Wednesday Jun 20, 2007

Understanding changes in Africa

After the past two weeks in Africa, I'm more convinced than ever that we are at the edge of bringing a new kind of change to the world's poorest societies: a change in social connectivity. 

And not just inside Kenya, or Tanzania, or Ghana, or South Africa, but between people heretofore isolated and the rest of the world.  The four billion meet the two and a half billion.  One to one. Mother to mother, nurse to nurse, soldier to soldier.

To understand how the old ideas of developed and undeveloped countries are becoming less and less relevant, watch  Hans Rosling and Gapminder, Hans Rosling's talk at Technology, Entertainment and Design, or TED 2006

Rosling wrote one of the world's largest Flash programs to animate statistical series on infant mortality, on wealth, on life expectancy, and he brings the numbers to life.

When I first saw him do this, three years ago, I wanted Sun to help bring this program from Flash to some maintainable programming environment, but we didn't have JavaFX Script.

Now we do.  In the meantime, Google has acquired the software, and has been rewriting it.

Perhaps we can do better. 

Monday Jun 04, 2007

First day of TED in Arusha, Tanzania

Between Bono and John Doerr, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Jane Goodall, we're in for a dissection of what is and is not changing in Africa, and, by extension, a dissection of what information technology can and cannot do as an element of transformation.

Google is making a large-scale investment in Africa, starting with creating a Google Center in Nairobi; if services can be provided across the rapidly-growing fiber infrastructure in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania, this data center could be the testbed for small and medium enterprises, for schools and clinics, for agricultural cooperatives--the testbed for keeping the packets in Africa.

This can be the testbed for local content: all curriculum, all languages, all local markets, all local advertising, all local health and medical information, all local virtual world construction...just waiting for connection to the branches of the rest of the world tree. 

There is no fiber connectivity from East Africa to the outside world. Not yet.

It's a scandal, in a way, because there is fiber in Mauritius, there is fiber to a node off Yemen, but there is no action bringing the fiber to Mombasa or Dar es Salaam, though there are multiple plans and meetings and discussions and high-level agreements.

Wednesday May 30, 2007

Africa Technology, Entertainment and Design: TED 2007 Arusha, Tanzania

I'm on my way to the TEDGlobal 2007 conference in Arusha, Tanzania. Technology, entertainment, and design...TED...bringing together a remarkable group of Nobel laureates, musicians, artists, innovators, investors, company presidents and country presidents, genome sequencers, roboticians, supercomputer designers, rocketeers,  water pump designers and social venturers.

Sun has supported TED in California for many years.  James Gosling and I announced Java for the first time outside Sun at TED. This the first TED in Africa, drawing almost a thousand people to the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to immerse themselves in African technology, entertainment and design.

Two years ago, as a result of his 2005 TED award, Bono was granted three wishes to change the world, and Sun helped Bono with two: first,  bring one million Americans to support debt relief and increased aid to Africa in time to affect the deliberations of the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, and, second, help connect an entire African nation to the Internet.

For the first, we committed to help build a database of one million Americans supporting debt relief and increased aid to Africa. 

Danny Malks, John Crupi, and Deepak Alur went to every U2 concert in North America and then to the Live8 concerts in July. They wrote Java code and integrated it with the enormous operation of the U2 production team tie thousands of texting mobile phones to a transactional data base.

They ran the part of the concert where Bono asks everyone to hold up their mobile, to text their name to UNITE in support of Africa....those SMS messages were caught by Sun's Java code at every service provider, went straight to Sun's database, and circled the globe to arrive back in 8 seconds to the screen behind Bono. The final list helped DATA, Bono's political group, persuade Karl Rove that President Bush should support debt relief at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles.  Which he did.  And so did Tony Blair.[ So where is the Gleneagles money? See the DATA analysis] [ What does debt relief mean for Africa? A complicated answer, but, in this past year, several million children in school who could not afford to go in the past.]

Sun, again through TED,  supports Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity and TED 2006 award winner to bring open-source architectural designs of thousands of architects to the net...Sun built a portal that allows architects to share in designing a shelter for tsunami victims, or for Katrina victims, or  in designing a soccer field or a marathon training center for a community in Africa or South America....all running on Sun servers, hosted at AMD.

AMD has put up $250,000 in a competition to build, in the real world, some of these structures designed by Architecture for Humanity for the developing world; this is a great project, focusing on designing telecenters, or network access points,  toallow global Internet access in some of the poorest communities in the world, and which would allow thin clients to coexist with the One Laptop Per Child small mesh-network devices.  So far, it's concentrated on small laptop-like machines; together with other partners, I think we can extend this to a new kind of mobile device, an open, component snap-together mobile Interconnected device that adds functionality just by snapping on a new module.

Connectivity is coming to Africa.  "The network is the computer" means connectivity instead of  computer ownership; connectivity brings access to the rich set of different capabilities of computers world-wide, which means access for all to new types of intellectual infrastructure, interaction, and control. Access for all means access to all human knowledge, all technical innovation, all human interaction.[ Intellectual technology: Seven past waves, three future waves ]

The biggest challenge is not technical, but human: how will human relationships of family, food and water use, health and disease, poverty and wealth, production and distribution change with these new technologies of communication, understanding and control?  How will today's institutions of power change, adapt, adopt, co-opt. 

The powerful never relinquish power; the powerful use new technologies to maintain power.

As Orville Schell remarked years ago, "Will the Internet change China, or will China change the Internet?"

I'm going to Nairobi to meet with the EASSY and the Kenya Data Networks groups, bringing fiber to East Africa; they may be beaten by better satellite....more later 



Monday Feb 05, 2007

Rwanda Rising

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is the opening of the Sun World-wide Education and Research Conference in San Francisco. 

Four years ago I met the Rwanda Minister of Education, Romain Murenzi, at the Sun ERC, and today Sun has installed several hundred SunRay screens and some powerful servers in the National University of Rwanda and the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.

Sun is partnering with Rwandatel/Terracom, the Rwanda telephone company, to bring networked access to Rwanda schools, clinics, and government offices.  Greg Wyler, the President of Rwandatel/Terracom, plans to visit the ERC on Thursday, and meet with partners in education.

Greg has created an EVDO network in Rwanda; in Kigale, the capital, he provides 1.5 megabits of direct wireless access to the Internet.

Thursday night at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles: 

the premiere of Rwanda Rising.... 

Quincy Jones, who has created a school and training facility in Kigale, will be there.   




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