South Africa's Internet: Not faster than a speeding pigeon

South African tech company Unlimited IT was so frustrated with the slow Internet speeds provided by Telkom, one of South Africa's biggest internet providers, that it hired a pigeon named Winston. As the Times of South Africa reports, Winston carried a 4gb memory card from one branch of Unlimited IT to another, far faster than Telkom's transfer speed:  

The 11-month-old pigeon flew 80km from a call centre in Howick, outside Pietermaritzburg, to a head office in Hillcrest, Durban, to prove a bird is faster at transferring data than Telkom’s ADSL lines.

Winston made his delivery in 2 hours 6 minutes and 57 seconds, beating Telkom’s estimated download time of up to two days. By the time the memory card, carrying company data, had been collected from Winston and downloaded by midday, the ADSL download had managed 100MB of data.

The Christian Science Monitor's Scott Balduf, based in Johannesburg, explains why the story is more significant than just good publicity for Ultimate and Winston:

Africans pay some of the highest prices for some of the least reliable Internet service in the world. And if a country like South Africa – relatively prosperous and developed – can't solve this problem, then it's going to need a lot more pigeons.

Telkom has since responded to the South Africa Press Association and denied responsibility for Ultimate's Internet connection woes.



Hargeisa, Somalia: The new "City of God"?


Somalia may generally be thought of as a source of refugees, but fierce conflict in Ethiopia is sending more and more refugees into the country with predictably negative effects. There's recently been a large increase in street children and a rise in gang conflict in the city of Hargeisa, which is often an initial stopping point for immigrants seeking to travel further into Somalia or Yemen.

Children flocking to Hargeisa join Somali kids in searching for the most basic necessities, using any means necessary to find their next meal off the streets.  Current estimates claim there to be about 3,000 children, most of them boys between five and 18, living on Hargeisa's streets. Lacking families and home environments many of these children cling to gangs as a source of fraternity and stability. In the past two years, approximately 5,000 knives and weapons, commonly used in robberies, have been recovered from street children. Mohamed Ismail Hirsi, Hargeisa's Central Police Station commander recently stated:

"In the last 72 hours, we have arrested more than 30 street children who have committed crimes such as stealing mobile phones in different parts of the town."  

Increased crime by these young boys is complicated further by the fact that a 2008 juvenile justice law has yet to be implemented, forcing these children to be charged and processed as adult perpetrators.

Getty Images/Stringer