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Regulating the Internet in South Africa

The new Films and Publications Act, No. 3 which amends Act No. 89 of 1998 has an interesting section which pertains to persons providing Social Media aimed at children. This is stipulated in Section 24C.

I think it is a fairly worded law, questions only arise over implementation, i.e. whether the 60-year old judge presiding over the legal case has ever used Google (let alone understanding the intricacies of GUI design for browsers). All of the items in the Act have been or are being addressed by awareNet, our home-grown social networking software specially for schools...

"Obligations of internet access and service providers

24C. (1) For the purposes of this section, unless the context otherwise indicates-
  • (a) ‘child-oriented service’ means a contact service and includes a content service which is specifically targeted at children;

  • (b) ‘contact service’ means any service intended to enable people previously unacquainted with each other to make initial contact and to communicate with each other;

  • (c) ‘content’ means any sound, text, still picture, moving picture, other audio visual representation or sensory representation and includes any combination of the preceding which is capable of being created, manipulated, stored, retrieved or communicated but excludes content contained in private communications between consumers;

  • (d) ‘content service’ means-
    • (i) the provision of content; or
    • (ii) the exercise of editorial control over the content conveyed via a communications network, as defined in the Electronic Communications Act, 2005 (Act No. 35 of 2005), to the public or sections of the public; and

  • (e) ‘operator’ means any person who provides a child-oriented contact service or content service, including Internet chat-rooms.

(2) Any person who provides child-oriented services, including chatrooms, on or through mobile cellular telephones or the internet, shall-

  • (a) moderate such services and take such reasonable steps as are necessary to ensure that such services are not being used by any person for the purpose of the commission of any offence against children;

  • (b) prominently display reasonable safety messages in a language that will be clearly understood by children, on all advertisements for a child-oriented service, as well as in the medium used to access such child-oriented service including, where appropriate, chat-room safety messages for chat-rooms or similar contact services;

  • (c) provide a mechanism to enable children to report suspicious behaviour by any person in a chat-room to the service or access provider;

  • (d) report details of any information regarding behaviour which is indicative of the commission of any offence by any person against any child to a police official of the South African Police Service; and

  • (e) where technically feasible, provide children and their parents or primary care-givers with information concerning software or other tools which can be used to filter or block access to content services and contact services, where allowing a child to access such content service or contact service would constitute an offence under this Act or which may be considered unsuitable for children, as well as information concerning the use of such software or other tools.
(3) Any person who fails to comply with subsection (2) shall be guilty of an offence and liable, upon conviction, to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and such imprisonment."

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: September 10th 2009 07:32

SiLLMU - Organisational Chart

A previous blog explains what SiLLMU (Siyakhula Living Lab Management Unit) is about and a bit about the background.

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The picture above explains how the SiLLMU will ultimately restructure the parties taking part in the LL. Some Acronyms and Abbreviations: ENoLL (European Network of Living Labs), LLiSA (Living Labs of South Africa), SLL (Siyakhula Living Lab), RU (Rhodes University), UFH (University of Fort Hare).

Bottom are projects, Left are political organisations, and top are stakeholders in the Living Lab, which is depicted in the centre.

The Siyakhula Living Lab is currently well positioned to develop more excellent research and piloting on ICT's in rural areas. I am very excited about the future, especially concerning recent developments around a software factory in Grahamstown involving eKhaya ICT...
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: September 6th 2009 06:50

SATNAC - Telcos! Give up your Fear and embrace Innovation

Several talkers at the conference, including keynote speaker Anton Musgrave used the word extinction. They were refering to Telcos (or telecommunications operators) like Telkom or the Deutsche Telekom. In fact these are not extinct. They have restructured and are restructuring and _some_ are suffering under the yoke of regulators. They are perhaps an endangered species, but not extinct at all. In Africa, government Telcos are a reality to be reckoned with A brave new world of ubiquitous ICTs as trumpeted by some is still no more than the hint of a cooling breeze in the overheated information desert. And there is no sign of rain. Unsocially minded MBA graduates who live in an ethically sterile environment make the decisions which leave the poor in the lurch (as one Exec with an Engineering background put it - Engineers should be making the decisions, not MBAs). The absolutely unapologetic and uncaring (even smirking) attitude visible in most African Telcos and governments is hopefully a last show of strength from the endangered raptor. They seem to be waking up to the danger being mastered by their 1st world cousins. The problem is their reaction could be (as in Iran and China) deleterious to the majority of the population, i.e. a poison pill for ICT4D. That is perhaps a good thing about a conference like this - which highlights that a glass being half-full and half-empty are fundemantally different. As a context for decisions they lead to completely different outcomes. As the MC just said: I don't know if I should be scared or euphoric about the future. Telcos - give up your fear! Embrace the future - unlock the frozen government Universal Service Access funds by making a strong move for the future. It WILL pay off!

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: September 1st 2009 07:53

Disruptive Technologies

I was recently in Finland and wrote the following:

I am in Helsinki, trying to forge new partnerships for awareNet and the Siyakhula Living Lab. I am always amazed anew at the propensity of the Finnish people for technology. The way the taxi driver switches on a TV display next to his steering whell and proceeds to change channels, all the while turning onto on-/off-ramps and dodging traffic, I have to think of the term "disruptive technologies". I am pretty much hoping that this technology will not prove to be disruptive to my stay.

In several ways I am reminded of the Eastern Cape: there the propensity of the people is no less in terms of love of technology. There too we are faced with serious ethical considerations when bringing in technology. Freedom of choice is an important aspect of that ethical consideration constellation.

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: August 31st 2009 12:05

Bad grammar and teaching the importance of Internet

I don't usually blog other people's posts, but this was an exceptional one.

On Sunday am off to the SATNAC conference - it is going to be exciting and fun-filled.
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: August 27th 2009 07:43

eKhaya ICT mentioned in COFISA Newsletter

You can download the August 2009 COFISA newsletter here.  eKhaya ICT is mentioned for participation in the Siyakhula Living Lab.

The COFISA website is at http://www.cofisa.org.za/ but they don't seem to be publishing the newsletters there.


By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: August 7th 2009 06:18

Gartner's 6 Mobile Architectures

Mobile is very important in the development context. The Shuttleworth Foundation is actively promoting mobile education projects and are looking for new ideas and new pilots that they could support. The SAFIPA conference pushed mobile in a big way. They also made the important point that South Africa and other countries which have a poor (or terribly expensive) broadband infrastructure, have an advantage over wealthy industrialised nations in that they have a head start in conceiving of and developing innovative new mobile technologies and services. Such services would not find a support base in the wealthier countries and are not necessarily needed there, since users can afford high-end devices such as laptops, as well as broadband connectivity. This is why the prepaid mobile phone service was invented in South Africa, and Kenya leads in M-banking take-up.

On the other hand, ultimately users do want rich content, and in perhaps 15 years time, as device prices and connectivity prices continue to plummet, the playing fields will have been levelled and users in developing countries will also adopt the technologies that make consumption and production of information easiest. A lot of these technologies may resemble something of a hybrid between current mobile and notebook technology, however they will also include wet, "embedded" circuitry, for instance allowing viewing via implants to the optic nerve and such. In that milieu, services are going to allow more just-in-time interventions between work and non-work activities, and for some the gap will grow closer. In the meantime, Gartner leaves us with 6 mobile architectures and an idea of when to deploy each. I think they have sliced up the space very interestingly indeed and one can learn from their insights:
  1. Thick client: this is basically a computer in a mobile phone - all data and application code are on the device and can be synchronised. It requires a lot of development resources to write apps for this stand-alone architecture. We are seeing a lot of this on iphones, etc.
  2. Rich Client: is similar to 1, but without the data layer - data is on the network.
  3. Streaming client: use your end device to watch TV.
  4. Thin client: your end device runs a browser and can render content other than video.
  5. Messaging client: SMS, etc. (they also mention e-mail in this category, curiously enough).
  6. "No Client": you only have voice on your end device.
Our partner, the Rhodes CoE, works intensively with IVR and VoiceXML solutions and it was interesting to see the two legacy mobile technologies split apart (point 5 and 6), in a new way. Further the distinction between 3) and 4), where Gartner defines a thin client as being able to render content - the difference to video streaming clients (which also basically just render) is in the bandwidth (i.e. network infrastructure alone). You need better connectivity for 3) than 4). The distinction between 4) and 5) is also a little blurry, because email requires Internet Protocol (IP) technology, whereas SMS uses legacy messaging protocols.

The future is definitely going to be interesting. Today eKhaya ICT cemented plans to be part of an international cooperation involving the HTWB (University of Applied Sciences Berlin and Rhodes) developing using these technologies.
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: August 5th 2009 03:31

Mitdenken - "Thinking Along"

Just on my way home from a meeting in Berlin at a Strandbar (beach bar). Someone sitting behind me lost or forgot their car key under their seat. A good samaritan found the key, and then told people sitting in the vicinity (including us) that they were going to hand in the key at the bar. More than half an hour later we overheard someone talking to a next door table and gesticulating. I checked and the fellow said he was looking for his car key - which he could go pick up at the bar without further ado. Patrick Paulisch - a local entrepreneur I was having a drink with at the bar - said that this was the perfect example of "Mitdenken" (Friends of Facebook should check out Wooga's brain game ). The good samaritan had helped doubly by not only handing in the key, but imagining what would happen when the person looking for the key came by (they might never think of asking at the bar).

It is awesome to be on the road in Europe again. The people have a different way of thinking and acting here - people are used to being your peers and they see you as their peer. This is not possible in an unequal society, it takes effort on both parts in an unequal society: the ones at the bottom of the pyramid have to try to bootstrap themselves up in their imagination and then basically pretend - something that causes stress - further the ones higher up in the pyramid have to suspend a whole range of prejudice and impatient thought patterns, which also ultimately causes stress. Societies develop laborious traditions to ease such stresses, such as the caste system, which introduces easy to follow rules about how to behave to preserve the status quo. I suppose that is why it is so difficult to do development work - no matter how user-driven you want to be, ultimately you want to promote change which challenges traditions. That is an immensely difficult point which can only be solved with time, understanding and patience.

These stresses can only really be understood when you go into the field and talk to people who have nothing and who cannot imagine your life.
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: August 2nd 2009 12:00

Nicholas Carr - Google making us stupid

I finally had time to read this article in the Atlantic Monthly, read it here. It's definitely thought-provoking. However, for the husband of a neuro-etologist, it is not convincing at all.

In fact, the first thought that went through my mind was that Carr was suffering from stress related psychological illness that has simply impaired his ability to focus. That has as much to do with modern life as Google. Or invoking Henry Ford, substitute conveyor belt with Google, and factory worker's station with armchair (or desk) -> inhuman conditions from which one needs to take a break. Get out of your armchair Carr!

The worst thing about Carr's argument is that he begins by being quite precise with his qualification of "I and some others" ... but by the end of the article he speaks of "us/we" as though he spoke for all humanity. What he fails to see is the basic illiteracy of many of "us". Illiteracy is endemic at the bottom of the pyramid, that means some 4 billion people are just barely literate and have never read anything longer than this blog post. They stand to benefit tremendously from Google's service.
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: June 26th 2009 10:11

Singularity may be prevented by humanitarian crises

Ray Kurzweil predicts AI - the merging of technology and human intelligence to form AI and super-humans by 2045. This kind of development he admits is a double-edged sword. A pure technological advance like the harnessing of atomic fission, may be used for destructive purposes, as was so ably demonstrated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The purpose of AI, will be dictated by the social circumstances that shape the face of humanity in 2030+. If these are not balanced to some extent, if the disparities growing daily are not redressed, then the future of humanity will look bleak, despite its technological advances.

ICT4D, is a way to make AI work for everyone. With awareNet, eKhaya ICT is trying to put AI techniques (using WordNet, NTLK libraries, and open source) to the service of the bottom of the pyramid. We are not alone. There are others who also believe that ICTs can pave the way to a more equal world. We are all trying to prepare for a future that most do not yet see and comprehend.

Let's hope that come 2055, Kurzweil's bright future will prevail, that energy needs will be met worldwide with renewable solar energy leading the way, and that an informed global population will be balanced by rational choices driven by AI, undermining dictatorships and organised crime syndicates.

I can see the singularity now, and I want it to benefit everyone. It should not serve vested interests of the few who would harness it to extend the lives of their families and their poodles.

Aside: as a mathematician, I must protest the use of the word singularity. The singularity defines a point c, at which f(c) is not defined. Kurzweil plays on this when he says that technology is exploding exponentially... However, mostly f(x) as x->c and x<c exists, as does it when x->c and x>c so the mathematical singularity he refers to succeeds an asymptote. However, because reality is proceeding multi-dimensionally, and because these dimensions are not independant, the singularity never comes about, because the exponential growth in one dimension is mitigated by lack of growth in others.

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: June 25th 2009 10:19
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Node.js stays close to its roots: Ultra-fast.
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