Nokia: Four new handsets for developing world, bike charger

So it’s a holiday here in Germany, it’s a beautiful day outside and I’m still in my PJs, scrolling through my RSS reader, and two Reuters headlines scream out at me: “Nokia unveils 4 cheap phones” and “Nokia unveils bicycle mobile charger“.

Sadly, Reuters doesn’t provide any details, but CNET’s Crave blog does:

C1 phone (far left): Two SIM slots, only one line active at a time, six-week standby time (longest by far of any Nokia handset). Built-in LED flashlight! Available Q3 for €30.

C2 (far right): Two SIM slots (hot-swappable), both lines can be active simultaneously, microSD card slot (up to 32GB). Available Q4 for €45.

Nokia’s got more details on the other two models on its blog.

As for the bicycle charging device, CNET reports that “the dynamo starts charging when the speed of the bicycle reaches 6 kph and stops when it hits 50 kph”. Reuters adds that it’ll cost €15 and will be available “later this year.”

I think what’s really interesting about these new products is that they seem to be designed for the developing world but I think would actually be quite popular in the developed world too. I know lots of people that would love a cheap phone that includes six-week standby time, a built-in flashlight (who doesn’t use their phone as a flashlight?). Plus, for those of us who are globetrotters, dual-SIM slots is pretty sweet.

Now here’s my only question: why not combine the functions of the C1 and C2? Or does the simultaneous dual-SIM use suck up a lot of battery?

African Renaissance statue in Dakar angers locals

Apparently, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has commissioned a 160-ft high bronze statue commemorating the “African Renaissance.”

The statue, “shows a muscular man in a heroic posture, outstretched arms wrapped around his wife and child, who is balanced on one of his biceps,” reports the Associated Press. Plus, the entire group is coming out of a volcano. (Last I checked there weren’t any volcanos anywhere close to Senegal.)

Senegalese media reports that the statue will be dedicated in a grandiose ceremony on December 12, 2009, with various African leaders and Brazilian President Lula Ignacio da Silva in attendance.

There’s also apparently a poetry contest, too, on the theme of “African Renaissance,” open to “all of Africa and its diaspora”.

Poems can be written in any of the continents three major languages: French, English or Arabic. The first three winners in each language will receive a prize of one, two and three million CFA, respectively. That’s about $2,200, $4,400 and $6,600.

You can compete by sending your entry to:

Ministère de la Culture et de la Francophonie
Building administratif, 3ème étage
BP : 4001 Dakar

Or email:

Deadline: Friday, October 23, 2009, 16h00 GMT

The AP adds that the statue costs $27 million to build (the President insists entirely through private donations).

If all of that wasn’t weird enough, here’s where it gets really weird:

– President Wade, according to the AP: “[maintains] he is entitled to 35 percent of any tourist revenues it generates because he owns “intellectual rights” for conceiving the idea, with the rest to go to the government.”

– AP adds: “Nearly 50 North Korean workers from the state-run Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang were brought in to build the statue because of their expertise with bronze art, and some Senegalese have complained of its communist-era design.”

Huh? WTF?

In other North Korea news, the DPRK soccer team, which qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1966, will be training and playing exhibition games in Nantes, France from Oct. 5-15.

AFP reports: “[North Korea] will take on second division side Nantes at La Roche-sur-Yon on October 9 and the Congo national team on October 13 at Le Mans.

The date for a third game, probably against a French footballer’s union side, is being arranged.”

And finally, China is getting deeper in Senegalese affairs: “We can say that China has done more for Senegal in four years than what the Western countries have for her in 10 or 20 years,” the Chinese ambassador to Senegal, Lu Shaye, said on Tuesday in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

4-month (paid) ICT4D summer job in Tanzania

My old friend and traveling buddy from my Senegal days, Al, writes:

Hey Cyrus,

Thanks for the Canada Day shout out. Sounds like things are pretty awesome with you, and that you’re up to the old traveling quite a bit.

I thought I’d ask if you knew any potential candidates for a tech.-and development position I’m trying to fill. I’m spending the summer working for TechnoServe (poverty alleviation in agro-business, mostly) in Tanzania, where I focus on the cotton sector.

One of the things we’ve designed this summer is a fairly sophisticated SMS-based system that helps share information with cotton farmers — giving them access to market price info, trainings, Q&A service, etc. I’m leaving soon, however, and we’re looking for someone to come in and manage the pilot and implementation of this system in Northwestern Tanzania. I’m attaching a rough description of the project below. With your contacts in the area, I’m wondering if you could recommend any people with the relevant experience who are looking for an exciting 4-month project with lots of travel. FYI, we’re doing phone interviews with folks next week.

Thanks, man!

– Al

*Project Description:*

In a nutshell, TNS Tanz. works in a number of agricultural sub-sectors, including cotton, where we are trying to help farmers and ginners (the guys who process the raw cotton) improve their profits. The main way we do this is by moving the industry from an unproductive free-for-all to a “contract farming” model, where local ginners are responsible for supporting farmers throughout the growing season and receive the exclusive right to buy those farmers’ cotton in return. The support includes everything from training to supplying farmers with fertilizer, pesticide, etc. The idea is that this new model will help get farmers the inputs they need to farm properly and

Here’s where the ICT solution comes in. Because the contract-farming model is new, it has a lot of challenges. We have designed an ICT system this summer that does three main things:

– provide SMS-based services to farmers to help them out (e.g., Q&A service, trainings by phone, market-price informatin)

– allow ginners to keep track of their contracts with farmers and look at simple business analytics

– capture certain information along the way for the government’s agencies to better police the system

Read more“4-month (paid) ICT4D summer job in Tanzania”

This week: Cyrus in Madison and Milwaukee

Just a quick reminder:

I’ll be speaking in Madison to kick off the “Africa Forward” lecture series this Thursday on the UW-Madison campus:

Thursday, March 26, 2009
3:30pm – 5:30pm
5055 Vilas Hall
821 University Avenue

I’ll also be speaking on Friday and Saturday (March 27-28) at the Engineers without Borders conference in Milwaukee, talking about how to best leverage information technology in Africa.

Tell your friends, and if you’re a blog reader/Twitter follower, please come say hi!

Africa Forward with Cyrus Farivar (March 26, 2009)

Africa Forward with Cyrus Farivar
Thursday, March 26, 2009
3:30pm – 5:30pm
5055 Vilas Hall
821 University Avenue
Madison, WI

Need inspiration on how to apply your interests in African Studies and Journalism after graduation?

Come and meet Cyrus Farivar to find out how he went from studying abroad in UW’s Senegal program in 2003 to reporting for National Public Radio and The New York Times within five years of graduation.

Cyrus Farivar is a freelance technology journalist, radio reporter/producer, and self-described wanderlust geek. He regularly reports for PRI’s The World, National Public Radio and CBC. Farviar also writes for The Economist, Foreign Policy, Slate, The New York Times, PC World, and Wired.

AFRICA FORWARD links current UW-Madison students with professionals in all fields whose careers have been inspired and enriched by their study of Africa.

Sponsored by the African Studies Program and the School of Journalism & Mass Communication.

I’m speaking at the Engineers Without Borders Conference in Milwaukee (March 27-28, 2009)

A few weeks ago I was contacted out of the blue by an old UW-Madison professor, James Delahanty. As the academic advisor to my group (and current groups) of Madison students studying in Senegal, he was our stateside pointman for those of us trying to navigate our experience abroad. (I also slept on the floor of his Dakar hotel room in January 2007.)

Jim recommended me to the UW-Madison chapter of Engineers Without Borders, who was looking for someone to come to the upcoming EWB International Conference in Milwaukee to speak about issues relating to technology transfer in Africa.

A few emails later, I’m proud to announce that I will be speaking Friday and Saturday, March 27-28 2009.

A continent, not a crisis” : How to leverage information technology in Africa effectively.
Cyrus Farivar, Technology Journalist

For decades, and arguably centuries, there has been a concerted effort by countries in the global North to assist countries in the global South, especially sub-Saharan Africa. In recent decades, this has meant computers, and more recently, the Internet. After all, if only more Africans had access to the Internet, then they could cheaply and easily gain the information that they require to better themselves and improve their own situations. But if the Web was invented two decades ago, why is only a tiny percentage of Africa online? What attempts have been engineered to fix this problem? Which have been most successful? To answer these questions, Cyrus Farivar will draw upon his years of experience as a technology reporter and time spent living in Senegal on a UW-Madison study abroad program (2002-2003) to discuss his theories.

I’ll be touching on many projects that I’ve been reporting on for the last few years, including the Digital Solidarity Fund, OLPC, Inveneo, Manobi, M-Pesa, and the upcoming Txteagle.

The title of my talk comes from a blog post by one of my favorite thinkers on all things African and technological, Ethan Zuckerman.

I will also be speaking on the UW-Madison campus on Thursday, March 26. Details TBA.

If any readers are going to be in attendance at the Madison talk or the Milwaukee conference, please let me know!

WSJ: Start-Up Seeks to Link 3 Billion to Net


An entrepreneur’s quest to use satellites to bring high-speed Internet service to poor, remote countries is nearing liftoff with a major investment from some big names, including Google Inc.

On Tuesday, O3b Networks Ltd., founded and run by 38-year-old telecommunications entrepreneur Greg Wyler, is expected to announce plans to launch as many as 16 satellites that could provide service to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Latin America by the end of 2010.

The undertaking, expected to cost about $650 million, has initial backing of about $60 million from investors that include HSBC Holdings PLC, Allen & Company, and Liberty Global Inc., in addition to Google.

While most of the world’s estimated 1.5 billion Internet users reside in developed countries, telecom companies are looking at fast growth in areas like Africa and the Middle East, where the number is jumping by 50% or more each year.

Nigeria pulls the plug on its OLPC order


Dr Aja Nwachukwu, the Education Minister, told newsmen in Abuja that the scheme was discovered to be a “white elephant” project.

“We discovered that the scheme is a conduit pipe to siphon public fund,” he said.
Nwachukwu said the ministry was working on other options to promote the deployment of ICT at all levels of education.

[via OLPC News]

NYT: Shadows Grow Across One of Africa’s Bright Lights


DAKAR, Senegal — From the air, this sprawling city looks like a metropolis on the move, a buzzing quadrilateral jutting into the Atlantic. Cars speed along a supple, newly reconstructed four-lane highway that hugs the rugged coastline. Cranes dot the seaside, building luxury hotels and conference centers, as investors from Dubai revamp the city’s port, hoping to transform it into a high-tech regional hub.

But on the ground the picture shifts. Jobless young men line the new highways, trying to scratch out a living by selling phone cards, cashews and Chinese-made calculators to passers-by. The port is full of imported food that is increasingly out of reach for most Senegalese.

Dakar will soon have a glut of five-star hotel rooms, but rising rents have pushed the city’s poor and even middle-class residents into filthy, flood-prone slums. Shortages of fuel mean daily blackouts.

It is hard to escape a sense of malaise that has settled over Senegal, one of Africa’s most stable and admired countries, a miasma of political, economic and social problems as unmistakable as the fine dust that blows in from the Sahara every winter, blotting out the sun with an ashy haze.

This month the sense of crisis reached a head, when a coalition of political and civic groups began a national conference to reassess the country’s direction. The government, seeing it as a provocation, refused to participate.

All of which raises the question: If hardship and tension are vexing Senegal — a former French colony that has never known a coup d’état or military rule, and for 48 years has been one of the most stable, peaceful and enduring democracies in a region so long beset by tyranny and strife — what could that mean for its more troubled neighbors?

This question has become all the more pressing with the implosion of Kenya, once East Africa’s oasis, into ethnically driven electoral violence earlier this year, and South Africa’s recent descent into anti-immigrant rage.

Senegal’s chattering class is increasingly worried that the country’s long run of relatively good luck could also run out.

“After years of sunshine, we have so many clouds gathering over us in Senegal,” said Abdoulaye Bathily, secretary general of Senegal’s Movement for the Labor Party, one of the parties that joined with President Abdoulaye Wade’s coalition in 2000 but have since broken with him. “We are lost, adrift. And if we can’t make it, what country can?”

Slate: The $100 Distraction Device


So what happens when good fortune delivers vouchers (and hence computers) into the homes of Romanian youths? Obviously a lot more time logged on to a computer—about seven hours more per week for vouchered versus unvouchered kids. Much of this computer time came at the expense of television-watching: Children in families that received a voucher spent 3.5 fewer hours in front of the tube per week. But computer use also crowded out homework (2.3 hours less per week), reading, and sleep. Less schoolwork translated into lower grades at school—vouchered kids’ GPAs were 0.36 grade points lower than their nonvouchered counterparts—and also lower aspirations for higher education. Vouchered kids were 13 percentage points less likely to report an intention to attend college. And, interestingly, vouchered students who were college-bound were not more likely to express interest in majoring in computer science.