G-Nigeria Day 2010

On Thursday and Friday I was at University of Lagos for the G-Nigeria Day 2010.  This is part of Google’s initiative for Africa to improve ICT and the Internet. Read more here.

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The Tale of Nigerian University Portals

In 2005 I bought my ICT scratch card. I was supposed to use the card to activate my account on our university portal. With my account I should be able to do my semester registration online, register for my courses and view my results online. These should be the least I should be able to do for me to find the portal useful or any other student. For the lecturers I believe they should be able to have access to their courses, view the registered students and input students’ scores. These are the basic things the application should be able to do for it to be rated as providing a solution. We do not have to go far on the several reports it should be able to generate including Senate Format Report, Graduating List, Pass/Repeat List and Transcript. For it to be even more valuable, the University Senate should be able to approve/reject results online. Administration like accommodation allocation, lecture venues, time tabling, etc should also be available.

With these things in place then there is a valuable service and solution to problems. This is the main goal of ICT – to simplify processes, improve efficiency and accuracy, and reduce cost.

But I started realizing the opposite of it since the first step of using the portal. For the activation we needed to go and submit our registration numbers somewhere and then patiently wait for a number of days before we get going. Unfortunately for me (and many others) we had to wait for the whole session for our accounts to be activated. And since I was in my final year I was not going to be among those that would make use of the portal; let’s not talk about the money I paid for the ICT. Anyway since it was the first time it would be very kind if we give it a time grace to go through testing and quality assurance phases. At least we contributed our own quota as a case study for testing the applicaton.

One (1) year after I left school I thought everything should be fine now, I inquired from friends and was shocked to learn that it was a total failure and our manual method was preferred, so they had to go back to it.

This tale is not just in Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi (ATBU), the university I graduated from. Two (2) years before ATBU started the project, I recall University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) to have been one of the pioneers to implement it. I was amazed to learn about that and was hopeful that our universities would soon be going into IT solutions and move to another level in process improvements. Unfortunately almost all the solutions in many universities and high institutions have failed.

I finally understood that there is a unique problem that contributes to these failed systems: the main objective is not to solve problems but rather to use ICT buzz-words in order to extract funds.

Why it fails

As I said earlier, the main cause of the failure is having a different objective far away from providing solution for some problem; and because of that there is no any feasibility studies in order to design and implement a system that would suit the ICT development of our universities. Most of the systems therefore are unusable and have very poor quality; and for any software to provide any solution it must be usable. No matter how feature rich the software is, it is worthless if it becomes unusable. Software usability is very important that ISO developed standards like ISO 9126 and models to specify and measure software usability.

To understand what I mean by an unusable and poor quality system, imagine a bandwidth of 128/64 kbps or 256/128 kbps used to serve 20,000+ students, or a system that allows a student to register 100 units of courses in a semester, or registration links that display ‘Database Access Error’ or ‘This Page is Invalid’.

The Scratch Card Business Model

Payment methods have been part of ICT solutions. Services that require payments could be integrated with the solution using some payment methods in order to make lives of customers easier. In Nigeria, one of such methods is the scratch card particularly in schools.

However, instead of making lives of students easier, it has become a business model by extorting students. The student therefore becomes the victim of the portal system instead of its beneficiary.

Even with the scratch card model, students still have to queue to make their payments. This keeps one still wondering what problem has the model solved, and only stops (wondering) when he realizes that it has solved the business problem of the beneficiaries.

The Mighty Banks

The bank is always chasing for money to beef up its deposit, and that is what it has been chasing in our universities. They promise the universities to assist them in implementing these unusable systems, making it seem to be at no cost whereas the victims (students) end up paying the price. Students are therefore forced to make payments in these banks.

The Solution

It is very simple. Instead of emphasizing on the scratch card business model and extorting students, the first step is to have an objective of trying to solve at least the following problems:

  • A system that would simplify the registration process for students
  • Lecturers should be able to use the system and save students’ scores
  • The system should be able to compute students’ results based on the saved scores
  • Students should be able to view their records from the system and print their result slips
  • The system should be able to generate reports including end of semester results, graduation list, transcript, etc.

The system must be usable. Instead of hosting the portal online and providing limited bandwidth to students, the system should be hosted locally in the school. A stable Local Area Network (LAN) for the whole school is therefore a pre-requisite (which ideally every school should have). A public IP can be obtained for the network so that users can also have online access if they have good Internet connection and also enjoy non-compromised speed within the school’s network.

Comprehensive user requirements must be specified before the system implementation. The system should also go through testing and quality assurance phases so that students cannot be able to register 100 units of courses when they are supposed to register a maximum of 23.

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On Career Choice

I’d rather be a great historian than to be a quack engineer.

Other quotes:

=> On Software Architecture

=> On Knowledge

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Nigeria’s Rebranding Program Suffers Again, FG Reacts

Just about two weeks after District 9 debuted and defames Nigeria, Sony Coorporation has followed the same suit to reference Nigerians as major scammers on the Internet in its new PlayStation 3 (PS 3) Slim advert.

This is another big slam on Nigeria’s rebranding program; with PS as one of the most popular TV games in the world millions would be caught up with the advert. And again with Social Media, the video is all over the Internet.

But this time around the Nigerian government has reacted and the Rebranding Nigeria Campaign boss, Prof. Dora Akunyili, made a press release yesterday which demands an unconditional apology from Sony Corporation.
Just a few hours ago I have seen Lycanhali’s comments on youtube that Sony has stripped off the Nigeria part from the advert. Could it be that Sony Corporation has responded to FG’s reaction? However, as I write now the advert on the official Playstation website still references Nigeria.
It is unfortunate that Nigeria has become everyone’s dustbin, but we need to ask ourselves what is the cause for it.
nigerian_rebrandingJust about two weeks after District 9 debuted and defames Nigeria, Sony Coorporation has followed the same suit to reference Nigerians as major scammers on the Internet in its new PlayStation 3 (PS 3) Slim TV spot advert.
This is another big slam on Nigeria’s rebranding program; with PS as one of the most popular TV games in the world millions would be caught up with the advert. And again with Social Media, the video is all over the Internet.
But this time around the Nigerian government has reacted and the Rebranding Nigeria Campaign boss, Prof. Dora Akunyili, made a press release yesterday which demands an unconditional apology from Sony Corporation.
A few hours ago I read Lycanhali’s comments on youtube that Sony has stripped off the ‘Nigerian part’ from the advert. Could it be that Sony Corporation has responded to FG’s reaction? However, as I write now the advert on the Playstation’s website still references Nigeria.
It is unfortunate that Nigeria has become everyone’s dustbin, but we need to ask ourselves what is the cause for it.

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District 9 Destroys Nigeria’s Rebranding Program

Barely 6 months ago the minister of Information launched the Rebranding Nigeria campaign. As this campaign is going on, the block buster movie District 9, which debuted in cinemas on August 13 shatters it.

In the movie, a gang of Nigerians were depicted as black marketers having weaponry deals with aliens, which is led by Obesandjo. (Sounds familiar?)

The Nigerians were also depicted as illiterates, trading weapons they don’t have idea of how they are being operated.

While the Rebranding program suffers from recognition as it strives to achieve its goals, District 9 has gained world fame and earned $37 million at the box office over its opening weekend, $7 million more than its cost price.

Its popularity was also influenced by social networking sites which the Rebranding program failed to utilize. District 9 has been trending on Twitter long before its release.

Nigeria’s Rebranding Program Suffers Again

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Introducing Google Technology User Group (GTUG), Nigeria – The First GTUG in Africa

Google is cool. It changed the way we do things. It makes our lives easier and more effective.
But wait, does everyone in the world know that? What about Nigeria?

The Google Technology User Group, Nigeria (the first GTUG in Africa) provides an avenue for Google geeks in the country to meet, share and learn. And of course they are going to spread these great opportunities to everyone out there.

Learn more here.

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What’s Being Said About Nigeria

Yesterday, Twitter launched a ‘Live-Updating Search Widget’ which lets you customize the widget with a certain search query to see real time results of tweets.

I customized the widget to return tweets with the keywords Nigeria, #nigeria or #lightupnigeria.

The #lightupnigeria hashtag is particularly interesting. It is a movement in regards the current situation of Power in the country and Nigerians are now expressing their desperate need of steady Electricity. There is a good post about it here.

The customized widget is now running on my home page. I also created a Google Gadget for the widget and I have it running on my iGoogle page. Click to add to your iGoogle page.

nigeria_tweets

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Dynamic Query with Generic CRUD Service – EJB 3.0/3.1

I applied Adam Bien’s Generic CRUD service which he described in his book, Real World Java EE patterns – Rethinking Best Practices, and it greatly simplified the CRUD operations for the project I am working on. He also discussed about it on his blog.

However, I have queries which vary considerably depending on some options selected by a user, so I needed to create my queries on the fly instead of having named queries which keep growing. I therefore extended the Generic CRUD service to generate dynamic queries.

In the CRUDService interface I added findByDynamicQuery():

public interface CrudService {
     //...
     <T> List<T> findByDynamicQuery(Class<T> type,
                     List<ParameterDefinition> parameters);
}
 

Class<T> type represents the entity class for the query to be made and List<ParameterDefinition> parameters is used for specifying the query parameters (more on that).

The DynamicQueryParameter

I needed to specify parameters for OR conditions as well; Map<String, Object> could not satisfy the requirement since each key can map to at most one value and some queries may define one key (field) for many values. E.g. “SELECT c FROM Candidate WHERE c.program = :prog1 OR c.program = :prog2″ (program twice).

To solve the problem I used List<ParameterDefinition> to specify the parameters. ParameterDefinition is a simple class that defines the parameter type, name and value:

public class ParameterDefinition {
   private final String name;
   private final Object value;
   private final ParameterType paramType;

   public ParameterDefinition(ParameterType paramType, String name, Object value) {
      this.name = name;
      this.value = value;
      this.paramType = paramType;
   }

   public ParameterType getParameterType() {
      return paramType;
   }
   public String getName() {
      return name;
   }

   public Object getValue() {
      return value;
   }
}

ParameterType is defined using an Enum:

public enum ParameterType {
    WITH, AND, OR
}

The dynamic version of the QueryParameter is therefore as follows:

public class DynamicQueryParameter {
   private List<ParameterDefinition> parameters = null;

   private DynamicQueryParameter(String name, Object value) {
      this.parameters = new ArrayList<ParameterDefinition>();
      addParameter(ParameterType.WITH, name, value);
   }

   public static DynamicQueryParameter with(String name, final Object value) {
      return new DynamicQueryParameter(name, value);
   }

   public DynamicQueryParameter and(String name, final Object value) {
      addParameter(ParameterType.AND, name, value);

      return this;
   }

   public DynamicQueryParameter or(String name, final Object value) {
      addParameter(ParameterType.OR, name, value);

      return this;
   }

   public List<ParameterDefinition> parameters() {
     return this.parameters;
   }

   private void addParameter(ParameterType paramType,
      String name, final Object value)
   {
      parameters.add(new ParameterDefinition(paramType, name, value));
   }
}

And finally the CrudService implementation:

@Stateless
@Local(CrudService.class)
@TransactionAttribute(TransactionAttributeType.MANDATORY)
public class CrudServiceBean implements CrudService {
   @PersistenceContext
   private EntityManager em;

   //...

   public <T> List<T> findByDynamicQuery(Class<T> type,
       List<ParameterDefinition> parameters)
   {
      //generate query
      String queryString = generateQuery(type, parameters);

      Query query = this.em.createQuery(queryString);

      //set parameters
      int k = 1;	//parameter position
      for (ParameterDefinition param : parameters) {
           query.setParameter(k++, param.getValue());
      }

      return query.getResultList();
   }

   //helper method
   private <T> String generateQuery(Class<T> type,
      List<ParameterDefinition> parameters)
   {
      final String VAR = "obj";
      StringBuilder queryBuilder = new StringBuilder(
      String.format("SELECT %s FROM %s %s",
         VAR, type.getSimpleName(), VAR)
      );

      if (parameters.size() == 0) { //no conditions
           return queryBuilder.toString();
      }

      //WHERE clause
      Iterator<ParameterDefinition> itr = parameters.iterator();
      int k = 1;	//parameter position
      ParameterDefinition firstParam = itr.next();  //always type WITH
      queryBuilder.append(String.format(" WHERE %s.%s = ?%d",
           VAR, firstParam.getName(), k++));

      //append parameters
      for ( ; itr.hasNext(); ) {
           ParameterDefinition nextParam = itr.next();
           queryBuilder.append(String.format(
               " %s %s.%s = ?%s", nextParam.getParameterType(), VAR,
               nextParam.getName(), k++));
      }
      return queryBuilder.toString();
   }
}

The query can be constructed from a client as follows:

List<Candidate> candidate = crudServiceBean.findByDynamicQuery(Candidate.class,
      DynamicQueryParameter.
      with("id", "111").
      and("program", "SE").
      or("program", "IT").
      and("mode", "FT").
      parameters());

where Candidate is an entity bean and crudServiceBean is a reference to CrudServiceBean session bean.

As Nigerian Facebook’rs Approach 1 Million…

In the beginning of the year we predicted that 0.5 million (or more) Nigerians would be on Facebook by mid-year. Today there are 585,000 on the platform with more engagements being noticed. Google Trends show that more than 50,000 Nigerians return to Facebook daily.
The effect of the growth has started manifesting in the country: lot of groups are now formed with active participations and discussions.
A very interesting group recently is the “SUPPORT FOR SENATE BILL AGAINST CHILD DESTITUTION” formed to support Senator Tafidan Argungu and Forty others’ bill to stop child destitution in the country. There are more than 1,300 members on the group now. The group has certainly made an impact in this campaign which made Thisday publish an article about it (http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=145272)
In the last 2 months, Facebook attracted more than 100,000 Nigerians each month. With this rate, we should expect 1.2 million users by the end of the year and about 2.5 million by 2011. Indeed with this number, it is going to be an interesting platform for politics for the next general elections. There are numerous political groups already.
However the biggest question still remains: do we expect to see positive developments in the country through the power of information sharing and collaboration Facebook offers?

nigeria-flag
facebook

In the beginning of the year we predicted that 0.5 million (or more) Nigerians  would be on Facebook by mid-year. Today there are 573,780 on the platform with more engagements being noticed. Google Trends show that more than 50,000 Nigerians return to Facebook daily.

The effect of the growth has started manifesting in the country: lot of groups are now formed with active participations and discussions.

A very interesting group recently is the “SUPPORT FOR SENATE BILL AGAINST CHILD DESTITUTION” formed to support Senator Tafidan Argungu and Forty others’ bill to stop child destitution in the country. There are more than 1,380 members on the group now. The group has certainly made an impact in this campaign which made Thisday publish an article about it.

In the last 2 months, Facebook attracted more than 100,000 Nigerians each month. With this rate, we should expect 1.2 million users by the end of the year and about 2.4 million by 2011. Indeed with this number, it is going to be an interesting platform for politics for the next general elections. There are numerous political groups already.

However the biggest question still remains: do we expect to see positive developments in the country through the power of information sharing and collaboration Facebook offers?

[Other posts on "Nigeria and Facebook"]

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A Software Engineer from CASE

If you want to know the value of milliseconds then ask an Olympic silver medalist who lost to his opponent by just a millisecond” – this is an adage used to show the importance of time. In the same manner, if you want to know the importance of software correctness then ask the engineers that blew up a US$370 million worth space rocket, 37 seconds after it was launched, because a 16-bit signed integer value that could not hold some converted data from 64-bit floating point was used.

That said, if you want to know the importance of software correctness then ask Thales Group (formerly The THOMSON Corporation) who have long been involved in Software development in major projects in Europe such as the Aerospatiale. With this experience, Thales Group undoubtedly would specify more strict principles for its Software Development Methodology in order to ensure software correctness in their systems.

It is based on these principles that Center for Advanced Software Engineering (CASE) was established in 1996 in affiliation with Thales Universite, a part of Thales Group that provides its training ground. Today, CASE as an independent centre of excellence in software engineering under the auspices of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia nurtures its Msc and Phd students into world class Software Engineers.

If you want to be a world-class programmer, you can program every day for ten years, or you can program every day for two years and take an algorithms class, says Prof. Charles E. Leiserson of MIT. It is no surprise then that in CASE the first drills you get is on Algorithms and Data structures. Efficient and optimized codes are the end results.

Algorithms on their own do not give you a system; you need programming skills to implement them. In CASE, you get refreshed in reputable languages including C/C++ and Java and then dive into advanced programming in them.

To solve complex problems of today’s business needs, highly responsive software operating under Real Time constraints is not an option; in CASE therefore you are taught to design real time systems using a tested and trusted model – the UML Realtime (UML-RT). And to achieve these design goals, your system must mimic the real nature of processes taking place simultaneously and interacting with one another. Fully grasping the theory of Concurrency makes a Software Engineer from CASE write multi-threaded applications and ensure that they do not deadlock.

The accuracy and high quality of your system begins in the analysis stage. You get exposed to intensive software analysis using SART and UML. Your documentation must be industry standards-based, you therefore learn how to produce a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) in DoD, MIL and IEEE standards.

Your code must not just be accurate but also efficient and maintainable. In the Design class you learn just that starting from the high level architecture to the bits of software design. You get to learn how to design re-usable codes using Object Oriented Programming (OOP) and design patterns with modeling in UML. You also ‘well-document’ your design in Software Design Document (SDD) using the industry standards.

A CASE Software Engineer can neither afford hard nor soft faults as far as software development is concerned. He therefore learns all the bolts and nuts about Software Quality and Testing. He gets to learn Software Quality Management (SQM) and Software Quality Assurance (SQA), he also learns to evaluate the software product in order to ascertain that it has indeed acquired the level of quality based on the criteria defined for it. Defects and problems must be identified and corrected through the disciplined process of Software Testing.

Life is too short, so you got to deliver your systems as fast as possible. You learn how to do that in CASE using automated tools for systems development. You get experience in tools for specification, design, configuration management and testing using Rational Rose Enterprise, Clearcase, Manual Tester and Functional Tester.

Managing changes of your software product as it evolves has never been easy. You are taught how to setup your project since startup in order to maintain consistency of your system’s functionality during development and easily manage changes as it (the system) evolves. Simply, in CASE you are a Configuration Manager.

You better ensure that your software is extremely secured in this age of high cyber-security threats. Sitting close with his sister students in IT security gives a CASE Software Engineer the opportunity to learn that. He gets exposed to the importance of security from the IT Security guys and through seminars organized.  He understands why a system should go through a ‘Secure Software Development Lifecyle’.

In CASE, you are also a Project and Risk Manager. A CASE Software Engineer knows how to manage people and resources, he is good in identifying risks and providing mitigation and contingency plans for such risks. His well prepared Software Development Plan (SDP) ensures that he provides the most optimum management for the project.

Special topics that expose you on how to deliver business systems from object modeling to data modeling are undertaken. You get introduced to recent technologies like Business Intelligence (BI) to help your business better understand its context.

To ensure that all these skills become part of a CASE Software Engineer, he got to go through two projects that cover the whole process of software methodology. In these projects he learns how to maintain an existing system and also builds a system from scratch in a team. An 8-months industrial attachment (split into 3 and 5 months) in reputable Software firms gives him the opportunity to get the feel of Software Engineering in the real world.

A Software Engineer from CASE graduates as a confident and exceptional engineer who perfectly suits the highly reputable Software firms. He is also capable of driving a growing organization into a matured and world-class firm by introducing and implementing a full stack of standardized software methodology, and stable, predictable and repeatable processes.

Generally, a Software Engineer from CASE is awe-inspiring.


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10 Things for All those Folks Shouting “Microsoft, Microsoft”

1) Stick to Microsoft Live Search (or is it called Bing) and leave Google alone (with every search query being processed on Linux OS).

2) Windows Live Hotmail is still available for you (or do you prefer Gmail/Yahoo mail?)
3) Connect and share on Windows Live Spaces;  Facebook runs on Linux and MySQL.

4) Microsoft Office is also SaaS. Google Docs looks too simple.

5) Did I hear you say your favorite plugin is available only on Firefox or that Google Chrome is faster?

6) You seriously love Windows, NEVER do this.

7) You also love Microsoft Office – $149.95 is not much for it. The professional version is damn feature-rich and surely worth for $499.95. NEVER use pirated version.

8) Are you sure your mobile phone is not Java supported or your ATM card is not a Java Card? Look for Microsoft alternatives.
9) Microsoft Visual Studio rocks – solid IDE, easy collaboration, tools to do the job, etc, etc.  Stick to originals, the prices and licences aren’t that bad.

10) Are you thinking of a DBMS choice? SQL Server provides all you need – Your Data, Any Place, Any Time. Prices and Licences aren’t that bad again. MySQL may not work for you the way it did for NASA, Facebook, …

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JavaOne Recap

javaone In last week’s JavaOne conference, great announcements, demos and technical sessions took place.

J2SE 7 (Dolphin – the next version of Java standard edition with improvements in performance, security and usability) is anticipated for early next year. Early access may be found here.

J2EE 6 with improvements in Servlets, web services and annotations to greatly simplify enterprise applications’ implementation would be finally released in September.

Lot of cool demos on JavaFx were made. With JavaFx you write one program and it runs on the desktop, browser and mobile. It also supports TV.

Here is a wrap up from the JavaOne’s website.

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MSC OSCON, JavaOne

Three days in Kualar Lumpur at the MSC OSCON have been exciting. On the hackathon day (first day) I was in the cybersecurity hall to see practical analysis of Web intrusion using Open Source Software (OSS) tools by the Mycert Security group, a non profit security analysis and services provider.

If you think you have a secure website or server then think again. MyCert shared with us their experiences in respect to what they have been observing on the web. The number of daily cyber attacks is unbelievable.

The second day began with a keynote from Anthony Baxter of Google and he expalined how they launched a Google Map site after 6 hours of work during the Victorian Bushfires. The map application, which is called mapvisage shows updates about the ongoing fire. The source code can be found at the mapvisage Google Code site.

Several sessions of presentations then took place including very interesting ones like ‘Next Generation Firefox Mozilla Firefox 3.5 and ‘Surviving the Crisis with Open Source’. You can read about the Firefox presentation on Gen Kanai’s blog, the Director of Marketing Mozilla Japan.

With open source influence, we see even the Redmond giant supporting it. The afternoon keynote was delivered by Oliver Bell (Regional Technology Officer at Microsoft Asia Pacific) highlighting their support and contribution to Open source. More interestingly, they are one of the sponsors for the conference.

After the keynote, the sessions continued with interesting topics on Open source participation, commercializing Open source, Open source standards and lots more. Technical presentations for the developers including virtualization, patterns and frameworks also took place at the Developer room.

Open source is all about collaboration and that’s what today’s Platinum Keynote discussed. Jarish Pillay from Redhat did an excellent job at it.
The afternoon’s keynote – Open Source, Then, Now and the Future – was given by Chris DiBona, the Open Source Programs Manager for Google. Presently, there are over 200,000 open source projects with over 4.9 billion lines of code and development cost of $387 Billion. The numbers are growing exponentially and does not show sign of slowing down any soon.

As always is, interesting sessions went through out the day including topics on Linux capabilities, Security, Open web and more. You may find details of the schedule here and the slides here.

While the MSC OSCON is on its 3rd day, the JavaOne conference commences today and everyone is twittering about it.

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Cloud Conferencing – Day 2

google wave Still in San Francisco, the Googlers surprised us this morning again with the unleash of Google Wave. A practical implementation of HTML 5 features we  enumerated yesterday.

The Google Wave is what I call the Gmail Killer. It takes the user experience far beyond what you get in Gmail (which has full Ajax capabilities and cool features in the Gmail labs). With Google Wave what you find is a better experience of collaborated email.  So watch out for “Upgrade to GWave” button in your Gmail soon.

Realtime instant conversation is now possible with Google Wave. You dont have to wait for your buddy to type and press enter any longer, instead you see what he is typing instantly including all the backspaces and deletes he makes while he corrects his spelling errors. So you got to go improve your spelling.

This feature of instant converstation becomes even more interesting when a number of people edit one document instantly in a “real real time”.

The playback feature is always there for you as well if you miss anything or want to see what the other folks in the collaboration team have been up to while you were offline.

The “Context Spell Check” is awesome. It is intelligent enough to tell you if you misuse a word in a wrong context. It knows that it should be “Bean Soup” and not “Been Soup”

Of course, it (Google Wave) has support for extension so that developers can take advantage of the available APIs to build cool stuffs.

It’s impossible for you to get the feel of it here, so make sure you dedicate 80 minutes of your Friday night and “cloud conference” here.

What excites me most today is Google Wave’s 100% implementation in Google Web Toolkit (GWT); a signal for me to push on with the technology which I have  embraced.

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Eight Exciting Days of Conferencing

Today and the next 7 days are going to be very exciting for me as well as many others as we see a lot of innovations that would move technology into a different level. I’m going to be attending 3 conferences within these days with so much information to grasp and hands on practical. In these 8 days I would be at San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur and again San Francisco. Thanks to the technology which makes this possible for me. This is what I refer to as “Cloud Conferencing”.

So what is really going to make these events exciting? For technology innovation enthusiasts like me, we will be seeing yet another rounds of innovation from the technology leaders particularly in Web and Computing. Sure, you guessed right – Google and Sun Microsystem.

google io I began the event with Google I/O Conference in San Francisco today,  “cloud conferencing” from Kuala Lumpur. If you have been excited with the recent innovations that make the Web a better platform then you should join me here. 2009 is going to be even more interesting with the adoption of HTML 5.

Have you ever wished to include videos on your website as easy as you do for images with the <image /> tag. You may smile now because this is what you get with the <video /> tag of HTML 5. If you are also a 3D geek, get your hands on the Google O3D which you can achieve with just HTML 5, CSS and Javascript; no plugins to worry about.

It becomes even more interesting with W3C Geolocation standards implemented in browsers (Firefox 3.5 will ship with that) which uses WIFI, GPS and/or IP to give you the best result. As a developer you can take advantage of that without worrying about proxies or GPS problems anymore.

Of course users are going to take more advantage of these innovations and enjoy better user experiences. Your slow/intermittent connections wouldn’t spoil your browsing experience with the cache and sqlite support of HTML 5. Say thanks to the background processing (web worker) implementation as well which defers your “not immediate” requirements till you ask for them.

Cross browser web development gets easier and more efficient with the upcoming version of Google Web Toolkit (version 2.0). Google Apps makes it even more interesting by saving you from development environment configuration and deployment issues.

With widgets such as youtube, creating dynamic and interactive websites have become easy. This even gets easier with the introduction of Google Web elements – a ‘copy and paste’ web development.

With over 4 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, the mobile platform is definitely as important as the web. The Google Android team have cool innovations to present.

Find more on these highlights from Vic Gundotra (VP Engineering of Google), Jay Sullivan (VP of Mozilla) and other Googlers in the I/O keynote. Today and tomorrow’s all going to be for Google I/O.

MSC os Thanks to Open Source which makes these technologies even better and drives for more innovations. That is why I am going to begin my “earth conferencing” this Sunday – an Open Source Conference supported by the Malaysian Government. It’s going to begin with a Hackathon day with sessions including Web Intrusion (Practical analysis with OSS tools), Web Application Security Common Problems and Analysing Compromised Web Server (RFI, SQL injection and Code injection).

Of course sessions for the promising Open Source operating system with its advanced kernel are also available for various distributions including Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse and FreeBSD. The next 3 days will cover presentations by speakers from Sun Microsystem, Google, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Mozilla, Intel, Microsoft and many more.

javaone Finally, the long-awaited JavaOne conference is kicing off on 2nd June and is going to last till 5th June. There is going to be great innovations as usual in network computing, enterprise applications, web applications, mobile applications, cloud computing, embedded systems, robotics and many more. Get ready for the big surprises and make sure you do not miss the Toy Show by the father of Java (James Gosling) if you are in San Francisco (or if you are going to join me in the “cloud conferencing”) on Friday, 5th June.

The excitement has begun and it is going to get more exciting. Stay tuned as I keep you posted.

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Ajax Programming with GWT

Two weeks ago, I started my Industrial Attachment in my center (CASE) and we are working on a new web-based Staff and Student Management System for the center.

We are going to use EJB and JPA for the business component and persistence management on the server side. At the client side, Google Web Toolkit (GWT) would be used for the interface design. We are also going to use GWT RPC to communicate with the server application.

As part of the project, a 3-day training program for GWT was organized and I had the chance of being the instructor.

The training is divided into 3 sessions and is for anyone that is not familiar with GWT. Session I introduced Ajax and GWT and provides a step by step installation of GWT for Eclipse IDE. Session II discussed on user interface design on the client side and Session III discussed on how to integrate GWT client with the server side.

If you are a Java programmer I strongly recommend GWT for your Ajax developments. You may begin with the slides for the training included below. You can also find the Eclipse project here.

Session I

Session II

Session III

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Nigeria and Facebook – Update III

facebook It is no surprise that giant companies like Microsoft and Google have to put Facebook into consideration in making decisions of their future business plans. Over 200 million active users is certainly great and the growth rate does not seem to start slowing yet. The number could be even as high as 280 million as explained by Nick O’Neill of All Facebook.

It is now impossible to mention 5 leading companies on the web Ecosystem without mentioning Facebook. I predict that in the near future it will become a necessity that almost everyone has to jump on the wagon just as the email service. It has succeeded in bringing value to everyone by diversifying its services and not limiting to just a network for entertainment and media. As an IT company, it has also added value to the industry as a major contributor in defining the future of the web and also providing tools such as the Scribe and Thrift freely available as open source.

The impact of Facebook keeps increasing in the Nigerian scene as more people join the platform. The number has increased by 32.9% since last month bringing it to 340,560 today. Does this mean anything to the Nigerian government?

The minister of Information, Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili, launched a campaign of re-branding Nigeria to improve its image and reputation abroad last month. Currently, the country has gained fame as a major scam player on the Internet and there have been signs on Facebook as well. The campaign should therefore take this into consideration.

Facebook platform can be used to cheaply create awareness of the campaign to over 200 million people which is going to save a lot of cost as there are speculations already on the funds that would be spent.

The intelligent units in the anti-crime bodies such as EFCC must also be aware of the impact of Facebook and setup actions in order to nail down Nigerian cyber crimes. Presently it appears there is none as signalled by the EFCC boss. She defined Facebook as being a Social Networking site where children interact and share with friends when she was explaining a controversy issue that happened last year which involves a photograph that depicted her as a mammoth shopping spree for high-end designer goods.

Update: 573,780 Nigerians on Facebook

This is the fourth post in the series “Nigeria and Facebook”. Check the previous posts for more details:

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On Software Architecture

The most difficult part of software development is coming up with the right and sustainable architecture for the software. It is very critical. The best of it usually comes from experience.

=> On Knowledge

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Nigeria and Facebook – Update II

facebookThe growth rate of Facebook active users is dramatic even with the recent uproar on the new Facebook’s term of use. The site now attracts a growth of more than 700,000 users daily and over 5 million weekly. Today, there are almost 200 million users.

If the growth continues at this rate, by the end of 2009 Facebook users will be about 400 million placing it at number 3 most populated if it were a country displacing USA. That will be almost 3 times the population of Nigeria. Two months ago the numbers were at par.

Today, the facebook Ad Utility shows that there are 256,260 Nigerians on the platform. A 12.5% increase since last month but less than the 17% increase seen earlier 2 months ago. The growth is quite significant but not impressive compared with the rate of Facebook’s global growth and considering the fact that Nigeria is world’s number 9 most populated country.

The main reason should arise from the inadequate infrastructure for internet connectivity. Also the large population of the internet users is unaware of the useful services that can be derived from the platform.

A lot of changes has been made recently to improve the site and make it more valuable to its users. The Home Page is re-designed with the News Feed being updated in real time. The Fan pages are also  re-designed which looks similar to Profile pages. Fan pages now have status updates as well.

Facebook’s Ads which previously appear on Profile and Application pages now also show on Business pages. This means advertisers can reach more target audience around the platform.

One of the most used Facebook pages in Nigeria is the Group pages. There are live activities going on and new groups are frequently created. The largest Group I have seen so far is “How Many Nigerians Are on the Facebook!!?” with 28,397 members.

There is still yet any activity in Fecebook Applications development in Nigeria. I have known only Sturvs Facebook Application.

Generally the growth of Facebook in Nigeria is apparent but the platform is still under utilized.

Update: 573,780 Nigerians on Facebook

Note:

If you have been tracking the number of Facebook users using AllFacebook’s Demographic tool, you will observe the recent statistics is not correlating with Facebook’s Ad utility. As of 2nd March it shows 223,119 Nigerian users.

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Probe Storage – A solution to Nigerian Corruption

probe-storage If corruption can be greatly reduced in Nigeria then almost all of its problems would be solved; it is the major hindrance to the country’s progress and development. The problems are known and their solutions clearly defined, the resources and know-how are available but implementation not carried out.

The world would be amazed with the quick transformation that will be seen in this country if corruption is curtailed. What could then be the solution to this problem?

On Wednesday I attended a seminar and one of the presenters was Professor Pieter H. Hartel from University of Twente, Netherlands. He presented a work titled “Towards Tamper-Evident Storage on Patterned Media” that he and two other members are working on. It was presented in the 6th USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technolgies, 2008. In the work, they propose a tamper-evident storage system.

The work uses the Probe Storage technology with IBM as the lead in the Research. The storage represents 0 and 1 states based on the direction of its elements which is influenced by the direction of magnetization perpendicular to the film surface.

The storage system uses a temperature-assisted interface mixing to destroy magnetic dots which gives a third state known as the heated state (H). The state is achieved by destroying the properties of the material (like the PROM) thus making it irreversible.

The technology therefore provides a convenient storage system that supports both Write Many Read Many (WMRM) and Write Once Read Many (WORM), the combination of which results to Selectively Eventually Read-Only (SERO).

It is thus possible to use a SERO storage device as a primary storage on our PCs and at the same time make it possible to burn selected portions of the disk to make them permanent. The burnt portion will store the address information (in hashcode) of another portion of the system to mark as closed and not be modified. Any modification can therefore be verified.

Probe storage is expected to use no more power than a flash memory card, but store up to 100 times as many bits as traditional disk storage.

Pieter’s (and his team) work was motivated by the Enron Bankruptcy in 2001 which is believed to be caused by fraud and corruption within the company but is covered by the powerful CEO.

This is very similar to what is happening in Nigeria with the top officials as the major fraud players. There has been hype in e-government now in the country with several e-this e-that buzzes. If this e-government objective is achieved and most data become digitized, the Tamper-Evident Probe Storage system is the right device to nail down any corrupt practices.

But a lot of questions arise: When will e-government be successfully implemented in Nigeria? After implementing e-government and the secure probe storage device system, will the court be interested in the evidences that are being provided?

The secure probe storage is a foolproof tamper-evident device which makes Pieter claim that the only way to get away is to physically damage it and that signifies that the suspect is indeed guilty. But in Nigeria the court will simply dismiss the case since the storage system would not function and there is no way to provide any evidence.

Thus we are left with this question; “can the secure probe storage system solve corruption in Nigerian Government?”

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Nigeria and Facebook – Update 1

facebook Last month we saw 212,980 Nigerians on Facebook. Based on the 17% increase, we expected the figure to reach 249,186. However it only increased by 5.33% bringing the number of active users to 224,340.

I have been following the graph using Allfacebook’s Demographic Statistics tool and I noticed a decline since my last post.


fbstat-update1

(Source: AllFacebook)

I tried to figure out the reason for the decline and thought the end year holidays could be the cause since the statistics is based on active users. But that does not seem to be a valid reason as the decline continued up to 20th of January. From there upon there is a sharp increase bringing the total active users to 224,340.

The trend for last month is not uniform thus making it difficult to come up with any meaningful prediction. I will be making monthly updates to keep the track of the trend. Probably we can deduce something better next month.

General Facebook active users however have increased from 140 million to 150 million and could be reaching 160 million.

Take full control of your privacy as you continue to take advantage of the platform. A good post by AllFacebook a few days ago will get you started.

Update: 573,780 Nigerians on Facebook


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My Internship at Google

A pingback from Startups Nigeria appeared on my blog and I quickly checked the blog (Startups Nigeria) to find more about it. After going through the site I realized that it was the best stop for latest IT news and opportunities within the sphere of Nigeria and immediately subscribed to their feeds. In just four days later the opportunity was there when I checked my Google reader and found a post from Startups Nigeria which reads: Google Offers Technical Internships for EMEA.

I checked the official post at Google Africa Blog and all the requirements to apply for the internship perfectly matched my qualification and skills. I was very optimistic that I would soon be at Google for my internship.

The blog says for a candidate to be eligible he should be enrolled in a BS, MS or PhD in Computer Science or a related technical field and be within 12-18 months of completing a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, or at any stage in his PhD. This was an easy pass for me as I am currently attending my masters in Software Engineering. And to be more perfectly suited, two industrial attachments are part of the requirements for fulfilling the master’s programme. I completed my 1st attachment in December last year and the subsequent one is coming up on 6th April which is going to last for 5 months. This qualifies me further for the Internship which requires a minimum of 3 months and maximum of 12 months attendance.

The technical requirements for the Internship include:

  • Experience in systems software or algorithms
  • Excellent programming skills (C++; Java and/or Python)
  • Knowledge of UNIX/Linux or Windows environments and APIs
  • Familiarity with TCP/IP and network programming a plus

My first degree is Electrical/Electronics Engineering, but I loved Computer Science ever since, so I have good skills and understanding of data structures and algorithms. It was my first drill during my MS programme as well. I have read a number of books and have been following Peteris Krumins’s transcriptions on MIT’s Introduction to algorithms series.

Programming is a hobby to me; I have been engaged in it since my first year in High School. I have skills in C++ and specifically Java. I have knowledge of both Linux and Windows environments and fair understanding of TCP/IP and network programming.

I am an ardent fan of Google, so I knew the kind of skills they require. For a position of a Software Engineer, good understanding of data structures and algorithm is highly required. Writing effective codes using best practices and Design patterns is also a key requirement. I have been engaged with the technical presentations from Google I/O, Google Developers and Google Tech Talks made available in Youtube, so I have a good insight on what it means to be a Google Engineer.

Joshua Bloch’s Effective Java (who happens to be the Chief Java Architect of Google) has improved the way I write my Java codes. I write clean, effective and maintainable codes; I use GoF patterns, Enterprise Java patterns and other patterns in my codes.

I am also acquainted with most of the Google APIs and tools; I specifically use Google Web Toolkit (GWT) for my Ajax developments. I have checked on the open source projects from Google as well but have not actively participated in any yet.

At Google, stuff that will interest and inspire millions of people across the world is the kind of products that are built. Creativity is very important and my brain is stuffed with 1001 ideas.

I immediately sent my application, CV and credentials to Google. I was very confident that I have met up with all the requirements and was looking forward to a positive reply.

Eleven days later my hope of having 5 months experience at Google became history when I received a reply that there is no position that is a strong match with my qualification this time, so they won’t be progressing with my application.

I enquired if my qualification was the main reason why there isn’t any match for me, and they said candidates with strong Computer Science skills are required. They went further to say grades are a very important part of a Google application, particularly for intern candidates. My Electrical/Electronics background has disqualified me and I had no enough measurable experience outside the academic world. I was really looking forward for an Interview so that my skills would be measured.

They said I am on track and have a chance in future. But of course when next I try it is going to be a full time Google Employee and not internship.

Computer science students with high grades (1st class or high 2nd class), you have a high chance for internship at Google. Just make sure you complement your grades with sufficient skills in terms of the technical requirements and you would be almost certain to get an entry.

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Green Energy soon to Replace Fossil Fuel – What is the Future of Nigeria?

wind turbine I have been asking myself, over the past three months, what lies for the Nigerian future when I realized how determined America is, to transform Green Energy to replace Fossil fuel. I was put on alert when I read Google’s ‘Clean Energy plan 2030’ with a goal of cutting oil use for cars in US by 44%. Eric Schmidt, the CEO Google, is now focused on this plan as one of his primary objectives. This driving force on Green Energy plan from Google and other companies emerged since Obama announced his Energy plan during his campaign period.

Obama is in the White House today and so is his Energy plan. To let the world know he means business, Obama has directed his administration to get moving on new fuel-efficiency guidelines for the auto industry in time to cover 2011 model-year cars in just less than one week in office.

With this enthusiastic plan on stage it is apparent that the US will soon not be heavily dependent on foreign fuel, and that should be a serious concern to Nigeria with almost 65% of its crude oil export (the only economy it depends upon) going to the US. Jerry Uwah of Leadership has made a very good reflection on the situation yesterday issuing a big caution to the Nigerians.

Last week the CBN governor, Chukwuma Soludo, hinted the Banking and Currency Committee of the House of Representatives on what may befall Nigeria. Is this a good sign that the Nigerian government is conscious and focused enough to save the country from the post 2025 crisis we are foreseeing? Will the government start looking into other sectors such as Agriculture and Information Technology as a major source of income? In trying to be optimistic I hope to see us move towards that direction, but in reality what we should expect is the so-called opportunist government officials fattening their accounts in the hope of saving themselves and their families when the crisis begin.

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Targeting the Nigerian Audience – Google Ad vs Facebook Ad

Google derives 99% of its revenue from the online advertisement services it provides. This has been its core business model which made it one of the largest companies in the world. Facebook has also appeared into the scene of online advertisement services as well, and with the rapid growth rate of Facebook users the advert service is very important to the company.

Nick O’Neil made a comparison between Social Ads (Facebook’s methodology) and Search (Google’s methodology) using Markus’ Social Ad experiment.

Which advert program would return a higher ROI for online Ads targeting the Nigerian audience, Google AdWords or Facebook Social Ad? Will the 212,000 Nigerians on Facebook be a better target than Google, with virtually all the 10 million internet Users in Nigeria using the search services?

To answer the question I launched two adverts for my school management software (SAF School Managemet Software) using both Google AdWords and Facebook Social Ad in the last 2 weeks and I found some interesting results.

Setting up the Ads

Facebook

  • To setup the advert on Facebook I created the Ad snippet.

saf-school-soft

  • I then selected Nigeria as my target without filtering any of the terms.

facebook-target

  • I submitted the ad for review which says it may take up to 12 hours before it starts. It kicked off in less than 3 hours.

Google

  • To setup the Google ad (starter edition), I created the snippet using AdWord tool.

SAF School Soft - Google

For Google AdWords, your adverts will be displayed based on some keywords you select. The advert is displayed when users make search using similar keywords. Your budget determines how frequent your adverts will be displayed and whether it will appear more frequent on the first page or subsequent pages.

  • I selected Nigeria as my target location.
  • A one time activation fee of $5 is required for the Google Ads. I set my monthly budget at RM 60 (about $18) and for the cost-per-click (CPC) I let Google set my bids for best results. There is no any cost for the impression.

    (* I was charged in Malaysian Ringgitt MYR; the only option offered by Google)

google-pricing

  • I kicked off the ad which lasted between Jan 4 to Jan 15 (11 days which is same with Facebook).

Results

After 11 days of the campaign, there were 148,063 impressions and 120 clicks on the Facebook Ad, a 0.08% clickthrough rate (CTR). For the Google Ads there were 15,998 and 33 clicks – 0.21% CTR. The total cost for the Facebook Ad was $10.65 and Google Ad costed $6 (RM 20.39) plus $5 for the one-time startup fee (total $11).

The table below shows comparison of the two Ads.

google-facebook-comparison1

Even though Facebook’s number of impressions greatly surpasses that of Google, the CTR for Google was better. This should be expected because Google Ads target interested users based on their search. You can target audience based on sex, age, education and other factors for Facebook Ad, however they are not specific like Google’s.

Depending on your target audience and what service you offer, the high number of impressions offered by Facebook can be advantageous. If your service is targeted for everyone, irrespective of sex, age, etc then you should expect high number of clicks since more impressions mean more reach out to your audience. Google’s less number of impressions could be a drawback here. However it is worth noting that there is cost for Facebook impressions but costless for Google.

There are many other factors to consider in selecting between Facebook Ad and Google Ad. You need to consider the class of people using Facebook in Nigeria. If your product is not targeted for that class then Google Ad is your best choice. Google Ad has no barrier and anyone can bump into it especially with lot of sites subscribing to Google AdSense. 10,464 out of the 15,998 impressions of the Google Ad were from these partner sites resulting into 1/3 of the 33 clicks.

Your budget also determines the performance of your advert. In this case, I see better results in Google Ads because of the limited number of Nigerian Facebook users to just over 212,000. Higher number of impressions would mean the same set of audience viewing your advert. For example, in this Ad there were 57,085 unique impressions which is about 1/3 of the total impressions.

Reports

Both Google and Facebook Ads offer comprehensive reports. Below is the report from Facebook Ad showing the number of Clicks against Time. Other reports such as Advert Performance and Responder Demographics can be exported in Excel format.

graph-facebook

Google Ad report shows the number of impressions and clicks for a particular set of keywords and the corresponding costs.

google-report3

A number of graphs are also available for the report as well as exports in Excel format.

google-graph

Personally, I would always use both Google and Facebook Ads. The minimum budgets are fair and one has got nothing to loose in using both. I would also go for a higher budget, which should be proportional to the relevance of the product/service and my expectations from the audience.


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Nigeria and Facebook

facebook

Facebook has more than 140 million active users since 17th December, 2008 with a growth rate of over 600,000 daily. It grew more than 130% from January, 2008 to this date making it the largest social networking website. In January, 2008 there were just over 50 million users.


facebook_active_users

(Source)

This amazing penetration in 2008 is seen in many countries including Nigeria. When I joined facebook in November, 2007 there were less than 40,000 Nigerians on the network. Today there are approximately 212,980 Nigerians as shown by the Facebook SocialAd utility, marking a 432% increase.

Despite the high growth rate, the percentage penetration in terms of the 140 million Nigerians is so insignificant (0.152%). This is no surprise since more than 90% of Nigerians do not have access to the internet; only about 10 million have access as at June, 2008.

africa_top_10_internet_countries

A more significant figure of 2.13% is seen in terms of penetration based on the number of internet users.

Before May 2008, I rarely visit the site since I had a few contacts and there was nothing to get me engaged. But since that time (May, 2008), I started receiving more email alerts from Facebook – friend requests, wall posts, messages and so on. That made me to realize that there are now many Nigerians embracing the network.

In may 2008, the number of Nigerian users have reached 68,260 and two months later (July) 99,720 was recorded – a 46% increase.

By 30th December, 2008, Facebook Demographic Statistics show that 199,335 of facebook users are from Nigera, an average of 17% monthly increase.

With this growth rate we should expect almost half a million Facebook users by the middle of 2009. The number might skyrocket beyond what we expect as Mobile browsing becomes more popular in Nigeria which in turn mean more Internet users. Between January and September 2008 there is an incredible increase of 1690% page views from Nigeria. It’s not going to be a surprise that aside email and news reading, most of the traffic is from Facebook.

We should expect even more growth with the recent launch of Facebook Connect. Your favorite sites will be inviting you to connect or login with your Facebook account, and that leaves you with no option but to sign up with Facebook if you are yet to.

Just as the number of users’ increases, the number of daily unique visitors also increases which is obvious. In January 2008 about 12,000 unique visitors are recorded daily. More than 42,000 unique users return to Facebook daily before the end of 2008 as Google Trends show.

facebook_google_trends

Facebook must have noticed the growth of its users in Nigeria when they added it to the SocialAd utility in February 2008. Currently Nigeria is one of the 95 countries on the list.

What effects are we going to expect as more Nigerians continue to join facebook: is it just going to be a place where we connect with friends and chit-chat, is it going to add value to our education, will it have any effect on our businesses, or is it going to change our politics?

I have seen groups like ‘Buhari Organization’ and ‘El-Rufai for Nigeria’ already been formed. Even though, the number of Facebook users compared with the number of eligible voters is insignificant I think it’s going have some effect on our political campaigns.

Cause for Good Governance in Nigeria (created using Facebook Cause Application which is used for recruiting people to join a cause) has 6,525 members. Let’s hope that this number increases and the objective of the Cause is achieved some day.

With credit cards such as Master Card and Visa being issued by Nigerian banks now, I expect to see adverts and business transactions on Facebook platform. I also expect to see Facebook applications being developed by Nigerians for business and other purposes, especially if Facebook Developers Garage similar to the one recently held in Uganda would take place in Nigeria.

These are the good stuffs we are looking forward to, but the bad ones are also lingering around. Nigerian scams have become a renowned issue globally and the culprits are now trying to explore within the domain of Facebook. On 7th November, 2008 the news was hit when Karina Wells, a Google Australian employee, received a Facebook message from a friend requesting for plane ticket money claiming he is stranded in Lagos.

Let’s keep watching as the Facebook journey continues in Nigeria.

Update:

Update: 573,780 Nigerians on Facebook

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On Knowledge

There is no knowledge that is beyond comprehension by all people.

If you are not comprehending then you have got the wrong teacher or learning material, or there is a prerequisite you have omitted.

Power (Electricity) Problem in Nigeria

Power problem is a long forgotten issue in majority parts of the world. Nigeria, a 48 years old country, is still climbing the ladder to reach that level.

Some people think we may reach shortly, some say not this soon while others say we’ll never reach.

So, make your opinion and see other people’s opinion.

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