Africa may leapfrog infotech infrastructure

Africa’s size, geography and historical legacy prevented or stymied many early attempts at connecting cities and sometimes entire regions to communication networks.

This lack of legacy wiring, and huge gaps in networking infrastructure may actually turn out to be a benefit. Smarter Technology has a new post up on the leapfrog effect that may come into play in African infrastructure development. Without the need to repair and improve systems there is an opportunity to jump ahead to the latest innovations in wireless, cloud-based information technology systems.

Internet use is still fairly low (as a percentage of the population) in Africa, based mainly on wireless and cellphone devices. As cloud services and wireless systems expand these numbers may change radically.


2012 the year of infrastructure

There is a strong and growing concern for infrastructure development, repair, and change in the United States and abroad. News media and political campaigns have joined professional engineering societies and regional development groups to call for renovation and renewed focus on energy, transportation, water and other infrastructures.

Internationally there are major efforts in China, South Korea, Malaysia, Indian and several African countries to expand and rebuild infrastructure systems. Pipeline projects connecting Canada and the US are also gaining wider notice as changes in gas development technologies makes more resources available but access remains limited without adequate transportation conduits. Government and industry leaders in the UK and EU are wrestling with a lack of comprehensive and scalable approaches to maintaining what exists or building new capacity.

The global recession hampered public-private funding efforts for large projects and long deferred maintenance has become a critical problem in every corner of the world. Global project development firms like Booz Allen are making more public, more widely promoted statements about moving forward in key infrastructure projects like transportation and energy.

In a new online and traditional media push leaders at Booz Allen are pressing for change. “Much of America’s critical infrastructure is failing—threatening our economic growth, national competitiveness and even our national security. In the past, we excelled at imagining infrastructure—witness the Erie Canal and the national highway system—and now we need to re-imagine America’s infrastructure with new ways of approaching the issues.”

Groups like the American Society for Civil Engineers now routinely make headlines with their evaluations of transportation and water infrastructure systems with “report cards” filled with bad and failing grades. Political posturing in the US, not something new, stopped different proposals for funding from moving through the legislature.

But the coming year may see changes in public and political stances on infrastructure systems. Elections in the US and elsewhere may force these often neglected systems into a spotlight.

Undersea infrastructure

undersea infrastructureThis link will take you to an impressive interactive map of the worlds connections between islands and continents. It comes from a Gizmodo article by Andrew Blum titled, This is the Internet. It’s a graphic representation that the Internet is largely underwater, where long bundles of fiber-optic cables stretch across ocean floors. If nothing else, it will indicate the amazing importance of Fortaleza, Brazil.

For obvious reasons the extra expense of dropping cable to the ocean floor is well worth it. There are no tunnels or blasting needed, few property boundary issues, and fiber optic cable is less expensive than leasing land or satellite access. Africa was wired from the sea.  A submarine communication cable is laid on the sea bed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication across stretches of ocean.

(Telegraphen Verbindungen), 1891 Stielers Hand-Atlas, Plate No. 5

The first submarine communications cables carried telegraph traffic. Early attempts, with different cable technologies, were unsuccessful. Cables would leak water into the wire, or separate, or fail for unknown reasons. The first successful trans-Atlantic telegraph cable was completed in 1866 after several attempts. More cable was installed across the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and between Asia, Japan, and Australia. In 1902 a telegraph cable was connected across the Pacific. Later, larger cables carried telephone traffic. Modern cables, typically 69 millimetres (2.7 in) in diameter, use fiber technology to carry digital traffic.

For more information try: Communications Under the Seas: The Evolving Cable Network and Its Implications

Names on the Internet

InterfaceThis website, and every single system on the Internet, has a name. This name is provided to represent the address number of the machine or storage device that is connected to the Internet. If these addresses and names were random you would not be able to find the websites you are searching for, use your email, or engage with anyone else outside of a small network, if at all. The association of address number for each online device is done using rules set out by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

ICANN was formed in 1998 as a global not-for-profit corporation providing the address structures that make the Internet stable and interoperable. According to it’s website:  “ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.” In 2006, ICANN signed a new agreement with the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) that moved the private organization towards full management of the Internet’s system of centrally coordinated identifiers. In its newest form the corporation is a collaboration between US and international groups that oversee the naming protocol structure of the entire Internet.

ICANN is responsible for managing the Internet Protocol address spaces using standards like Internet Protocol version 4 and 6 (IPv4 and IPv6), assignment of addresses to regional Internet registries, maintaining registries of Internet identifiers, and management of the top-level domain name space (DNS root zone).

ICANN’s primary principles of operation have been described as helping preserve the operational stability of the Internet; to promote competition; to achieve broad representation of global Internet community; and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.