NOAA builds networks in Africa
- By Bryant Jordan
- Jan 16, 2001
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with financial assistance
from the U.S. Agency for International Development, is building a communications
network in Africa to talk about the weather.
"Why would a bunch of weather guys build a network?" Kelly Sponberg,
coordinator of NOAA's climate information project, wondered aloud during
a Jan. 15 conference in Washington, D.C. "The usual response is that it's
not my job to build a communications infrastructure. Well, it isat least
in part," said Sponberg, speaking at a USAID conference on communications
technology in disaster and development assistance.
The purpose for building a communications infrastructurewhich is
based on solar-powered "wind-up" radios and digital radiosis to get critical
weather data into the hands of farmers in developing countries, he said.
NOAA is doing this in conjunction with the WorldSpace Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that beams weather
information via satellite to rural areas equipped with a digital satellite
receiver, which then relays the data to local and regional radio stations
In recent years, NOAA has helped get thousands of digital and wind-up
radios into African communities. The radios carry AM, FM and short-wave
Sponberg, working with Niger and a Netherlands agency, also helped design
and implement the digital radio satellite broadcasts that now provide critical
meteorological data to the developing countries.
The same data is formatted for the Web and available to computer users
in Africa via satellite link, Sponberg said.
With the broadcast, NOAA gives Africans what they need in order to make
forecasts and related bulletins relative to agriculture planning and programs,
But, aside from the weather reports, locals are also able to use the
radios for any other kind of content, he said. "If it's going to be used
99 percent of the time for entertainment or other uses, so be it."