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Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Funny how I have lived in Africa all my life, and yet I had no clue what Leonardo DiCaprio was talking about when he used this supposedly well known phrase in Blood Diamond. Ironically enough, I see it is now gaining some popularity in local online forums. Trust the Americans to give us a new phrase to describe ourselves.

SL Africa

Anyway, Africa is actually the theme of this post. A recent initiative by a social development company based in Cape Town called Uthango was recently brought to my attention by one of my newsfeeds. They aim to use Second Life as one of many modern tools to effect change in Africa. One of the parts of this initiative is a sim in Second Life called SL Africa that will be (duh) African themed and provide real information and a real insight into life in Africa in a new and interesting way. I had an interesting chat to Uthango's Dorette Steenkamp (Alanagh Recreant in SL) about the project yesterday, and she started to show me around but I had to cut the visit short due to other commitments. I have been wondering about how I can get involved in something altruistic, and when I first read about SL Africa last week I thought I had to at least investigate. We'll see if there's some way I can constructively contribute. I was actually saying my goodbyes when Eskom rudely interrupted with a power cut in our area, which brings me to another TIA item..

Power spin

If you search for "load shedding" in Wikipedia, you are redirected to a topic on "Rolling blackout". That is an indication of Eskom's fundamental approach to the current power supply crisis in the country: deceit, and yes I said crisis. When there are parts of Gauteng that are seeing three 'load shedding' sessions of at least two hours in a single day, there are problems (sorry, no links, this is pure hearsay from Radio 702).

The thing is, we get it. Most reasonable South Africans understand there is a problem and that they need to modify their use of electricity.  We understand that it's unavoidable that they will be affected at some stage, and while it's inconvenient we understand that we have to deal with it. Of course it would be a hell of a lot easier to help Eskom if they could help us just a teeny bit.

They have a load shedding schedule on their website, but it is entirely useless as actual blackouts often have nothing to do with the projected timetable. How many South Africans have access to the internet anyway? How many businesses can be reasonably expected to make use of a system like that-even if it was accurate? Eskom needs to do two things here. First and foremost, plan and get an accurate and honest schedule sorted out. Second, make it publicly available in media that are accessible to most people, and here are just a few off the top of my head:

  • Newspapers, provide them with a daily schedule which their readers can reference.
  • Radio, with the same schedule radio stations could provide timeous warnings 15-30 minutes before blackouts are scheduled to occur.
  • Cellphones, recent estimates put our cellphone using population at more than half our overall population! Give users a tollfree number to call or an SMS notification service to subscribe to that will send them advance warning of power cuts in their area.
  • Television, we already have a power supply status indicator on public TV, why not extend that to include notification of areas that can expect powercuts in the next half hour or so.

None of these are complex systems, many are already in use for commercial purposes-so why not for something this essential to keeping homes and businesses prepared to deal with this situation?



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