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July 29, 2014 | 0 comments

Inaugural Internet Hall of Famer Vint Cerf testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation – testimony that may well have set the bar for all future efforts to explain the importance of basic research.

In his Senate testimony, while insisting that basic research must be adequately funded by the government, Mr. Cerf was careful to note that “basic and applied research go hand-in-hand, informing and stimulating each other in a never-ending Yin and Yang of partnership.” He stressed that applied research projects take a long time to mature, and he used the Internet as Exhibit A, detailing how its development over the years has progressedthanks to major investments from government.  He added that “Consistent and increasing support for basic and applied research … has been the source of most major advances in science and technology in the past 70 years.”

In addition to the Scientific American piece, Mr. Cerf was recently featured in ...

July 3, 2014 | 0 comments

African women face the same challenges confronting women everywhere: cultural attitudes that men can do “tech stuff” better, that motherhood distracts them from focusing on their work, that they are somehow not suited for careers in technology, math, science or engineering. Dorcas Muthoni has proved those attitudes wrong, and in doing so has proved an inspiration to girls and women across the continent and beyond.

Muthoni, the founder of AfChix, an African-based organization designed to encourage girls and young women in Africa to take up careers in tech, says simply, “I like to help people to reach their full potential.” AfChix activities include organizing annual Computing Career Conferences to demystify computing.

“A big challenge is the lack of information many high-school girls and college women have,” she says. “They need to know that computer science requires you to be on top of things every minute, because it’s constantly changing. You have to keep up. Still, with the right skills and information, you can go anywhere. I try to tell them, ‘You can do it,’ and show them how.”

Muthoni, who became a mother for the first time earlier this year, is the perfect role model for AfChix conference attendees. In high school, she wanted to be an architect, but when...

July 2, 2014 | 0 comments

In the 1970s and early 1980s, during the nascent and internationally tangled development stages of what would become the Internet and the World Wide Web, the new TCP/IP – Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol – was thought to be a possible lingua franca, a common language that disparate computer platforms within universities, research facilities, governments and even homes could speak.

But not everyone in the fractured computer networking community was convinced of TCP/IP's viability.

CERN programmer Ben Segal, however, was convinced that TCP/IP was the key to solving computer-to-computer communication problems. Between 1984 and 1989, Segal encouraged CERN, one of the world's largest and most influential research centers, to accept TCP/IP so that the research center's own disparate computer population could all communicate.

Segal also introduced the TCP/IP protocols to fellow CERN researcher Tim Berners-Lee, who used them as a foundation on which to invent the World Wide Web.

A science whiz

Segal's personal history is as tangled as the Internet's. Two years after he was born in 1937 in Tel Aviv, Israel, his ophthalmologist mother left his general practitioner father to return to her...

May 15, 2014 | 0 comments

News media from Europe to the east and west coasts of the U.S. and from South China to East Africa and everywhere in between, covered one of the top tech stories of the year in April: the induction of 24 luminaries into the Internet Hall of Fame. Here are a few of those stories, in case you missed them:

Hosting the induction ceremony for the 2014 Internet Hall of Fame helped Hong Kong burnish its credentials as a “tech town,” said the South China Morning Post.

A Pakistani business publication takes note of the induction of Mahabir Pun into the Internet Hall of Fame for “providing wireless Internet services to villages which had lacked even a telephone service.”

The...

May 6, 2014 | 0 comments

In the 1990s in Nangi village, Nepal, if you wanted to send a small message to another village, you had to walk for several hours because there was no modern communication system. If you wanted to buy a cow or buffalo, you had to hike for several hours over mountainous and rocky terrain to ask the farmers in the nearest village if they have a cow to sell.

Then Mahabir Pun had an idea.

Pun, a native of Nangi, had returned from the US in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in science education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, which had awarded him a scholarship. Upon his return, he founded a high school in Nangi, but he also saw a chance to have a more profound impact on Nepal’s poor and rural villagers. All it would take would be a little money, adventurous and computer-literate volunteers, the evasion of a government ban on the importation of wireless equipment while a civil war was raging, and the installation of wireless network in a sparsely-populated area above 2,200 meters high with no roads, slow postal delivery, and no phones or electricity.

Incredibly, he succeeded. Today, some 175 Nepali villages like his own are connected...