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A digital magazine covering the intersection of technology, human rights and social change.

Post Tagged with: "Internet access"

China vows new measures to censor Dalai Lama in Tibet

China vows new measures to censor Dalai Lama in Tibet

Tibetan party chief, Chen Quanguo, has promised to remove any trace of the Dalai Lama from television as well as the internet in order to curb the his influence in the sensitive Tibetan region. The Chinese government will take new measures in order to ensure that Tibetan citizens are not exposed to the so-called “splittist propaganda” including seizing illegal satellites, increasing internet filters and requiring that citizens register with their real names for internet and telephone.

The goal is to curb nationalist sentiment and unrest in the sensitive Tibetan region, from which the ruling Dalai Lama has been exiled since the 1959 rebellion against Chinese rule. China’s ruling party hopes that Tibetan’s, who celebrate the Dalai Lama and go to great lengths just to obtain pictures of him, will only see approved Chinese media.

Chen said that the party would, “Work hard to ensure that the voice and image of the party is heard and seen over the vast expanses (of Tibet) … and that the voice and image of the enemy forces and the Dalai clique are neither seen nor heard.” China has faced international condemnation for its historic and current human rights record in Tibet.

via Reuters

November 6, 2013 Comments are Disabled Read More
Annual report indicates that 2.7 billion people are connected to the internet, 39% of world’s population

Annual report indicates that 2.7 billion people are connected to the internet, 39% of world’s population

The International Telecommunication Union, a special agency under the United Nations released their annual report on ICT. “I am pleased to present the latest ICT Facts and Figures which show continued and almost universal growth in ICT uptake. Every day we are moving closer to having almost as many mobile- cellular subscriptions as people on earth” writes Brahima Sanou, , Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

2.7 billion people are using the internet, which represents 39% of the world’s population. Developing countries are still lagging behind developed countries with internet usage at 31% compared to 77%. Even worse, only 16% of the population in Africa uses the internet.

In terms of household internet penetration, global levels are at 41%, with Europe at 77% and Africa at 7%. However, growth from 2009 to 2013 was fastest in Africa at 27% annually. As we mentioned previously, one of the challenges ahead isn’t only access to the internet, but its quality. Many countries in both Asia and Europe offer the highest percentage of high-speed internet at 10 Mbit/s, while in Africa, less than 10% of internet subscriptions are at speeds of at least 2 Mbit/s (see graph below for more detail).


Mobile penetration has peaked, reaching 128% in developed countries and 89% in developed countries in 2013. The number of mobile subscribers has grown from 268 million in 2007 to 2.1 billion in 2013. Mobile-broadband are most expensive (proportionally) in Africa, representing an average of 50% of gross national income (GNI) per capita for a typical 1GB data plan.

For more information, read the ITU report here.

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October 8, 2013 Comments are Disabled Read More
Intel launches program to increase digital education among women in developing countries

Intel launches program to increase digital education among women in developing countries

Intel has announced a new program called ‘She Will Connect’ that aims to increase digital literacy among women in Africa. Their goal is to reach out to 5 million women in Africa and decrease the gender gap by 50%.

The program plans to tackle the gender gap through an online gaming platform that leverages smartphones and tablets to create an interactive and social experience. They also plan on establishing strong peer networks in collaboration with World Pulse – “the leading network using the power of digital media to connect women worldwide and bring them a global voice”.

Intel has invested over $1 billion to improve digital education in over 6o countries. For more detail on the program, check out Intel’s official announcement.

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October 1, 2013 Comments are Disabled Read More
Is Africa’s technology revolution all hype?

Is Africa’s technology revolution all hype?

In an earlier article, we mentioned how Safaricom, the leading communications service provider in Kenya has contributed greatly to the proliferation of technology devices in Kenya. Today, about 16 million Kenyans are connected to the internet, up 12% from the previous year. Even more impressive is that Africa had 650 million mobile subscribers in 2012, more than the US and EU. This isn’t the whole story though. Internet quality in Africa is still quite poor and still isn’t completely accessible to those in the poorer income brackets. The truth is that the technology revolution in Africa though real to some extent, has been greatly exaggerated.

Information and communications technology (ICT) has had an evident economic impact in Africa, but it hasn’t been evenly distributed across the continent and within countries. In Kenya for instance, internet penetration was 41% by December 31 of last year. Meanwhile, internet access in Sierra Leone was only at around 1%. When evaluating the quality of internet connectivity, the situation looks even less impressive. Data conducted by the M-lab revealed that South Africa has one of the slowest download speeds at 0.33 Mbps measured this past May. As a reference, the average download speed in the US is at around 7.4 Mbps.

Critics argue that the technology revolution is still at a very nascent stage having only started 5 years ago, which means there’s still a long time to go before we witness significant improvements. So who’s to blame for the hype? Part of it stems from the media celebrating small successes. The successful run of test pilots and prototypes are things we should certainly look at in a positive matter, but it’s only the first step. Rarely does the media paint a truly accurate picture of how things are.

The initiatives from Google’s Project Loon and Zuckerberg’s manifesto to improve internet connectivity in rural areas are good signs for the future of ubiquitous internet access in Africa. To point out though, Zuckerberg failed to mention how he will deal with building out the infrastructure in these rural areas, which could pose a problem towards his quest to connect the world.

Africa is changing in front of our eyes. A decade ago it would be hard to believe that there would be this many mobile devices today let alone a mobile payment system. Much work is still to be done however, as countries still struggle with reducing the income gap. It’s dangerous to think in terms of averages and aggregates, since this type of thinking will result in those at the ‘tail end’ to be neglected.

For more detail on the topic of this post, watch the video from BBC’s Lesley Curen here

Share your thoughts and comments below.

September 5, 2013 Comments are Disabled Read More
The 3 most important questions about Project Loon

The 3 most important questions about Project Loon

Project Loon is an initiative coming out of the Google’s secret research division that aims to provide internet access to two-thirds of the world’s population. Google plans on doing this by using helium inflated balloons that float in the stratosphere which people can connect to through an antenna attached on their home or building. The project was first tested on June 2013 when thirty balloons were released into the air from New Zealand.

An ambitious project indeed, but a few questions remain that will ultimately determine whether the project will be successful:

1. How long will it take for the technology to reach the mass population?

We’re all too familiar with ambitious projects that end up failing. This isn’t to say that Project Loon will fail, but the project is still at a very early stage and has yet to be widely tested across different countries. It won’t be for a few more years (potentially more) until the technology matures, which means the vast majority of people will still be left without internet access. You have to start somewhere of course, but perhaps there are more cost-effective and out-of-the-box solutions that can be used temporarily in the meantime.

2. How will Google sort through international politics?

Keep in mind that the balloons will be travelling across the world based on wind currents, which as Kevin Fitchard from Gigaom pointed out  means that the same balloon would pass through Texas and the Middle East. This might not seem like much of an issue on the surface, but we know how silly politicians can sometimes behave. Kevin also mentioned that Google will effectively be an ISP, and will therefore have to be regulated by local governments. This could tricky for Google, as they won’t have all the leverage in terms of what they charge and who has access to the data.

3. How will they deal with hardware failures?

Ranjay Krishna mentions nicely on his blog about the potential hardware issues of balloons:

“The main problem with launching any hardware project is the certainty of eventual hardware failure. In most cases, the hardware is usually accessible and can be fixed. However, for airplanes, rockets, satellites, and now Loon balloons, hardware failure is a huge problem as they can not be reached. If a Loon balloon fails, it can either remain up in the air floating, making it difficult to bring down or it might go down in unwanted areas. Both of these scenarios are a huge concern to the stability as well as the safety of people whose lives might be affected by unwanted balloon landings.”

We only touched on a few key issues about the Project and there are certainly many other legitimate issues that we could get into. This isn’t a purely humanitarian effort being led by Google, as there’s a clear incentive to grab two-thirds of the population onto the Google platform. Like many projects, it’s success will dependent on precise execution that takes into consideration the technical aspects of the project, the politics, and a deep understanding of the end users.

via Google Project Loon

July 26, 2013 Comments are Disabled Read More

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