Economic growth has historically been tightly linked with broadband and internet access. A 2009 report from the World Bank found that a 10% increase in broadband penetration would lead to a GDP increase by 1.38 percentage points in developing countries. The internet has the ability to empower citizens through higher-skilled learning and productivity gains.
Project Isizwe (which means nation, tribe, and people in Xhosa) is helping to bring internet to low-income areas across Africa through access to free Wi-Fi in public areas. They assist governments in setting up and maintaining Wi-Fi networks. The organization does not involve itself directly in operational and political duties, but coordinates the necessary stakeholders for the infrastructure to come into realization.
Last November, Project Isizwe and the city of Tswane completed Phase 1 to provide Wi-Fi in strategic areas such as University campuses and community centres.
The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), in charge of Singapore’s internet industry, is introducing software programming classes into public schools to develop that skillset in it’s youth early on in academia.
The news was first reported on Good Morning Singapore in mandarin yesterday.
According to the IDA, 1500 students have already been taught advanced programming concepts, and many schools are also going as far as teaching 3D design, and making use of 3D printing for basic prototypes. The IDA is aiming to develop a future-ready workforce to offer Singapore a large economic boost in the next 10 to 20 years.
Last year the price of a Bitcoin was hovering at a little over $13USD. Fast forward a year later and it’s now trading at $800USD. Many wouldn’t have anticipated the sudden spark in interest from consumers; such is the dynamic of the internet and the pace of technological change today.
Those who are bullish on Bitcoin (or, digital currency for that matter) rave about the potential of Bitcoin to disrupt the financial sector. One of the main benefits of Bitcoin are the low transaction fees, which make it a much more appealing currency for online merchants who already suffer from low profit margins. Low transaction fees also make micropayments a much more feasible business model for digital publishers (see Bitwall). Instead of relying solely on ads or subscriptions, small Bitcoin payments to read an article has the potential to be the norm. The ad model de-couples the value that a news organization provides to readers and how they generate revenue. It’s created a conflict of interest of sorts, since news sites end up prioritizing over-sensationalism rather than quality and accuracy.
For now though, the instability of Bitcoin makes the aforementioned benefits infeasible. Such volatility is expected given the decentralized nature of the currency. Building consumer confidence in the currency takes time, and many are also speculating on the hundreds of other iterations of Bitcoin (Dodgecoin, Litecoin etc.), further fueling the digital currency bubble. Whether Bitcoin or another competitor comes out of this bubble alive is a question to be answered in the near future.
And then there’s the politics. Decentralization is ideologically in line with the libertarian philosophy – many of the early supporters of Bitcoin were in fact libertarians. The battle for Bitcoin may very well end up being political, with governments seeking to regulate the currency on the grounds of providing stability. Such actions are already taking place in countries such as India and China where the currency was banned to prevent criminal activity. Governments might not be able to directly control the flow of the currency, but some level of government intervention is possible which will usher in the old debate of left versus right.
The benefits of digital currency – decentralization, low transaction fees, and speed, are big enough reasons to consider it as a viable alternative to traditional currencies. Whether it becomes relevant is an entirely different question, and will depend on the myriad of decisions from the government, corporations, and every day citizens.
mWater is a non-profit organization based in New York City that have developed a mobile application that tracks water sources and allows users to submit and share results from water tests. The Android app leverages a phone’s camera to automatically process the results from images to detect contamination.
Crowdsourcing water quality is an effective solution and mitigates the reliance on a single body to maintain and distribute information. In an interview with HumanIPO, founder Anne Feighery talked about the desire to remove paper out of the documentation process and instead rely on the cloud. This appears to be the trend for many new social technologies being introduced in the developing world.
The company recently raised $100,000 from USAID and hopes to continue testing its service in Tanzania and other African countries such as Rwanda in the future. You can visit their website at www.mwater.co for more information about the company and donation options.
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