Tag Results for Kenya (9)

  1. Out of Africa: Black Power!

    Last Wednesday evening, I dined in a fashionable Nairobi restaurant with three recent graduates from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Big brains, these three young men have chosen to pursue a distinctly unusual set of inventive possibilities. They are seeking to design, engineer and implement new sources of energy for people in the developing world living "off the grid." Step back a moment. For generations, the "grid" referred to the national electricity grid, the cornerstone of all power-generating activities in a given country. Throughout Africa and Asia, national grids are now straining to generate sufficient electricity to …

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  2. Out of Africa: Cooking with Human Waste

    The shanty towns of Africa's great cities are incubators for material innovations that easily escape the ambitions of people living in wealthier surroundings. In Nairobi's Kibera slum, the latest sensation is a "bio-latrine" that converts human waste into energy that produces gas for lighting and domestic cooking. The technology behind the bio-latrine was developed by the governments of Kenya and France. Under a project supported by the United Nation's Habitat agency, about 20 bio-latrines that convert waste into gas will be installed in four areas of Kibera. The bio-latrine consists of a shallow pit latrine, a "bio-digester" that …

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  3. Out of Africa: Ingenuity from a Nairobi social network

    Nairobi, one of Africa's most dynamic cities, hosted an unusual conference last Saturday -- an unlikely gathering of Afro-geeks: programmers, systems builders, youthful techie dreamers, and mobile-phone enthusiasts. Nairobi is home to Africa's most celebrated mobile company, Safaricom -- and millions of mobile-phone users. That alone creates a giant East African test-bed for all sorts of experiments in new applications. These experiments have to come from somewhere -- and that's mainly Europe and the U.S. But more than half of Nairobi's residents are under the age of 25, and increasingly the techie slice of these youth is getting …

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  4. Out of Africa: microhydro lights rural Kenya

    The big problems with national electricity grids in Africa get a lot of attention, but for most Africans who live in rural areas -- of the grid -- the only hope to get electricity at all is to do it themselves. I've long been a promoter of the idea that home-grown electricity systems based on tiny dams and so-called "micro-hydro" systems can provide a lot of relief for poor or marginalized African peasants. There is hardly a bandwagon behind inexpensive micro-hydro electricity systems, even though tens of thousands of them could be installed easily in such water-rich and …

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  5. Out of Africa: Safaricom's large profits co-evolve with African broadband gap

    For anyone who still thinks that poverty alone holds back the growth of telecommunications in sub-Saharan Africa isn't reading the financial results from Safaricom, a Kenyan mobile-phone operator that is controlled by Vodaphone, the giant British mobile conglomerate. As recently as 2000, Safaricom was a struggling phone company in East Africa, with just 20,000 customers. Eight years later, the Nairobi-based Safaricom now has 10 million customers. More impressive, Safaricom earned a whopping $223 million in its financial year ending in March, 2008. Communications networks are key to technological and economic development. Safaricom, as a new article from The Economist …

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  6. Out of Africa: Will Google solve Africa's worst tech-market failure?

    Since electronic mail arrived in sub-Saharan Africa, a strange process unfolds every time one African writes to another African -- even when both are in the same continent. The mail zooms out of Africa, either by an undersea cable or a satellite link, stops briefly at a computer server in Europe (or very rarely the U.S.) and then bounces back to its destination in Africa. Weirdly, even if two people in, say, Accra, are emailing each other, the messages go first to Europe and then back to Ghana. To call the process a form of "digital neo-colonialism" doesn't explain why …

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