Zenzeleni mesh networking in the Transkei
While backpacking across the Transkei in South Africa, I stayed at Mdumbi Backpackers close to Coffee Bay, in the Mankosi Administrative Area, a rural traditional community within the Nyandeni Local Municipality in the Province of the Eastern Cape.
I had been made aware of an innovative wireless mesh network called Zenzeleni Community Telecoms by a friend in Cape Town, Michael Graaf, and took a look around. Zenzeleni translates to “Do it yourself” in isiXhosa.
Kiwix - enabling offline copies of wikimedia projects
Wikimedia projects, including the flagship English Wikipedia, have been restricted in access to people with internet access. kiwix is opening that up, via its offline reader.
I have blogged before about kiwix - this article is an effort to tell other people how to do the same.
Kiwix is a cross-platform reader of zim files. Zim is an open, standardised file format to store Wiki content efficiently for offline usage. It is compressed (LZMA), with fast resolution of inter-article links.
Kiwix install at Kwena Malapo school Johannesberg
Kiwix, an offline wikipedia selection, is installed at Kwena Malapo school.
I have blogged before about creating offline copies of wikipedia for use in school computer labs that do not have internet access.
Wikimedia, the umbrella organisation behind wikipedia and other related projects, is also keenly interested in offline uses of wikipedia. From November through January, the offline taskforce had a series of IRC meetings where we attempted to answer questions relating to the use of these offline copies.
Computers in schools in Gabon
I visited Gabon for the last two weeks of May 2009 by invitation of Yoan Anguilet, who has a business and NGO there promoting ICT and Science literacy in schools. We had met previously when setting up AUST, a new university in Nigeria. Yoan had invited me to set up a similar system at two schools in Gabon, as a precursor to a larger effort later in the year.
Flight Our flight was delayed for 2 hours, circling over Libreville, as we had the misfortune of arriving at the same time as the body of the recently-deceased First Lady, Edith Lucie Bongo.
Abuja, Nigeria, the capital city, suffers from lack of infrastructure. Potholes, no landlines, power cuts every day.
Nigeria as a tourist In 1992 as a tourist on an overland truck, I travelled through Nigeria from the Cameroon border in the north, down through the city of Kano and its magnificent central market, to the bustling and wild city of Lagos. In Nigeria “Benin” is a western province - the sleepy francophone country to the west is pronounced differently and must be identified as the republic of benin.
Launch of AIMS Research Centre, Muizenberg
On May 11, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences opened its Research Centre. Present were a host of dignitaries, led by Stephen Hawking, Michael Griffin, the current administrator of NASA, and Nobel prize-winners David Gross and George Smoot. A lineup indeed.
I have posted about AIMS before. The bread-and-butter of AIMS is a post-graduate diploma course for African Mathematicians. This broadens the role of the institute to include research. AIMS is set by the sea in a lovely location in Muizenberg, and is the brainchild of Neil Turok, who last year won a TED prize for this and his work on cosmology.
Habeni Primary school is in Zululand, and has recently acquired a computer lab. Courtesy of Kelsey Wood and Wizzy Digital Courier, it also has Internet.
Education In Africa, children walk to school. In South Africa, where I am based, schools and clinics are the only large buildings in the rural areas, and are thus easily spotted with their long roofs. The minimum requirement for a school are rooms, teachers, blackboards, and students.
Wikipedia fund drive
Wikipedia has started its regular fund drive with a video from the founder, Jimmy Wales. He starts by expounding the knowledge-for-everyone mantra of wikipedia, and in particular promoting wikipedias in third world languages like Swahili.
The video finishes up with clips of people around the world talking about wikipedia, how it has benefited them, and how they contribute, including people typing articles in on cellphones ..
There is a clip of me, at Lavender Hill Secondary school (at a township close to Muizenberg more renowned for its gangs) talking about my placement of a complete copy of wikipedia down at schools that have no daytime internet access, and also the Lab administrator Shanaaz talking about her wish for more content on the Afrikaans wikipedia.
As an update on the Wizzy project, a fair bit has been happening.
In partnership with Inkululeko Technologies and Amobia Wireless Access, Wizzy is providing its email solution for a number of schools provisioned by Inkululeko and Amobia. Inkululeko are the spinoff from the Shuttleworth Foundation and their efforts to put computer labs down in South African schools, and Amobia are a local Wireless ISP.
The labs that Inkululeko put down are Thin Client labs, using old, recycled computers in front ofthe learners coupled to a large Linux server that runs the applications and fileserver.
One Laptop per Child
The One Laptop per Child project has got a lot of attention, has prototype hardware, and a lot of open source software. What are its prospects in Africa ?
Antoine managed to get one of these to show off as he is writing code behind the ‘view source’ button, and Morgan and Jonathan of our local Linux uses group have all blogged about it.
There are a lot of things to be said about the OLPC project.