I’m in Silicon Valley this week, the heart of tech innovation as we know it today. It is quite the trip to get here but almost all of the technology related innovations since the 1990’s stem from this place. If you think about it, this place is responsible for constantly blurring the lines between our phones and computers. Everyday items that we feel like we can’t live without today were ideas birthed and brought to life here. Fair to say that this place is filed with open minded people ready to come up with unorthodox solutions for challenges affecting the World. And although it takes more than 16 hours to get here, it feels like it takes half that time for technology from here to travel back home.
What happens in Silicon Valley has ripple effects around the world. In the same light, what happens around the world shapes what happens in Silicon Valley. Just this morning I read that the Liberian government outsourced its entire education program to a company based here. Yes, that happened! The Liberian government whose education system is struggling, felt it would be a better alternative to leave that sector to a private company, from designing the curriculum to teaching the students. I am not sure that absolutely handing over the power to shape the minds of the future generation should be left to a private for- Profit Company. Nonetheless, the innovative methods and softwares currently available to provide education is quite impressive. It all relies on software that allows the students to guide themselves through learning. Students can use handheld devices and/or computers to access the software and get on with an interactive learning tool. I had the opportunity to visit CK-12, a company that develops STEM focused educational software for free.
Of course there are basic issues that need to be addressed if these tools are to be accessed by Africans, such as securing tablets/ computers for the students and most importantly securing reliable internet and electricity to charge and/or use the devices. I’m certain the solution to these challenges is already in the works.
I also read another news article that reminded me of the interconnectedness of these two world, Silicon Valley and Africa.There’s an ongoing case regarding a domain name regarding the African continent. Domain names are what come after the name of a website, e.g. the web address of The Reporter newspaper is www.thereporterethiopia.com , making the domain “.com”. The domain name in dispute in this case is “.africa”.
Domain names are sold to users by registered sellers (companies) that have to be registered and recognized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers better known as ICANN. It is a nonprofit company that is responsible for a few matters including the coordination of Domain Name System (DNS), often referred to as “the phone book of the Internet”. Recently ICANN put up an auction for new domain names because it noticed that many of the shortest and most memorable addresses that ended in “.com,” “.org” and “.net” were taken. “.africa” was not part of the list of domains for auction because ICANN has a special requirement for domains related to geographic locations. And this requirement is the cause of the disagreement.
Two companies submitted their applications to manage “.africa” and the requirement mentioned above has created a dispute over which of the rival registries is better suited to manage the domain. The two companies are Dotconnectafrica, a charitable trust based in Kenya, and ZA central registry, a nonprofit based in South Africa.
In order to allocate a domain name related to a region, ICANN requires that applicants for a geographic domain demonstrate support from 60 percent of national government. Both companies submitted that they had the backing of the African Union. However the matter still remains to be finally settled. Either way, it will be very exciting to have our continent’s name as a domain.