For the last five years, I’ve published an annual review of African telecommunications infrastructure development. These reviews are based on news articles I collect over the preceding twelve-month period. All of the articles I bookmark are stored with structured metadata and, in this article, I want to show you how you can mine that data for your own research.
All the news links are stored on Pinboard. Remember social bookmarking and del.icio.us? Pinboard is its much worthier successor. Pinboard embodies what I hope many services on the internet will become. It is a privacy-friendly, low-cost, fee-for-service operation that does one thing well; it helps you organise and save and/or share your bookmarks. It is based on open standards including a RESTful interface, simple API, and many import/export features. Better still it is run by just one guy, Maciej Ceglowski who operates it as a small business. No venture capital, catered lunches, foosball tables, or stock options; just a simple incredibly useful service that works. For $11 per year.
When I save a news article on African telecoms, I use some key metadata. The tag Africa is always there as well as the year. Thanks to Pinboard’s simple interface, if you want to find everything I have saved for 2018 on African telecoms, you can just browse to
For each link, unless the news is truly continental, I will always add the relevant countries as tags. Multi-word countries like South Africa, have the spaces remove i.e. southafrica. Pinboard is not case sensitive. I will often try to put both the Francophone and Anglophone spelling in e.g. Tunisia and Tunisie, except in the case of Côte d’Ivoire. So to find African telecom news from Uganda in 2017, you would click on:
Note that the order of the tags doesn’t matter. I have a number of big general categories that most links fall into.
|AfTerFibre||this is short for African Terrestrial Fibre and covers any project that builds backhaul fibre on the continent|
|Auction||this tag is specifically for spectrum auctions|
|FTTH||this is for Fibre to the Home projects that include all retail fibre services|
|LTE||this covers LTE network announcement, deployments, and expansions; usually also tagged as 4G|
|OTT||covers all media streaming services over the internet e.g Netflix,Viusasa, Spotify, etc|
|Spectrum||covers all allocations and assignments of spectrum, where available the frequency involved e.g. 700MHz is added as a separate tag|
|Satellite||covers all satellite broadband announcements that have implications for African countries|
|TVWS||covers all news related to dynamic spectrum management including but not limited to TV White Space technologies|
|Undersea||this covers all undersea fibre optic cable news|
|WiFi||covers all license-exempt spectrum news|
|misc||where news is interesting but doesn’t have an obvious fit, I use the misc tag until a sensible new category emerges|
For big telecommunications corporations like MTN, Huawei, Vodafone, et al I usually tag news with their company name as well. I also have a specific China tag for investments from Chinese government agencies, banks, and telecommunications companies. I also tag internet giants like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. Thus if you wanted to look for Facebook announcements in Nigeria, you might click on
or all Facebook news in Africa would be
And that’s not all. You aren’t limited to the web response from Pinboard. You can also download the information in RSS, Text or HTML format
If you have any questions about accessing this information on Pinboard, don’t hesitate to get in touch.