New Internet Technology to Spur African Development

March 21 2008 / by Marisa Vitols / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 9

Despite its density of natural resources, the African continent (generally) is in a deep socio-economic rut. Instead of spurring desired growth and development, the aid and resources being poured into Africa have only fueled increased debt and vulnerability. The region is obviously in need of an effective new growth strategy.

I argue that, more and more, it’s looking like this solution must be an internet infrastructure. While that may initially sound a bit insane, considering that many African nations can’t even afford to feed their own children, prevent basic diseases and fight off core corruption, there are more than than a few good reasons for laying down internet cable, hooking up satellite and dotting Africa with wi-fi hotspots. Some of these include:

1. Education: Getting kids online will afford them access to information and virtual learning. Some will even attend school via the web. As opposed to many physical African schools, the web actually has resources, cutting-edge information, and teachers who are up-to-date with current technologies.

2. Economic Infrastructure: Getting adults online is like getting them to a job – and one that actually pays. Imagine how many people could work in virtual worlds or do some of the more-or-less simple administrative tasks already being outsourced to developing nations? Their price points would certainly give them a competitive advantage when pursuing labor opportunities.


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The Race to Connect Africa: Apple vs. Microsoft

May 19 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Economics   Year: 2009   Rating: 9 Hot

With the rapid rise of the iPhone and Microsoft’s announcement that it will back the One Laptop per Child initiative, a massive battle for the African computer market may be shaping up sooner than expected.

The AP reports a new deal between Apple and cell provider Orange that will bring the iPhone to “Austria, Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Jordan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland and African markets later this year.”

At the same time, Microsoft has finally agreed to provide Windows to the now promising OLPC initiative after years of ridiculing the then far-fetched project.

Though the iPhone presently costs more than a OLPC PC, $399 vs. $100, that price is due to sharply drop (perhaps to the $100 -$200 range) with the imminent release of the new 3G iPhone, which itself may be priced at just $199 if rumors about a hefty AT&T subsidy prove correct.

While lack of comm infrastructure and politics will certainly remain the primary barriers to diffusion, it looks as though these low-cost yet high-value products, driven by large companies getting accustomed to rapidly exploding markets in which first-mover advantage is critical, may catalyze a perfect storm for connectivity in under-developed nations, most notably African countries. (cont.)

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New Touch-Screen OLPC Design Boosts Future Viability vs. the iPhone

May 21 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2010   Rating: 2 Hot

Billions of currently computer-less people will never interface with a traditional keyboard. They will instead leapfrog to new touch-screen interfaces on smaller devices such as the Apple iPhone or the new One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) design unveiled yesterday.

Sporting dual touch-screen panels connected by a hinge that allows the device to fold open like a book, the OLPC XO-2 is scheduled to hit the market in 2010. At an estimated $75 price point, this will make the device a vastly more viable competitor of a 3G iPhone than the current OLPC design.

Though the current OLPC will surely make some inroads as an educational device in under-developed countries, as suggested by johnfrink in this comment thread it’s reassuring to see that Negroponte and the OLPC design crew have their ducks in order when it comes to future viablity and marketability of their product. The new model will stand a much better chance of grabbing critical market share vs. the iPhone while also enabling a wider touch-screen keyboard interface than its main competitor.

That being said, the 3G iPhone will still have the edge when it comes to telephony, digital photography and portability. Plus I’m sure that Apple, with their cognizance of rapid product cycles, is already at work on something similar to the XO-2. (cont.)

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