Tuesday, July 25, 2006



Powerline technology has always seemed to promise much but never seem to quite come to the boil. But Goal Technology Solutions (known as GTS) has rolled out operational 30 meg connections in South Africa and is currently deploying in Uganda for UTL. And come October this year it will be trialling IP-TV. Russell Southwood spoke to its CEO Adrian Maguire about why it had succeeded where others have failed.GTS is a spin-off of the Power Line Communications division of Grintek Telecom. The GTS team worked for Grintek in this division for two years before setting up GTS in September 2004. Adrian Maguire, CEO, GTS is very honest about the early years:”The first two years we had relatively little success. We went through a number of suppliers who worked not quite well enough for commercial deployment and there were issues of cost.” But it is now the only integrator and value added reseller appointed by Mitsubishi Electric for the SADC region for its PLC technology. Maguire told us:”It’s DS2 technology but we’ve done quite a bit of local development. These are small tweaks to get reliability. And with that, it’s now gone over the curve of let’s see if it works.”It went live with its first application in November 2005 with 130 houses in Pretoria. According to Maguire:”We were trialling second generation powerline technology and it was our first large-scale trial. The customer (Tshwane Municipality) wanted 4-6 meg per home but we were able to deliver a 30 meg connection per house.” The company is focused on providing “last-mile” solutions.It has worked hard on the applications that can be delivered using the technology so that it does what it’s supposed to do. It has run voice and Internet, installed high-quality security cameras and deployed water meter reading devices. Maguire says:”The reliability is such that we don’t have to keep going back.” It will conduct its first IP-TV broadcast in October this year.It has two further roll-outs under way: one in Durban and the other in Uganda. Durban Municipality has given GTS two “real-world” pilots to cut their teeth on: a school and two houses on a street some distance the mini sub-station. The Uganda deployment for a number of UTL office buildings in Kampala. In addition it will be rolling out soon to a number of security estates in South Africa. It is also looking at other African countries including DRC and Rwanda.One of the key problems the technology had to solve was interference from local “noise”. According to Maguire:”Every time an electric tool or washing machine gets switched on, it generates noise. This newer technology waits for noise to reduce after the appliance’s motor starts. It samples the network 1500 times a second. Once the noise stabilises, we move the signal back again so it makes allowances for this kind of interference.”What about costs? The connection to the customer is made using the equivalent of an ADSL modem that delivers a connection of between 6-200 meg. The CPE and network for the user costs US$280 or US$321 with a built-in VoIP codec. Maguire is keen to stress that it’s not necessarily the cheapest technology “but it can deliver better quality and higher capacity.” Will prices come down?”Equipment prices have dropped 35% since the beginning of 2005 and will continue to drop as the technology gains wider acceptance.”Meanwhile Cactel Communications in collaboration with the University of Ghana, Legon, has launched a high speed broadband internet, telephony and wireless (wi-fi) communications pilot that harnesses the electricity distribution network to provide mile connectivity to the student and staff population at the main University campus, Legon.It has provided 16 users with Powerline Communications (PLC) access to these telecommunication services across three sites on the Legon Campus. The demonstration will run for 3 months. The PLC network which is based on the university’s existing electricity network has linked the International Students Hostel, the ICT Directorate and the Registry with a high-speed broadband network, telephony and multimedia services such as video on demand and remote video surveillance via CCTV.Cactel’s network also demonstrates the interoperability between PLC, Fibre and Wireless networks. Cactel has provided a PLC wi-fi hotspot in and around the ICT Directorate building available to anyone with a wireless-enabled laptop.Cactel’s PLC technology is based on the pioneering technology developed by DS2 of Spain, which provides up to 200mbps of data transfer along existing electricity infrastructure. Tecnocom, a global systems integration company, worked with Cactel in deploying this pilot project at the university.

Monday, July 24, 2006


The net neutrality debate

The Online Beat being a forum of journalists from different continents is not the only reason why the Net Neutrality debate should be of interest to us. Indeed, it is painfully clear that when the United States sneezes the rest of the world gets a cold.
In the least, if preferential treatment is to be meted out content emanating from well-heeled organisations, chances are that Internet traffic from countries in the global south will be at a disadvantage -- the fringes of the fringes. But it can also mean, for instance, that pecuniary considerations might not be the reason. It could be ideological; what then?
In fact, there are many more reasons why we need to join the debate. Many reasons why we should be on the side of those are fighting to "Save the Internet".

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


How does the Internet change Journalism?

Report about a Panel Discussion convened by the International Institute for Journalism (IIJ) and Media Insitute of Southern Africa (MISA) at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, Nov. 15th 2005.

By Remmy Nweke, Daily Champion, Lagos (Nigeria)

Internet with blogs, local portals, citizen journalism and easy-to-produce online-publications are posing threats to the ‘old’ media with unpredictable future.

Media as an agent of change would require public funding to survive in the next decades to come, says chief executive of Malaysiakini.com, Mr. Premesh Chandran.

Just as the motivator of the Highway Africa (HA) project at Rhodes University, Grahamstown-South Africa, Prof. Guy Berger, said that the initiative is not only interested in the coverage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), through its Highway Africa News Agency (HANA).

Mr. Chandran and Prof. Berger made their views known as panelists in a discussion by Inwent’s “International Institute for Journalism” (IIJ) in a session at the on-going second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS 2005) in Tunis.

Other members of the panel included a German political scientist, Ms Jeanette Hofmann, who works for the Social Science Research Center Berlin and the founder of the Grassroots Media Inc based in the United States (US), Mr. Dan Gillmor.

Speedy Internet is threatening

The Malaysian media chief said at the session tagged, “How does the Internet change journalism?” that the call has become pertinent due to the threat by the new media, pointing out that the Internet, for instance, has paved the way for both the old and new media to converge.

He noted that internet journalism, especially the ‘citizen journalism’, makes journalists to be responsible to their citizens. ‘Citizen journalism', according to Dan Gillmor, also means that more and more people are participating in the media without being trained journalists. “Everyone can publish nowadays”, Gillmor said, referring to the rapidly growing blogger-scene that even the traditional media cannot ignore anymore.

This is because reactions to online stories could come in minutes rather than taking days as in the case of traditional media. A specialist on a subject can produce an online-publication with his personal views and research in practically no time.

Gillmor also said at the event co-chaired by Luckson Chipare (from MISA, Media Institute of Southern Africa) and Werner Eggert (InWent), that journalism is increasingly becoming a public good, which is confusing, but added that modern journalism is a shared space. While there is still need for paid content and traditional media, also other forms of publishing, like weblogs, become more and more interesting.

“Journalists need to be creative in order to be part of the media in convergence,” he said. Therefore, he added, the media needs support to be able to deliver most of its expectations from the public.

Beyond ICT reporting

Prof. Guy Berger, on the other hand, said that the news-agency HANA, is beyond reporting on ICT and Information Society (IS), emphasizing that the use of information for development also counts in the organization’s priority.
Berger who was discussing the recent study of Highway Africa on African media coverage of ICT policies, lamented the anticipated absence of media in this area.

“African media websites are very weak, sometimes they are updated and some
times it takes weeks,” he declared. He stressed that journalists in the newsroom need to play catch-up to be able to compete with their colleagues in the coverage of international events, especially on ICT and information society. Prof. Berger summed up by saying that African media also need education, sensitization, access to the internet and skills.

Ms. Hofmann, said, Internet Governance requires cross national political solutions, even as Internet is the only media not controlled at the national levels. Her view is that the NOGs (non-governemental organizations) are getting more and more important, and this requires critical coverage as well.

“Imagined Communities”

She called for legitimacy and accountability in practicing the profession, saying that only then would journalists live up to the expectation as one of the bridges between the people and technology. “Journalists are those who would build on the Information Society,” she said, describing Information Society as “imagined communities”.

Mr. Gillmor in his contributions said that modern journalism should be based on the order of positive consciousness of individual practitioners.

He maintained that control over ‘citizen journalism’ otherwise known as bloggers has been generating heat and advocated that it be allowed to regulate itself, than government marshalling out regulations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


"I blog therefore I am"

says a young Iranian in Nasrin Alavis new book on Iranian bloggers, which is published by Soft Skull Press this month under the title: "We are Iran".

The book, a mixture of analysis and samples from Iranian blogs, shows how important citizen journalism is in an environment of omnipresent (govern)mental suppression. More than 65.000 young Iranians are keeping blogs as the last resort for freedom of speech.

A sample chapter can be downloaded at http://www.softskull.com/detailedbook.php?isbn=1-933368-05-5

The blogs give a good insight into thinking, hopes and fears of the well educated and well informed youth of Iran. For the westerners it gives also a more elaborated picture than US propaganda, which seems to know Iranians only as people burning the US flag.

Highly recommended, if you want to learn about the power of blogging and want to challenge your own prejudices towards Iran.


Friday, October 14, 2005


USA: newspapers under pressure - is the future of online journalism with Yahoo & Co?

US newspapers get increasingly under pressure through internet services. They are loosing ground in the market of classified advertisement, a substanital contributor to their revenue. Services like Ebay, Monster.com and Craigslist are dawing customers away. In Craigslist looking for ads is free and companies have to pay a moderate fair of 75 Dollars for placing job-ads. Publishers are alarmed by Google moving into this direction, too. Once Google offers a cross-portal research of classified ads from various sources, there won't be much reason left for customers to buy ad-space with a single newspaper.The pending crisis of US newspapers shows in increasing numbers of journalists being laied off. San Jose Mercury News recently fired 52 journalists, the New York Times cuts 500 jobs, 45 of them in the editorial department.Dan Gillmore, advocat of grasroot citizen journalism, gives his collegues from established newspapers the advice to switch to online media such as Yahoo: While traditional newspapers in the United States lay off journalists, Yahoo has been hiring.Yahoo recently hired a financial columnist. The hiring of the war-reporter Kevin Sites sparked critizism in the internet scene.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Open Source Manual 2005 out

A group of German editors issued the "Open Source Handbuch 2005" / "Open Source Annual" a collection of articles devoted to the technology, culture and economy of the open source movement. The Manual is mainly in German, but due to the huge demand, the group of editors set up a wiki for an international version.

As a good introduction to the culture of Open Source the OS-Manual 2005 contains the article »Open Source as Culture - Culture as Open Source« of Siva Vaidhyanathan can be downloaded as a PDF. (bg)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


New media, miles to go and go

There is a physical aspect of what we are trying to do here. We met for 11 glorious weeks in faraway Germany. There were 15 of us - strangers all soon to be great friends. There were two people who guided us through our road of discovery, Joachim and Werner, and, then there was, Fred Garland. Were there just three? No, there were three more educators: Carol, Rita and Sabine. Germans and Germany is closer to my heart thanks to these intelligent and involved ladies. Another lady that needs special mention is Andrea Tapper. We presume we write that wee bit better thanks to her. There are three important people who were always surprised with their knowledge about all the participants. They are: Werner Eggert, Sabine Emmerich and Melanie Maenz.
It is unfortunate that those in the background get mentioned last but definitely their contribution is the most important - the success of the programme depends on them. Ours was a successful one! Thanks to them.
Look at this blog! It is our collective desire to apply what we have learnt as journalists, as well as, after honing our skills at the International Insititute of Journalism, InWent.
What are the rules that will be enforced here? The commitment to be compassionate. A desire to learn from those who are served by journalism. A resolve to inform accurately and without prejudice.
These our secular homilies. That's the only way we can work. We, from nine different countries - one of us is always awake. Therefore, potentially capable of doing real service to our users. We will grow, in our own professional pursuits, in our personal lives and we will share it to the wider world, so that someday we will be more educated by educating.
That's the pledge. I speak for myself and hope the rest will endorse what's written here. Otherwise, substitute "I" for "we".
Along with my friend Kat, I hope to contribute to this blog on what is happening in India.
See you around.

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