He made his first windmill when he was 14 years old, having dropped out of school due to lack of school fees in 2002. And until two weeks ago, he had never touched a computer before, let alone use email. This month he was the toast of an international technology conference in Arusha, Tanzania, where he shared the limelight with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Jane Goodall,Bono, Larry Page (the inventor of Google), among many famous names. The story of William Kamkwamba and his genius achievement is the highlight of this round-up of the Malawian blogosphere, in addition to a recent conference on VOIP; the recent death of Malawi’s first lady, Mrs Ethel Mutharika; returning on air after a year’s absence; defining white collar and armed crime; broadening solutions to problems of food security; and remembering forgotten nationalists. Herewith another round-up of the
Boy genius and the windmill at the TEDGlobal conference
The most exciting phenomenon in the Malawian blogosphere, as I am writing, is the 19-year-old William Kamkwamba. Five years ago William dropped out of secondary school just after two terms due to lack of money for school fees. Visiting a nearby school library supplied by the Malawi Teacher Training Activity (MTTA), a USAID project, he one day found a book on how to make electricity using home-made materials, and today he has not only built a windmill that is attracting attention around the world, he was also given a standing ovation at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference, held June 4-7 in Arusha, Tanzania. On his one-week old blog, which has already attracted comments from different parts of the globe, William describes how it all started with MTTA’s deputy chief of party, Dr. Hartford Mchazime, who was visiting one of his project’s schools, which turned out to be the one whose library William had drawn his original inspiration from. Dr. Mchazime brought journalists with him, and a story published in
Unbeknownst to me until about two weeks ago, Soyapi Mumba, a software engineer based in Lilongwe brought the article to the attention of Mike McKay, his colleague who writes a blog called Hactivate, and Mike posted on his blog about the story in the newspaper. I found out recently that several other people also wrote about my story on their blogs, too.
Two weeks ago I used a computer for the first time. I learned about Google and searched for “windmill” and “solar energy.” I was amazed to learn how many entries there were for both subjects. My friends showed me how to create an email address and now I am on Gmail. Now I am practicing sending and receiving emails when I have access to a computer.
Among these was a 3 minute Question and Answer session where the curator Chris Anderson asked William Kamkwamba questions regarding the Windmill he created for his home in
After I made that post, Emeka Okafor invited William to attend the TED conference in
VOIP conference in
Still on technology, Clement Nyirenda describes how contrary to his fears, he was selected to attend a workshop on Voice over Internet Procol (VoIP)/SIP held recently in
On the other hand, it must be pointed out that although the workshop was a great success, the future of VoIP technologies in
Feeling the airwaves again
Also bringing new technology know-how to
I am still humbled by the feedback from the audience. There are listeners from almost parts of
While traveling across Europe and various places in Malawi, Victor keeps a keen, observant eye on what he calls a “human right” that is also a part of human nature. He finds himself comparing public rest rooms, and discusses the differences in the fees one pays for this “right”:
I am seated at Oslo Central Station and wondering if indeed I have to part with 10 Norwegian Kronor (equivalent of 220 Malawi Kwacha) as toilet fee. In Malawi's cities of Blantyre, Mzuzu, Zomba and Lilongwe, toilet fees arrange between 5 and 30 Kwacha. In one place in Mzuzu, men pay more than women for reasons difficult to put online. To think of paying 220 Malawi Kwacha for using a toilet sounds and is too much for a Malawian who finds the amount enough for two return trips from Area 25 residential area to City Center.
Public rest rooms being not the only item Victors finds himself making comparisons about, he also discovers, while traveling, that the Internet is not as cheap in Europe as it is made to be, going by the exorbitant fees he had to pay in cafes in Finland and in Norway. Back to technology, Victor updates his readers on his progress in a global online course he has enrolled in, and how he has finally succeeded in making his first podcast.
Burying a first lady
As Victor covered in the last Malawi round-up, Malawi has been mourning the death of Mrs. Ethel Mutharika, the wife of the Malawian president Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika. Austin Madinga observes that despite everyone’s wishes that the recent death of
For the past few weeks following the death of the first lady, there were calls from various sections of society for the goodwill displayed around the funeral to continue. Plenty people also commented that good would come out of all of it. I was one of those hoping good would come out but somehow I was not optimistic.
Continuing on the topic of the death of the first lady, Kondwani Kamiyala uses the occasion of June 14, Freedom Day in
As I write, we are in a mourning period for our First Lady, Madame Ethel Mutharika, wife to Bingu wa Mutharika, our President. She succumbed to cancer, and a month’s mourning was declared.
During this period, the nation has known great unity. Bingu’s predecessor Bakili Muluzi cut off his trip to the
She gave selflessly and sought no accolades. Not for her the prominent fashionista image more commonly associated with the wives of other national leaders. Hers was the more typical mother/grandmother/friend/counselor/teacher role. She led by example and this drew people to her. Her husband implicitly trusted her judgement particularly on the public podium as can be evidenced by an anecdote in Ko's tribute to her Even in our internecine local politics none sought to malign her character and rarely was she spoken of.
‘Penned or Armed Crime’: what’s the difference?
We move away from the sad story of the first lady to a daily concern amongst Malawians and people everywhere. KwathuNetwork waxes poetic and asks who does more damage, white collar criminals or armed robbers: The blogger provides an own answer:
Regardless of the situation, they are guilty of the same kind of crime…robbing the innocents. The armed robber with a gun and the pen robber with a stroke of a pen steal millions of Kwacha, all in effort to maintain their fallacious lifestyles. They both love the glamorous dinner dance and to fully participate or host such events, they must have the wherewithal to afford it. If compromising their integrity and mortgaging their conscience is what it takes, they gladly embrace it. If ruining the lives of millions is what it entails, they willingly accept it. If siphoning the financial resources or killing the manpower of the nation is the only option, they adopt it.
Feeding the nation
The solution to food insecurity is like a puzzle, different pieces coming together to reveal the bigger picture. In my opinion food insecurity requires an integrated approach. Policy makers overlook education, and health, vital issues necessary to solve food problems. We live in a rapidly changing environmental, economical and political change. We have to continue updating and advancing to keep up with the rest of the world. If anything for food insecurity the principal focus should be on education. With education comes new perspectives and a better frame of mind to implement new techniques and to understand new technologies.
Remembering the heroes
Lastly, Malawi Politics writes about Malawian nationalists who led the struggle for
It is widely suspected that the parcel was sent by agents of President Hastings Kamuzu Banda of