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The government, in partnership with some leading multi-national technology companies and non-governmental organisations, will in the next two years role out a computer-based teaching programme in public schools to help bridge the shortfall of 85,000 teachers.

Titled Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow, the initiative is intended to supplement the long-term government recruitment of teachers to curb the huge shortage of the personnel in primary and secondary schools.

The partners to work on the project with the Tanzanian Government through the Ministry of Education are the world’s leading high technology companies, Accenture, Intel, Microsoft and Cisco. Read More
Other partners include the NGOs NetHope, Plan International, Amref, and World Vision.In the past five years alone, the government has put up 34 new teacher training colleges, adding to the previous 22, while the private sector has established another 44 colleges in the past four years.

Speaking to The Citizen during a tour by the World Economic Forum (WEF) delegates of Mbezi e-learning demonstration centre, on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, project coordinator Jessica Long said the programme would cover over 4,000 secondary schools with over 1.5 million students.

The Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow project aims at using ICT to enable a single teacher to simultaneously run several classes by relaying a lesson by computer.

“A teacher can be based in Dar es Salaam but be able to reach several classrooms, which are connected to the national electricity grid and the Internet across the country,” said Ms Long.

The connectivity would enable remote learning and increased collaboration among students and teachers.

Schools, which are off the electricity grid and not connected to the Internet, she said, would first have to be provided with a local source of power such as solar or wind, to be able to become part of and fully benefit from the initiative.

Ms Long said that by June, the project would involve six schools in a pilot study that would last for three months.

Explaining the current situation in secondary schools, Mr Trey Long, also of the Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow project management team, said though over 300 secondary schools had been built by communities to supplement government efforts, a shortfall of over 25,000 teachers had been created.

Mr Long said that as a consequence of this shortcoming, only 30 per cent of the students enrolled in secondary schools managed to pass their exams.

The high failure rate was also attributed to a shortage of learning materials, which limited students’ opportunities.

“Up to 20 students share a textbook and reference books in some schools. Labs, teaching and learning aids are extremely in short supply, while the curriculum was last updated in 2005,” a document issued by the Ministry of Education on Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow initiative says in part.

Another factor that leads to massive failure is overcrowded classrooms, which create a challenging teaching environment.

“The average student to classroom ratio is 60, but ratios of up to 100 students per classroom are common in the country. In this kind of situation interactive learning and individual attention from teachers is impossible due to class sizes,” the document adds.

Speaking to The Citizen after the tour, a Zanzibari politician, Dr Gharib Bilal, said the initiative was the best way to ensure that secondary school students have teachers at all times.

“This technology will also enable students of a similar grade in the rural areas to have similar competitiveness with those from the towns, as a teacher can be based in Dar es Salaam but be able to deliver the same lecture to students in Dodoma and elsewhere,” said Dr Bilal.

The programme is intended to transform the current traditional model where teachers use limited or outdated materials to the use of digitised content and interactive and self-paced learning through information technology.

The project will also eliminate the situation where teachers must cover multiple courses in overcrowded classrooms.

The Minister for Education, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, said the project was aimed at improving learning to eventually create more employment opportunities for the youth of Tanzania.

“It also aims at complementing teacher training with innovative use of technology to improve access to quality education,” the minister added.

Meanwhile, Africa has been advised to embrace and increase the use of information and communication technology “because that is where the continent’s bright future lies”.

Speaking during the second day of the WEF at the Mlimani City Conference Centre, five panelists said the use of ICT would help to transform a number of sectors in Africa.

Stressing the importance of ICT in development, one of the panelists, Mr Dietlof Mare, who is the Vodacom Tanzania Limited managing director, called for the prices of mobile communication gadgets to be lowered.

“The challenge in scaling up the use of mobile devices does not lie in the tariffs, as many people might think. The challenge lies in the cost of the devices,” Mr Mare said.

For his part, Mr Ajai Chowdhry, the founder, CEO and chairman of India’s HCL Infosystems, said ICT, in terms of Internet broadband, was directly linked to a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“The poor are still poor because they pack information, which can be distributed easily through ICT, which has the potential to transform virtually all sectors,” he added.

“Why don’t we make access to information a fundamental right of everybody? France has done it. Give people information and they can do he rest themselves,” he concluded.

For the first time in the history of the Internet, non-Latin characters are being used for top-level domains,
the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said in an online message.
As Chinese and Thai expect their non-latin top-level domain script be approved, Arabic has now become the first non-Latin script to be used as an Internet domain name.

The new top-level domains in arabic are designated for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Read More According to Kim Davies of ICANN in a blog post said, "All three are Arabic script domains, and will enable domain names written fully right-to-leff".
So far, Egypt claimed the first non-Latin script Website in a new ".Masr" domain.

ICANN said "Arabic is among the most highly used languages on the Internet today". Users in the (Middle East) will now have easier access to the Internet, with the ability to use their primary language for the entire domain name.

It is up to countries with new top-level domains to launch them in ways that give people day-to-day use, according to Davies.

It is up to countries with new top-level domains to launch them in ways that give people day-to-day use, according to Davies.

Languages with native domain script names in the final stages of the approval process include Chinese, Sinhalese, Tamil and Thai, according to ICANN.

A request by the China Internet Network Information Center for domain names in simplified and traditional Chinese was listed among the non-Latin script address applications that are well along a "fast track" to approval.

Hong Kong and Taiwan were in the queue for top-level domain names in local script, as were Sri Lanka, the Russian Federation, and several other Arab countries.

"The fast track process is working really well for many countries," ICANN's Tina Dam said on Thursday in an online message.

"We are very much looking forward to seeing how the market will adopt and use these (new non-Latin domain names)."

Google has acquired Bump Technologies, the maker of a 3D desktop called BumpTop, Bump announced Sunday.

"Today, we have a big announcement to make: we're excited to announce that we've been acquired by Google!," a note posted to the company's Web site said. "This means that BumpTop (for both Windows and Mac) will no longer be available for sale. Additionally, no updates to the products are planned." Read More Financial details were not disclosed, but the company said it would keep its software available for download for one week. A Google representative confirmed the acquisition but declined to discuss specifics of the deal.

BumpTop debuted in April 2009, three years after a video demo of the freeware replacement desktop captivated YouTube viewers. The software, which runs on top of Windows and Mac OS X, allows files to be thrown into loose piles, tidied into neat stacks, or fanned out like a deck of cards.
Source: CNET News

MAIN One, a Nigerian-owned undersea cable project, has signed an agreement with Seacom and local group eFive Telecoms to build a 400m telecommunications fibreoptic cable “ring” from SA to Nigeria.

With Main One’s fibre ring, bandwidth prices are expected to fall further given increased levels of competition.

The new fibre ring cable will add to the objectives of other undersea cables such as Seacom and West Africa Cable Systems to remove the international infrastructure bottleneck in Africa. Read More Main One runs from Nigeria to London, while Seacom is concentrated on east Africa by linking the region with Europe and India.

The west African region has relied on Telkom ’s Sat3 undersea cable for connection to the rest of the world.

Main One CEO Funke Opeke said Main One’s first phase, a 7000km cable from Nigeria to London, would be launched in June. “We believe that the proposed partnership with Seacom and eFive telecoms is the best way forward,” he said.

The second phase, through a partnership with eFive Telecoms and Seacom, was expected to be completed in 2012.

Lawrence Mulaudzi, eFive Telecoms MD, said despite the global economic markets, “we are confident that there is sufficient appetite to fund quality projects in high- growth sectors such as African telecommunications”.

EFive Telecoms will partner with Nova Capital Africa, an investment banking group, to raise the 400m needed for the construction of the cable.

Seacom CEO Brian Herlihy said a system circling the entire continent was the best way to attain adequate redundancy while offering customers a comprehensive telecommunications connectivity solution.

“The (agreement) shows the determination to find a viable way to extend our system with partners who share our vision for the development of ICT (information and communication technology) on the continent,” he said.

Mulaudzi said the new cable would offer an open access system to customers.

Arthur Goldstuck, MD of research firm World Wide Worx, said Main One would boost competition in the region and provide back-up in the event of a technical failure by another cable.

He said the fibre ring would also enhance communications for South African companies operating in Nigeria, such as the MTN Group .

“Fibre explosion across Africa is going to result in dramatically enhanced communications such as video conferencing, which is a superb solution to the difficulties of travelling in Africa.”

Goldstuck said more fibreoptic network on the continent would push bandwidth prices down, as with the launch of Seacom last year.

Google announced Tuesday that it has acquired Tel Aviv-based startup, Labpixies. No price was announced, but some estimate the acquisition may have cost Google a cool $25 million.

The Google-Labpixies partnership goes back to 2005, when Labpixies was one of the first developers to create web widgets for Google's personalized homepage service, iGoogle. Google and Labpixies also worked together on a number of other OpenSocial based gadgets.

Labpixies creates web and mobile applications for OpenSocial, which runs on a number of platforms, including the iPhone, Android, Orkut, MySpace, Hi5, and My Yahoo. The company also creates web applications for the Facebook platform. Read More
Labpixies is known for its colorful game apps, including Flood-It! Pro, Line-Up 2, and Trio Pro. It also offers a number of utility apps, such as My Stock Portfolio, Weather Bug, Travelocity, and LabPixies Mini Clock.

According to both the Google and Labpixies blogs, there will be no immediate changes to Labpixies. The team will continue to work out of the Labpixies Tel Aviv office.

The Labpixies deal marks Google's eighth acquisition of the year--Google has been more than living up to its promise to buy one small company per month. Earlier this year, Google acquired Microsoft Word online component DocVerse, photo-editing site Picnik, email app maker reMail, social search company Aardvark, video service Episodic, visual search engine Plink, and chip-maker Agnilux.