By Duncan Drury
exhibitions are big business in Europe and North America. A major one seems
to take place at least once a month somewhere in the world, begging the
question of when all those exhibitors actually find time to develop their
products. Last weekend, Arusha took its turn with the Fourth Arusha IT
Exhibition. Held at the Hotel Equator on Boma Road, the show was a far cry
from glitzy events held in Las Vegas or London. This may be the "Geneva of
Africa", but Bill Gates won't be launching a new version of Windows in this
town for a while. However, event organizer Alex Rigolt of AA Computers sees
the exhibition as a way to showcase new products that are available today in
Arusha. "It is good that ordinary people can see what is possible. Much of
what is available in developed countries is also available here in Arusha,
and it is more affordable than you might think!"
AA Computers were introducing some new "eye openers" at the show,
specifically Data Keys and Wireless Access Points. Data keys are very small
devices, about the size of a key ring, which you can use to store data.
Small in size, but large in stature, the keys can hold up to 256Mb of data
more than 200 floppy disks' worth. Wireless access points allow the
connection of computers to a network by microwave radio rather than
traditional cables providing flexibility for office networks. Unfortunately
I was unable to connect my laptop to the wireless network that had been set
up at the exhibition those stories about the security risks inherent to
that technology may be exaggerated. This hacker, at least, was locked out.
Arusha Node Marie, commonly known as Habari, was also present at the
exhibition, showing off its wireless internet access equipment and
showcasing the Gnu/Linux operating system. Gnu/Linux is an operating system
that rivals Windows in its features and supported applications. It beats
Windows hands down when it comes to security and stability. More exciting is
the price. Gnu/Linux is free to use and distribute. Free you know that is
music to my ears. Arusha Node Marie plan to make Red Hat 9, a version of
GNU/Linux, available for only the cost of a blank CD in the near future.
Watch this space for an article dedicated to this exciting development.
I was surprised to see KK Security represented at an IT show. They had some
very interesting technology to show off a tiny CCTV camera that can be
connected to the internet, and a way of controlling distant devices by
sending text messages from your mobile phone. These are designed to be used
for remote monitoring of sites, and control of alarm systems or
refrigeration units. Aside from those applications, imagine how much more
exciting this would make Big Brother send a text message and lock Mwisho
in the toilet, whilst watching from your computer screen.
Other commercial exhibitors included Swift Holdings, who provided back up
power and surge protection to equipment displayed at the show, Exact
Software and SatCom Networks Africa.
It wasn't just businesses that were represented at the exhibition. The
United African Alliance Community Centre had a display showing how teachers
and students have been using the internet to learn about artistic traditions
around the world. Arusha Node Marie's philanthropic wing Elimu Online
provided an internet connection to UACC. Robert Mafie, head of UACC's
computer department told me that UACC is experimenting with different ways
of benefiting the community through access to the internet. Aside from
inspiring some beautiful textile designs and haiku poems, access to the
internet has allowed students at UACC to take online courses at US high
schools. Students have also been learning computer skills which are
essential to Tanzania's development in information technology. The show was
successfully de-nerded by a performance of specially commissioned rap and
drama by KushKemet, UACC's resident dramatic troupe.
The exhibition proved a roaring success, attracting over 1000 in its three
days. Alex Rigolt confirmed plans for future exhibitions. "Next time I hope
the fair can be bigger and involve more businesses and organisations in
Arusha." That is an exciting prospect. A larger fair would help to
consolidate the IT community in Arusha, and might feature exhibitors from
further afield, putting Tanzania firmly on the hi-tech map.
Arusha Node Marie
United African Alliance Community Centre
Unfortunately I didn't come away from this IT exhibition
laden with freebies hint hint. However, I have managed to get hold of a CD
containing beautiful satellite images for the whole of Tanzania, and some of
the surrounding countries. For the chance to win a copy of this, send me an
email describing the technology that has changed your life. The most
interesting email will bag the writer the CD. I'll announce the winner in
two weeks. Send entries to