ROMA – THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) stunned scientists and clean energy researchers from all over the world in Germany more than a week ago.
Our scientists won the Second Prize Award at the International Conference on Solar Technologies held in Bad Hersfeld, Frankfurt, Germany.
That happened as NUL scientists displayed their brilliant solar thermal system which, as we talk, is being enjoyed by an 80-year-old lady in a mountainous rural area of Nazareth in Machache.
It is a system that heats up your water so you can bath, wash your clothes and dishes and even cook, all without need for electricity.
Lecturer Anadola Tšiu, working with Professor Molibeli Taele and Dr Leboli Thamae and their students from the NUL Department of Physics and Electronics designed, constructed, remotely monitored, tested and displayed a solar thermal system.
“The beauty of this solar energy system,” Tšiu says, “is that we also developed a remote tracking system for it, to monitor its performance, wherever we are.”
“We eye water temperatures in the system and how well the system is working, on our cellphones and on the internet, at any time.”
The sheer brilliance of the system helped outsmart several entries by international researchers from around the world. It came second, in which Lesotho was beaten only by Canada.
Lesotho was among the only three winners of the competition.
The prestigious event was called “International Conference on Solar Technologies and Hybrid Mini Grids to Improve Energy Access,” organised by OTTI.
When the judges delivered their verdict, it was a culmination of an amazing work that took years and years to distill.
Tšiu, arguably one of Lesotho’s indisputable solar energy gurus, called the system Flat Plate Solar Thermal Energy Collector.
It is 100 percent made in Lesotho.
How does a product made in the often overlooked Lesotho convince judges from around the world? As they explained their decision, the judges mentioned three factors that captured their attention about the NUL made solar system.
It uses simple technology, performs just as good as complex commercial technologies internationally, and has the capacity to make an immediate impact on people’s lives.
Let us, for a moment, uncode the mystery of the judges’ decisions.
On the issue of simple technology, the system uses mostly locally available materials taken “off the counters” in Lesotho.
It is also deliberately designed to be reproducible using the simplest tools possible such that no expensive machinery is ever needed.
However, if you were to take a commercial Flat Plate Solar Thermal Energy Collector and compare it with the one made at the NUL, and measure their performances, you will be shocked to realise that it is just as competitive, if not better.
How does the system, as mentioned by the judges, have a potential to make an immediate impact on people’s lives? We don’t have to speculate here.
Take an 80-year-old woman from one village in Nazareth, Machache. She is the luckiest of the senior citizens to be the first to enjoy the benefits of NUL’s adventures into the technology.
When she wakes up, she fetches water from a distant well and brings it home. She just uses her basket to put the water into the solar thermal system. As she goes about her daily work, the system slowly picks up every bit of sunlight it can access and turns it into heat that heats up her water.
Within no time, the water is ready. She takes a bath, she washes clothes and dishes and she uses part of it to cook.
And suppose she wants to cooks “papa.” She brings the almost boiling water into the pot and, using a bio stove, applies a little heat and, the cooking begins. All from free energy!
Think about another dimension in which this brilliant process is assisting the woman. Water from open wells is normally not good to drink without boiling it. The system boils it for her — again — for free!
Tšiu then shed more light into the remote monitoring system: “We developed a tracking system that reports to us 24/7.”
“We can log into the system now and tell you the temperatures of the water. In fact we are able to monitor when the old lady puts in fresh cold water in the morning and how long it takes for the water to get to the right temperatures; we even see when she starts using the water!”
The system is so impressive that Tšiu has been invited to the University of Botswana (UB) to assist them in setting up a similar system of their own.
In the meantime, he says they have installed solar panels to provide not only power to their electronic system but to give the old lady enough power to provide light, listen to the radio and charge her cell phone.
“We also developed a tracking mechanism that will alert us if the thermal system is stolen and where it has been taken to at any moment,” he says.
If you had the privilege of being a “learned” judge in Germany, would you have reacted differently? You surely wouldn’t! And the “learned” judges, in Germany, didn’t either!
‘We lost direction in the ABC’
THE Mechechane MP, Nyapane Kaya, defected from the All Basotho Convention (ABC) to the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) contrary to the expectations that he would cross the floor with Nqosa Mahao’s new party, the Basotho Action Party (BAP). In fact, Mahao had earlier said Kaya was one of the MPs who would dump the ABC for his party. Kaya’s defection to the MEC took many by surprise. Our reporter, Margaret Katimbo, spoke to Kaya the day he joined the MEC. Below are excerpts from the interview.
What does it mean to you having to switch to the MEC?
It gives me special happiness and satisfaction, a special feeling of strength having changed parties. I joined the ABC from the very first day it was formed as a teacher, and I wasn’t even an active politician at the time. It was a vibrant party which filled people with a lot of hope. The problem, however, is that we abandoned the direction which we took with the people from the beginning after we felt cushioned.
I have to accept that the ABC has done a great deal of good things for Lesotho that I can point to but unfortunately there are times when people feel like they have reached a stage where they feel successful and the love for their nation is no longer there. I was aware that with my (ABC) party, there is no longer an interest to maintain the rhythm of working for the people. Having changed to the MEC, I feel that special kind of satisfaction because I trust that I will get the new strength to work for the people.
What attracted you to the MEC?
Well, in particular the MEC leader is one hard-working politician with vigour and a strong wish to produce results in this country. He makes and leaves a mark wherever he goes. Therefore, being close to him this much encourages me and gives me pleasure because I too am a results-oriented politician. I hope that we will work together with other politicians, not necessarily the MEC, in order to give the country the boost it needs. Even better, I worked with him in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where we tended to understand the underlying problem in this country. Corruption has made Lesotho what it is today so I want to align myself with people that fight against it.
By fighting against corruption, does it imply that the current government is corrupt?
There are still instances of corruption but not at the same levels as we saw during the so-called 4 x 4 government. There is some improvement on that but there are reports of corruption that we get especially when working in the PAC. There are still issues I still have to follow up with regards to allegations of corruption. There is a slight improvement I must accept.
Why did you leave Mahao for the MEC?
I must say I have always wanted to work with the MEC for a while now. It was simply a question of time. However, I still had strong alliances with Ntate Mahao’s group so much that by the time they were packing to leave the ABC it would have been thought that I would leave with them regardless of some developments which had already discouraged me. At some point, a WhatsApp group was created and my number was left out. There were other instances where I would get sidelined from meetings I knew they had.
As a matter of fact, I would learn from you reporters that they had held meetings amongst themselves without me. It is only about a week ago when they were preparing to leave the ABC, and they thought that I would leave with them but I told them No, I can’t go with you people. I told them that they had already sidelined me and that they no longer needed me. That is also when they told me the truth that the fact that I had stood for elections for the deputy speaker, it had been the decision rather conclusion in the government party’s caucus as to who would be elected deputy speaker.
However, there was a great encouragement from a number of them that I should stand which I did but little did I know that my group (that was just a small faction) within the ABC felt offended that I had stood for the post, although some had actually voted for me. So that is how and why I left them because to keep such alliances was no longer safe. My political career is now much clearer and this should be the last round in my political journey. Age also has caught up with me. However there are really no guarantees, something might arise in the future.
Bullet-proofing your online data
ROMA – Dr Makhamisa Senekane, a lecturer in the Department of Physics and Electronics at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is assessing a new way of bullet-proofing your online information to ensure it is safe.
When you send sensitive information online, such as banking information, there is a way to hide that information from crooks.
“However,” he says, “some methods of hiding information (encryption) are very difficult to bullet-proof. That is why we are assessing a new way of bullet-proofing the security of your online experience.”
In the world of information hiding (encryption), you are sending the information from this side and your name is Alice.
And the one who receives the information on the other side is called Bob (Robert).
As far as Alice and Bob are concerned, one can sleep peacefully at night, these folks cause no problems whatsoever.
But then comes the third person called Eve (Eavesdropper, if you know what we mean?) and everything turns upside-down.
Eve is interested in getting the message that Alice is sending to Bob, so that she (Eve) can use this message for her personal gain.
That message may as well be a password you use to log into your online banking system.
If Eve is successful, you may wake up one day with all your money wiped off from your bank account in one stroke.
Now you know why the gurus, like Dr Senekane, are working day and night to make sure that that just won’t happen, if possible.
First, let’s consider one of the normal approaches which Senekane says it’s hard to prove their security.
Rest assured, we are using the simplest examples, in real life, it is more complex.
Suppose Alice is sending a number 10 to Bob on the other side of the online device.
But both know that Eve, that shady character, is waiting like a hungry shark on the route between them, to devour the information.
Hiding now begins.
The computer system generates the information called security keys.
Let’s say it gives the first key to Alice as the number 3 and the second key to Bob as the number 7.
“Prime numbers, those numbers such as 2, 3, 7, 11, 13, 17, the numbers that can only be divided by 1 or themselves, are often preferred because, as they get bigger, they are often hard to deal with,” Senekane says.
A bit of maths here but a simple one will suffice.
On the side of Alice, 10 is raised to power 3 times 7 (Remember 3 for Alice and 7 for Bob).
So 3 times 7 is 21.
So 10 is raised to power 21 which makes the number 1000000000000000000000, that is, 1 followed by 21 zeros.
When Eve the crook tries to steal the information, she comes across this ginormous number.
She is fooled because she doesn’t know that actually, that number represents 10.
When this mammoth number reaches Bob’s side of the system, Bob’s side has two advantages.
It “knows” Bob’s own key, 7, and it “knows” Alice’s key, 3.
Immediately, it can tell that there was a number which was raised to power 3 times 7—a number that was raised to power 21.
To arrive to this mammoth number (1 with 21 zeros), it can only mean that 10 was raised to power 21.
Now it is clear, Alice sent Bob the number 10!
But it appeared to Eve as a huge number she could not make sense out of.
Not so fast.
It is not difficult to see that should Eve have access to both Alice and Bob’s keys, that is 3 and 7 respectively, she doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize the hidden number sent was actually 10.
“That is why we need to hide these keys also, 3 and 7 and that is the most difficult part,” Dr Senekane says.
“It is hard to prove mathematically, that Eve can’t find the keys and use them for her own benefit.”
That is why he is assessing the use of quantum physics.
In this case, another line is created between Alice and Bob to exchange keys.
But the keys are sent, not as numbers but as photons (very tiny particles that make up light).
The number of particles interpreted in the binary format, are translated to either 3 or 7 for Alice and Bob.
But here is the big trick for Eve.
Photons are quantum particles (that is enough).
When you try to measure them they become something else.
So when Eve tries to measure these particles, they lose their identity (from quantum to classical) and the Bob’s side immediately realises that Eve interfered and the whole transaction stops.
What matters, is not so much that Eve did not see the information.
It is that we can detect that she saw the information and we can stop her on her tracks.
So Dr Senekane and the team are working to ensure that the techniques used to generate these keys using quantum physics are indeed mathematically provably secure.
This is to ensure that if the techniques are implemented correctly, the only way that Eve can interfere without being detected is by violating the fundamental laws of nature; a feat that is quite impossible.
The electronic ticket
ROMA – THATO Rammoko and Mohale Molieleng, two National University of Lesotho (NUL) trained computer enthusiasts, are introducing eventspoynt, your electronic ticket to your favourite events.
It is fully paperless!
You buy your ticket online, you pay online with either M-Pesa or Ecocash or even your bank account and, listen to this one, you only bring your phone to the event!
No paper. Nothing!
Just your phone!
So you are one of those in the Born After Technology (BAT) generation who is baffled by the prevalence of paper-based tickets in the 21st century?
Or, are you, perhaps, one of those hardworking fellows who like organizing events but get frustrated when potential clients blame distance or even obscurity, of your ticket selling outlet?
Or maybe you are just a good old environmental enthusiast bewildered by the ever-declining forest resources that help keep our atmospheric greenhouse gases balanced—and you want to see paperless technology reinforced, bit by bit?
Thato Rammoko and Mohale Molieleng have a solution.
“I am a computer trained hip-hop artist,” Rammoko said in an interview.
“It turns out those double passions, computer and hip-hop, combine in him to create the product we are introducing today,” he said.
Everybody somehow knows a thing or two about Lesotho’s rising hip-hop music.
But have you heard a thing or two about the music from an insider?
Okay, listen to Rammoko relate.
“Outside my technology life, I am a hip-hop artist,” he said.
“Some people call our fast-moving music industry sotho-hop.”
In a nutshell, it is a version of hip-hop delivered in a combination of Sesotho and English or in Sesotho only.
It drives young people crazy!
But behind the vibe, pop and fanfare, there are glaring cracks.
“It is an industry that is moving fast, but with no financial rewards in the end,” said Rammoko.
‘In this industry, it is not uncommon for you to be famous, have your music played on radios, TV and all over, while you are broke.”
‘It is a survival industry!”
He added in a tone layered with determination to transform the status-quo.
Here are the problems.
Lack of proper copyright law means “you can sell just one CD for M100, and the next thing you hear your music played across the country, while you remain with that measly M100 you started with, in your pocket”.
Your CD has been copied!
So they have a strategy, they no longer make money through selling CDs.
They give them for free and then organize live events.
“But this alternative is no picnic either,” Rammoko added, holding his breath.
Fraud, fraud, fraud, is a problem here.
“When you are on a stage delivering music to your fans, you can see the hundreds and hundreds in the adoring crowd, only to receive income that clearly doesn’t correspond to the numbers.”
“It leaves you wondering, what happened there—we mean, like— at the gate?”
Oop! Eventspoynt jumps in at this point.
It is a brilliant solution, not only for hip-hop events but for all kinds of events.
Doing it is as simple as ABC.
You go online—register.
Then you choose your event, and the kind of ticket you want to buy, e.g. VIP, Goldern Circle or normal ticket.
Then you pay the given price with your M-Pesa, Ecocash or through your bank account.
During the paying process, a unique number, called order number, is generated.
This you use as a reference when you pay in any of those options.
Once they receive your payment, Eventspoynt folks confirm both by your email and by your order number and your e-ticket is sent to your email.
You can either print it (but please don’t, save the trees), or you can leave it on your phone.
When time comes for the event, you show up with your phone on hand [or your printed paper if you are the Born Before Technology (BBT)].
And here is Rammoko again: “In your e-ticket, there is a code called QR code.”
That is Quick Response two dimensional bar code, it determines if or not you will enter the event.
“We scan the code, in your electronic PDF ticket on your phone or on you printed paper. For scanning we use any phone that has a camera, as long as an app is installed there, to recognise the QR code.”
This time around, no money is exchanging hands.
Thus fraud is kept at bay.
It is stress-free for both the buyers and sellers of the tickets.
All you need to attend you favourite show is to have a phone and money in your M-Pesa account.
That is it!
It doesn’t get easier than that!
The beauty of this system is that it is versatile – all kinds of event organisers can use it as a tool.
And you can buy a ticket, while in any corner of the Mountain Kingdom, or beyond.
Eish! Those are NUL trained computer gurus for you!
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