Communications and info tech in developing countries, especially wireless broadband and high-value applications
Ken Novak's Weblog
Saturday, January 31, 2004
SourceForge.net: Project Info - pennylender
: Some programmers are planning a global micro-lending system: "PennyLenders goal is to create a service that will allow any individual to loan/borrow money in a self-contained community-based network, irrespective of economic status, location, or age and without the interference of a central controlling Bank." No working code yet. 11:30:57 PM
Wireless Networks as a Low-Cost, Decentralized Alternative for the Developing World
: "Krag's presentation describes the Wireless Roadshow
plan: "By teaching the skills with hands-on training, and at the same time building wireless networks in the countries we visit, we hope not only to raise awareness and heighten skillsets, but also gain the experience necessary to build a central repository of documentation and tools, targeted specifically at the developing world." Tomas Krag and Sebastian Büettrich wrote an O'Reilly introduction to Wireless Mesh Networking . 10:39:08 PM
Thursday, January 29, 2004
Project 25 (P25): Standards For Public Safety Radio Communications
: "TIA is acting as a catalyst for the wireless industry to develop and maintain Public Safety standards for digital equipment and systems that will assist the life-saving and damage-control activities of first-responders at the scene of an emergency or disaster situation. This activity, known as Project 25 (P25), is supported by Industry, Government Agencies and Public Safety Communications Officials alike; including the Department of Homeland Security's National Communications System (NCS), the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). ..
Recognizing the need for common standards for First Responders and Homeland Security/Emergency Response professionals, representatives from the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International (APCO), the National Association of State Telecommunications Directors (NASTD), selected Federal Agencies and the National Communications System (NCS) established Project 25 (P25), a steering committee for selecting voluntary common system standards for digital public safety radio communications. TIA TR-8 facilitates such work through its role as the ANSI-accredited Standards Development Organization (SDO), and has developed in TR-8 the 102." Many links to documents and discussion groups on that page and here. Many other groups and projects are easy to find. 4:30:03 PM
Project MESA - Mobile Broadband for Public Safety
: "Project MESA is an international partnership producing globally applicable technical specifications for digital mobile broadband technology, aimed initially at the sectors of public safety and disaster response." 4:26:41 PM
UNAMSIL: On The Edge Of Peace
: "Remote personnel, incompatible computer gear, unreliable power and communications lines, and equipment-disabling lightning strikes are just some of the obstacles confronting the technology managers supporting the United Nations' peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone. Yet U.N. specialists in this rugged, war-ravaged land have found ways to keep the field reports, threat assessments and supply requests flowing between Freetown headquarters and the mission's most remote outposts. " PDF with many pictures, sidebars, and tables available upon registration at the site. 3:54:13 PM
Africa: The Next Wide-Open Wireless Frontier: "Sub-Saharan Africa -- home to more than 650 million people, three-quarters of whom live on less than $2 per day -- has become the world's fastest-growing market for mobile-phone service. Last year alone, the number of mobile subscribers in the whole region shot up 37%, to 34.4 million, compared with a 32% rise in Eastern Europe, the No. 2 growth region, according to researcher Gartner Dataquest. ..
What makes Africa's mobile revolution especially significant is its potential economic impact. The World Bank forecasts sub-Saharan gross domestic product growth at 3.7% this year, and as much as a quarter of that could come from rising telecom penetration, says Leonard Waverman, an economics professor at the London Business School. Adds Pierre Guislain, a manager at the World Bank's Global Information & Communication Technologies Dept.: "Mobile has become a tool of economic empowerment." A classic example: Farmers in Senegal used their one mobile phone to find eggplant buyers in Dakar willing to pay three times the rate offered by local middlemen.
Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig [says] Within five years wireless networks in Africa will be as able to provide Net access as their wired cousins. And to get people linked to the Web, says Knott-Craig, "the cell phone will be Africa's PC." 12:11:57 PM
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
UNDP and Microsoft Announce Technology Partnership in Developing Nations: "The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Microsoft Corp. today announced a technology partnership to create and implement information and communications technology projects that will help developing countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals. ..
The alliance will draw on the resources of Microsoft's Unlimited Potential program, the company's global initiative to deliver computer literacy and job skills training to underserved communities. .. In addition, Microsoft and UNDP have agreed to work together in support of UNDP's Southern Africa Capacity Initiative (SACI). In this sphere, Microsoft and UNDP will explore innovative opportunities to use technology to build capacity, facilitate e-government initiatives,and improve the delivery of basic services in countries most adversely affected by the HIV and AIDS pandemic. ..
Microsoft and the UNDP have already collaborated on a pilot project to provide technology access and skills training at 16 regional centers in Afghanistan, in the aftermath of the country's military and political upheaval. The training centers, located in Kabul and surrounding areas, will help build a skilled pool of IT professionals in a country where Internet skills and services technology had once been suppressed. It is projected that the centers will provide training to nearly 12,000 Afghan citizens annually. ..
Microsoft has committed $1 billion in cash, software, curriculum and technology assistance over the next five years to Unlimited Potential and other efforts to help reduce the global digital divide. Since May 2003, the company has made grants of cash and software totaling nearly $50 million to more than 150 programs in 45 countries." 5:13:23 PM
Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage
: "Dutch firm Philips Electronics said on Monday it was preparing to mass-produce a slim, book-sized display panel onto which consumers could download newspapers and magazines -- then roll up and put away. The 5-inch display, which can show detailed images, can be rolled up into a pen-sized holder. .. Philips said it had created the displays using electronics circuits made of plastics, which power a monochrome display created with technology from E Ink, a privately-held U.S. company from Cambridge, Massachusetts. "We can produce this in batches. It's no longer a research project. We're going to build a pilot line that should be ready in 2005 to make one million displays a year," a spokesman at Philips Research said. Europe's largest maker of consumer electronics and lighting has already shown prototypes of a glass-based E Ink display which will be in the shops later this year. That sort of screen, used in pocket computers, can cost tens of dollars apiece." E-Ink has been under development for years. It requires much less power than LCD panels and works better outdoors or using ambient light, so it's likely to have wide application where power is short. Black and white only for now. 12:38:08 PM
Monday, January 26, 2004
Bhutan VoIP Project Report
: "A pilot project to use wireless and VoIP technologies to deliver communication services to rural areas in Bhutan, a small Himalayan Kingdom, was completed with encouraging results. Once initial problems with radio interference from other sources were solved the 802.11b radio network became reliable. This allowed the VoIP equipment to be tuned to accommodate the more variable nature of a wireless network as compared to a wired one. International calls through the PSTN were hampered by a slightly non standard R2 protocol spoken by the local switch. This underscores the importance of adhering to open standards when many subsystems must work together." 3:44:32 PM
Saturday, January 24, 2004
: Interesting effort to teach and spread blogging in Africa, with a companion site as a Catalog
for blogs in action. 12:54:31 AM
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
First Mile Solutions
: An MIT spinoff using roving wireless internet access points. The "Internet Village Motoman" project operates today in Cambodia. 10:29:21 AM
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Internet Users in China Number Nearly 80 Million
; there were only 620,000 Chinese Internet users in 1997. These numbers are from the China Internet Network Information Center. Pew says the US has 126 m users; other put Japan at 100m. A Frost & Sullivan analyst thinks the China figure is reasonable, and the Chinese market has the potential to displace both Japan and the United States, which are reaching their limits in terms of possible new users. "If you are looking at a 10- to 15-year time frame, I would say China and India are probably going to account for half of all Internet usage in the world." 11:20:49 PM
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Poor Nations Eye Western Outsourcing: "The tech research firm Gartner Inc. predicts that the offshore outsourcing trend will result in at least one in every 10 U.S. technology jobs moving overseas by the end of this year.
India gets a huge amount of that work but also has set up so-called centers of excellence in Mongolia, Mauritius and Nepal to help those countries develop software skills, understand international business practices and enhance education. At the Hyderabad summit, Kamal Thapa, Nepal's minister for information technology and communication, said the Himalayan kingdom is laying fiber-optic cables along highways and liberalizing investment rules to attract foreign companies. Mongolia's infrastructure minister, Byamba Jigjid, said a software park has been built in the capital, Ulan Bator, to house companies that provide services to Western firms .. "We are small. But we have a young work force well skilled in information and communication technologies," Abdul Moyeen Khan, science and information technology minister for Bangladesh" 10:05:01 PM
Information Patterns - Toucan Navigate
: "Toucan Navigate is the Geographic Information System (GIS) for users of Groove Workspace, the desktop collaboration software." Integrated with GPS, with its own collaborative viewer and data entry engine. Looks very powerful. Michael Helfrich
discusses potential applications for NGOs. 9:56:21 PM
Monday, January 12, 2004
BP donation to India via BASE:
"BP Solar USA is donating over $1 million worth of solar modules to BASE (Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy), who in turn are dispatching them to rural and semi-rural areas of India where over 60 per cent of the population is without electricity. The solar systems will be used for water pumping, lighting and for powering telecommunications services including cyber cafes." Contact info for BASE director provided in the article. 11:11:32 PM
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
: Useful essays by John A. Daly that include an inventory of IT applications in development, specifically linked to Millenium Goals. Especially useful for its summary of MDG and the specific measurements associated with each Goal. "The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) provide a vision of development: one in which development reduces the number of poor in the world and specifically targets the worst aspects of poverty. The Goals were set forth in the Millennium Declaration of the United Nations, and increasingly influence the policies of governments and development assistance agencies." 10:20:36 PM
World Bank ICT Toolkit
: A checklist for project structures when getting multilateral grants. "This toolkit directly addresses the basics of planning, designing and supervising "e" (or ICT) components of WBGroup projects in other sectors and discusses good practices for project management, procurement (goods and services); and implementation. At a time when the average investment lending operation in all sectors includes an ICT component of at least 10% of the total loan (much higher figures for HD and PREM projects where ICT can make up to 60% of some projects); the Toolkit's objective is to raise awareness, increase design and output quality; and enhance the monitoring and evaluation of ICT components in our portfolio." 10:15:30 PM
Global Philanthropy Partnership
: "The following summary is an initial attempt to identify and describe the range of organizations and activities currently promoting and supporting global social investing. We consider this draft a 'living document' that will evolve and grow with the field." Lists many international private donors. 10:13:39 PM
Digital Business Ecosystems in Developing Countries: Brief summary of key concept in development of advanced industries. "In biological systems some capabilities cannot emerge prior to others.. Biologists sometimes call the rules governing such relationships “assembly rules,” that is, the rules affecting the assembly, in sequence and over time, of ecosytems. This notion of assembly rules has just begun to be applied to economic development, but it holds great promise. ..
In our study in Ghana, the ground of the digital business ecosystem was fertile with well-educated entrepreneurs—most of whom had studied and lived abroad for some time—who were willing to return to Ghana after the establishment of a democratic government—the first in more than two decades—in 2001. Once in Ghana they were able to connect to a highly competent dial-up ISP, which in turn was connected to the worldwide Internet by a reasonably high-speed satellite service, funded in part by the US government development assistance. Working with this base, and in a legal climate that allowed for the introduction of a variety of digital businesses—most without specific licensing hurdles—a small but thriving digital business community established itself.
The excitement and vitality of this community attracted international notice. This community, however, is only the pioneering phase of what could be a much larger and richer digital ecosystem in Ghana. However, the next phase in succession requires a number of capabilities that are not now present—ranging from reliable electric power, to affordable high bandwidth interconnection both within Ghana and across the seas. In addition, Ghana has limited expertise in financing and coaching the leadership of digital businesses.. The banking culture oriented to lending based on physical assets—and little experience with equity investments in knowledge-based businesses. Finally, the government has dabbled in digital policy making and telecommunications reform, but has not made either clear strategies nor appointed leaders who have the respect of the digital business or investor community. The result is a high level of uncertainty about the policy and legal environment. All of the above limitations were tolerable by pioneering businesses—but they make it difficult for those enterprises and others like them to scale up, expand, and diversify. " More by these authors on this topic is online. Also, there are additional perspectives on IT, development, and politics in a recent Harvard Law course syllabus. 9:13:21 AM
Sunday, January 11, 2004
: List of "top 20" social enterprises, including Benetech and Room to Read. 8:14:38 AM
Saturday, January 10, 2004
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Global Information Internship Program
: UC Santa Cruz undergraduate program seeks NGOs to work with: "The Global Information Internship Program is an innovative undergraduate initiative sponsored by the Center for Global, International, and Regional Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. GIIP's objective is to raise the capacity of community, civil society, and non-governmental organizations to maximize the use of Internet-based information and communication technologies. " 7:46:20 AM
Monday, January 05, 2004
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Indian Soybean Farmers Join the Global Village: NYT front-page article summarizing the ITC e-choupal network: "E-choupals were born in 2000 from ITC's determination to capture more of the soybean crop, which it turns into oil to sell in India and into animal feed to export. In purchasing soya, it has long been dependent on a static, archaic system: Farmers sold to village traders or went to government markets, settling for whatever price was offered. ITC then had to buy from the traders or markets, with little quality control and high transaction costs.
The idea of the e-choupals was to allow the company to buy more directly from farmers; e-choupals allow farmers to check prices the night before, and then decide whether they want to sell directly to the company the next day... Eventually the company expects to sell everything from microcredit to tractors via e-choupals — and hopes to use them to become the Wal-Mart of India, Mr. Deveshwar told shareholders this year. "We are laying infrastructure in a sense," Mr. Deveshwar said. Sixty companies have already taken part in a pilot project to sell services and goods, from insurance to seeds to motorbikes to biscuits, through ITC...
David Upton [is] co-author of a case study of e-choupals for Harvard Business School." 8:36:59 AM