News : Development

Ericsson Aims to Enable Financial Inclusion and Development Across Africa

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 health crisis, the desire for mobile money and contactless payments is on the rise to avoid infections and disease transmission. With mobile money, customers can make payments anywhere at any time with their mobile devices connected to the Internet which decreases exposure to physical money, Point of Sales […] (

Arthur Ashe Biopic in Development From ‘Da 5 Bloods’ Writer Kevin Willmott

A biopic on the life of tennis great Arthur Ashe is in the works from Warner Music Group and Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment that will be penned by Kevin Willmott, an Oscar winner for “BlacKkKlansman” and the writer of Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” it was announced Tuesday.

Amritraj will produce for Hyde Park Entertainment along with Charles Cohen for Warner Music Group.

The film has the full support of the Ashe estate, and Ashe’s wife Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe is executive producing along with Hyde Park’s Priya Amritraj and Addison Mehr, as well as Alexandra Dell.

Also Read: Whitney Houston Biopic 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' in the Works From Director Stella Meghie

Ashe was an activist for civil rights and for AIDS awareness and is the only black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. He died of AIDS-related pneumonia at age 49 in 1993 after retiring from tennis in 1980. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton.

The film will incorporate the music of Ashe’s life, including Aretha Franklin, Prince and Curtis Mayfield. Warner Music Group will help secure the rights to the soundtrack and provide creative guidance.

“Arthur’s legacy reaches far beyond his greatness as a tennis player,” Amritraj, a former former Wimbledon pro, said in a statement. “Always a gentleman; bold, graceful, and intellectual; while at the same time passionate in his fight against racial inequality and injustice, I am honored to bring Arthur’s story to the screen.”

Also Read: Warner Bros Offers 'Just Mercy' for Free Rentals in June for Blackout Tuesday

Ashe’s rise as a tennis star and eventually to #1 in the world began on the public courts in Richmond, Virginia. In 1968 when Ashe wins the U.S. Open, he did so behind the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Ashe forged his role within the black revolution in America and additionally found his own unique voice as he struck a bold new path against apartheid in South Africa.

Willmott is represented by Gersh and Erik Hyman at Paul Hastings LLP.

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Universal Music Group Opens Shop in Morocco, Israel

Universal Music Group (UMG) has expanded its Middle East and North Africa operations by launching new divisions in Morocco and Israel. Universal Music Morocco will operate from Casablanca, led by business development executive Serena Safieddine, who will work alongside UMG’s regional headquarters in Dubai, and report into Patrick Boulos, CEO of Universal Music MENA. The […] (

4 Ways Digitisation Can Unlock Africa’s Recovery from COVID-19

The UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development estimates that an additional $109 billion in investment is required to achieve universal, affordable, and good quality broadband internet access by 2030. To put this number into context, Vodafone – one of the biggest investors in African telecoms infrastructure – spends around $1 billion annually on network upgrades […] (

Networks Unlimited Africa Continues to Nurture IT Skills On-premise

Networks Unlimited Africa has a long history of supporting skills development for young people in the ICT arena. Having taken on board two technical interns in April 2018, Charles Rebele and David Monkwe, both young men are now furthering their careers with the company and going from strength to strength. CEO Anton Jacobsz notes, “We […] (

UK moving to boost Caribbean trade, help businesses recover from COVID fallout

The United Kingdom (UK) has launched a plan of action to support trade in several Caribbean states to help them maximise the benefits of their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Conceived by the UK’s Department for International Development and... (

Unisa Confirms Postponement of Online Exams Due to Overworked Servers

The University of South Africa (Unisa) has been forced to postpone several exams after technical issues interrupted last week’s set of online exams. Affected modules whose exams have been postponed include those studied by criminology students, as well as those in development studies. The University of South Africa (Unisa) has been forced to postpone several […] (

Public and Private Infrastructure Investment Alternatives

Electrifying rural South Dakota – A poster promoting membership in rural electric cooperatives. Ca. 1940. Courtesy of the Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

"The strategic goal of infrastructure is not to derive economic benefit from the asset itself but to generate economic benefit by maximizing the use of the asset."
Steve Song

Eric Yuan, CEO of the Zoom teleconferencing service, stated that the average number of daily meeting recipients increased from 10 million in December 2019 to 200 million in March 2020 in a webinar last month. I've been teaching 21 students using Zoom as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the audio and video are smooth, and switching between speakers is seamless. Offhand, I cannot think of any technology that has scaled so well so fast.

When I teach, I use transport offered by Charter, Amazon, and others to reach Zoom's application on a server in an Amazon data center in Virginia. (Zoom has servers in 16 data centers around the world). Zoom's rapid expansion would not have been possible without the transport and application-service infrastructure provided by private investment.

It is a remarkable success story, but imperfect.

Two of my students have been unable to participate in our Zoom meetings because they cannot afford fixed Internet access at home, the campus labs are closed, and data caps limit their participation with mobile phones. I can afford home connectivity, but Charter is the only broadband provider on my block, so I must pay whatever they decide to charge me. That is the situation in Los Angeles, and there are rural areas in the US and many locations in other nations where broadband connectivity is not available at any price. Amazon has competition but their dominant infrastructure position provides them with opportunities to be "be evil" if they are not monitored).

The Federal government funded the research, development, and procurement that led to the Internet then turned to private companies like Amazon and Charter to create the infrastructure Zoom and others use. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its attendant substitution of communication for transportation, highlights the fact that Internet access is as much a necessity today as access to sidewalks, roads, and highways.

Can publically-owned infrastructure fill the Internet infrastructure gap?

Singapore ISP equity, June 2000 (Source)

We have some municipal broadband in the US, but it is roadblocked or outlawed in 22 states, and the states with restrictions have higher Internet prices on the average than the others. Public Internet infrastructure planning and investment are found in other nations as well. For example, Stockholm has provided municipal fiber as a service for over 25 years and around the same time, the Singapore government decided Internet infrastructure was strategic and therefore took equity positions in the nascent Internet service providers. (Internet service in Sweden and Singapore costs less than half of what I pay in Los Angeles today.)

China seems to follow a semi-public strategy of funding private companies and allowing them to compete against each other while retaining political control rather than equity. They followed this strategy in developing terrestrial Internet infrastructure and applications and are doing the same with satellite broadband. Community networks, where the users own and operate the network, are another form of quasi-government ownership.

I don't mean to imply that public ownership is inherently superior to private ownership. Public ownership may lead to cronyism and bureaucracy. For example, Cuba has a bureaucratic government-monopoly Internet service provider and Cuban infrastructure and access lag behind other Latin American and Caribbean nations, content is controlled and they recently confiscated SNET, a large and successful community network (that was not connected to the Internet).

There is no simple, optimal public/private policy and whatever we do needs to be continuously monitored and adjusted as people learn to game the system, but the proposal for the creation of a National Investment Authority (NIA) by Cornell University law professors Saule Omarova and Robert C. Hockett is a good place to begin the discussion.

The NIA would bail out citizens and critical organizations during a crisis like COVID-19 and invest in socially valuable collective goods like rural broadband, renewable energy, affordable housing, and clean water during stable times. An independent NIA governing board would set development goals and strategy, but would not make investment decisions. Those would be made by a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) and a National Capital Management Corporation (NCMC).

The NIB would buy and securitize bonds that municipalities and other public and private actors issue, and the NCMC would seek investors in a collection of socially valuable investment funds the way a privately owned asset management/venture capital firm like Blackrock does.

But, why would a private investor invest in an NCMC fund that was focused on long-term social return instead of a fund of a private asset management firm that seeks to maximize financial return? The government would guarantee an attractive, relatively short term return on investments in NCMC funds. It would convert the expected long-term return to society into a reasonable short-term return to private investors.

The public foots the bill for bailouts today and the NIA would give us a seat at the investment-decision table. It would face political hurdles, but so did the New Deal at the time of an earlier crisis. If the NIA sounds interesting, check out this short article, podcast interview (with transcript), or this detailed paper.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University


Karlovy Vary Cancels 2020 Film Festival Over Coronavirus Fears

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, an annual event that has been taking place in the Czech Republic since 1946, has decided to cancel its 55th annual festival in light of the coronavirus, KVIFF organizers announced on Tuesday morning in Prague.

The festival would have taken place on July 3-11 in Karlovy Vary, a spa town outside Prague.

“We strongly believe that seeing a movie with other people in a theater is a powerful and irreplaceable experience,” KVIFF President Ji?í Bartoška said in a statement. “And because the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is one of the most important cultural events in the Czech Republic and in Europe, we have decided that holding an alternative version would go against the festival’s main mission: to bring together audiences, filmmakers, and people from different walks of life in order to collectively enjoy works of cinema.”

Also Read: Cannes Film Festival Postpones Again, Hints Fest May Not Happen in 'Original Form'

The festival will, however, show some of the films it has chosen for select audiences. The Czech Republic is planning to relax its restrictions on June 8 and allow movie theaters to screen films for audiences of fewer than 50 people – so during the dates when the festival would have been held, it will instead screen some of the festival films at theaters around the country.

The tour will be a special version of the “KVIFF at Your Cinema” program, which takes festival films around the country each year.

At the same time, KVIFF organizers will also offer a virtual version of the “KVIFF Eastern Promises” presentation, in which films in various stages of development and production can be presented to international buyers and festivals. Those projects will be from Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and North Africa.

Also Read: Tribeca, YouTube Launch Online 'We Are One' Film Festival With Entries From Cannes, Venice and More

Karlovy Vary has also joined the We Are One: A Global Film Festival project, which was announced on Monday.

The 55th annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will now take place on July 2-10, 2021.

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Strengthening Caribbean Internet Capacity to Support Local Online Services

The Caribbean needs more robust infrastructure to support the delivery of local online services during the COVID-19 pandemic and for crises to come.

Public health and safety mandates, from social distancing and quarantines to stay-at-home orders and curfews, have confined an estimated one billion persons to their homes globally. The sudden restrictions on social movement have created a reliance on the Internet and technology-enabled services. This should come as no surprise. Society has been virtually forced to go online to shop, work, access education, keep in touch with family and friends, and to be entertained. The Internet is no longer optional for certain types of transactions and social interactions; it's the only option!

The surge in Internet usage is testing the capacity and resilience of local as well as regional networks. At the same time, online users are also now more sensitive to the quality of their Internet service and the reliability of their Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Kimano Barrow, a commissioner at the Belize Public Utilities Commission and regional IT expert, describes the situation in Belize:

"The COVID-19 crisis has definitely impacted Internet traffic patterns and changed data consumption behaviours, but it has not broken the net in Belize. Our investment over the past few years to boost Belize's network capacity and encourage domestic Internet traffic exchange has borne fruit. Now, we just have to get more local services online."

Wanted: More Local Internet Services

Getting more local services on the Internet is a priority for the entire Caribbean.

Many organizations and governments are now scrambling for shortcuts to keep operations going and to deliver online services to customers and citizens. However, obstructing the path is the complex mix of public-policy regulation, infrastructure, education, technical expertise, capital and social equity, necessary for digital transformation. There is no quick fix.

An Epiphany Is Dawning Upon Government & Business Leaders: The global Internet is most valuable when it connects local content, local communities and local economies.

This coronavirus crisis has exposed the need to have more local services available over the Internet, such as online delivery services, healthcare, education content, e-government, and digital payments solutions. It has also revealed inadequacies in national policies and preparedness to support such services.

There has never been a stronger case or better time for building out local internet infrastructure and creating local Internet content. There has also never been a more urgent need to ensure that local Internet traffic is handled efficiently and economically.

The Case for Local Internet Exchange Points

An Internet Exchange Point or IXP is a proven solution for increasing local network bandwidth and capacity. IXPs help reduce the cost of delivering domestic Internet traffic. They also improve transmission efficiencies and foster the development of the local Internet ecosystem and economy. Internet users trying to make the most of their time while social distancing are the primary beneficiaries of the domestic Internet traffic exchange that takes place at IXPs.

For years, Internet development-focused organizations, such as the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), Packet Clearing House (PCH) and the Internet Society (ISOC) have advocated for the proliferation of IXPs in the Caribbean.

Brent McIntosh, Peering Coordinator at the Grenada Internet Exchange Point, GREX, explains it like this:

"When government networks peer at the local IX, public servants can have fast and reliable connectivity to online government applications to ensure they can continue to do their jobs. For content developers and operators of business networks, peering can provide staff with more reliable access and better performance when using bandwidth-intensive applications like videoconferencing, telemedicine or distance learning. This is why it is so important that more autonomous networks and IXPs be set up across the region."

In the Caribbean, countries that have functional IXPs, such as Grenada, Belize, Curacao, Haiti and St Maarten, are reaping the benefits of cheap, reliable local bandwidth more than ever. In countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago quick steps need to be taken to ensure that all ISPs, government and education networks are connected to their respective local exchanges. To alleviate current local network bottlenecks, countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, St Kitts and Nevis and Suriname need to jumpstart stalled efforts to activate local IXPs. Additionally, local media houses and content providers, as well as major global content delivery networks like Google, Netflix, Akamai and Cloudflare, should also be encouraged to peer at local exchanges.

Cross-Sector Collaboration Needed

Thankfully, moves are afoot to help Caribbean countries rapidly expand local Internet capacity and improve the quality of Internet Services. ARIN, CaribNOG, and the CTU, in collaboration with PCH, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, the Latin American Internet Registry (LACNIC), and the Internet Society (ISOC) are all committed to raising awareness and providing tangible support for IXP development throughout the Caribbean. The Internet community is mobilizing to provide training, advice and technical support to policymakers, ISPs and IX operators.

The world has hit both an economic and social inflection point. It is clear that COVID-19 is not likely to be the last pandemic or crisis to impact the region or the world. In the emerging new normal, investments in national technology infrastructure, as well as digital literacy, skills and services, are imperative. Public policy, critical internet infrastructure and digital services will have to be more deliberately optimized for local Internet users, businesses and economies. Such investments will help determine the extent to which societies are adequately prepared for the inevitable disruption of coming crises.

The current crisis presents an opportunity for governments, regulators, ISPs and content producers to learn important lessons and to work together on solutions for navigating the new normal. Only through such collaboration can countries ensure that they have the domestic Internet capacity necessary to support local online services, now and into the future.

Written by Bevil Wooding, Director of Caribbean Affairs, ARIN


This COVID-19 Crisis Proves the Internet Is Indeed a Caribbean Right

The coronavirus pandemic has, in the most emphatic way, shown us all just how interconnected everything and everyone is. A worldwide race is underway to minimize human interactions in order to avoid a global catastrophe. The inescapable consequence of these initiatives is an unprecedented shut down of the local, regional and global economy. The latest cost estimate to save the global economy is now at $7 trillion and climbing.

The pandemic has also exposed what we all knew to be true here in our Caribbean region but stuttered over the last twenty years trying to achieve: universal access to affordable broadband services for Caribbean governments, citizens and businesses. It should now be very clear to all that such access and connectivity is vital to our survivability and prosperity.

Consider the fundamental needs of food, water and shelter in our quest to isolate. To stay at home assumes we have a home to stay in. To continuously wash our hands assumes we have access to a regular supply of water. To self-quarantine at home assumes we have the financial capability to provide meals for ourselves and our family for an extended period.

Now let's expand this argument to include a new reality as billions around the world have been ordered to stay at home. Conducting business in a contactless and virtual environment assumes that we have the requisite tools and business continuity systems in place. To continue school from home assumes that both teachers and students have the necessary access to the technology and content to continue a productive learning environment online. In both cases, our region's scorecard would prove to be unacceptably deficient, and, in all cases, we know now that this is no longer ok.

To begin our new Caribbean post COVID-19 reality, whenever that may be, we must first anchor ourselves in a single statement of truth. The truth that, while COVID-19 is class-less, and culture-less in its virulent attacks, our response exposed the truth that the Caribbean digital divide more closely resembles a digital canyon. The consequences of that truth may well be felt in all areas of society and the economy for years to come.

We must act now, in earnest to paint a current, realistic and universal baseline picture of our new Caribbean normal. Our central underpinning assumption must be that the digital agenda be universal in both intent and application. Our foundational principle must be that no one shall be left behind.

The new irrelevance of our data brought about by COVID-19 may well be the most important blessing that the Caribbean's digital ecosystem will receive coming out of this tragedy. Generating relevant, current and granular Caribbean data has comfortably settled over the years at the bottom of the agenda. We have paid lip service to the value of producing our own data, electing instead to use dated foreign studies or worse, anecdotal "insights" to pursue our various initiatives.

Our digitalization hypotheses must be tested against the reality of where we are now; assuming that historical trends will aid little in predicting the new digital reality. Data on our current broadband landscape for Governments, businesses and citizens is vital in building our future plans. These four foundational pillars of a healthy digital economy must be investigated with urgency and clarity.

* * *

Access and Affordability – The task of making the Internet universal and affordable is target 9.c of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet five years into the process and we are still asking the same questions. We must urgently audit our countries and communities and begin to qualify and quantify the current state of broadband. Anything less than "universal" can no longer be accepted.

Infrastructure – With multiple ISPs penetrating our region do we know where and what infrastructure traverses our seas, our land, or even our air space? Do we know who owns it and what the rights and obligations are for its use? It is virtually impossible to effectively plan and direct our infrastructure needs without this vital information.

Quality of Service – Our digital progress requires sufficient and reliable broadband for everyone, everywhere. Yet we rely on pockets of consumer feedback and ISP-produced reports to judge performance. The quality of service offered by broadband providers has significant economic and social impacts and should be monitored and managed with the importance it deserves.

Digital Skills and Capacity – In a global economy defined by technology-driven innovation, understanding the literacy, skills and overall capacity gaps of all of our citizens to be consumers and/or producers in our Caribbean digital economy is vital to prioritizing our education and economic agenda.

* * *

There is no other region in the world qualified to speak as expertly as the Caribbean on the topic of shocks and vulnerability. We may yet find another opportunity to showcase our capacity for resilience as we emerge in a post-COVID world. The real advantage might be that we finally begin to understand, harness and leverage the enormous tribal strength of our region's smallness and emerge mightier than ever.

Written by Rhea Yaw Ching, Development and Transformation Strategist


COVID-19 News: Johannesburg Hospital Innovates Device that Protects Healthcare Workers from Infection

Emergency doctors at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, in Johannesburg, South Africa, have innovated a new way to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19, reports Times Select. The development team managed to secure private sector funding within two days, and have already begun rolling the device out in their own hospital. Future plans involve sending the device out […] (

How Blockchain Is Revolutionizing the Educational Sector in Africa

The importance of education for further career development cannot be underestimated. Intelligent and educated youth is fundamental for economic and social stability and growth. This statement is true for any country in the world. But it especially applies to Africa, where 20% of the total population are young people. However, getting an education in Africa […] (

CDB wants COVID-19 tax breaks for private sector

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is making the case for regional governments to provide tax relief to the private sector, even as it stands ready to provide financial assistance to weather the onslaught of COVID-19 which is ravaging Caribbean... (

New Site Debuts Automotive Community Built on Consumer Trust

According to the Journal of Global Information Technology Management, Africa has become one of the fastest-growing regions in the world in terms of cyber-victimization and cybersecurity threats. In 2018, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development found online shoppers across the continent grew at a rate of 18% annually since 2014, higher than the […] (

New Site Helps Protect Private Car Buyers From Potential Scam

The development of Africa’s private car buying market is rising, with a growth potential of between three to four million car sales between 2020 and 2025, according to market research and consulting firm Mordor Intelligence.  Growing at an even faster pace is the continent’s Internet usage. In July 2019 alone, more people in Africa (525 […] (

Twitter CEO’s weak argument why investors shouldn’t fire him

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey might not spend six months a year in Africa, claims the real product development is under the hood and gives an excuse for deleting Vine before it could become TikTok. Today he tweeted, via Twitter’s investor relations account, a multi-pronged defense of his leadership and the company’s progress. The proclamations come […] (

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Disney Hires BBC Studios Alum to Lead TV Content for Europe and Africa

Former BBC scripted content portfolio director Liam Keelan has joined the Mouse House. The London-based exec will take on the newly created regional role of VP of original productions for television, where he is to oversee content for both channels and fledgling streaming service Disney+ in Europe and Africa. Leading a team of development and […] (

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Facebook partners with 9 African organisations for Safer Internet

Facebook is partnering with nine non-profit organisations and government agencies throughout sub-Saharan Africa to raise awareness about Internet safety and security for Safer Internet Day, celebrated on 11 February with the theme “Together for a better Internet”. The partners Facebook is working with this year include: Digify Africa, South Africa Phambano Technology Development Centre NPC, […] (

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Caribbean countries could be affected economically by coronavirus – UNDP official

A senior official of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) countries will suffer disruptions to their supply chains as Chinese production of goods stalls as a result of the coronavirus (2019-nCoV)... (

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Fertility alarm - Ja’s population predicted to plunge by turn of century

Jamaica’s population is predicted to nosedive by 50 per cent at the end of the century and present a development challenge for the country. This was revealed by the Caribbean Development Bank of Jamaica (CDB). Speaking at the annual Sir Arthur... (

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