Lift09: Vint Cerf

To say that I feel so lucky is an understatement. Let me just get this out of the way “omg omg omg I am listening to Vint Cerf speak!’
Predictions
There will be millions of devices plugged into the internet. For example a sensor for his wine cell

ar, E.gArch Rock – Actuator’s needed to make the sensor turn it back on.
DNSSEC will have increased importance in the security of the web.

Vint loves sensors. He goes through a list of sensors he could add to his wine cellar, even the wine bottles.

IPV6
It is my fault that we ran out of IP address space – Laughter from the audience.

cloud computing introduces the internet problem all over again. How can clouds talk to each other?

well, just watch this for yourself? I am seriously in awe. InterPlaNet sounds fantastically cool. In watching his talk, i am reminded to be curious, keep your mind expanding just like the universe is. I hope to see Interstellar internet at some point. If he’s not losing packets with InterPlanet, my guess is Insterstellar internet would be just as successful.

Watch:

Why Localization Matters

Define:Localization
“In computing, internationalization and localization (also spelled internationalisation and localisation) are means of adapting computer software to different languages and regional differences. Internationalization is the process of designing a software application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. Localization is the process of adapting software for a specific region or language by adding locale-specific components and translating text.”

Whenever I think about technology and Africa, the importance of localization really sticks out in my mind. I harken back to the posts by Ethan Zuckerman and Koranteng Ofusu Amaah to revisit this issue. Ever had problems with images you uploaded to flickr?

As a software designer, Koranteng understands how hard it is to get the details of localization right – full support for different character sets and text that reads right to left instead of left to right. But he’s also interested in the cultural details of software design, which can be so subtle that you’re unlikely to detect them unless you’re directly effected by them:

Koranteng wrote:

The first thing I very quickly noticed: somehow all the photos that I uploaded to Yahoo Photos turned out darker than on Flickr (the services both resize uploaded photos). The photo-resizing algorithm used by Yahoo Photos was giving worse results. This was noticeable to me because a large number of photos featured darker-skinned people such as myself. The originals were fine and where there were lighter skin tones everything looked good, but with darker skintones, the resized photos were not so good.

Ethan noted that Koranteng found similar problems with Flickr’s flash plug-in and slideshow feature, as well as with Adobe Photoshops Quick Fix and Auto Correct options. Has anything changed since 2005 when Ethan wrote about this? I do not think so, but correct me if i am wrong.

Localization matters because cultural sensitivity in technology is paramount to designing products that work as well as possible for all communities.

Localization matters because, as this African technologist’s said…
“if it’s meant to be local, it should be locally developed” – Paa Kwesi Imbeah

So where are we today in terms of localization of software in Africa?

The most successful story that illustrates what opportunities there are in solving African (sw localization) problems with African solutions is that of Ted Kidane of Feedelix. Feedelix is currently providing products that allow SMS editing in Hindi, Chinese and Ethiopic. Software made by an African and now providing products to the world.

Another organization to watch and take note of is Kasahorow in Ghana. These guys are doing some incredibly cool stuff.
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Kasahorow has been working on the Africa keyboards to aid in writing African content, in African languages. They are doing this for all the major operating systems. More info can be found here, including a downloadable package that you can try out. If your main language is Akan, Gaa, Gbe, Hausa, Igbo, Kikuyu, Luo, Swahili, Tswana and Youruba be sure to download that package.

Kasahorow is working on the ANLoc Project; a partnership with other organizations to address the issue of localization by creating locales, building tools, terminologies, standards, etc. More info about ANLoc can be found on African localisation dot net. Gotta love their tag line ‘The African Network for Localization’

There is a firefox add-on that Kasahorow released: Ladies and gentlemen, the Akan Dictionary for Firefox 3.0. Dare I say, cool stuff indeed.

Localization matters because it is empowering.
If ANLOC can succeed in its mission to enable Africans to participate in the digital age by making it easier for people to use technology in the language they are comfortable with, this only bodes well for the preservation of African languages and even fostering innovation. Ideas expressed in many ways, not just in English. (Yes, i do enjoy pointing out the obvious sometimes)

Like Jeremy Clarke of Global Voices put it simply: English != Global. The GV Lingua project, translates GV content from English to 15 languages, with Swahili and Polish translations having been added recently. Translations work best when the person has cultural context to allow for expressions in slang and language structures that are difficult to build into machine language. This is another example of localization + aggregation of content. Dare i say again, cool stuff indeed.

Another site to keep an eye on is AppAfrica, If i am not mistaken, there will be a project to translate tutorials from English to Swahili on their code repository.

On a global level, the ubiquity (firefox) experiment from Mozilla labs seeks to empower users and lusers heh heh to control the web browser with language based instruction. They want to make this available in more than 60 languages. Check it out here, and contribute to it if you can.
Watch this clip of Aza Raskin showing how ubiquity works.


Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

All in all, in real estate they always say location, location, location…when it comes to African tech i would categorically say localization, localisation, localization. (thank the Brits and Americans for the spelling differences). I would like to hear your thoughts on localization, if you have other examples, and of course more on the mobile web, which I did not touch on on this post.

Small Scale Wind Energy – A call for papers

Via Afriwea

Picture 1.png

An International Workshop on Small Scale wind energy For Developing Countries will be held
September 14-16, 2009, Nairobi, Kenya
The workshop will cover the following main themes:

Wind energy technologies, their perspectives and applications in developing countries,

Reliability of wind turbines, lifetime and strength of wind turbine components,

Low cost and natural materials for wind turbines,

Case studies, social and economic aspects of wind energy in developing countries.

Abstract Submission

Please submit a two-page abstract (700-800 words, in MS Word format) by e-mail to haqi [at] risoe[dot]dtu[dot]dk no later than March 15, 2008. Authors will be notified of the Committee’s
decisions shortly thereafter.

Registration

All participants are requested to register before March 20, 2009. The registration fee is 200 EURO
for participants from developed countries, and 1200 Kenyan shillings for the participants from
developing countries
. After March 21, 2009, the registration fee increases to 350 EURO (developed
countries) and 3000 Kenyan shillings (developing countries), respectively. The payment of the
registration fee should be made either by credit card (Euro, Master or Visa), or by bank transfer.
Finally, after June 15, 2009, we take additionally late-registration fee of 70 EURO and 1000
shillings, for developed and developing countries respectively. The registration includes the access
to the sessions, coffee/refreshment and lunch/dinner.

Download the Workshop2009.pdf here.

PS: please stop laughing at the logo. My explanation, a lion was standing near a wind turbine, it farted a lightbulb or had a brilliant idea.

Geo-Engineering – A Big Ridiculous Idea?

In the September 10th 2008 issue of the Economist, there was an article about Geo-engineering, describing the ‘Transactional Analysis’ document from the Royal scientist
In the paper, the idea of planting trees was was ‘alluded to but not discussed’.

A second idea for scrubbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, alluded to in the Transactions but not much discussed, is to plant more trees. In principle, any old trees would do—although they die and rot, more forest cover would lock up more carbon dioxide. However, genetically modified trees might grow faster. Such trees are being developed to help the lumber, pulp and biofuel industries. But fast-growing forests could also be planted in order to capture carbon dioxide quickly.

Funny, this is the idea that seems doable yet it is not given much attention. Amongst other benefits, trees would help reclaim water catchment areas that are dwindling as we speak, and while we are at, why not encourage planting indigenous trees to enhance plant diversity?

calmly rolling

It warms my heart when right wingers like Pat Robertson can sit with Al Sharpton on a setee by the beach, and proclaim that they see eye to eye on the climate crisis. The ads just point people to visit wecansolveit.org. A website will not a crisis avert. Granted they are are trying to create a community/movement, but that wont do much in my opinion. The ads would have been more effective if they pointed out one demonstrable action that people can take (I’d suggest urging people to plant trees) AND visit wecansolveit.org. Al, I love you, but please find a more practical way, or change ad agencies.

Planting trees; though quite obvious seems to make much more sense to me than giant rotating cylinders that create the ‘magnus effect’. It makes more sense that putting sulphur in jet fuel, flying in high altitudes and polluting the atmosphere so the sulphur crystals can reflect the sun’s rays off the earth. Don’t get me wrong, I would really like to believe that I am open-minded the big ideas put forth in the transactional paper. I do agree that the climate crisis is one big ginormous problem that threatens the future stability of the world, heck my grandma told me climate change is real. What is being done NOW to adapt to climate change? What are we doing to reclaim our rapidly deforested areas? Big questions. Yet, we can start with simple, yet obvious actions like planting trees.

In the quest to make it a cool thing to do (Gardeners and tree huggers are hardly rock stars) perhaps borrowing an idea from Joi Ito, he tags photos on his flickr stream with ‘freesouls’ How about we begin a tag ‘greensouls’ where you take a picture of someone/yourself planting a tree, upload to flickr, tag it and if you can, geo-tag it as ‘greensoul’?

Oh, if you can find a trader who can help monetize the tree planting to carbon credits, I would very much like to assuage my carbon guilt. I seem to have added it to my catholic guilt so now I have much more guilt than I know what to do with. It does not help that some friends keep chiding me about my carbon footprint.

Remote Mobile Hack for Water Pumps

Via Jan Chipchase

Farmers were tired of waking up at odd hours to irrigate their farms, so one of them created a mobile app that allows remote control of water pumps
Jan notes that there is a commercial version, called Nano Ganesh.

The impact of this, particularly when combined with cheap and reliable services like Village Connection should not be underestimated.

Indeed. This hack reminded me of the brilliant Morris Mbetsa from Kenya who made an anti theft device that is controlled remotely via mobile phone. When the technology platform allows for people to write localized applications, amazing things happen. This is another reason I like the Nokia S60, because it allows for anyone to create hacks such as this. Now that is transformative technology.

I am currently reading Jonathan Zittrain’s book ‘The future of the Internet and how to stop it’ In the first few chapters he mentions ‘generativity’ and how it is part of the internet. To paraphrase, it is the ability for 3rd parties to create and innovate on top of a platform. In light of the S60 Nokia platform and the open source nature of the Symbian and Android…perhaps the mobile world is set to have platforms that encourage innovation around the world. Just like the story from India and Kenya are interesting, I think there is definitely more to come.

PS: I am currently at Mobile Active 08 ; a conference bringing together many of the people using mobiles for social change. You can follow the proceedings on http://twitter.com/mobileactive

Monday September 22nd – One Web Day

If you celebrate Earth Day, spend a lot of time on the internet be it for work or play…It only fits that you’d participate in One Web Day. Makes even more sense if you experience withdrawal symptoms when your internet service goes down, or you find yourself doing ‘broadband over breakfast’ multiple times a week.

http://www.onewebday.org/

Earth Day was the model when I founded OneWebDay in 2006, says Susan Crawford, a professor of law specializing in Internet issues at the University of Michigan. In 1969, one man asked the people to do what their elected representatives would not: take the future of the environment into their own hands.By 1972, the United States had a federal agency devoted to protecting the environment, the E.P.A., and today a worldwide citizens movement has put the environment front and center politically. According to Crawford, peoples lives now are as dependent on the Internet as they are on the basics like roads, energy supplies and running water. We can no longer take that for granted and we must advocate for the Internet politically, and support its vitality personally.

The Internet has also become the means by which citizens around the world build movements to hold their elected leaders accountable and support those who represent their interests; it is also increasingly the medium through which citizens interact with their governments. The theme of this year’s OneWebDay is online participation in democracy, coinciding with the U.S. elections.

The online hub for OneWebDay 2008 is www.onewebday.org. There, anyone can: plan or find out about activities in their community; learn ten things individuals can do to support the web; contribute their own stories; read posts from 100 OneWebDay ambassadors; and learn about Internet advocacy groups.

I know its late notice, but perhaps the good folks at Skunkworks can organize something in Nairobi so we can be on the map too? More info on how to get things going on this link. There is a list of 10 things you can do for the web, one of the first is to use a standards compliant web browser like Firefox or Opera. Who is still using IE and why? I grit my teeth each time I am forced to use it.
Grab the button for your blog/site here.

As African bloggers what do you think we should do on One Web Day(complementary to the 10 suggested ideas)? You know we need better internet Infrastructure like yesterday…

Ory’s Video on TED.com

crossposted on the Ushahidi blog

Ory Okolloh is not only a blogger, founder of Mzalendo.com, co-founder of Ushahidi and colleague, she is also an inspiration to all of us. Below is the video of her talk at TEDGlobal 2007 – Arusha Tanzania.

The making of an African Activist

Ory, we are sambazaing this whether you want to hide or not 🙂

Berkman Luncheon Series – Innovation in Sub Saharan Africa

Friend of the blog Ethan Zuckerman will be speaking on September 2nd 2008 at the Berkman luncheon series, so is Eric Osiakwan of AfriSpa. The event will be webcast live at 12:30 PM Eastern Time (US) Bookmark the link and tune in if you can.

The Climate of Innovation Around Information Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa
Ghanaian internet entrepreneur and researcher Eric Osiakwan and the Berkman Center’s Ethan Zuckerman will discuss the climate for innovation around information technology in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eric and Ethan will talk about projects to improve connectivity to the continent and the business models these projects are pioneering, novel uses for mobile phone networks and the use of citizen media as a political force on the continent.

Solar Map SF

This is the San Fransisco Solar Map.
SF solar map

You can enter your address and it would give you relevant information such as the potential size of a PV system, and its approximate cost. This is definitely an example of how technology can be used to help people make informed decisions about renewable energy.
More on TreeHugger

Before you ask…when are we going to have something similar for Kenya/Africa? Soon, very soon. I refuse to use the phrase ‘Watch this space’. So ‘Soon’ it stays.