i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Case File: MDG 2- Universal Education

Posted by Simon Adebola on September 14, 2010

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Target 2A: By 2015, all children can complete a full course of primary schooling, girls and boys
o Enrollment in primary education
o Completion of primary education
o Literacy of 15-24 year olds, female and male

Integrated Satellite Applications

    Rural Broadcasting

“The lack of adequate rural educational infrastructure and non-availability of good teachers in sufficient numbers adversely affect the efforts made in education. Satellites can establish the connectivity between urban educational institutions with adequate infrastructure imparting quality education and the large number of rural and semi-urban educational institutions that lack the necessary infrastructure. Besides supporting formal education, a satellite system can facilitate the dissemination of knowledge to the rural and remote population about important aspects like health, hygiene and personality development and allow professionals to update their knowledge base as well. Thus, in spite of limited trained and skilled teachers, the aspirations of the growing student population at all levels can be met through the concept of tele-education….. EDUSAT is the first exclusive satellite for serving the educational sector. It is specially configured to meet the growing demand for an interactive satellite-based distance education system for the country through audio-visual medium, employing Direct to Home (DTH) quality broadcast”. Indian Space Research Organisation on EDUSAT

A similar program in Mexico utilizes satellite technology to beam educational programs to 35,000 set top boxes in Mexico and even other parts of the continent.

Posted in Education, Millennium Development Goals, Satellites | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Dust Panic

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 12, 2010

Satellite images captured the flow of dust storms that were responsible for hazy conditions across parts of West and Central Africa in Mid March 2010. The image shown below shows the dust storms as they spread from the Red Sea right across the continent, and extend till the Atlantic Ocean.

Dust storm across Africa (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

News reports across Nigeria, where there were hazy conditions in many parts of the country, attributed the dust storms to climate change. Other countries affected include Cameroon, Chad and Niger. African countries need to invest in advanced meteorological practices to better prepare and inform their citizenry, and to avoid panic and undue speculation when untoward weather events arise. Misinformation can take a toll on the economic livelihood of the nation.

Development of space capabilities and the use of space imagery and its derived value-added products can help enhance the knowledge-based economy that many African nations currently strive for. Indeed the rise of technological advantage as an integral part of economic intelligence lays the responsibility of integrating technology-based knowledge and forecasting into the practice of aspects of human endeavour like health, agriculture, transport, governance etc.

More dust scenes:

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Education, Health, Satellites, Science, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Launching the ‘African Heritage From Space’ Series: Namib Desert (AHFSS 1)

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 18, 2010

Africa is blessed with a rich social, moral and cultural heritage, there is no doubt about that. The land is also rich in bountiful stores of natural resources. It’s people however are its greatest assets and these have made their mark not only on the continent but indeed all over the globe and even in space exploration. That is Africa.

Of particular significance though, is the uniqueness and beauty of Africa’s geophysical structure. It’s breathtaking landscapes, lush greenery, magnificent forests, cascading waterfalls, gorgeous hills and mountains, “proud ancestral savannas”, and seering yet awestriking deserts, are some of the features that have made Africa the prime allure of explorers, the daring and adventurous for centuries.

The Group on Earth Observation (GEO) lists ecosystems and biodiversity as two of its themes and societal benefit areas. Space technologies can play a major role in supporting efforts at conserving the state of our environment. These efforts thus need to be augmented through the use of earth observation and other space capabilities in environmental monitoring and conservation. There is an increasing role to be played by the integration of technologies in development aims because they offer boundless opportunities to optimize resources and increase efficiency.

The ‘African Heritage from Space Series’ is being launched to connect these potentials of space technology to the God-given magnificence of Africa’s ecosystems and entire landscape. This will showcase the varied scenes of beauty that exist in different parts of the continent as seen through the eyes of space-borne instruments. Furthermore, like apples of gold in settings of silver, each image would be set within the context of what is and what could be.

The first image in this series is of the Namibian Desert and it was taken by an astronaut on Expedition 22 on the International Space Station (ISS). It is made available through the NASA Earth Observatory.

Tsauchab River and Sossus Vlei Lakebed, Namibia (NASA)

The Namibian desert extends for about 81,000 sq. km. and it is from this Namib (Nama for vast) desert that the country of Namibia gets its name. The driest desert in Africa and the oldest in the world, this richest of sources for diamonds captivates endlessly with its awestriking dunes that remind one of the Martian landscape. It has a unique blend of animal and plant varieties that make up its ecosystem. One of the most popular of these is the Welwitschia mirabilis with its single pair of leaves, existing in an order of its own. See a video of the desert and its enchanting features below.

The desert has long inspired paintings, photographs, poems, historical writings and other works of art. It has also had its fair share of scientific study. The sand dunes pictured in this image are the tallest in the world, reaching up to a height of 300 metres above river bottom. The desert however is one of the world’s driest and the future of its species, though rugged, is a concern for conservationists and environmental biologists. It is also a location for mining ventures which together with farming, if not carefully monitored, could further pose a challenge to its ecostability. It is a coastal desert that is gradually encroaching westward to reclaim land from the ocean.

You can explore the area further here

Posted in Africa, Development, Drought, Earth observation, Education, NASA, Satellites, Science, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Africa, Solar Power and Space Technologies 2

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 11, 2010

In the quest for renewable energy solutions that could serve to meet the world’s energy needs in a cost-effective way, there are many options that are being proposed. Some of these options are quite interesting, a number are ingenious and laughable, and yet some border on the fringe of the bizarre, and on being outright outrageous.

One particular example of alternative energy solutions that holds huge potential for the many parts of Africa with many sunny days in a year is the PS 10 in Sanlucar le Mayor, 25km west of Seville, Spain. It is the world’s first commercial tower technology solar thermoelectric power plant. See the video below.

The search for appropriate locations to derive maiximum yield from solar energy has led some to consider the possibility of moving beyond the earth’s surface, above it’s immdiate atmosphere, and into the vastness of space to tap this abundant resource. The case for Space-Based Solar Power(SPSP) or Space Solar Power (SSP), as it is called, is made by those who seek to overcome the huge loss of solar energy that occurs as radiation from the sun loses it’s value as it passes through the earth’s atmosphere to reach its surface where most solar panels exist. Moreso, unlike solar panels on earth which are subject to meteorological and day/night changes, a satellite in space bearing a solar panel can have uninterrupted reception of solar energy for conversion to electricity and onward transmission to the Earth’s surface. This idea has been a subject of intensive research by a number of developed nations who predict drastic energy shortages and seek to augment current energy supply means with power gathered from space. This energy can then be beamed back to earth solving the power generation and transmission questions by systematically splitting transmission into sending (from space) and receiving (on ground) components. They can then use existing distribution networks.

Does this approach hold any special benefit for Africa? Are there equally efficient options on the continent? Are current and potential energy shortages faced by the continent due to a dearth of energy sources or lack of utilization of existing energy sources? Does Africa have the potential of supplying power to other continents? Whose responsibility is it to make Africa energy self-sufficient and even commercially capable in supplying other states?

If in spite of the abundance of solar energy sources in Africa, people prefer to invest in going all the way to space, a technology solution that is probably 5 decades away from being deployable on a commercially feasible scale, then that should point to the fact that Africa in many ways has the primary responsibility to invest in and develop its own viable energy sources. This may be their solution to generating in Africa and transmitting to Europe, Asia or America. The problem with this option is that the risk of failure is high compared to the incurred investment especially since the technologies have been untested on the scale that it would take to make economic sense. However their efforts in conceptualising and developing new technologies to adapt to future change is commendable, and that should be emulated across Africa. Africa needs a breed of forward-looking engineers, entrepreneurs and social policy makers to help it cope with the needs of the present and the challenges of its future. The lesson there is probably not that some are willing to try something crazy rather than come to invest in Africa, but that we had better get the message that the rest of the world will not wait for Africa to solve its own problems.

Posted in Africa, Development, Education, Innovation, Satellites, Science, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Young South African Scientist Unraveling the Environment

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 19, 2009

Have you ever wondered how to accurately predict when it would rain and how much rain to expect? Have you ever thought that mathematics and engineering were exclusively male domains? Have you ever wondered if Africa could solve its own problems and if the upcoming generation of Africans could take the continent into the promised land? There is a ray of hope shining from the far South.

Born into a humble background, this whiz kid has risen beyond the temporal challenges of her immediate environment and through hard work and commitment has demonstrated a wide spectrum of talent and excellence. Her name is Sibusisiwe Audrey Khuluse. She is a scientist working on statistical modelling of rainfall events in the Western Cape of South Africa. She also conducts research into environmental risk assessment for extreme events. She uses statistical modelling relying on in-situ environmental data to project and assess the potential likelihood and severity of environmental events. This involves a lot of data from different sources but through computing and statistical techniques the modelling can serve to help solve questions in engineering, business, economics, health and other aspects of society. Space-based data gotten from remote environmental monitoring satellites are equally reliable sources of data for geo-statistical modelling.

Recognition for her work has come from different quarters. Sibu, as she is better known, graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2007 with a honours degree in Mathematical Statistics. She is studying for a Masters in Mathematical Statistics at the University of Witwatersrand where her research work is on extreme value modelling. She is also a research statistician at the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)– Built Environment, where she works with the Statistical Modelling and Analysis Research Group. She is a recipient of a Tata Africa Scholarship to complete her Masters. This award is given to women working in areas of study that are not typically considered female domains. She has also been awarded the prestigious Mandela Rhodes Havard South Africa Fellowship. She will spend a year at Harvard from the second half of 2010. She intends to use that period to further her academic and research pursuits, while strengthening research collaborations. It will also help her to choose a suitable topic for her future PhD studies. A highly motivated and service-minded individual, Sibu represents the blend of intelligence, resourcefulness and commitment to pursuing innovative ideas, that is gradually renewing the ethos of the continent. This change is the hope for a responsible, progressive and productive future for Africa.

Her example as a high flyer, should be encouraged by governments and financially endowed individuals. The continent is laden with potential and its future, especially in the fields of science and technology, would be enhanced by greater efforts in supporting the educational pursuits of young African women and men. Research-minded individuals should be encouraged to take up opportunities across the globe. This would also help to grow research networks while building local capacity. Without a doubt, Africa’s environment is rich in resources and potential, yet it is also not immune to hazards and extreme events. It is necessary to harness the potential of technologies across the spectrum of innovation to develop our resources and empower Africans to mitigate and be prepared against disasters.

Investment in education, research and capacity building efforts all determine the seriousness, and the potential for progress and development for any system. This crucial aspect of organisational growth and socio-economic development is the bedrock for any knowledge-driven and resource efficient society. The key to development is not more money or greater funding but the optimum and efficient use of existing resources. Knowledge must thus be valued and given its rightful place as the pivot around which all other development efforts are driven. This guides the efficient use of resources; establishes authenticity, merit and genuine need as drivers of resource distribution and uptake; and sidelines corrupt, selfish and retrogressive models of governance, civil responsibility and societal development.

You can learn more about Sibu here and here.

Posted in Africa, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Education, Humanitarian emergencies, Innovation, Southern Africa, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Africa, Mars, Space and Development- An Interview

Posted by Simon Adebola on June 23, 2009

He conceived and organized the ‘African Mission to Mars’ conference, his research team pioneered the use of space-based technologies for water-borne disease prevention, he is a respected neuroscientist and neurosurgeon. He is also the Chairman, International Institutes of Advanced Research and Training, Chidicon Medical Center located in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. Prince Dr Philip C. Njemanze has been an inspiration to many and here is his interview as conducted by ‘i initiative’.

1. Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into space activities?

Prince Dr Phillip C. Njemanze

Prince Dr Phillip C. Njemanze

I must say that I have been fascinated by Space from childhood, right from the time I started reciting ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ with my Dad at about age 5. However, my first real encounter with Space medical research was in the Soviet Union in 1983, as I worked as a medical student researcher at Rostov State Medical Institute Order of Friendship in Rostov-on-Don Russia with the famous physiologist, Prof Danilov of happy memory. It was on cardiovascular research using Sphygmography for Space-based applications, a work that won the All Soviet Students’ Scientific Research of the Soviet Academy of Science named after Academic Orbeli in Erevan, USSR. I continued my student research at the Institute of Neurocybernetics in Rostov-on-Don Russia under Prof Kogan on tracing pain pathways as a means of developing neurocybernetic control systems suitable for space research.

After my medical school in Russia in 1986, I went for postgraduate studies in Germany, and studied neurosurgery which led me into research of cerebrospinal fluid flow dynamics using magnetic resonance imaging.

Njemanze PC, Beck OJ (1989) MR-gated intracranial CSF dynamics: evaluation of CSF pulsatile flow. AJNR American Journal of Neuroradiology, 10 (1), 77-80

The invention of transcranial Doppler about this time by Rune Aaslid meant that I could continue my research on cardiovascular changes associated with brain blood flow specifically the use of Fourier Analysis of the Cerebrovascular System by 1991

Njemanze PC, Beck OJ, Gomez CR, Horenstein S (June 1991) Fourier analysis of the cerebrovascular system, Stroke. Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 22 (6), 721-6

Just about this time I felt that the major problems associated with Space were the cardiovascular effects that manifest in syncopal episodes. However, not much was known about cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes associated with syncope at that time. So in 1991 I published the first observations of cerebral blood flow changes during syncope for aerospace applications

Njemanze PC (June 1991) Transcranial Doppler evaluation of syncope: an application in aerospace physiology. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 62 (6), 569-72

I went further to identify that 50% reduction of cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFV) was associated with syncope

Njemanze PC (December 1992) Critical limits of pressure-flow relation in the human brain, Stroke. A Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 23 (12), 1743-7

In these series some had no drop in blood pressure but they fainted, I then identified that there was cerebral syncope which was not associated with blood pressure drop

Njemanze PC (April 1993) Cerebral circulation dysfunction and hemodynamic abnormalities in syncope during upright tilt test. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 9 (3), 238-42

It then raised the question on what was mediating the drop in CBFV if it was not the classical Bezhold-Jarish Reflex, I therefore suggested another mechanism that did not involve cardiac reflexes or cardiopulmonary reflexes.

Njemanze PC (March 1993) Isoproterenol induced cerebral hypoperfusion in a heart transplant recipient, Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology : Pace, 16 (3 Pt 1), 491-5

Njemanze PC (1992) Cerebrovascular dysautoregulation syndrome in heart-lung transplant recipient. Journal of Cardiovascular Technology, 10, 227-232

With these activities and those by others, the Neurocardiology applications for Space were firmly established. Then I established a company called Chidicon Inc. USA in Missouri and in a joint contract with McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company we embarked on research on the CBFV changes associated with use of COMBAT EDGE G-Suit and the water suit Atlantis Worrior

Njemanze PC, Antol PJ, Lundgren CE (May 1993) Perfusion of the visual cortex during pressure breathing at different high-G stress profiles. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 64 (5), 396-400

The question was now what arose first?, is it the CBFV changes?, or is it the blood pressure changes?, so one would know which sensor would be most effective to use in avionic systems. I then identified that the first changes were associated with CBFV by as much as a few seconds.

Njemanze PC (April 1994) Cerebrovascular dysautoregulation syndrome complex–brain hypoperfusion precedes hypotension and cardiac asystole. Japanese Circulation Journal, 58 (4), 293-7

I then proceeded to invent the Physiologic G-Suit Modulator (US Par 5121744), which senses the impending loss of consciousness and transfers the autonomy decision making to the autopilot to avert an accident.

Njemanze Philip C. (2005) Asymmetry of Cerebral Blood Flow Velocity Response to Color Processing and Hemodynamic Changes During -6 Degrees 24-Hour Head-down Bed Rest in Men. Journal of Gravitational Physiology, 12 (2), 2005

I then improved on this invention by adding a system that detects CBFV correlates of mental performance (US Pat 6390979). NASA recently funded a system to accomplish these objectives.

In 1995, I responded to a NASA International Announcement of Opportunities for experiments to study the Brain in Space, mandated by the US Congress, called Neurolab. I was successful as one of the NASA Principal Investigators chosen from 8 countries (USA, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Nigeria, Netherlands and Canada). My proposal was on the study of the blood flow of the visual cortex in astronauts. On completion of my involvement in the Neurolab in Houston Texas, an opportunity arose through the Cooperative project of the Center for Health Applications of Aerospace Related Technologies (CHAART) at NASA Ames Research Centre and the Third World Foundation. Though this I became the first international recipient of the award to use Space-based Technology to improve the health of people in developing countries. I wrote an overview of the potential applications of aerospace technologies.

Njemanze PC. (1996) Satellite technology and aerospace related warning systems (STARWARS) for disease control: strategy for disease prevention in developing countries of Africa, South America and Asia-Pacific Region. Japanese Journal of Aerospace and Environmental Medicine, 33, 17-130

To develop this area, I founded the Institute of Space Medicine at Chidicon Medical Center, Owerri, Nigeria. Our specific interest was to develop the application of geographic information system technologies to prevention of water-borne infections in Nigeria. This collective effort of our team led to the development of the first GIS platform for planning water resources.

Njemanze PC, Anozie J, Ihenacho JO, Russell MJ, Uwaeziozi AB (September 1999) Application of risk analysis and geographic information system technologies to the prevention of diarrheal diseases in Nigeria. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 61 (3), 356-60

However, my principal area of interest remains Neuroscience in Space. My major interest is what changes in brain cognitive function in Space, and what might be the gender differences. ¨

Specifically I asked what happens to facial perception, motor processing, and color processing in Space.

Facial perception

Njemanze PC (2004) Asymmetry in cerebral blood flow velocity with processing of facial images during head-down rest. Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine, 75 (9), 800-805

Motor processing

Njemanze PC (July 2002) Cerebral lateralization for motor tasks in simulated microgravity. A transcranial Doppler technique for astronauts. Journal of Gravitational Physiology, 9 (1), 33-34

Color processing

Njemanze Philip C. (2005) Asymmetry of Cerebral Blood Flow Velocity Response to Color Processing and Hemodynamic Changes During -6 Degrees 24-Hour Head-down Bed Rest in Men. Journal of Gravitational Physiology, 12 (2), 2005

2. What are your areas of research interest and which interesting projects are you currently working on?

I am currently developing non-invasive neurodiagnostic methods for detecting neural processes of memory, feeding, and addiction in the Space environment.

3. As an African with an interest in space activities, what were the challenges you faced?

The major obstacle is lack of funding. I had to establish a personal foundation and raise money from personal sources to support the research at my lab for close to two decades, and I have no regrets. The challenges are still persisting but the outcome thus far has surpassed all my initial expectations. Glory be to God.

4. Did you ever feel that space was too impractical for the African setting?

Not at all, in actual fact Africa needs Space research more than the industrialized World, because the solutions for communication, health, agriculture and others will be attained faster with Space-based Research. That was why in 22-23 Oct 2007, I initiated and organized the first Mission to Mars: The African Perspective in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. This achieved many milestones, such as Cassava Research for Mars Mission with JAXA, Japanese Space Agency, Climate Change Theory, Cognitive Neuroscience for Mars Mission and others. Today Nigeria is planning water resources using Space-based GIS and Advanced Risk Analysis Systems.

5. From your experience in space activities which of the things you have came across do you wish you can replicate back in Africa as being of necessity for development?

As you can see from my descriptions, the initiative for disease control actually has its origins in Africa, and has become one of the most successful Space-based initiatives that are finding applications in Africa and other developing countries. In a recent commentary on ‘Water Contamination: The Way Forward’ in the March 2009 Issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research, I highlighted that the greatest achievement of the next decade and attainment of Millennium Development Goals will be accomplished using Space-based technologies of GIS and Risk Analysis for prevention of water-borne infections. Which I humbly point out was first implemented in literature by our team in Nigeria in 1999.

6. What advice do you have for young Africans seeking to choose a career path in Space-related activities? How can they keep in touch with you and your activities?

Young Africans must be bold and courageous to choose Space Research. As far as they remain true to their calling and sustain interest with hard work, Space will not even be their limit. For those wanting to read about our efforts in Space research please visits us at http://www.chidicon.com.

Posted in Africa, Development, Earth observation, Education, Healthcare, NASA, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More Options to Study Space

Posted by Simon Adebola on June 4, 2009

On a blog post a while ago, a few options for space studies were mentioned. Juxi’s comment also brought another option to the fore. Today, thanks to Brian Shiro, as an update we are providing other options for space studies. Most of these exist in the US. We would like to get feedback on other spac studies options from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world.
University of Hawaii
University of Stanford
University of Southern California
University of Colorado at Boulder
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
University of North Dakota
University of Washington
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
North Carolina State University
Auburn University

These are some of the programmes on his list. They also have specialisations, online and other distance learning options to provide specificity and flexibility as you may require.

Posted in Education, Space, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Polio Eradication and Space Technologies

Posted by Simon Adebola on May 8, 2009

At the last University of Michigan graduation ceremony Larry Page gave the commencement address.

He had this to say about Polio

“In late March 1996, soon after I had moved to Stanford for grad school, my Dad had difficultly breathing and drove to the hospital. Two months later, he died. And that was it. I was completely devastated. Many years later, after a startup, after falling in love, and after so many of life’s adventures, I found myself thinking about my Dad. Lucy and I were far away in a steaming hot village walking through narrow streets. There were wonderful friendly people everywhere, but it was a desperately poor place — people used the bathroom inside and it flowed out into the open gutter and straight into the river. We touched a boy with a limp leg, the result of paralysis from polio. Lucy and I were in rural India — one of the few places where Polio still exists. Polio is transmitted fecal to oral, usually through filthy water. Well, my Dad had Polio. He went on a trip to Tennessee in the first grade and caught it. He was hospitalized for two months and had to be transported by military DC-3 back home — his first flight. My Dad wrote, “Then, I had to stay in bed for over a year, before I started back to school”. That is actually a quote from his fifth grade autobiography. My Dad had difficulty breathing his whole life, and the complications of Polio are what took him from us too soon. He would have been very upset that Polio still persists even though we have a vaccine. He would have been equally upset that back in India we had polio virus on our shoes from walking through the contaminated gutters that spread the disease. We were spreading the virus with every footstep, right under beautiful kids playing everywhere. The world is on the verge of eliminating polio, with 328 people infected so far this year. Let’s get it done soon. Perhaps one of you will do that.”

This is a worthy challenge and one worth pursuing. The latest monthly situation report from the Polio Eradication Initiative showed that apart from Nigeria which is one of the four remaining endemic countries (the others are Afghanistan, India and Pakistan), there are 13 reinfected African countries. Nigeria has been responsible for exporting the virus to most of these countries and also accounts for the majority of the number of polio cases recorded worldwide this year. The eradication of polio even though a worldwide challenge is thus pre-eminently an African imperative.

The use of space technologies in solving this challenge is very important. The curbing of the spread of polio relies largely on immunization campaigns to prevent its transmission. There are routine, supplementary and mop-up immunization campaigns. The planning of these immunization activities requires a lot of scientific and logistic input to make them effective and successful. For example in the event where there is focal transmission as evidenced by Wild Polio Virus transmission followed by Acute Flaccid Paralysis, immediate action is required. This would require continuing active surveillance and also conducting mop-up immunization campaigns in the area, based on the suspicion that many others in the area potentially carry the virus and are capable of transmitting it. This suspected carrier ‘buffer zone’ can be defined with the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation devices and a high resolution satellite image of where the immunization campaign is to be organized can then be downloaded off the internet from various online mapping services. Connecting to the internet is possible, anywhere in the world, with the aid of mobile satellite terminals. Details of the campaign, including the extent of the buffer zone around the reported cases to be focused on, can then be mapped using a Geographic Information System (GIS). The use of GPS, web mapping, GIS, and mobile satellite terminals are some of the space-related technologies that have found use in the logistics of emergency or critical operations all over the world.

This whole process can be accomplished with much ease following adequate planning. Hand-drawn maps can be fraught with various faults that do not befit an activity with this level of high priority to global aims.

John Snow Hand Drawn Map of Soho, London Cholera Outbreak in 1854 (Source: Wikipedia)

John Snow Hand Drawn Map of Soho, London Cholera Outbreak in 1854 (Source: Wikipedia)

An example of a better map designed using freely available satellite imagery is shown below. This map gives a more accurate relationship between areas. It also affords immunisation volunteers to be easily mobilized for deployment into an area by empowering them with better tools to navigate hitherto unknown territory.

Map obtained using Google Maps and enhanced to show routes (Source: Ana Gago Da Silva)

Map obtained using Google Maps and enhanced to show routes (Source: Ana Gago Da Silva)

Posted in Africa, Development, Earth observation, Education, Healthcare, Innovation, Space, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

African Missions to the Moon and Mars

Posted by Simon Adebola on May 4, 2009

Following up on the glad events of the last African Conference on the Mission to Mars, we are bringing today from a standpoint closer to home, views on how to get involved in efforts to bring an African payload to the moon. The 21st century race to the moon has already begun and the last is yet to be heard of who is going to the moon next. Strengthening this expanded view of lunar exploration is the rise in interest from private and commercial space participants. At the forefront of this is the XPrize Foundation which have, in collaboration with Google launched the Google Lunar Xprize (GLXP) which is a 30million dollar prize for the first privately funded team to make it to the moon with a robot which would then travel 500 meters and send video, images and data back to the earth. There are also additional prizes for the team whose payload can accomplish certain defined tasks. It is clear that Africans can complete equally in this. We have some of the best scientific and technological minds in the world. It is not a season to watch and wait.

There is no telling what this is doing to the science of space and lunar exploration. Kids, students, scientists, techies and geeks from all over the world are all combining forces to accomplish these goals. It is amazing how much interest and innovation has been plowed into these efforts and how much more is still underway. In this interview with William Pomerantz, the Senior Director of Space Projects at the X Prize Foundation and who also runs the GLXP, he answers questions on how Africans can get involved in this great opportunity to showcase the uniqueness and brightness of African technological potential. He also talks about the opportunities from the newly launched Healthcare X Prize.

Q: How many African countries have registered teams?

A: We do not yet have any registered teams that are headquartered in Africa. However, we do have members of registered teams who live and work in Egypt and in South Africa.

Q: How many are following up on their registrations?
A: We have not yet had any teams headquartered in Africa file a “Letter of Intent to Compete” or a registration package for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. However, we have heard from a total of about 50 potential teams based in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe. We certainly hope to hear more from Africa in the future, and would be thrilled to get our first ever African X PRIZE team!

Q: What are your thoughts on how you think African engineers can take part in these?

A: One of the nicest things about incentive prizes, including the Google Lunar X PRIZE, is that they attract intelligent solutions from the widest possible range of potential inventors and problems solvers. A prize does not care what your nationality is, what field you have your degree in, or what your CV or university transcript says—the prize only cares about the results. To date, the talent pool of very bright African engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs has been mostly untapped by the traditional aerospace community. We certainly hope that this prize will help change that, and will allow these individuals to demonstrate their capabilities on the global stage.

Similarly, we hope that educators and parents across all of Africa will be able use this prize and the stories of the competing teams as a tool to get young students excited about the possibility of entering careers in aerospace related fields or, more broadly, in careers in science, technology, engineering, and maths. Increasing the numbers of young Africans who chose to dedicate their lives to the pursuit of such careers will have an enormously beneficial impact on Africa—and on the industries that benefit from such an influx of talent.

Finally, we hope that regardless of the nationality of the eventual winners of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a variety of African countries and companies will be able to take advantage of the new, radically cheaper lunar exploration opportunities provided by the teams competing for the prize. Whereas the cost of lunar exploration to date has made it simply too expensive for most countries in the world (much less most private companies or universities), in the near future, prices will have come down dramatically, putting them on par with a wide range of other scientific companies. We look forward to the day when we all watch the first African-designed payload land on the lunar surface, probably carried by a private vessel designed by a Google Lunar X PRIZE team.

Q: I would also like to know if the Healthcare XPrize is open to international participation?

A: Yes, it is planned that the forthcoming Healthcare X PRIZE will be open to international participation.

Posted in Africa, Education, Healthcare, Innovation, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Boost for Tele-Education In Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 24, 2009

A major use of satellites is in providing educational instruction to remote locations. This is especially important for rural community dwellers. The same satellite-based connections can also support telemedicine and other e-Commerce and e-Government activities. This has been recently provided for African students and communities by the Indian Government’s initiatives in supporting African education, government and healthcare delivery through the Pan-African e Network.


This network would connect 5 regional universities, 53 learning centers, 5 regional Super Specialist Hospital (SSHs) and 53 remote hospitals in all countries of Africa. The Indian contribution includes 7 Universities and 12 Super Speciality Hospitals providing expert domain services through Tele-education and Tele-medicine. This is a major boost and pilot projects are already under way in Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. According to the website, “This network will cover 53 Member States in African Union and provides VSAT based star network with 116 + 53 VSAT terminals equally distributed over all the Members States and a Hub located in one of the African Union Member States.”
You can learn more from, Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL), Pan-African e-Network Project Website

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