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Beyond the wire: connecting Tonga

Tom Perry's picture
Billboards announcing the arrival of high-speed
broadband internet being installed in downtown
Nukua'lofa, the capital of the Kingdom
of Tonga.

Hoko (‘connect’ in Tongan) is the current buzzword on the streets of the Kingdom of Tonga.

With May 17th recognized around the world as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa is a hive of activity as telecommunications providers set up their activities to mark the day.  The billboards have gone up, teenagers have been lining up at auditions to become the new public face of the marketing campaign for Tongan internet, and the Prime Minister, Lord Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō is planning a public Skype session with Tongan soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan.

If there is any year the Kingdom of Tonga would be justifiably excited about its telecomms story, 2013 is it. As one of the most remote island nations on the planet, the impending arrival of high-speed, fiber-optic broadband internet – made possible through the World Bank-supported Pacific Regional Connectivity Project, an 830km-long cable being connected between Fiji and Tonga – means that everyone is talking of hoko.

I spoke to a number of people about the experience with internet in Tonga and how broadband internet would affect their lives.

Welcoming mobile phones and internet to the Solomon Islands

Alison Ofotalau's picture
54 in every 100 Solomon Islander now
has access to some form of modern
telecommunication.

Recently my 10 year old son invited me to be friends with him on Facebook. “Hi mum I’m here too, can we be friends?” was the message I got. I was shocked and worried at the same time, and my initial reaction was fear of the perceived harm social media could do to a person as young as he.
 
We finally agreed that his father would have access to his Facebook account to monitor his online activities until he reaches 18. But the moment he gets or posts something inappropriate, the deal is off. That’s a fair deal, I told myself and interacting through social media could actually enrich my son’s life.
 
What I’m going through is also experienced by other families in the Solomon Islands. It started when mobile phone technology began revolutionizing the lives of ordinary Solomon Islanders in the last five years, when the telecommunications industry was opened for competition. Previously, only business executives and senior government officials owned or had access to mobile phones – a luxury only the rich and the influential would enjoy.

What does a video about a desert region of China have to do with Niger?

Tony Whitten's picture

A YouTube map that shows where people are when they view the videos. That the video might be of interest to a dry country like Niger – where herding of goats and other livestock is so important – is not so surprising.

A colleague of mine recently sent a link to a group of us showing some photos taken in Inner Mongolia, China, showing the land degradation being suffered there and its impacts.  One of the photos (#16) shows a twisted and broken tree trunk surrounded by sand on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. The caption says that the trees were “killed by the moving sands.” I have a different take on it.

The picture shows what is probably a Euphrates Poplar, and I would suggest that the trees were probably killed by its surface roots becoming roasted after herds of goats and other livestock ate the trees' fallen leaves. These leaves would normally act as a natural insulation layer and mulch, and over time quite a number of plants grow in the shade and protection.  With the trees steadily roasted, so the whole area degrades and the sand blows in.  You can see one of the World Bank’s senior agriculturalists, Rick Chisholm, explaining this in the first of my two YouTube videos on Lake Aibi in northwest, Xinjiang, China.  (Go straight to 8m 30s on the time line to see the specific segment).

China leads rapid growth of online audiences in Asia

James I Davison's picture

The online population in Asian and Pacific countries grew by 22 percent last year. China led the growth with an incredible 31 percent increase – to 220 million – in total unique Web visitors. These latest numbers of the region’s explosive Internet growth are according to a report, released last month by Internet researcher comScore, measuring online audiences in the region and individual countries between September 2008 and 2009.

The report indicates that Internet audiences in Japan, India and South Korea also saw double-digit growth and that the Asia-Pacific region now has 41 percent – or 441 million people – of the global Internet audience. It’s interesting to see how quickly things have changed since the last time we wrote about an earlier report from comScore.

If you want to examine more of the report’s findings you can see the related press release, or download a presentation on the subject here. (Note: To download the slides, you have to provide them with your name and some contact info.)

I’ve pointed before to World Bank evidence that shows the Internet may lead to improved economic growth, job creation and good governance. What else do you think such increased connectivity could mean for development in the region?

Showing vs. Telling: map shows half the world represented by 5 percent GDP

James I Davison's picture

It always seems to be the case that by simply writing or saying something, you can hardly get the same point across as by presenting it in a visual way. For example, it’s one thing to say, “three billion people (a little less than half the world’s population) comprise the bottom 5 percent of global GDP contributors.” But as the Strange Maps blog points out, it’s a little more eye-opening to show a map with those countries completely missing.

I’m not sure this map accomplishes much more than to illustrate a single interesting point – unlike the SHOW World animated maps we wrote about earlier this year or the popular WorldMapper Collection, both of which put several data sets in a visual format.

The map does, however, highlight the interesting fact that most of the countries represented are either in Southeast Asia or Africa. Check it out here.

Internet usage in China jumps to 338 million people, latest data show

James I Davison's picture

Internet usage in China continues to grow, and the latest figures released by the Chinese government’s Web research organization show that the total number of online users, at 338 million, surpasses the population of the United States. The impressive statistics – which reflect a 13.4 percent jump from 2008 – had a number of blogs and news sites buzzing late last week. The full report is available in Chinese here (pdf), and WSJ’s China Journal blog has a nice roundup of the findings in English here.

The growth in China – and the rest of East Asia and the world for that matter – is nothing new. Last year, we shared 2008 comScore statistics showing Asia’s internet audience growing faster than all other regions worldwide. And according to more recent information from comScore, the Asia-Pacific region has the highest global share of internet users, at 41 percent (although it’s important to note that the penetration rate of the region is only around 17 percent of the population – well below most other regions – according to this web stats site).

We’ve seen that increased connectivity through mobile phones and the internet may lead to improved economic growth, job creation and good governance, as well as other activities like mobile banking. And as more people, particularly in developing countries, get connected, this growth trend clearly seems to be a positive one.

Image credit: TimYang.net at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

An open discussion on improving access to development- and aid-related information: Friday, July 10

James I Davison's picture

A few months ago, the World Bank released a new programming interface (API) that allows for a new level of access to the institution’s data. It is just one example of how the World Bank and other organizations are relying on new technology and the internet to increase transparency and improve access to information and data.

On Friday at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., several organizations are hosting an open discussion on the topic of transparency and open access to information. The event, which is dubbed Open Development Camp, is also sponsored by AidInfo, Development Gateway, Forum One Communications, and USAID's Global Development Commons.

According to the event's webpage, spots are filled to attend the conference in person. But it only seems appropriate that anyone will be able to join the discussion through the this website or follow the conversation via Twitter through the #OpenDevCamp hashtag. Tune in starting around 9 a.m. (Washington, D.C. time).

(via Global Development Commons)

New web and mobile connectivity report: China, the Philippines lead region in IT jobs

James I Davison's picture
Students take a computer course at a private school in Cambodia.

A number of fascinating web-related findings came out of a World Bank report, released this week, which ties Internet and mobile phone access in developing countries to economic growth, job creation and good governance. Connectivity in the developing world seems to be better than ever. In developing countries worldwide, there are currently three billion mobile phone users, and the number of Internet users in developing countries increased by 10 times between 2000 and 2007.

In East Asian and Pacific countries, the number of Internet users (15 percent) was slightly above the developing-country average in 2007 (13 percent), but was still below the world average that year (22 percent). The connectivity and access to new information and communications technologies changes the way companies and governments do business, while bringing vital health, financial and other market information to people like never before.

While India is the clear leader in creating information technology-related jobs, China and the Philippines both stand out as benefiting by generating new job opportunities. And within the industry, the Philippines is also notable, because its IT services workforce is made up of 65 percent women, who hold more high-paying jobs than in most other sectors of the economy.

You can take your own look at the statistics compiled on each country, or create your own custom reports, from the IC4D Data & Methodology page.

You can also submit questions now for Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang, World Bank economist and editor of the report, for a live online chat on July 28 at 11 a.m. in Washington, D.C.

API allows new ways to access World Bank data

James I Davison's picture

Certain online circles have been buzzing about last week's quiet release of the World Bank's new open API, or application programming interface, which gives open access to vast amounts of the Bank's economic data that date back more than 50 years. The news was first announced by the third-party creator of the API, and has been widely discussed on other blogs and Twitter.

The goal of the API is to make it simpler for third-party programmers to create applications that make the World Bank's economic data globally accessible and easy to understand.

I'll leave the specifics of what an API is and how they work to the others, but a quick example is the thousands of games and other iPhone applications (advertised by Apple as "apps") that have been created from its API. Apple couldn't have developed so many apps on its own and instead made it easier for others to create them.

Other than the fact that the API was re-launched, this news won't mean much to non-computer programmers like me ... at least at first. That is, most of us won't be able to see the direct results of the API until programmers and developers start to create mashups, widgets and other applications that make it easy for the rest of us to access, understand and visualize the data.

New and innovative uses of the World Bank's valuable data will hopefully be an eventual result of the API. Irakli Nadareishvili, who was on the team that created the API for the Bank, writes on Phase2's blog, "What you can do with actual code and integration with other tools is probably only limited by imagination."

Wen Jiabao reaches out to China's online community in first live chat

James I Davison's picture

Despite concerns of the Chinese government about its recently recognized Internet Addiction Disorder, there is little doubt that the web is now part of life for the country's 298 million netizens, as well as an evident piece of the government's communications strategy.

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