Christmas is a time for giving then why am I doing so much receiving?
Since the beginning of December my email has been under a seasonal
spam siege and I know I am not alone.
is estimated that at least 60% of all email traffic is unsolicited.
Most email users are plagued by adverts for cheap medication, bargain
jewellery, unwanted links to pornography and products guaranteed
to enlarge our most intimate body parts.
Gates, the most spammed person in the world, gets four-million spam
messages a day. He has a department dedicated to sifting his email
for legitimate messages. Gates is also worth $46-billion and the
richest man in the world. Clearly there must be a correlation between
the amount of spam you get and your wealth.
fact, Gates gets as many spam messages a day as there are Internet
users in the whole of South Africa. This is currently estimated
at 3 523 000 or 7,4% of the population according to World Wide Worx.
South Africa is relatively advanced compared to the rest of Africa,
though. South African Internet users make up 36% of total users
in Africa which is close to 13 million.
Africa as a whole only 1,4% of the population have access to the
Internet. Compare this to the 35 million users in the UK, where
60% of the population utilise the web.
spam is among the many things most Africans will not be getting
have we really grasped the full weight of the technological problem
1965 Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel, made his famous observation
that the rate of technological development doubles every two years.
This translates to an average performance improvement in the technology
industry as a whole of 1% a week.
real terms Moore's Law means that 'we won't experience 100 years
of progress in the 21st century
it will be more like 20 000
years of progress at today's rate,' says Ray Kurzweil CEO of KurzweilAI.net.
and use of information technologies in Africa is increasing but
at the same time developed countries continue to outpace this growth.
This means that as an African on this upward technological spiral
you will always be playing catch-up. It is like being in an ever-accelerating
car that continues to fall further behind because those ahead are
accelerating even faster.
has other problems. Infrastructural capacity, literacy and high-quality
education and health care are prerequisites to technological advancement.
There are only 14-million phone lines on the continent. And who
needs a computer when you are starving?
technology itself can be helpful in building effective infrastructure,
governance and service provision. The New Partnership for Africa's
Development (Nepad) sees information and communication technology
as central to reducing poverty, overcoming geographic isolation
and promoting distance learning and health education.
such as HealthNet use global communications in 150 countries to
link up health professionals. Burn surgeons in Mozambique, Tanzania
and Uganda now share information on reconstructive surgery techniques.
South Africa has agreed to donate software to all 32 000 State schools
in perpetuity (of course many will have to get computers first,
with 19 000 schools still without sufficient facilities).
despite these developments, as I sit bombarded by spam and taking
my speedy broadband connection for granted, I am overwhelmed by
the fear that Africa may never draw level with its developed counterparts.
we underestimate the gravity of this.
you know if you type the word 'poverty' into the Google Search Engine
you get 20-million hits? If you type in the word 'spam' you get
45-million. Those of us who make up the information superhighway
seem to be perturbed about the wrong thing.
time has come to get the situation into perspective.
for me and my little world, my personal commitment this Christmas
is to only complain about things of real substance and get my own
spam is a real problem. It amounts to an amazing $1 934 per employee
per year in terms of lost productivity according to Nucleus Research.
But, frankly, I am only too happy to be suffering from such a 'First
World' complaint as too much spam.
celebrate I am going to buy my wife a genuine Rolex watch for £15,
splash out on a bucket of Viagra for my granddad and wait for my
Christmas millions to arrive from Idi Amin's second cousin who has
promised they will be deposited as soon as I hand over my bank details.
Remember, Christmas comes but once a year, but poverty, like spam,
is for life.
Hamber writes the column "Look South": an analysis
of trends in global political, social and cultural life and its
relevance to South Africa on Polity, see http://www.polity.co.za/pol/opinion/brandon/.
"Look South" published by