A different kind of antiviral donation for Africa

A different kind of antiviral donation for Africa
A different kind of antiviral donation for Africa 

By M. E. Kabay  
Network World 

Africa is suffering from yet another plague: this one infects their 
computers instead of their communities.

Chris Michael, writing in the English newspaper The Guardian in August 
2009, summarized the situation as follows: "...Africa has become a hive 
of [T]rojans, worms and exploiters of all stripes. As PC use on the 
continent has spread in the past decade (in Ethiopia it has gone from 
0.01% of the Ethiopian population to 0.45% through 1999-2008), viruses 
have hitched a ride, wreaking havoc on development efforts, government 
programmes and fledgling businesses."

Michael points out that African organizations can hardly afford to pay 
$50 per year per computer for virus protection, and thus computers all 
over the continent are sinking into unusability. Organizations lose 
critical documents ("an agriculture bureau employee ... lost the 
multi-year plan for agricultural improvements for the Benishangul-Gumuz 
region, Ethiopia's fourth poorest area"), suffer slow access to the 
Internet ("it is not unusual to wait 10 minutes to access a single [W]eb 
page"), randomly reboot computers, and destroy files.

Alan Mercer, a computer specialist with Voluntary Service Overseas 
(VSO), is bitter about the effect of (mostly Chinese) virus writers on 
his African clients:

"I'd take them to Ethiopia," Mercer says. "I'd show them the man who 
lost his agricultural development plan to the virus he wrote. Then I'd 
show him the kids who will die in two years because the agricultural 
reforms came too late and the annual harvest failed because the 
agricultural development plan at the regional agricultural bureau was 
destroyed by his virus."


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