Internet in Africa

 When I talked to a friend of mine about writing a short piece on the internet in Burkina, she told me make sure to tell everyone that there is only one word to describe it… moan… And she works at the European Union offices… so I can only conclude that they are not, unlike the Canadian embassy here, connected to the satellite via a Canadian communication system.

I suppose I should find myself lucky we have internet at all, given how poor this country is and given how little technical infrastructure there exists… but ‘moan’ just the same!

According to OOKLA Net Index, Burkina consistently rates 196th on the household download index.

This comes from data analyzed between November 13th, 2014 and Feb 25th, 2015, using 5728 unique IP addresses for a total of 12,699 total tests.  It is fair to say that 196th place squarely places the country at the very bottom… well, I hear that Eritrea still has a dial up internet (I am dead serious), so maybe we are not quite the last… but pretty well down there.  These results made the front page of the local papers, no need to say.

There is ONE optic cable coming from Togo.  There is a new one that will be coming from Côte d’Ivoire… but for the time being, it is still in the planning… So ADSL is only available in ‘large’ cities like Ouaga and Bobo Dioulasso and only since 2011. And internet at home is mostly offered by ONATEL, the state telephone company.

Internet keys are available from Airtel (who else) and I hear Telmob.  They are rare to find and when available, they are snapped quickly by users… so, of course, they are always in short supply.  When we moved December 2013, I tried to find one until such time as I would be connected at home with ONATEL… to no avail.

Internet connections are, of course, not dedicated.

A dedicated connection for 128 kpbs without satellite connection is only offered by one provider from what I can understand – and it is 157$. If you dedicated that with satellite connection that cost jumps to 223$.

Yes there is G3+… if you can get it. My cell phone does not, and many of my friends express frustration because it is often down.

Given that many Burkinabé live in the country side or in areas without electricity, it will be no surprise to you to hear that the penetration of internet in this country in rather limited.  There are lots of internet café,s but few shops and restaurants that offer wi-fi.  Although to be fair, it is becoming increasingly available.   Internet literacy is also, evidently, very low.   Very.

The use of email address are dismal! Employees in private enterprise will still use their own personal email address to deal with clients on line (which is not frequent).

For government officers, , let’s just say that unless you get a younger officer with a smart phone and a personal computer he takes at work (and yes, I have seen that a lot!), you usually get no internet communication.

When I worked a few years ago (and it has not changed since) the older government officials I dealt with often had a computer on their desk, but it was not connected.  All it did was collect dust – and trust me, in this country, that expression takes a whole new dimension as dust is everywhere all the time. Burkina Faso is  located in the Sahel desert.

 These older officers all insisted that I contact them by phone.  But as their phone and/or the line was and is pretty bad, making conversation at times is nearly impossible.

Regular texting became part of my doing business.  But more often than not, I would simply go visit them at their office.  Reports, by the way, are often typed on a typewriter somewhere.

Internet connection regularly goes off … and I mean a few times a day.  I am reading the news and then, bang, I am offline and cannot get to the next article.  These outages are usually short.  They are frustrating but no big deal – unless you are downloading a program, then it means starting all over again.

But the internet connection regularly goes off for longer period of time.  The reason? It’s usually because some poor soul, not knowing what their  doing, is digging and hits that one cable, damages it, and then the whole town goes ‘MOAN’.

Sometimes these cuts are put back together with silver tape and you have a bit of a connection … but it is painfully slllloooooowwwww.

Some areas of town have an internet connection that work better than others.  Zone du Bois (center) works better when it works – but Ouaga 2000 (at the limit of the city) has a more consistent internet because it is closer to the location when the cable ends.

Of course, downloading a movie or an episode of your favourite show will take anywhere from 3 hours (194kb) to days.  I avoid HD files because it is almost impossible, and before you ask – Netflix is not available here.

For  this ‘high speed’ service (I am supposedly getting 512K, up from the 216 when I arrived in 2011) I pay 50,000 CFA, or $105.00.  So next time you complain about your internet service and/or cost, remember that it is way worse elsewhere in the world!

BUT… giving the low penetration of computers in private homes, I love to see the kids playing in the streets with the animals or with whatever they make toys of instead of being glued to their computer. I love to go to restaurant and see people talking to each other as opposed to texting and being glued to their cell phone, and yes, I do appreciate having the poor internet I have simply because I have internet and I can connect to my family and friends back in Canada,  even if my Skype connection is nearly impossible.

Living abroad has taught me so many things – but the one that is the most important is to appreciate and enjoy every little thing we have.  I know it sounds corny but, it is the truth.

Are you fluent in Internet?

The Internet has a language all its own. That language can include words, numbers and even images. All that can sometimes be a little confusing.

Today’s post is going to try to teach you how to communicate online – sort of!  I’m going to translate some of the most common of these terms for you. If you have anything to add to the list, please add them in the comments below!



Easter Egg: A hidden element written into a program or placed on a Web site. Basically, it is a special feature that is not otherwise made obvious, but when “clicked on,” it offers something special. This could be in the form of an extra game level or a secret area or an animation or a surprise image of some kind. If you’ve seen any of the Marvel movies, Stan Lee’s many cameos would count as an Easter Egg.

Avatar: A digital “actor” or icon that represents who you are and where you are in the virtual world. The avatar can be whatever you want, including a cartoon, an animal, a shape – anything. Just be aware that this image represents you


My Avatar for the P4Digital Blog

Spam: An e-mail message sent to a large number of people without consent. Spam is usually sent to promote a product or service.

Blog: A Web site or social media site where users can post an up-to-date e-journal entry of any topic they desire. Essentially, what this is.

Blogosphere or Blogsphere: The current state of all information available on blogs and/or the sub-culture of those who create and use blogs.

Programmer: A person who designs, codes, tests and documents a computer program or Web site. Professional programmers often hold college degrees in computer science, but a great deal of programming is done by individuals who are self-taught, with little or no formal training.


Troll: In general, to “troll” means to allure, to fish, to entice, or to bait. Internet trolls are people who fish for other people’s confidence and, once found, exploit it.

Flame War: When an online discussion degenerates into a series of personal attacks against the debaters, rather than a discussion of their opinions and positions. A heated exchange. If you want to see one, check out almost any comment stream on Youtube.


Noob:  is someone who my understand the online world, but acts like a jerk.

Newbie: someone who is new to the Internet or new to computers in general.”Newbie” is sort of a derogatory term, but hey, it doesn’t have to be 🙂 

Phishing: An online scam in which someone sends out a large number of legitimate looking e-mails that appear to come from respected companies (such as eBay, PayPal,, etc.) with the intent of “fishing” for personal and financial information from the recipient. It is an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will later be used for identity theft.

Hot spot: This term refers to places that have wireless Internet connections. Many retailers, especially coffee shops, are adding wireless hot spots to provide the tech-savvy another reason to stop in and spend some money and some time.


Defrag: short for: defragmentation It means to optimize your hard drive, usually with a program that “cleans it up” and makes it run as smoothly as possible.

Plugged-in: Slang for  being connected to the Internet

Thread: chain of postings on a single subject in a newsgroup

Hashtag: (on social media sites such as Twitter) a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. (Ours is #DigitalVelocity)


Interface: In a general sense, it is the portion of a program that interacts between a user and an application, meaning it is what you see on the computer screen. It usually refers to “user interface.” 

ISP: is Internet Service Provider.  That is the private company or government organization that plugs you into the vast Internet around the world. It is also at the centre of the Net Neutrality debate right now.

Meme: An Internet meme is an idea, style or action which spreads from person to person via the Internet. Grumpy cat is one of the most famous. 

grumpy cat

Cache: In browsers, “cache” is used to identify a space where web pages you have visited are stored in your computer. When you use GO, BACK, or any other means to revisit a document, the browser first checks to see if it is in cache and will retrieve it from there because it is much faster than retrieving it from the server.

CACHED LINK: In search results from Google,  there is usually a Cached link which allows you to view the version of a page that the search engine has stored in its database. The live page on the web might differ from this cached copy, because the cached copy dates from whenever the search engine’s spider last visited the page and detected modified content

Spiders: Computer robot programs, referred to sometimes as “crawlers” or “knowledge-bots” or “knowbots” that are used by search engines to roam the World Wide Web via the Internet, visit sites and databases, and keep the search engine database of web pages up to date. They obtain new pages, update known pages, and delete obsolete ones. Their findings are then integrated into the “home” database.


WIKI: A term meaning “quick” in Hawaiian, that is used for technology that gathers in one place a number of web pages focused on a theme, project, or collaboration. Wikis are generally used when users or group members are invited to develop, contribute, and update the content of the wiki.

Catfish: is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

Bit: The smallest unit of information in a computer, can either equal 0 or 1. Eight bits equal one byte.

BMP: (BitMaP) A standard type of graphics file. An uncompressed format, so the files tend to be fairly big.

Cookie: A small data file stored on your computer by a website, in theory to allow it to “remember” your preferences, but in practise mostly used to track which advertisements you have seen.

Gif: (Pronounced Jif apparently – there is a debate). Graphics Interchange Format. GIFs are image files that are compressed to reduce transfer time. These are usually animated.


These are just a few – if you have any more that you think are important, please comment below!

The New Machine Age and Jobs

A few weeks ago we talked about how evolving technologies are giving many jobs the death penalty.

Careers that were staples of society ten, five or even two years ago are no longer viable job opportunities. The technologies they use or provide are just, obsolete. Even Journalists are no longer safe. Shaw communications just laid off 400 workers on April 14th, and the CBC announced that 650 of its employees (8% of their entire workforce) were being let go.

This of course leads to issues about why Canadian Universities are training youth for jobs that no longer exist, and what that means for the future of Canada – but we’re already talked about that.

Actually, you can check out that article HERE if you’re interested.

Today we’re going to address something different, and a little less pessimistic. We’ve talked about jobs that are dying out, but what about the new jobs that are being created?



Take me for example. My official title is the ‘Social Media Manager at P4Digital.’ What does that mean? Well, I am the woman behind the keyboard at my company. I manage a wide variety of social media platforms (from WordPress to Twitter), I answer all the questions that people fire at the company, I keep my co-workers informed on going ons in the world, and I produce content for this fantastic Blog!

It is a full time job, and one that keeps me on my toes.

The thing is though – this job didn’t exist five years ago. Oh sure, there were marketing managers, analog players in a world that didn’t really run in real time but thanks to the onslaught of social media, companies don’t have the option to be analog anymore. You need someone behind the keyboard to manage branding and company issues in real time. Hence, the birth of the Social Media Manager.

Things are changing quickly.



Figuring out what jobs are going to be popular in the future is not a new idea. There is an entire procedure that the Canadian Government goes through to try to predict what future careers will look like. It’s called COPS.

Didyouknow3Employment and Social Development Canada use this data to make projections about the future of labour supply and demand. The last report was released in 2011 and deals with projections from 2011 to 2020. You can check out their most recent report for yourself HERE.

Most major countries have a division similar to COPS. The UKCES (UK Commission for Employment and Skills) is used in the United Kingdom. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has the Employment Projects (EP) Program in the Untied States. This is not a new concept, or a very unique one.


What jobs will be big in the future? Lets start in the present. Many jobs today did not exist at all ten years ago. In fact, the top ten in demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004. Some of these include:

  • SEO Specialist

SEO Specialist


  • Web/Online Analyst


  • Web AnalystChief Digital Officer (CDO)



There are many more:

  • App Developer
  • Data Miner
  • Admissions Consultants
  • Millennial generational Expert
  • Social Media Manager
  • Could Computing Technologist
  • Sustainability Expert
  • User Experience (UX) Designer.

The skills that are needed for these jobs show that digital literacy is incredibly important. In addition to other skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and entrepreneurship.


What jobs will be common in the future? There’s really is no way to tell for sure, but reports like COPS and experts can guess.

Andrew McAfee is an Economist and one such expert.

“In the world we are creating very quickly, we are going to see things that look more and more like science fiction and less and less like jobs.”

He was a speaker at a TED Talk back in June of 2013. The video is below.

He predicts that Siri will eventually take over Customer Service positions, and self driving cars will eliminate the need for Truck Drivers.

It will be the end of drudgery and toil. Jobs of the future will belong to the innovators. When we are able to print a 3D object as easily as we print a document, the hobbyists suddenly become the creators. Passion and doing what you love will take on a whole new meaning.

What will the jobs of the future be then? Well, Futurist Thomas Frey predicts they will be something like this:

  • Augmented reality Architects: Similar to the reality that Google Glass Provides, but on a much larger scale.
  • Alternative Currency Bankers: The Rise of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. According to Javelin Strategies, 20% of all online trades are already done with alternative currencies.
  • Locationists: People who specialize in adding the relevance of ‘place’ into our top global online communities.
  • 3D Printing Engineers: Experts in 3D Printing Technology
  • Privacy Managers: How to deal with privacy in a Digital Age.

He goes on to list many more jobs, each more fantastical than the last. You can see them all for yourself HERE

Ten years ago, we didn’t have Facebook. Twenty years ago the Internet didn’t even exist! Who knows what jobs will be born a decade from today. One thing we can safely assume is that it will be run by a generation with new and different values than what we have today.

Amanda Portelli, Social Media Manager at P4Digital

Follow us on Twitter @pfourdigital




Education Inflation

“Video killed the radio star!”

Let’s pretend for a minute that it’s 1999. What would your day look like?

You’d wake up with your radio alarm clock –check your PDA to see what your schedule was like for the day. Maybe you’d find out that a film you rented was due back at the video store.

Once you arrived at work, the fax machine might have been your next stop. If you were a student, the library may have been where you spent your day – doing research and using the card-catalogues to find materials.

If you were expecting a call, you couldn’t travel very far from the landline. . Hopefully no one was on the internet, because no calls could be made while someone was online.  As for bills – they came in the mail!

No, not e-mail. Physical mail; ‘snail mail’.

These were things that people couldn’t live without just a short decade ago. Today, they are all but obsolete.

Here is a humbling thought – how many jobs died out with these staples of life?

“As we create these new automations, it eliminates 10000 jobs at a time,” Thomas Frey, Futurist and former engineer and designer for IBM.

We’ve already seen a humbling amount of companies go belly up in the last 10 years. Titans like Blockbuster and Rogers Video have died out and even staples like Canada Post isn’t immune, cutting 8,000 jobs and phasing out door-to-door delivery.

Thomas Frey goes onto theorize that by 2013, half of the jobs that are currently in the west will either have transitioned into something else or be completely gone.

Need an example? Check out this blog entry that WE WROTE about the rise of the Chief Digital Officer, and how that position is pushing out the CIO and CMO.

Jobs and careers are shifting and changing, but are universities keeping up?

The numbers would suggest NO.



Why such a large drop in numbers? One plausible theory is because the retirement age has been delayed. For the first time in quite a while, the younger generation is competing with the older one. With jobs dying out and becoming automated, there just aren’t enough skilled positions to go around.

That leaves slim pickings for even unskilled or low-skilled positions.


Low skilled jobs refer to work that requires no specific education or experience. Jobs that don’t require a university or college degree. Which at first glance, might seem like a good thing. Post-secondary education is expensive and the methods of it aren’t for everyone.

Despite this, a record number of Canadian youth are going to university. As of 2011, approximately 75% of the Canadian under 30 population had gone to university. That leads to Education Inflation. 

Academic inflation can be defined as the combined circumstances where a degree becomes a requirement for more jobs while, at the same time, becoming an insufficient entry requirement to others –

Education inflation works on the same idea as economic inflation. As more and more people get degrees, those degrees become less valuable to employers. Where a Bachelor degree may have done 10 years ago, a Masters is now needed.

Post-secondary education is no longer optional. A Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Commerce are now almost expected to be had after high school. Which means those same degrees could be looked at with the same regard as a very expensive high school diploma.

Couple this with the advancements in technology, which is causing more jobs to die out. In Canada,  you essentially have a situation where universities are charging to prepare students for jobs that aren’t needed, or don’t even exist any more.

Graduates are entering a job market that doesn’t want or need to hire them with thousands of dollars of debt.

Education inflation

This contributes to the widening gap in Canada between the haves and have-nots.

No training = no funds=no progress.

This could be a catastrophe down the road. Increasingly, countries success depends on the skills its citizens have. If the young people aren’t getting the training, they won’t develop the skills that will be needed when the older generation finally does retire. When that happens, who will buy the houses, who will pay for the social programs, and who will adapt to the new jobs?

Who will be the innovators that drive the Canadian economy forward?

Will Canada be a country without any innovations or skills? Will other countries who have been training and hiring their youth well sweep in to take the power and innovation that Canada has enjoyed for the last few decades?



There are 34 countries in the OECD, and those include Korea, Slovenia and Chile. That could mean that in a few short years, there could be 33 countries ahead of Canada leading in innovation, technology and useful skills.

The plight of the young workers in Canada is not an isolated problem. It could affect everyone.