Connect with us

NEWS

Google’s Project Loon brings internet by balloon to Kenya

Published

on

Project Loon

Google’s Project Loon brings internet-by-balloon to Kenya. A network of giant balloons will soon bring internet access to remote regions of rural Kenya.

Google’s sister-company Loon has announced its first commercial deal: partnering with Telkom Kenya to deliver connectivity to the region.

The firm’s antennae-dangling fleet will ride the wind high above parts of the African country.

But experts have warned that the partnership could lead to a communications monopoly.

Originally known as Project Loon, the technology behind the internet balloons was developed under parent company Alphabet’s experimental division, X.

Earlier this month, the business “graduated” to become a fully-fledged subsidiary in its own right: Loon.

As part of its first commercial agreement, Loon has pledged to bring internet access to some of Kenya’s most inaccessible regions.

The specific terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

“We will work very hard with Loon, to deliver the first commercial mobile service, as quickly as possible, using Project Loon’s balloon-powered Internet in Africa,” said Aldo Mareuse, chief executive of Telkom.

Project Loon’s balloons float high in the stratosphere, around 20km (12.4 miles) above sea level; a height the company says is out of range of air traffic, storms and wildlife.

The tennis-court-sized balloon is made from polyethene, filled with helium and powered by a solar panel.

The balloons are designed to stay aloft for months at a time and move by surfing wind channels, predicting speeds and directions so that they can navigate in the direction they need to travel.

Each balloon carries an antenna, which relays internet signals transmitted from the ground, extending coverage over an area of 5,000sq km.

In the case of this new partnership, Telkom Kenya will be providing the internet signals, and Loon will spread it over remote areas of Kenya.

At the mercy of Alphabet

“Connectivity in these rural locations is a big problem,” said Ken Banks, an expert in African connectivity, and head of the social impact at Yoti.

He explained that attempts to install a physical infrastructure in the region have been plagued with problems. The vast distances of the region mean that laying fibre cables or building an array of mobile masts is impractical.

“That only leaves the kinds of technology that Project Loon and other fully wireless solutions provider.”

Much of Kenya’s population of around 49 million people are catered for by mobile coverage, but enormous sections of the country are disconnected from internet providers.

Mr Banks said Loon could be transformational for these areas, but he also warned that many people were concerned about building a reliance on commercial, foreign technology for something as critical as connectivity.

“Once these networks are in place, and dependency has reached a critical level, users are at the mercy of changes in business strategy, pricing, terms and conditions and so on.

“This would perhaps be less of a problem if there’s more than one provider – you can simply switch network – but if Loon and Telkom have monopolies in these areas, that could be a ticking time bomb.”

Kaluka Wanjala, a Nairobi-based technology blogger, said that delivering connectivity to rural areas “will bring opportunities that we have seen the internet bring to other regions of Kenya”.

Nanjira Sambuli, advocacy manager for the World Wide Web Foundation, noted that the UN Broadband Commission’s target for internet affordability says 1GB of mobile data should cost no more than 2% of gross national income per capita.

In Africa, 1GB of data currently costs an average of 18% of monthly income.

“So, the partnership is a good step towards advancing connectivity,” she said. “However, it is imperative that this partnership not only achieves quality connectivity (4G) but also that it is affordable and meaningful.

“Hopefully the infrastructure will also incentivise private sector and the government alike to consider facilitating public access solutions.”
BBC

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

one × four =

BUSINESS

Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers

Published

on

Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

Continue Reading

NEWS

Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom

Published

on

Chinamasa

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

Continue Reading

HEALTH

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies

Published

on

Perrence-Shiri-Dead

Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perence Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Perence Shiri, who commanded the air force for 25 years until he joined the government in 2017, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, two government sources said. He died in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement. He did not say how Shiri died.

But domestic media said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

A liberation war veteran,Perrence Shiri had a chequered past. He commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, a Shona term meaning the ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Perence Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.Reuters

Continue Reading

Trending