Malili Kenya's High-Tech Metropolis

Close your eyes and imagine a city built for technology. It is a city that will help spur economic development for an entire region, and serves as a exemplar for tourism, manufacturing, IT, and financial service companies. There’s ample mass transit, fiber optic speeds for data, partnerships with academic institutions and real estate developers, and is located near other large cities and airports. Sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, doesn’t it? Well by 2030, this will be a reality in Africa.
This is Malihi

Malili is a proposed 5,000 acre “technopolis” located 60km near Nairobi, Kenya. The city will create a regional brand for telecommunications, as well as grow the country’s IT contribution to their GDP. Malili will include a convention center, hotels, shopping facilities, academic institutions, health facilities, and more, according to Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in The Ministry for Information and Communications. Since his appointment, Ndemo has been concerned with the spirit of entrepreneurship in the region. Malili will follow similar “smart villages” created in Malaysia (Putrajaya) and China (Shenzhen). Smart Village Cairo, another comparison model, has 120 companies and 20,000 local and expatriate technology professionals in their city, and expects to expand more by 2011.
According to WhiteAfrican.com, Malili is a large government project that also has private sector participation – a combination which has not had the best track record for completed projects. This is an extremely ambitions move on the Kenyan government’s part. Time will tell whether or not this will fully come to fruition, but this is a great project for the country and the continent.

Rebuilding Haiti: Lessons from Katrina

While comparisons of the devastation in Haiti to New Orleans may seem obvious at this point, serious reflection is still needed. As the world mobilizes to help reconstruct Haiti, we must analyze carefully how today’s actions will impact the long-term survival of Haitian institutions, its future growth and its ultimate positioning on the world stage.

With world attention focused on them now, Haitians may have only one chance to rebuild sensibly. -J. Phil Thompson MIT's Urban Studies and Planning Department

This country, already on the brink of disaster even before the quake, is vulnerable to more earthquakes and potential disasters.

From MIT’s New Orleans experience, where students and faculty worked with community groups, the city and labor unions in a myriad of projects, we learned a few lessons that should apply to Haiti:
  • Well-meaning outsiders cannot be allowed to strip the country of its local capacity or ignore local knowledge.
  • Local assets must be preserved, and
  • Paternalistic foreign donor attitudes are best left at home.
Many responding to the Katrina crisis were determined to work “on” New Orleans rather than to work “for” New Orleans.

To avoid this in Haiti, we must look closely at the motivation of aid efforts and those who fund them.

Let’s start with attitudes. Following Katrina, some public commentary suggested that poor neighborhoods in New Orleans were not worth restoring, and that poor blacks in the city were culturally dysfunctional and better off dispersed elsewhere.

There is a close parallel to Haiti. New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote last Friday that, “Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences.” Brooks does not mention the role of U.S. trade policy in decimating Haiti’s once prosperous agricultural economy. He does not mention that foreign aid from rich countries to poorer countries goes largely to foreign-based NGO intermediaries rather than to strengthening domestic institutions. Nor does he examine Haiti’s complex relationship to its neighbors, or consider the stark racial discrimination Haitians face in business, employment and education.

Haitians don’t lack drive, ideas or high expectations of progress. They lack partners willing and capable of investing in their country’s considerable indigenous capacity.

So what is a program for success, given that outside aid is essential to Haiti’s recovery?

Strengthen the Capacity of Government: The government of New Orleans was in worse shape than the levees before the Katrina disaster. City government was simply unable to lead the recovery effort. To avoid this problem, the Haitian government has requested an immediate investment in its basic infrastructure. This may be an unpopular move given the immediate needs in the streets, but quickly building this capacity, and making outside support accountable to a national authority, is key to long-term success.

Build Civic Capacity from the Neighborhoods Up: The most successful rebuilding in New Orleans occurred almost entirely at neighborhood levels. This will likely be true in Haiti, too. It takes a great deal of face-to-face coordination and staging to distribute aid effectively and to rebuild communities. Helping residents organize and plan at neighborhood levels is as important as helping government coordinate at the national level. Existing community leaders—who know their neighbors and understand their concerns—will be essential partners with outside funders.

Prohibit Elite Land Grabs: Immediately following Katrina, a group of developers proposed turning the Lower Ninth Ward into a golf course. Another proposal was to tear down public housing projects to make room for “high-end” residences or businesses. Following the tsunami in Asia, there were similar proposals to confiscate land from fishing communities to build luxury hotels. Such hasty attempts at land-grabbing, promoted in the name of recovery, must be resisted.

Rethink Infrastructure; Make Use of 21st-Century Technology: Just as cell phone technology replaces the need to string telephone wires in a reconstructed Haiti, it is not necessary for Haiti to replicate 19th-century building methods. This means looking beyond the established infrastructure contractors to rebuild homes and buildings. Instead look to Haitian social entrepreneurs, universities and regional development banks for the latest technologies that can be scaled up rapidly. The innovative use of the Internet, mobile phone and satellite technology in coordinating relief efforts points to possible opportunities. With 1.5 million people now homeless in Haiti, let’s apply the same type of ingenuous use of technology to plan physical infrastructure very differently.
At MIT, two labs are working on user-designed, low-cost housing. Others are working on small-scale decentralized water and sanitation, solid waste management, and household energy technologies suitable for poorer countries. In its rebuilding, Haiti must access the most modern technologies available and cannot sit around waiting for the big contractors to arrive.

Establish Innovative Financing Mechanisms So Haitians Can Invest: Nearly $2 billion in remittances flow into Haiti annually; 31 percent of Haitians receive remittances regularly, primarily from the United States. Through collaboration with a financial intermediary, a “Haitian social investment fund” should be created to channel remittance flows into innovative businesses working in housing, health and life insurance, to name a few. There are also new technologies entering the market (such as Prosper and Kiva) that enable Haitian workers to easily make small loans to each other. Such innovative technologies democratize finance, making it easy and safe for Haitians across the globe to invest in rebuilding their country; investments that can quickly accumulate in scale.

New partnerships: Many Haitians in the United States are churchgoers. Their churches will play an active role in Haiti’s relief and recovery. But labor unions, not often thought of as partners in global development, can also be engaged.We saw a glimpse of how labor unions can further development in New Orleans following Katrina. The AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corp. financed a manufactured housing plant and created a job training facility in the city. Tens of thousands of U.S. labor union members are of Haitian heritage; their leadership is crucial to Haiti’s reconstruction.

Haiti Rewired

How to Connect Port-au-Prince with a Wireless Network

How to deploy long-distance WiFi links in Haiti

Inveneo has created a methodology for deploying long-distance wireless networks from our many years of work in Africa. So while Port-au-Prince presents it own set of logistical and communication challenges, we were able to install and manage a high-functioning network relatively quickly using these basic steps:

1. WiFi Network Design - make sure your nodes are visible to each other and pointing at the right location
2. Location Capacity Survey - confirming the location can support a network node
3. WiFi Hub Antenna Pointing - aiming the dish for the highest signal strength
4. Installation Trip Preparation - determining what you'll need before your 30ft up a tower
5. Node Antenna Setup - aiming and connecting the antenna
6. Disseminating Internet Access - networking locally for end-user access
7. Network Management - making sure everyone has equal access to bandwidth

If you've read this far, you'll want to read the full How to Deploy Long-Distance WiFi in Haiti primer and how we and our Certified ICT Partners can bring Internet access to rural and underserved communities in the developing world.


Four predictions for networking in 2010

The IEEE committee has been working on two new standards expected to finalize in 2010 that I predict will force a similar change in our networking environment: IEEE 802.az and IEEE 802.3at. Under IEEE 802.az, an Ethernet link can sit in an idle state and turn itself on only when data needs to be transmitted -- rather than consume power without reason. Research from Berkeley National Laboratory reported using 1 Gb Ethernet cables capable of supporting the new standard would cut US energy bills alone by up to $250 million a year. Also, the IEEE 802.at standard will allow an increase in the amount of power that can be transmitted over Ethernet cables from 15.5 W to 25.5 W! This will allow a whole new class of products to be powered over standard Ethernet cables, for example wireless access points, desktop devices, etc.

Routing and switching
The most important routing and switching trend IT networking pros should ask about in 2010 is "How can I find the ways and means to provide unified physical infrastructure for my enterprise networks?" Routing a unified network infrastructure for your business will require you to provide transport for data, voice, and video over wired and wireless networks. IT professionals should also plan to have enough space for newer applications like RFID, physical security and intelligent building management systems. Another question that will pose a challenge to network designers and architects will be "How will I green networks and datacenters while keeping service levels the same?"

Cisco certification
"What is going on with Cisco's Security and Voice tracks?" is a question I predict IT networking pros will ask in 2010. They made some interesting changes to Cisco certifications in 2009, like their new Cisco Certified Architect program, and CCNA Voice and CCIE certifications. I hear Cisco is going to make some more radical changes again this year.
As another 2010 prediction, I suspect IT networking pros will ask about Cisco's new policy with Pearson VUE that requires Cisco certification candidates to take a picture when doing the exam. It might not be widely known yet, but I sure had my questions when I heard that!

Network project management
The most important question to ask in 2010 concerning network project management is "What will this do to other budgets or IT teams in the network?" Too often companies have made poor decisions based around a single product because it is the new "cool toy" on the block. Often these decisions have a very negative impact on other specialties that may or may not be involved in a particular project. It is really time for companies to stop letting the tail wag the dog when it comes to networking decisions.
A second 2010 prediction is that network project managers will ask "How much power am I using and how much do I really need?"