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Google’s Project Loon brings internet by balloon to Kenya

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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

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HEALTH

Zororo Makamba laid to rest

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Zororo Makamba

The government has announced that Zororo Makamba, Zimbabwe’s first coronavirus casualty, has been buried, a day after his death at Harare’s Wilkins Hospital.

Information ministry permanent secretary, Nick Mangwana announced that Zororo, 30, was buried Tuesday.

“All protocols in handling departed loved ones who pass on from infectious conditions were followed,” he tweeted.

Zororo’s death has exposed the Zimbabwe government’s ill-preparedness in handling the coronavirus, with the family narrating how they had been frustrated each time they sought to have the media personality treated.

The family narrated how they had been forced to look for their own ventilator and that when they found it, Wilkins Hospital, which is the main referral centre for the coronavirus, said they did not have power sockets in the media personality’s room.

Efforts to get him to another centre were also frustrated.

Zororo Makamba, famed for his explainer video series, State of the Nation with Zororo, was the son of the politician and former broadcaster, James Makamba.

Zororo Makamba reportedly travelled to New York City in the United States of America and upon his return, he had cold-like symptoms.

At the time of his return, it was suspected that Zororo Makamba had a cold since he had travelled to the US in the middle of winter.

The government has announced a number of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has so far killed 17 250 globally and infected 396 200.

But so far, the Zimbabwe government has fallen short of instituting a lockdown.NewsDay

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NEWS

Pupurai Togarepi, Lewis Matutu and Godfrey Tsenengamu booted out

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Lewis Matutu

The Zanu PF Politburo yesterday removed secretary for Youth Affairs Cde Pupurai Togarepi from the post and suspended his deputy Cde Lewis Matutu and secretary for the Commissariat Cde Godfrey Tsenengamu for a year for indiscipline.

Cde Togarepi will, however, remain a Central Committee member, while Cdes Matutu and Tsenengamu will revert to being ordinary card-carrying members.

Cdes Matutu and Tsenengamu will be required to undergo rigorous training at the Chitepo School of Ideology for three months.

The Youth League secretary for Administration Cde Tendai Chirau becomes the wing’s acting deputy secretary.

Acting secretary for Information and Publicity Cde Patrick Chinamasa said the Politburo unanimously decided that indiscipline within the party should not be tolerated.

He said: “Cde Togarepi, who was serving as the secretary for Youth League at the pleasure of the First Secretary of the party, President E.D. Mnangagwa, will with immediate effect, cease to be the secretary of the Youth League.

“As such, he is no longer a member of the Politburo, but he retains his position as Central Committee member, as you all know, he serves in the Politburo at the pleasure of the President of our party and in this case, Cde Togarepi has been relieved from this position.

“Cde Matutu and Cde Tsenengamu have been immediately removed from their positions as deputy secretary for Youth League and Political Commissar, respectively, and this will be for a period of 12 months.

“This means they will be ordinary card-carrying members of the party and after 12 months, they will be eligible to stand in any elections to any position within the party.”

Cde Patrick Chinamasa told journalists after the 336th Ordinary Session of the Politburo yesterday, the first meeting in 2020, that the Politburo discussed at length issues around a Press conference held by Cdes Matutu and Tsenengamu, purportedly in their personal capacities.

During the briefing, the pair accused three prominent businessmen of corruption but did not give incontrovertible evidence implicating the trio.

“The Politburo took note of this irregular modus operandi which is alien to the party’s way of doing its business,” said Cde Chinamasa.

“It is also important to highlight that previously it happened and the Politburo deliberated and specifically gave a directive that the youth if they have any problems which are of significance to them, they should raise them in a proper forum.”

Cde Chinamasa said Zanu PF did not tolerate corruption in whatever form, by whomsoever.

He said anyone with information implicating anyone in corruption should approach the police so that the law takes its course.

“It is important, of course, to say and emphasise that the party does not condone corruption and as you are well aware, that it has set up structures both within the party and at Government level of which these can be approached,” said Cde Chinamasa.

“We basically invite and encourage our general membership that if they are witnesses and have evidence of any corruption against whomsoever, to raise these issues with the relevant authorities, in this case, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and where they think it’s pertaining to senior party members, they should bring them to the party.

“Unfortunately, there has not been any evidence that has been brought to ZACC pertaining to any previous allegations and I am sure that even now, we will probably find out that the claims or allegations are unsubstantiated.

“So, in light of these developments, we felt that the departure from the violation of the directive the Politburo called for, was an act of indiscipline and that it called for severe punishment.”
The Herald

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BUSINESS

Two killed, 20 feared dead in Globe and Phoenix Mine in Kwekwe collapse

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Globe and Phoenix Mine

Two miners died and two others were injured, while more than 20 others are feared trapped underground after a tunnel at Globe and Phoenix Mine in Kwekwe collapsed yesterday.

By the time of going to print, the actual number of trapped illegal miners was not clear, but indications were that about 25 miners were underground at the time of disaster.

Chief Government Mining Engineer Michael Munodawafa, confirmed the accident, yesterday.

He said rescue efforts were ongoing.

Eng Munodafawa said mining inspectors were still trying to gain entry into the collapsed shaft through other channels.

“We can confirm that two artisanal miners died while two others were injured and taken to hospital, after a mine shaft they were working under collapsed,” he said.

“We are still to get more causalities but there is a possibility that those who are said to be missing could have found their way out through other entrances and exit points.

“We are not ruling out the fact that there could be scores others missing, but they could as well have managed to escape; we will give a final update once the operation is over.”

Various groups operating at the mine were trying to account for each other with unconfirmed reports saying at least 20 were still unaccounted for.

It also emerged yesterday that Globe and Phoenix Mine ceased operations in 2007 following an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which showed the shafts, most of which were right underneath Kwekwe central business district (CBD) were posing danger to the city.

Kwekwe District Administrator Mr Fortune Mupungu, who is also the District Civil Protection Unit chairperson, said scores of artisanal miners were operating at the mine illegally.

Some of the artisanal miners were evicted from Gaika Mine.

“We received the sad news that several miners were trapped underground following the collapse of a shaft this morning (yesterday).

“A team which went underground to assess the situation only found two bodies,” said Mr Mupungu.

Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Ms Henrietta Rushwaya could not be reached for comment last night as her mobile phone was unreachable.

Police only arrived around 3 pm while officials from the Mines and Mining Development Ministry arrived at 4:30 pm.

The police were assisted by some artisanal miners to retrieve the bodies from the shaft, before loading them into their van and left.

It was a tense atmosphere with some self-styled security personnel at the scene threatening to beat anyone who dared to take photos.

Some of the artisanal miners who had gathered outside the mine were ordered to leave.

“We don’t want any pictures taken from here. Those who came out of the shafts, please go home. We have stopped operations here. We only want to see relatives of those missing, everyone let’s go,” said one of the security people.

Eyewitnesses said the two miners, whose bodies were retrieved, were crushed by a boulder which fell off the collapsing shaft.

“The two were at the entrance of the shaft so there is a boulder which fell on them as the shaft collapsed, they were cut into halves but we don’t know what became of their colleagues who were inside the shaft, about 20 of them,” said an artisanal miner, Mr Mthokozisi Moyo.

Mr Moyo said the shaft where their colleagues were trapped was over 8km long.

“From outside up to the entrance of the shaft which collapsed, we need to walk for about 4km while underground, but the shaft itself is over 8km,” he said.
The Herald

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