Text 29 Aug When a link is only a river away. Being Interconnected in Africa


One of the major obstacles of hosting is the requirements by governments that investors must set up companies in each country they want to offer services. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville have been unable to cross connect and share infrastructure, yet the capital cities are separated by a river


I should have gone to this meeting, and it was in Dakar, Senegal! But at least they have the webcasts. http://www.internetsociety.org/afpif-2014/webcast

Photo 25 Aug This is how we fixed a laptop in the field, with GoToAssist, Skype, and Clonezilla, TuxBoot, and Rufus.

This is how we fixed a laptop in the field, with GoToAssist, Skype, and Clonezilla, TuxBoot, and Rufus.

Video 11 Aug 7 notes

This is the computer lab I built in Malawi, Africa. The school is called BeeHive, this is their website. http://www.beehiveschool.com/  

In the video you see Niall, the school’s head teacher (Principal/Headmaster) opening the door and showing off what we built together. 

In the coming weeks I’ll be preparing a technical presentation to submit to local Education and Open Source software groups to speak at. Some technical notes.

The Hardware:

  • HP Chromebook 14 (Model: FALCO)
  • Raspberry Pi w/ 64GB SD Card
  • Buffalo Wifi Access Point & Router

The Software:

  • Edubuntu with custom packages on the Chromebooks
  • Project RACHEL on the Raspberry Pi to provide local Wikipedia & Educational Content
  • DD-WRT on the Access Point to finely control radios, and network bandwidth


  • How to provide a high quality experience?
  • How to keep the projects affordable?
  • How do we move that many laptops?
  • How can this project be sustainable?
  • What is the best way to expose grade school children to this level of technolgy?
  • How to we protect from theft?
  • How do we ration bandwidth when it costs from $12.50 to $4.50/gigabyte ?

I’d love to do this more in the future. I find volunteer work very fulfilling and enriching. The complex and challenging circumstances help me keep my mind sharp.  For example, how do you fix something when you have no internet.  Answer, it is very hard as you would have had to anticipate and mitigate that kind of problem before it happens.

This and more will be in my future presentation.  Also coming soon is a small fundraiser to support my first volunteer project, Olancho Aid in Honduras. Keep an eye out for that.


Link 4 Aug 2014 Survey The Cost of Consumer Bandwidth»

I’m just looking to get some data on the cost of consumer bandwidth globally.  If people could fill this out that would be fantastic. 

I’m going to cross reference this dataset with per-country economic data, and internet connectivity routes.

Hope to publish some results of this in the coming six months.

Text 4 Aug Brain Drain in Africa and Malawi: A Solution

I just realized something this morning, the “Dead Sea” aka “Brain Drain” effect is very real here in Africa.  It was mentioned in an email converstation that while education is good many people dont have a use for it after completion of University.  They put this energy into learning, and improving themselves, but in the end there is little to no opportunities for them in their home down or city. So what do educated people do? Leave.

I think that if efforts could be made to bring opportunities to them, OR, foster a culture of telecommuting and the infrastructure they could very well stay in their home town.

Right now telecommuting isnt really a thing here. I cant see it as such, phone calls are difficult to route, maybe a SIP Asterisk Server solution would be great. Internet bandwidth is expensive, maybe a compromise of local in-country internet vs out-of-country internet is an option. Internet payments, and online gateways; it may be possible that the pre-paid infrastructure here for utilities and mobile phones may help improve payments to small businesses without having to implement a full credit card system.

Hmm, just food for thought.

Text 3 Aug Electricity Rates in Malawi

Continuing on my general research of Malawi, I’m looking into electricity rates for Malawi.  As far as I know the local power company ESCOM, provides the hydroelectric power to malawi.

Power availability in Malawi can be a bit problematic as power can be cut on Fridays for plant maintenance or other events.

ESCOM provides their rates online via this PDF.  It is a scanned document of signatures indicating a rate increase back in 2013. I digitized the document into a google docs spreadsheet here.

I was able to find a local power distribution panel and confirmed that they pre-pay power via these wireless terminals. For example, to get 663.34 kWh, the house paid 20,000 MWK, approximately $50 USD. 17167.38 MWK was for the power, and 2832.62 MWK was for local VAT tax.

Malawians pay a $0.075/kWH USD cost. Comparing to my electricity bill, I pay approximately $0.15396/kWH USD cost. That cost can go up to $0.37714/kWH USD if I go over 200% of baseline usage.

However if one is low income (determined by yearly tax documents and a US Federal poverty line) you can qualify for lower rates. $0.09888/kWh USD.

Text 3 Aug Telephone Routing in Malawi

One thing I’ve noticed here in Malawi, is that people seem to carry multiple phones for multiple carriers. It is not uncommon for a School or a Business to support a land-line, a general Mobile phone number, and a specific number from the local Airtel and TNM Mobile phone companies.

It appears that the local government/telephone networks are so silo-ed that forces people to carry multiple numbers. After looking into it, it appears all of them practice “in-network” pricing, meaning phone calls are cheaper if they make an Airtel to Airtel call.

This is not unlike how telephone/landline calls were handled back in the 90s and early 2000s.  I remember getting free calls from Nextel to Nextel numbers, or Verizon Mobile to Verizon Mobile numbers.

Eventually I hope to see less “stratification” of the local incumbent carriers.  This “in/out network” could be a mechanism to protect one’s own investments, or that the interchange links between networks are simply expensive. I’m not sure.

Text 3 Aug Malawi Internet Transit Map

Currently Malawi is connected to the world via two undersea cables in Tanzania and Mozambique. There was a recent article in the Nyaasa Times that argues that if Malawi was connected to the east coast that better internet options would be available, and therefore the Economy would improve.


Text 1 Aug Malawi Used Car Comparison

Used cars here in Malawi are expensive.  Look at this BMW. It is being sold for 4.5 Million Kawacha (MWK).  At this time it is currently valued at $11,325 USD.  However, a comparable US BMW 3 Series is approximately $6,500 USD!  M

Photo 1 Aug Internet speed from a private wireless telecom here in Malawi.

Internet speed from a private wireless telecom here in Malawi.

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