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AFRICOMM is mapping the
future of ICT research in Africa
IN NOVEMBER LAST YEAR, the AFRICOMM
conference on Internet and communications
technology took the reins on technology research in Africa. They set a long-term agenda
for IC T for development in Africa based on
the research its participants submitted.
“We want to do research that will actually
have an impact on society,” says Tegawendé
Bissyandé, an ICT expert at the University
of Luxemburg's Interdisciplinary Centre for
Security, Reliability and Trust and the AFRICOMM program chair.
THREE RESEARCH TRENDS
Three trends dominated the research presented in Blantyre, Malawi.
The first is white spaces, which are
unused broadcasting frequencies between
TV channels and radio stations – the fuzz
on the radio and the snow on the TV screen.
Research outlines how to make use of these
frequencies to improve emergency services
and other communications.
The second trend is the security of
communications infrastructure. Research
details how to improve security in notoriously vulnerable peer-to-peer communications. And there is research in encryption
and cloud services security.
The third is innovation. Drones, for example, can monitor parks, pastures and wild-lands to fight poaching. Another example is
language. Devices and Internet tools play a
role in teaching spoken languages in Africa,
both at home and to the diaspora abroad.
Bissyandé has hand-picked the following research abstracts to showcase the latest research.
A GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
SYSTEM IMPROVES DRUG LOGISTICS
INFORMATION IN MALAWI
The information system seems to be one
of the weakest links in the logistics of the
supply chain for drugs in developing countries. District pharmacies in Malawi use a
computerized information system to monitor the flow of products from warehouses
to medical centers. Now, all drug logistics
information reports are in tabular forms.
A new Geographic Information System provides additional spatial information, such as
maps of the centers.
UNIFIED SOLUTION TOWARDS DEPLOY-
MENT OF TV WHITE SPACE IN AFRICA
TV white spaces are seen as a key technol-
ogy to enable the efficient use of scarce
sub-GHz spectrum allowing for applications
that may have a huge impact on Inter-
net penetration in rural parts of Africa.
Research into a carrier-grade wireless backhauling solution will help identify solutions
for deployment of TV white spaces in Africa.
SPATIAL ANALYSIS OF LOCATION OF
MO THER’S CHOICE FOR DELIVERY
New research has mapped locations where
mothers choose to deliver their babies. Factors such as the availability of a health facility, the distance to it and the availability of
transport can affect the choice of where to
deliver, the researchers have found. Other
factors are demographic and cultural, such
as education, the number of children that
they have and the age of the mothers.
Y NUT, A PHONE TIC-BASED LEARNING
SYSTEM FOR SPOKEN LANGUAGES
Some languages do not have a native
written version. These languages exist
only in speech, so learning them without a
face-to-face teacher requires audio or video
technologies. New research describes the
development of a phonetic database that
can enhance language education and make
it easier to learn basic expressions. Such a
system could be useful for the survival of
spoken languages in Africa and also provide
automatic translation services.
FROM VILLAGE PHONE TO VILLAGE IN TER-
NE T USING DELAY-TOLERAN T NE T WORKS
Researchers propose a hybrid system of a
long-range cellular network and a delay-tolerant network to solve communications
issues in rural areas. New research describes
how the technology may allow Internet
development and new services that could
have a positive impact on the load of urban
cellular networks. •