of the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert to give
Africa a new profession: digital wildlife tracker.
The high-tech wildlife trackers have been used against poachers, in
ecotourism, environmental education, research and monitoring. The
free software that links up traditional knowledge to electronic
data mapping has been applied around the world to social surveys,
organic farming, integrated pest management and disaster relief.
The new profession sprang from the work of Louis Liebenberg, a
South African conservation scientist who learned tracking from
bow-and-arrow hunters in Botswana. He recognized the importance of
their skills and knowledge for conservation - and how little it
was valued by protection authorities, partly because the Bushmen
could not read or write.
With former University of Cape Town computer scientist Justin
Steventon, Liebenberg developed a hand-held computer and software
to capture their knowledge. He called the system CyberTracker. The
computer displays a palette of symbols representing more than 40
animal species, subspecies and plants. The icons also cover
activities such as drinking, feeding, running, fighting, mating and
sleeping. Pressing an icon records a sighting or other indications.
Each screen allows the user to record increasingly detailed
information. They found that one tracker might record up to 300
observations in a day.
Connected to a satellite navigational system in 1996, the hand-held
computer automatically recorded the details, time, date and exact
location. This information was processed on a base-station computer
to create maps and charts of animal movements and feeding habits.
Today, all the data collection can be done on a PDA and worked on
a personal computer. The free software used to turn a tracker into
a digital wildlife tracker has now been downloaded over 25,000
times in more than 50 countries.
When Liebenberg received a Rolex Award for Enterprise for his work
with CyberTracker, the European Union funded work that enabled him
to set up a non-governmental organization to develop and distribute
the software as part of his effort to establish a worldwide network
to monitor wildlife (http://www.cybertracker.org). Mr Liebenberg's
plan was to hand over management to someone else and go back to
research exclusively, but so far that remains a dream, and he now
also spends time evaluating trackers for certification.
The scientist's efforts had a social development goal from the
start. "I set out to show that there is an alternative for the
desperately downtrodden and impoverished Bushmen whose
understanding of nature and its rhythms is unparalleled," he says.
The illiterate trackers who carried out the first project, a
detailed study of the black rhinoceros, were able to publish their
findings in a respected scientific journal with the aid of
Liebenberg and Steventon.
Certified trackers now run into the hundreds. Liebenberg runs
tracker certificate programmes in South Africa at the Thorny Bush
Nature Reserve, a private reserve adjacent to the Kruger National
Park, and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. Others are now also
organized in the United States.
(Source: International Trade Centre)
Tourist destinations the latest places to join Egypt's hot-spot
Balancing Act News Update
Issue No. 368
August 24, 2007
The tourist destinations of Sharm el-Sheikh and Luxor are the
latest cities to get on board Egypt's fast-moving roll-out of Wi-Fi
hot-spots. Although prices in these places will be expensive, they
are considerably cheaper than the current alternatives in local
Under a USAID-sponsored project, "While in Egypt Stay Connected,"
tourist destinations in Sharm el-Sheikh and Luxor are serving as
pilot cities for Wi-Fi deployments. In each city, sixteen Wi-Fi
access points swathe tourist areas. Visitors purchase prepaid
Internet access cards for about US$6.74 an hour.
Although hotels in Cairo have been offering Wi-Fi, there has until
this point been little in the other two tourist destinations.
Cairo's Marriott with its relaxing courtyard garden offers a 24
hour access card that lasts three months for US$30 and it is always
full of people using laptops. What they might lose one way, they
gain by users paying for their premium price drinks.
In Luxor, Wi-Fi covers a 5 km stretch of the Nile Corniche,
connecting users in outdoor cafes and on Nile cruise ships at 256K.
Connectivity even extends into Luxor and Karnak temples, allowing
the novelty of instant messaging while seated in a 4000-year-old
monument. Also benefiting from Wi-Fi coverage, connected users can
logon from pedestrian areas in Sharm el-Sheikh's Naama Bay, or even
a chaise longue along a beach promenade.
Before this roll-out, there were only a very small number of
hot-spots. The cost of rolling out the hot-spots has been paid for
by different equipment vendors: SR Telecom in Luxor and Redline and
Colubris in Sharm el-Sheikh. The Luxor hot-spots are run by Telecom
Egypt's ISP TE Data and the Sharm el-Sheik operation by local ISP
Egynet. Both ISPs paid the equipment installation costs.
There is no revenue split with site owners because the networks are
outdoors and the ISPs have done all the aerial site leases
themselves. However, they are selling the pre-paid scratch cards to
vendors at a small discount.
Connected tourists, who travel with laptops or other Wi-Fi devices,
have greater income and are bigger spenders when on holiday.
According to research carried out by the project, 15% of UK
tourists take a laptop and 30% of Germans.
This USAID project aims to boost tourism revenues by establishing
Egypt as a 'connected' destination, with Wi-Fi and 3G Internet
attracting visitors who prefer to visit a country with fast and
easy data access. It is part of a wider initiative to persuade
local hotel owners to accept credit cards and put in place online
Hot-spots in these destinations will add to Egypt's already
burgeoning hot-spot culture. In Cairo there are a great deal of
places offering free access including coffee shops, Macdonalds and
a local chain called Cilantro. In each of these places, you will
see a mix of tourists, expats and locals working away on their
Interestingly, these include people using Skype with headsets as PC
to PC calls are legal in Egypt. One local visitor reported that the
bandwidth was of sufficiently high quality that he was able to use
the SIP client on his Nokia N80 to call home for virtually nothing.
Further south, with the exception of South Africa, public hot-spots
are still a relatively exotic offering. However, both pay-for and
free hot-spots in hotels can be found increasingly widely in a
range of countries. Perhaps public hot-spots will become the next
wave of growth in the coming year.
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