By M. E. Kabay
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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