Africa, technology, media, humanitarian issues, Africa jobs.

Monday, March 31, 2003

Very interesting content/technical/project management job: Africa Programme Manager, Open Knowledge Network

There are so many "forgotten" crises, but the misery of living in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo must rank among the worst. Handwringing about Basra being without clean water for a week is all very well. But try living in Ituri.

Amnesty has a new Ituri report out: "The scale of the tragedy in Ituri is appalling, but Amnesty International believes the situation could worsen further, and sharply so...The preliminary findings of the MONUC investigation (which was continuing in February) revealed 117 cases of summary executions, most of which took place between 24 and 29 October, and 65 cases of rape, including the rape of children, as well as cases of torture and illegal arrests and detentions. A number of victims "were executed, mutilated and cannibalised"(28). The preliminary MONUC report, which has not been made public, was sent to the UN Security Council, whose members condemned "in the strongest terms" these "massacres and systematic violations of human rights" and demanded that the leader of the MLC, Jean-Pierre Bemba hold the perpetrators accountable. Read more at Amnesty

Friday, March 28, 2003

Want some of the $75 billion? Get a job in Iraq with USAID.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Do you know what Rangoli is?

e-government failures in the developing world. Case studies from the University of Manchester.

"Survey and poll results produce the following working estimates about e-government initiatives in developing/transitional countries:

· 35% are total failures
· 50% are partial failures
· 15% are successes"

"World Bank-funded public sector ICT projects in Africa: almost all were partial failures; often systems that closed down after a year or so of operation"

Eritrea gloats over Ethiopia losing Badme in the binding decision of the border commission which is meant to settle their dispute after a war in which tens of thousands died.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Jobs in Africa - an automatically updated JavaScript feed from (my former employer) :

24 hours after I start my blog I have just been asked if I want to do an interview about blogging. Odd. Is someone pulling my leg?

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Aid begins to arrive in Iraq. The WFP says they are appealing for $1 billion. Nothing like a round number.

Humanitarian relief in Iraq. News and features from IRIN and an interesting new site specifically for aid agencies working on Iraq called

The exceptionally precocious Aaron Swartz is "200 ms from home" in Japan.

Matt Prescott is my first reader. His site is a great source for environmental information. Thanks, Matt.

Sniffer Dolphins.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

RSS2HTML perl script called rss_display. There can never be too many of these.

Al-Jazeera in English - I never got in but now it seems they were hacked

The Internet in Africa has been growing despite the policies of governments. Voice over IP is punishable by jail time in Tanzania and WiFi is illegal here in Kenya. Here's a cracking open letter to the Kenyan government byu a veteran of the Kenyan Internet scene, Joseph Mucheru:

Dear Hon. John Michuki - Ministry of transport and Communication

It is now three months (90 days) since the NARC victory promised us new
hopes and challenges but most of all we were pleased that finally we
had a government that is in touch with the people.

I have been a member of the Internet Industry since its introduction
into Kenya. I remember that the first commercial Internet link was a
donation to Kenya through ARCC in 1995. The link was a donation and the
joke then was it was so small, the US Company did not know how much to
charge for it. At that time a 64Kbps link in the US was about $300
monthly. Kenya only got a 9.6Kbps link, which would have meant a $45 monthly

Further to this KP&TC would charge Internet users ksh70,000 for modem
"type approval" . This of course made Internet business hard for any one
interested in bringing the Internet resource to the Kenyan people. The
quality of the lines then made it hard to even get a stable connection.
It was however a start and Kenyans were proud to have an Internet
connection, which was used more as a hobby than for business.

Many Kenyans read about the Internet wave that was gripping the world
and they wanted to be a part of the “global superhighway�. The costs
however, were so high and the service so unreliable only a few were
able to afford. It was during this time that the Kenyan people first came
to face the hostile regulatory environment that was. KP&TC was not only
the sole communications service provider in the country, but they were
also the regulators and they made it impossible for the Internet
Industry to even put a foot in.

Like in all other time when Kenyans are oppressed they found a way and
the first was by looking at the modem law. The law was clear. No KP&TC
subscriber was allowed to connect to their network without first paying
the ksh70,000 type approval fee for equipment already type approved by
the ITU. The law did not say anything on selling of modems. So Diamond
systems sold hundreds of modems to various users and informed them they
needed to get type approval from KP&TC. None of them did and it became
impossible for KP&TC to fight with individual clients. I’m not sure
this law was ever changed.

This was the first of what I call victories the private sector was able
to have over the then KP&TC regulator. By the time KP&TC was divided
into three, over five Internet Service Providers (ISPs) we operating with
an average monthly subscription of 8,000 per month. There were about
16,000 Internet users

Today we can be proud as a country for not only having an Internet
backbone in the country, but also the first Internet Exchange Point in
Africa (outside South Africa). We can also say the Internet connection
prices have also reduced to approximately 1,000 per month in 8 years and of
course the user base has also increased to almost 250,000 users.

The Internet like the telephone is a tool that has completely changed
peoples and business ways of communicating across the globe. For Africa
however things are so grim it is important that drastic decisions be
made to ensure we are not totally left behind and totally excluded from
the globalized converged economy.

Here are some statistics……

The Republic of Kenya

Population 30,000,000


Land lines 400,000
GSM lines 1,200,000

Total Telephones 1,600,000

The ratio of Telephones to People 5.33%

This tells you that more than 90% of Kenyans have never made or
received a
telephone call! We are talking here of voice telephone calls not the



Internet Connections 35,000 (including Leased Lines)
Internet Users 250,000

The ratio of Internet Connections to the Population 0.833%


Compare that with the world Internet statistics

World Internet Population 580,000,000

Kenya’s contribution to the World Internet community 0.043%


In my view, the lack of infrastructure, education at all levels and a
free and fair regulator environment is what is led to the poor
performance of Kenya in global terms. Please note I have eliminated cost because
by nature the Internet reduces the cost of communications. As an
example, today the laws prohibit Kenyans from using Voice over IP which would
save the country millions. An ordinary call to the US would cost about
$2.00 per minute to the USA using the current PSTN while we know that
using Voice Over IP it would not cost more than $0.30 per minute. An 85%
saving on the current price. Why do we as Kenyans have to pay so much
more than our US or UK counterparts? Telkom Kenya could offer this new
method of communication to the Kenyan people instead of fighting to curb
its use. As a country we have a huge opportunity to save.

I also would like to say in my view many people seem to think the
privatization of Telkom would make a difference but in my view that only
creates a bigger problem for Kenya simply because as a country we would be
dealing with a private monopoly. We all know the market forces lead to
better consumer prices and services. In my view we may not have seen
canned beer in Kenya had Castle Breweries not introduced competition.

It is therefore my view that you should introduce competition for
Telkom Kenya and the other monopolies that you control in order to get Kenya
to the next level.

We are excelling in Cricket today and I firmly believe with the right
environment, we can lead the world also in the Internet and
communications sector. And believe me this is not wishful thinking.

Any chance of a reply?

"technically anything is possible!"
Joseph Mucheru
Operations Director
Wananchi Online Ltd.
Loita House, 1st Floor Loita Street
P.O. Box 10286
00100 Nairobi

Mobile: 254-722-522135
Phone: 254-02-313985
Fax: 254-02-313922


It's raining in Nairobi this morning. After months of really hot weather. Rocket lettuce (or roquette?) to be planted soon.

my e-mail address is s w a m p _ c o t t a g e @ y a h o o . c o m

Funny. Probably I am the last Internet user to have found this but anyway... Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About

Connectivity Africa - a major chunk of new Canadian funding for Internet in Africa. New site here.

I am working at the United Nations Environment Programme, where we are pulling together information on conflict and the environment and the Iraq war.

I used to maintain a page about HF radio e-mail. A new mailing list, wireless-longhaul, might be a good place to follow the later developments in long distance wireless.

This is a story I felt was so tragic I needed a blog to post it on.

Three young Kenyan men died after a student offered a $13 reward to get her phone out of a pit latrine. The first went for the money, the other two were heroes trying to do a rescue.

I may regret this, but it's time to get off the sidelines and do a blog. We'll see.