Tour of Opportunity International Bank of Malawi

Today, Marissa and I toured a successful microfinance bank, called Opportunity International Bank of Malawi (OIBM). The bank is quickly gaining international attention. For those wondering, microfinance is an effort to provide traditional banking services like loans and savings accounts to the poorer sectors of the population. These sectors of the population are generally excluded from financial services because most commercial banks believe that it is not profitable to serve them. From what I understand, OIBM differs from most commercial banks, not in the way it is run, but in the people that it seeks to serve as clients.

One thousand roads and no highway...

Three days into our Malawi adventure and my head is full of questions. I think that I have pieced together a reasonable view of what the internet infrastructure looks like in Malawi through various meetings at the US embassy here in Lilongwe.

It seems that in Malawi, any government office, international organization or private company who wants to connect to the internet does so by buying their own VSAT satellites. Its essentially every person for themselves, as each organization takes their chunk of capital and builds their own personal pipeline.

Its as if a village of people wanted to travel to a distant city, instead of pooling resources to build a highway that would provide faster/more reliable/efficient transportation, the people each decided to carve their own individual narrow roads to the far away city. There is an unbelieved able amount of upkeep and investment costs associated with keeping these "individual roads" or fragmented internet oasises running.

What is a Blog?

“Blog” is a term used to describe a specific type of website. The term “blog” comes from joining two words “web” and “log” into one. In fact, “web log” is a perfect description of what blogs truly are- online journals! Blogs are websites consisting of a series of regularly posted entries that are usually displayed on the web page in chronological order. Blogs can be written by one author, known as a blogger, or have many contributors (bloggers) writing entries about a common topic or theme. Blogs almost always encourage participation from their audiences and usually provide an easy way for readers to respond to an entry and publish their comments on the same web page.

Fulbright Research Proposal

Here is a shortened copy of the proposal I wrote for the Fulbright grant. It describes the project I will be working on while in Malawi

Overcoming the lack of access to appropriately implemented technologies in the developing world is fundamental to the problem of realizing social development. By increasing productivity and diversifying the workforce, the proper use of technology lays a vital foundation for public health, democracy and economic development. This is certainly true for the proliferation of information and communication technology (ICT). Studies by the Digital Opportunity Task Force, the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank's Information Development Fund and Harvard eReadiness Project all prove that the expansion of ICT connectivity can augment social development. Building community telecenters, enhancing rural commerce via ICT-based microcredit lending, launching web-based e-commerce, using the internet to teach public health and land management in rural areas, and using email to relay commodity prices: these are among the many ICT strategies that can enable faster progress. Increasing access to technology and crossing the digital divide is not an option; it is an absolute necessity if the poorest nations are not to fall even farther behind.