Approval of .africa bogged down in bureaucracy
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has expressed frustration with the Independent Review Panel for the new generic Top Level Domains, after African Union Commission complaints of delays in approving the .africa TLD and marginalization of the region's concerns.
Earlier this month, the African Union wrote a letter to ICANN president Fadi Chehade, asking why the .africa TLD had not been given a go-ahead to commence operations despite complying with ICANN requirements and signing a contract with the organization this year. The IRP process was put in place to resolve disputes with new gTLD applicants unhappy with ICANN's decisions.
"It is becoming increasingly difficult for the African Union Commission to explain to not only its member states but also other African stakeholders, why the dot Africa application has become so challenging for ICANN to expedite despite the various statements made towards the need to support developing regions," said Elham Ibrahim, the commissioner in charge of infrastructure and energy at the AU.
Management of the .africa TLD has been hotly contested between South Africa's ZA Central Registry (ZACR), which is backed by the AU, and the DCA Trust organization. The ZACR bid was approved and contracts signed, but Dot Connect Africa filed an objection with the IRP, forcing .africa launch operations to be halted.
Statistics South Africa published its General household survey 2013, which showed that the Western Cape has the highest percentage of households which use the Internet. The report showed that more than a third of South African households (40.9%) had at least one member who used the Internet either at home, the workplace, a place of study, or at Internet cafés. More than half of households in Western Cape (54.4%) and Gauteng (54%) had access to the Internet, while only just over a fifth of households in Limpopo (21.9%) had access to the Internet
With everybody on Facebook tweeting random thoughts and posting pictures on Instagram, it is very easy to forget that only a few of South Africa’s citizens actually have access to the internet. According to the latest figures from Statistics South Africa released today, only one in ten people have access to the internet at home. Of those who have access at home, the Western Cape had the most with 21.1%, and Gauteng 15.7%. The worst off province in South Africa is North West with 4.5% and Limpopo with only 3% of the population having home internet access.
LIQUID Telecom has completed construction of a network fibre ring that connects five East African countries to the world, a development likely to improve Internet connectivity in the region.The East Africa Fibre Ring connects Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and back into Kenya, creating the first fully redundant regional fibre ring, connecting these countries to each other and the rest of the world, Nic Rudnick, CEO of the Liquid Telecom Group said in a statement. "Customers will immediately start to feel the benefits from our $20 million investment in the region. The completion of the East Africa Fibre ring takes us another step towards building Africa's digital future and giving better value for everyone using our network," Mr Rudnick said. "This will ensure that businesses across the East African community now receive continuity of Internet connectivity and a much more reliable service," he said.
Technology innovation with a purpose has the ability to make a significant and positive impact on the African continent. Four of the brightest young minds in South Africa’s information technology sector collaborated at Saphila 2014 with Prof. Jan Eloff, research director at the SAP Innovation Centre, to demonstrate what innovative technology can achieve in Africa. Saphila is the African SAP User Group’s (AFSUG) biennial conference held from 9 to 11 June 2014 at Sun City Resort, North West Province, South Africa. The four women, Gugulethu Baduza, Jhani Coetzee and Malese Ndhlovu from South Africa and Madeleine Bihina Bella from Cameroon, are all currently working within the Innovation Centre in Pretoria whilst studying towards their PhD degrees in computer science at various South African universities.
South African commuters using the country's most popular form of public transport - the minibus taxi - will now be able to update their Facebook status, check their e-mail and surf the internet through a free wi-fi connection on their way to work. On Thursday, the South African National Taxi Association (Santaco) started rolling out a free service that, it says, will see 1 500 taxis and 50 taxi ranks across the country fitted with wi-fi access points within six months, and universal coverage in all its taxis and taxi ranks within three years. Each commuter will receive 50 MB of free wi-fi per month on 3G and 4G platforms, with the option of buying more if they run out. Once a commuter's mobile device is connected with the wi-fi network, they will be able to use their 50 MB in any connected taxi or taxi rank. South Africa's taxi industry transports over 15-million commuters daily with an average of 45 minutes per trip.
China’s AVIC International Holding Corporation and the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology have launched the Africa Tech Challenge in Nairobi. The project is called TVET, which stands for Technical, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training for the Youth. It aims to encourage more people to take technical courses to create employment and provide skilled workers for the government and the private sector. The Africa Tech Challenge is designed to cultivate the spirit of entrepreneurship among students in Technical Training Institutions in Kenya, who plan to take up technical careers after they graduate. To ensure that the endavour succeeds, AVIC International, together with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology have introduced the TVET project to supply, install and commission electronic engineering equipment to various Institutions.
South Africa is home to the largest number of tech hubs in Africa, according to Tim Kelly, lead ICT policy specialist at the World Bank. Kelly collaborated with Kenya’s iHub and Zambia’s BongoHive in order to create a map of tech hubs on the continent. “To our surprise, there are now around 90 tech hubs across the continent, and more than half of African economies have at least one,” Kelly said. He said South Africa was the first country on the continent to hit double figures, although numerous other countries are not far behind. According to the map, South Africa has 18 tech tech hubs, with Ghana in second place hosting half that number. Tech hubs in South Africa include Bandwidth Barn, Silicon Cape, m:lab Southern Africa, Startup Garage, the Innovation Hub and RLabs.
Ookla’s latest Net Index statistics show that Bryanston is the top broadband suburb in South Africa with an average broadband download speed of 18.49Mbps. The Net Index website, which uses data from millions of recent test results from Speedtest.net, shows that the average download speed in South Africa is 5.6Mbps. While South Africa’s average download speed is increasing all the time, it is still well below the global average of 18.6Mbps. South Africa’s average upload speed of 2.7Mbps is also far slower than the global average of 8.3Mbps.
Social media boom, abundance of content-rich apps, rich video content and access to cheaper Smartphones has fuelled internet usage in Africa, doubling the use of data from an average of 37,500TB (terabyte) a month in the year 2013 to 76,000TB of data a month this year. According to the June 2014 Sub-Saharan Africa Mobility Report by Ericsson, the ongoing digital revolution will continue in the coming year (2015) as data usage will increase to as much as 147 000TB per month because consumers, networks and media networks are now embracing the use of 3G and 4G technology. “We have seen the trend emerging over a few years, but in the past 12 months the digital traffic has increased over 100 percent forcing us to revise our existing predictions,” Fredrik Jejdling, regional head of Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa said. According to the new predictions, data revolution is expected to grow at 65 percent to 2019 and beyond to 764 000TB by the end of 2019.
SOUTH Africa is Facebook’s most important African market. Research shows that 40% of South Africans do not get out of bed, and almost as many do not switch off the lights at night, before checking Facebook. Armed with this information, the social networking giant planned to open an office in South Africa in order to better match traffic to advertisers, Facebook’s director for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Diego Oliva, said on Thursday. Facebook is in discussions with cellphone network operators across Africa to offer its site for free. The social media site has 11-million active users in South Africa and it aims to capture all cellphones capable of accessing its site. Almost all Facebook users in South Africa gain access to the service via a mobile device.
Africa's claim to be the "mobile continent" is even stronger than previously thought, with researchers predicting internet use on mobile phones will increase 20-fold in the next five years – double the rate of growth in the rest of the world.
People in Africa use mobiles for online activities that others normally perform on laptops or desktop computers as the technology overcomes weak or non-existent landline infrastructure in large swaths of the world's poorest continent.
Declining prices of handsets and data, along with faster transmission speeds, mean Facebook, Twitter and cash transfer services can reach both the growing African middle class and the remotest rural areas, where villagers often find ingenious ways of keeping phones charged. Consumers in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria are increasingly using video and media services on newly affordable smartphones.
African countries have agreed under the new partnership for skills in the applied sciences, engineering and technology (PASET) to embrace sciences, engineering and technology as key to Africa's social Economic transformation. This was agreed at a high-level forum hosted by Senegal and The World Bank in Dakar, Senegal this week where Malawi was also in attendance according to a press statement made available to Malawi News Agency (Mana). PASET aims to help fill skilled jobs locally in key sectors such as information technology, construction, the extractive industries, manufacturing, agriculture and energy, which are growing rapidly in many African economies.
Of all the places on the planet where the mobile phone market is growing, the fastest growth is in Africa. That continent is seeing close to 20 percent growth in the mobile market per year. Silicon Valley is taking notice. NPR's Aarti Shahani found American companies active in Dakar, Senegal. AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: It's a bright, sunny morning in downtown Dakar. The roads are dusty. The streets are full, and I flag down three friendly-looking teenage girls. REZINA GERBA: (Foreign language spoken). SHAHANI: They're hovering around a phone. It's a smartphone, not a flip phone. And I ask Rezina Gerba what kinds of things she likes to do with it. She gives me the universal look for duh. GERBA: (Through translator) Like everybody else, I send text messages. I make calls. I listen to music.
South Africa could soon be making use of Extremely High Frequency (EHF) spectrum for high speed internet connections, but only if the country’s communications regulator can find a solution to work around the current problems. EHF is often referred to as millimetre wave, as it has a wavelength of between 1 and 10mm. The frequency of these bands run between 30 to 300 gigahertz (GHz), and it’s used for radar equipment, high-speed microwave data links, point-to-point high-bandwidth communication links, and unlicensed short range data. Some have mooted the technology as a method for extending the country’s broadband infrastructure into rural areas with no cabled infrastructure.
WHILE South Africa’s overall ranking in the World Economic Forum’s 2014 global information technology (IT) report has stabilised at 70th of 148 countries, it has slipped in key categories that show stagnation and decline in internet connectivity. Released earlier this week, the report is a key indicator of how well countries are connecting citizens and businesses to the global information highway. The World Bank has identified broadband connectivity as a key catalyst for economic growth, with every 10% increase in connectivity enabling 1.38% growth in gross domestic product (GDP). The National Development Plan defines broadband as 256kB per second, but by 2020 this is expected to increase to at least 2MB per second.
XON, the pan-African ICT group, and ADVA Optical Networking have implemented Africa’s first 100Gbps link between three data centres at a financial institution. The link provides the capability to perform synchronisation between the data centres as well as replication, failover and disaster recovery (DR) for one customer. “The three DCs are 60 kilometres apart which is not a problem for the ADVA transponder cards that have an effective range of 80 kilometres,” says Steven van der Westhuizen, sales executive in XON’s transmission division. The links are currently transmitting 40Gbps of data and a second phase to the project will see that increased to 80Gbps. XON’s customer, in the financial services industry, did not divulge the volume of data being transmitted. It is, however, business-critical data from the organisation’s production environment, replicated between two facilities and a third, DR, site. “This is my largest customer in Africa and they are the first to indicate that they have a requirement for this enormous throughput capacity,” says Van der Westhuizen.
The only way he could generate power was by using a kerosene-powered generator. This was dirty, smelly and dangerous. But now things are different. Mr Kibet, a farmer with 15 acres of commercial land on the outskirts of Kitale, has switched to solar-generated electricity which he pays for using his mobile phone. "I saw it can save you a lot of money," he told the BBC. "It's improved my life, for now I don't use kerosene anymore - I have my own light. And it's bright." This combination of solar technology and mobile micro-payments is being rolled out across Kenya by a company called M-Kopa Solar. More than 70,000 households have signed up so far, with 1,000 more joining every week, the company says. And take-up is spreading into neighbouring Uganda.
Wi-Fi hot-spots and 3G coverage are the main ways that Africans get the Internet. Being charitable, quality of service and price are very variable. A new Lithuanian start-up Rotten Wi-Fi has set out to drive improvements in these two areas using consumer testing and feedback. Russell Southwood spoke to its co-founder Arturas Jonkus. Both free and paid Wi-Fi hot-spots are a source of constant frustration in Africa. There is no real relationship between what you do or don’t pay and quality. As almost everywhere in Africa, those providing the hot-spots under-specify the bandwidth needed. If I’m in a hotel, the other villain I always visualize is an American who hasn’t been to Africa before who has decided to download a video.
Africa can “accelerate technology for the world”, in particular through leading the way with white space broadband connectivity, according to Paul Garnett, director of technology policy at Microsoft. Garnett told HumanIPO white space technology has an important role to play in bridging the digital divide in Africa, and is a viable solution to achieving universal, affordable broadband access. “TV white spaces technology is definitely an important part of addressing the digital divide, although it’s not the only solution, it’s fundamental to the mix,” Garnett said. “As seen by our pilot projects in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa, TV white spaces has already proved to play an important role in helping to reduce the cost of broadband access for the underserved.” According to Garnett, one of the key benefits of white space technology is that it is affordable for providers to roll out and operate, and as such a cheap service can be offered to low-income internet users. “Through our pilot projects we have been able to deliver broadband access for under US$5 per month, per user, on average. In many underserved rural and low-income areas where people are earning only US$500 per year, this is the most affordable access they can receive, much more than the expensive plans offered by mobile service providers,” he said.
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