The Great Lakes Research Journal

In-depth reviews of issues and challenges facing Central Africa – ISSN: 1554-0391

Kenyan farmer Zack Matere is using the Internet to help his business, and is now trying to involve the rest of of his rural community.

When faced with the problem of people encroaching on the community’s water supply, Mr. Matere used Facebook to get assistance from the Forest Action Network, who helped him protect the area.

Mr. Matere was also able find a fix for his dying potato crop. He hopped on his bicycle and made a 10 kilometer trip to a local cyber cafe, where after a little bit of searching he was able to find a cure. He was also able to find a local buyer for his crop, too.

Unfortunately, the cost of accessing the Internet is too high for most farmers in rural Kenya. It costs Mr. Matere about 50 Kenyan shillings (.66 US a day) to access the Internet with his mobile phone.

To help his community, Mr. Matere plans to setup a notice board where he can share information on agriculture, health and education that he’s found on the Internet with everyone else.

Cultural barriers are also impeding Internet usage. Mr. Matere doesn’t believe people will be willing to use the Internet on their mobile phone in the isolation of their homes.

“The internet is quite an individual pursuit. But a noticeboard is more of a group thing.

“So if I post an item on a noticeboard on potato disease, for example, the community can read it, talk together and come to a decision,” said Mr. Matere.

It’s extremely important to have people such as Mr. Matere leading the way for Internet usage in rural communities in Africa. As seen with his experience, it can greatly improve people’s quality of life, and will also enable them to enter the global marketplace of ideas and business.

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Microsoft has launched Windows Vista in Amharic, which is the language spoken in Ethiopia. This will be the first operating system of any kind to be released in Amharic.

All of this was thanks to the help of 40 scholars from Addis Ababa University, who helped with the translation effort.

This is big time news for the country of Ethiopia. Now its citizens can finally use the world’s most popular operating system in their native tongue, rather than having to learn another language like English.

This will allow for the country to take part in the IT revolution, as well as allowing it to create its own IT industry, which should aid economic development.

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