Archive for category: Africa

The value of low-cost computing

Categories: Africa, Articles

Recently on my blog, I mentioned JCR Licklider, who wrote the 1950s about the revolution that low-cost computing could bring, particularly to politics:

The idea on which Lick’s worldview pivoted was that technological progress would save humanity. The political process was a favorite example of his. In a McLuhanesque view of the power of electronic media, Lick saw a future in which, thanks in large part to the reach of computers, most citizens would be “informed about, and interested in, and involved in, the process of government.” He imagined what he called “home computer consoles” and television sets linked together in a massive network. “The political process,” he wrote, “would essentially be a giant teleconference, and a campaign would be a months-long series of communications among candidates, propagandists, commentators, political action groups, and voters. The key is the self-motivating exhilaration that accompanies truly effective interaction with information through a good console and a good network to a good computer.” (from Where Wizards Stay Up Late)

That’s a powerful vision, and one that has not been realised in Africa even sixty years after Licklider wrote it down. Computing is just too expensive. So I’m very excited to see a large-scale commercial venture (that is, beyond the wonderful and worthy OLPC project) bringing down the price of computing, along with providing 3G web access. Simon Dingle posted about it today:

Telecommunications group Vodacom has launched its Linkbook into the SA market – a super-low price netbook that will go for R199 per month on a two-year contract, including a monthly bandwidth bundle of 300MB. The Linkbook is running a customised Linux distribution based on Ubuntu, and ships with OpenOffice, some games and other applications. It has 2 USB ports, WiFi, a 8.9″ screen, 16GB of embedded flash storage, integrated 3G modem, webcam and a microphone.

The R199-per-month is about $27, and represents about a day’s wages for an entry-level job in South Africa. Till now, content creators in South Africa have only been able to deliver rich media or long-form content to two or three million people, a fraction of South Africa’s population of 50 million. This device is likely to be the first of many that that will explode that market size. And if you think like JCR Licklider, the Gov 2.0 possibilities are even more exciting.

(Thanks to Michelle Matthews at Trialogue for pointing me to the news.)

 

Arthur Attwell on ebooks in South Africa

Categories: Africa, Interviews - Tags: ,

Carolyn Meads interviews Arthur Attwell about ebooks in South Africa.

While there is a lot of talk about ebooks, there are many other real issues and opportunities in working with digital files rather than print books. For example, in the education sector we should see publishers experimenting with textbooks being remixed by teachers (e.g see Symtext or Bookriff), schoolchildren getting homework help by SMS, libraries previewing books before purchasing them, books reaching schools more quickly digitally (e.g. see Paperight, which my company is developing), authors working collaboratively with editors and each other, or even with the public (e.g. seethis approach from forward-thinking media company O’Reilly). There are other opportunities in adult education, healthcare, community development and so on. All of these ideas could be monetised, and all stem from the staff in publishing houses getting comfortable with working with digital processes – this isn’t hard, it just takes effort and imagination.

Read the interview on Arthur’s site.

 

Kirk Biglione’s TOC Frankfurt wrap-up

Categories: Africa, Arab World, News

Ramy Habeeb and Arthur Attwell feature lightly in Kirk Biglione’s TOC Frankfurt wrap-up:

TOC Frankfurt differed from previous TOC conferences in a few notable ways, however. First, the event lasted just a single day, rather than the usual three. As a result, attendees got what might best be described as a concentrated dose of the TOC vision. Then there was the fact that the conference was being held in Europe for the first time. The Frankfurt conference had a distinctly more international feel to it than previous TOCs.

Read the full article here.

 

Press release: Digital-publishing experts launch emerging-markets network

Categories: Africa, Arab World, Latin America, News

Lead consultants from Kotobarabia (Egypt), Editorial Teseo (Argentina) and Electric Book Works (South Africa) have joined forces as the Digital Minds Network (http://digitalmindsnetwork.com), a cooperative venture that pools their resources, strategies and experience.

The co-founders, Ramy Habeeb, Octavio Kulesz and Arthur Attwell, specialise in digital publishing in emerging markets. Each are experienced professionals and entrepreneurs who hold or have held senior positions in publishing enterprises or entrepreneurial ventures. Individually, they have consulted to local and international clients on issues ranging from digitisation and ebook production to metadata management and print-on-demand. Working with small local businesses or large multinationals, the network’s members will provide a distinctly global view, identifying trends and best practice in emerging markets that are often hidden from mainstream international publishing.

Arthur Attwell, of Electric Book Works, says: “Many emerging markets are following a different digital-publishing trajectory to that of the US and Europe, but with experts in this area thin on the ground in our regions, a formal structure in which to share ideas and resources will boost our capacity, and add value for our clients.”

The network’s founders will look to bring other experts into the network. They will be experienced publishing professionals and entrepreneurs who can draw on a wide array of contacts locally and internationally, and demonstrate a combination of technical, financial, strategic, and communication skills.

Habeeb and Attwell will be speaking at the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference (http://toccon.com) being held in New York from 22 to 24 February.

About

The Digital Minds Network (http://digitalmindsnetwork.com) is a network of consultants who specialise in digital publishing in emerging economies. While its consultants operate independently around the world, the network adds value for their clients by pooling their resources, strategies, insights and experience.

Ramy Habeeb, Director and co-founder of Kotobarabia.com, graduated from McGill University with a double major in Literature and Religious Studies. In 2004 he established Kotobarabia.com (http://kotobarabia.com), the first Arabic language e-book publishing house in the Middle East.

Octavio Kulesz has a degree in Philosophy from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has been a professor in Ancient Philosophy at the same university. In 2000, Octavio co-founded the independent project Libros del Zorzal, and in 2007, Editorial Teseo (http://editorialteseo.com). Octavio Kulesz chaired the International Young Publishing Entrepreneur (IYPE) Network in 2007/8.

Arthur Attwell is CEO of Electric Book Works (http://electricbookworks.com), a digital publishing and R&D company founded in 2006. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, EBW finds and tests ways to apply digital-publishing best practice in developing countries. He was runner-up in the British Council’s International Young Publishing Entrepreneur award in 2009. He keeps a blog on publishing-technology at http://arthurattwell.com.