Nigeria has launched the first satellite designed and built by Africans. The NigeriaSat-X is one of two Earth observation satellites that the country recently launched. These are Nigeria’s third and fourth satellites.
The NigeriaSat-X is the result of a training agreement between the National Space Research and Development Agency and a company called Surrey Satellite Technology. Twenty-six Nigerian engineers attended a training program over an eighteen-month period at the satellite developer’s offices in the United Kingdom.
Steve Young is head of business development for the company. He says the skills that the young Nigerian scientists have learned should help not only their country’s space program.
STEVE YOUNG: “You are now beginning to train a corps of very experienced engineers, high-technology technicians, and people who are going to benefit the wider economy. That also is a very good effect that the Nigerians get in investing in high-tech programs. They’ve got to develop their economy, and that’s one of the ways they do that is by doing this.”
The cameras on the satellites can show details of objects as small as two and a half meters across. These images will be used to map territory and help with city planning. The pictures can also provide valuable information about crop and land conditions, and assist in disaster relief efforts.
Steve Young says this kind of information is often lacking in developing countries.
STEVE YOUNG: “We often take it for granted in industrialized nations that we have all this information, we have accurate maps, we have land registries, we have planning systems, we have precision agriculture systems. We have all this stuff in place, but for a lot of countries, they don’t.”
In another technology development, Ghana has become the latest African country to invest in a biometric voter registration system. Such systems are used to confirm the identity of voters when they register to vote. These systems commonly use measures like fingerprints or face recognition.
Ghanaian election officials say the forty-five-million-dollar system should be in operation in time for next’s year’s presidential election.
Christopher Fomunyoh is West and Central Africa director for the Washington-based National Democratic Institute. He says a trustworthy voter list is one way to protect elections.
Christopher Fomunyoh: “There’s a sense that once you get the voter rolls in order, once the voter rolls reflect the electorate or the population that is of voting age in the appropriate constituencies, then the management of the rest of the election process is already fraud-proof in a way.”
But Mr. Fomunyoh says a biometric system is only one of many tools needed to win the trust of voters. Election disputes have led to deadly violence in several African countries in the past year, including Ivory Coast, Guinea and Nigeria.
And that’s the VOA Special English Technology Report, written by June Simms. I’m Christopher Cruise.
Contributing: Drew Hinshaw