Thursday, 28 October 2010

Google Baraza: Building African Web Content

It is often challenging to find relevant African content on the web as very few people on the continent are active on the Internet. The problem, really, is that the Internet is not readily accessible to potential active users. In a previous blog post, I mused about the difficulty of finding relevant Ghanaian content on the web.

This may soon be a thing of the past as Google has launched a new Question and Answer website aimed at gathering African content dubbed Google Baraza. This website is great since it gives you the opportunity to ask for any information that you cannot find through regular search. If you're an expert in a particular field, you can also answer the pressing questions of other Baraza users, to the benefit of the entire community. To effectively use the tool, you can subscribe to certain labels or direct your questions to specific subject matter experts. Google rewards active Baraza users by giving them points, which enables them to rise in reputation ranking.

I've played with Baraza a little. Yesterday, I posed a question: "which radio station in Ghana has the best educational content?" A couple of Baraza users are offering useful suggestions, and it looks like a tight race. Some people are also asking really interesting questions on Baraza such as "why does Africa still lag behind despite all the resources it is endowed with?" and "where can I get dog meat Khebab in Accra?" Haha. There's room for everyone on Baraza. :). All the questions asked and their respective answers are searchable using the main Google search engine. Hopefully, it should be searchable through other search engines.

Baraza is not the only Q & A site from Google. They have similar products for Russian and Arabic speakers. Also, Aadvark reported recently that they have joined Google. They are really doing well to get content from everywhere onto the web so that it is made available to all.

This evening, from 6:30 pm at AITI-KACE, GhanaBlogging and Google will be hosting a networking event to discuss Google Baraza and local content with a cross-section of Ghana's Internet community. This is amazing opportunity for people to explore ways through which they can contribute to web content and the benefits therein.

Google Baraza is a welcome solution to the dearth of local content in Africa. Try it for yourself and get your questions answered!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Blog Action Day- Solving Water Issues Through Adaptive Technology and Policy

Clean drinking water...not self-evident for ev...Image via Wikipedia
Today is Blog Action Day 2010, and bloggers all over the world are uniting to advocate for the provision of clean water to people all over the world. Earlier in the year, I highlighted on some problems associated with using water on World Water Day. Water has very extensive applications in transport, chemical industry, energy and agriculture. However, we realise it's full importance only when we recall that our bodies need to be hydrated in order run the delicately complex processes that culminate into life. With lifestyle trends worldwide swiftly drifting towards technology, it's becoming clearer that sustainable water use is imperative now more than ever. Countries, non-profits, corporations and individuals are taking interesting steps to ensure that water is available for drinking for us and the future generations.

We often underestimate the extent of our water consumption

In a piece, titled the coming clash between water and energy, IEEE spectrum Inside Technology presents clear statistical evidence to buttress our deep thirst for water. To quote one paragraph:
Robert Osborne, an enterprising water blogger, calculates that a single Google search takes about half a milliliter of water. Just a few drops, really. But the 300 million searches we do a day take 150 000 liters. That’s a thousand bathtubs of water to power the data centers that handle the world’s idle curiosity. We challenge you to find an activity more trivial than a search engine query.
With increasing use of modern technological gadgets in Africa, we run the risk of powering our beloved toys at the expense of drinking water for the majority of our population. Note that majority of people in both urban and rural Ghana lack access to good drinking water.

However, there are some interesting solutions that could solve the situation

In the United states cities such as San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis have taken steps to cut spending on bottled water. The rationale is to cut down on petroleum, carbon emissions and waste, while protecting the ecological resources of the areas where spring water is mined.

Perhaps, countries in West Africa can take a cue from this, and restrict the use of bottled and pure (sachet) water, as we lack the capacity to recycle plastic containers. If we can drastically reduce the cost of water consumption in the city, the money saved could be pushed into rural water projects.

Singapore's approach is rather awe-inspiring. They actually convert toilet water into drinking water. Forcing waste water through filters under high pressure, Singapore's water utility was able to rid waste water of impurities and microbes, achieving water purity higher than other processes. A side benefit is a reduction in energy costs. This is the extent to which countries that lack natural water resources go in order to quench the thirst of their citizens.

We do not need to use toilet water in Ghana as we're blessed with lots of water bodies. Let's also deploy technology relevant to our needs to solve our water shortage problems once and for all.
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Friday, 1 October 2010

Retail Tower: Ghana Web Start-up Offering Product Distribution and Monitoring

The availability of tons of e-commerce sites means that on-line merchants would like to explore business opportunities available on multiple platforms/websites. However,managing product information distribution and retail monitoring proves to be a daunting task for small to middle-scale merchants as they lack online tools to manage their multi-channel transactions. Enter Ghana software start-up RetailTower, previously written about by Emeka Okafor.

RetailTower is an online multi-channel management service built for online merchants. The service offers seamless integration with existing ecommerce solutions, shopping comparison engines, and online transactional marketplaces to provide a cost-effective and one-stop platform for online merchants to submit product feed, optimize and manage their products on shopping destination platforms such as; Google base, Shopzilla, Pricerunner, and pricegrabber.

Deploying a web application with well-tailored features, the RetailTower team aims to craft a solution that is simple, comprehensive and has seamless integration with shopping cart software.

RetailTower is still in development and is an exciting initiative for a West African start-up whose eyes are on the USA market. The start-up team emerges from MEST just like NandiMobile and Leti Games, which were previously covered.

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