Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Web 2.0 Learning Oppportunity - My Personal Experience

The first Web 2.0 Learning workshop organized by The Technical Centre for agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), in collaboration with the Faculty of Agriculture (FOA-University of Mauritius) and the Food and Agricultural Council (FARC) is being held this week in the computer room of the Faculty of Agriculture from Monday 09 to Friday 13 July 2012.

25 students from different organisations are attending the workshop and it is a real pleasure for me to meet other colleagues in the agricultural sector.

Participants listening to a welcome message from the Dean of Faculty of Agriculture

It brought me good memories when I was studying here for my undergraduate degree in Agriculture from 1998 to 2001. I still remember this computer room where I was using mIRC, the chat tool of my generation. Its amazing that Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is still alive although not as popular as in the late 1990's, considering it was probably one of the first social media type software to the general public. It was quite fun chatting through mIRC and I met lots of funny people on the Mauritius channel. The first question people will normally asked you would be, what's your asl, which stands for age, sex and location.

The internet has evolved a lot since then, thanks mostly to the influence of Web 2.0 tools and other social media. As we move into the new information society, a larger percentage of world citizens now gain access to broadband internet, millions start logging in daily to check their email, news, facebook notifications and YouTube videos.

Today, Web 2.0 describes any technology that allows users to directly interact and change the content of a web page or service. This includes anything such as blogs, social networks, tagging, social bookmarking,  RSS and digital forums amongst others. The philosophy behind Web 2.0 is that the people like us who are accessing Internet everyday should not only passively absorb the media as we were doing previously. Instead, we should be active contributors, help customize media and technology for our own purposes, as well as for our communities. For us who are stakeholders in the Agricultural Sector, the main objective of this workshop is to use Web 2.0 to help our organisation and the Agricultural community.

The Web 2.0 Landscape
This philosophy contrasts sharply with the old "Web 1.0" methodology, in which news was provided by a handful of large corporations such as Yahoo, Microsoft (through MSN) and Mauritius Telecom (through Servihoo) in Mauritius. Web pages were static, not interactive and rarely updated, and only the IT professionals could contribute to their development. Most Web 1.0 applications were also proprietary, unlike Web 2.0 tools which are mostly open source programs. For example, Netscape Navigator was a proprietary Web browser of the Web 1.0 era. Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome follow the Web 2.0 philosophy and provides developers with all the tools they need to create new applications.

Comparison between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0
The workshop Day 1

On the first day, after the launching ceremony, we had our ice-breaker session. I had to interact with my neighbour in the computer room for 5 minutes and then introduce him. Unfortunately, his computer crashed later and moved to another location.

Of he two tutors, I already knew one of them, Mr Kamlesh Boodhoo, my former lecturer in Animal Production. I still remember him giving his lectures to 100 students on Animal Genetics in the Burrenchobay Theatre back in 1999-2000. Mr Sembhoo was the other tutor. He seems to master all these Web 2.0 tools very well. Both of them are very interactive and open to suggestions from the participants. Miss Nawsheen Hosenally is another resource person helping the two tutors voluntarily! She is the first prize winner of the best blog in Agriculture among ACP countries. They have all planned ahead of this workshop and identified areas of weakness that students like us will be experiencing. For instance, they described clearly the difference between Google Reader and iGoogle. Most of us couldn't differentiate between the two at the beginning. Moreover, a short video was projected to introduce each web 2.0 tool before further explanation was given by the tutors. The participants were then able to practise the various exercises for each web 2.0 tool.

Our two tutors
Like all participants, I was introduced to the democracy wall, which was in the corridor where I placed my final year MSc dissertation poster in 2011. All participants provided their thoughts on meta cards (I learnt, I discovered, I suggest, I felt, I noticed). I also shared my views like other participants on similar meta cards but of different colours on the front wall of the computer room on each Web 2.0 tool taught that day. The yellow card was for stating how I will be able to use the tool after the workshop while the pink card was for my concern in using this tool. The metacards were anonymous and Mr Sembhoo discussed on the different issues raised before moving to the next Web 2.0 tool.

Particiapnts fixing their meta cards on the democracy wall in the corridor

Placing our meta cards on the wall of the computer room

For the first day, I learnt new ways of making a search on Google. If only I knew this selective access feature of the Google Search Engine for my MSc dissertation last year! I could have saved a lot of time. Then, I discovered what is a Google Alert. Google Alerts are emails sent to you when Google finds new results on any search item. I can use Google Alerts to monitor practically anything on the Web!

Then, came RSS. Prior to this workshop, I have regularly asked myself the question: What is that RSS that I found on many websites asking me to subscribe? Those little orange buttons appearing on my favorite sites. Luckily, my tutors have shed a lot of light on this tool. RSS,which stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ is a technology that is being used by millions of web users around the world to keep track of their favorite websites. It’s like subscribing to a magazine that is delivered to you periodically but instead of it coming in your physical mail box each month when the magazine is published it is delivered to your ‘RSS Reader’ every time your favorite website updates. The first thing I was asked to do  if I want to get into reading sites via RSS is to register with an RSS Feed Reader. Our tutors explained that there are many free feed readers on the web but to start with,  an easy to use one is Google Reader. So, we signed in into Google Reader with our gmail accounts and there we go subscribing to RSS feeds on the MAISNET and Faculty of Agriculture blogs. So simple and so great! No need to bookmark dozens of websites on my browser anymore!


Following RSS and Google Reader, I discovered iGoogle. It is a more personalized version of Google.Its like having a homepage where you can change the background and add different gadgets (news feeds, calendar, email, social media apps, games, etc). It is so cool! I now have a page and all I have to do is log in freely with my Gmail account.

My iGoogle homepage
After the iGoogle exercise, I was really tired like all participants. We, as full-time employees, are not used to being confined in a classroom in front of a PC the whole day. No homework for today. That's great. Waiting for tomorrow's session.

In the meantime, have a look at this five-minute video production giving you a brief introduction of Web 2.0 applications.

Source: Youtube

What is the Seafood Hub of Mauritius?

Sorting of brine-frozen tuna after unloading
The Sea Food Hub of Mauritius is an important sector of the economy as it is producing foreign exchange currency through exports of fishery products (including products of aquaculture) and providing employment. In 2009, export of fishery products (90,000 tonnes) which accounted for around 15% of the total national export was estimated at MUR 9 billion and emanated mainly (>95%) from the processing of imported fish. Total imports of fishery products (mainly frozen and canned) amounted to around MUR 7 billion resulting in a positive trade balance of some MUR 2 billion.

The Government of Mauritius jointly with the private sector has developed a modern Sea Food Business Hub in the Free Port Zone of Mer Rouge. Government’s strategy is focused on the transhipment and export of fishery products and ensuring that the quality of products is in compliance with international norms. In 2009, solely MUR 2 billion has been generated from the re-export of fishery products in the Freeport. 

The European Union is by far the world’s biggest importer of fish, seafood and aquaculture products. The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO) is responsible for food safety in the European Union. The import rules of the DG SANCO seek to guarantee that all imports fulfil the same high standards as products manufactured within the EU Member States, with respect to hygiene and consumer safety and, if relevant, also to the animal health status. Third countries such as Mauritius wishing to export fish and fishery products to the EU must have a National Competent Authority in place in their country, which is responsible for official controls throughout the production chain. The National Competent Authority must be empowered, structured and resourced to implement effective inspection and guarantee credible public and animal health attestations in the export certificate to accompany fishery products that are destined for the EU. 

Exports of fishery products from Mauritius are only authorised from approved vessels and establishments (e.g. processing plants, freezer vessels, cold stores) which have been inspected by a National Competent Authority and found to meet EU requirements. A list of such approved establishments must be sent to the DG SANCO and then published on its website. To verify compliance with the EU requirements, the EU Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out inspections in third countries. Such an inspection mission is the basis of establishing confidence between the EU Commission and the National Competent Authority of the exporting country.