Friday, October 26, 2007

Hype Vs Reality in Internet/Lap Top Development

A lot of buzz at the Tunis meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society (organized by UNESCO and the ITU in 2005) was generated by a presentation by Nicholas Negroponte about an MIT project to design and implement an inexpensive, hand-cranked laptop which could be marketed (sic) to poor countries to "bridge the digital divide". The "unveiling" of the device brought out a crush of TV journalists, radio reporters and eager bloggers. At the time, a Kenyan communication specialist remarked privately,"The project is so "American"." He explained that the whole notion of INDIVIDUAL (or as they are called PERSONAL) computers is a concept that is not necessarily the best solution to information problems in places like his country. He mentioned the successful community telecenters where technology and skills are SHARED as being a model for the more practical immediate needs, and of course the over-ridding need for backbone infrastructure access. He also scoffed at the trials of the machines--mainly done with MIT grad students not in the dusty environment of an African village. Without any basic trials, Negroponte seemed to imply that they would go into massive production of several million and that orders were in place from Brazil and India. That would be without even trying a larger test of, say, several hundred in a variety of situations-- urban barrios, villages, etc.
Last week, with similar hoop-la, Negroponte presided over a UN event for the lap tops. After being questioned by skeptics in the discussion period Negroponte admitted that the massive orders had fallen through, but that they were going ahead with production on a large scale. A useful accounting of the UN event is at The questions posed in that article are quite striking. For example, why would the UN sponsor this presentation by a single company/institution without opening up a broader discussion of the various problems with connectivity in developing countries? Why was there no discussion of the infrastructure needed to provide broadband? Or, for that matter, no discussion of the real divide: the stark poverty of townships in Africa compared with the shiny commodity-filled malls of Cambridge and Boston (and Sandton in RSA and the YaYa Center in Nairobi).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

liso Labantu: Photo Project in South African Townships

liso Labantu is a group of photographers who live in the townships around Cape Town, South Africa. We are using point-and-shoot digital cameras to document our neighborhoods one by one. Every other month, we meet in a new neighborhood and shoot—all of us—for 48 hours, from sun up on Friday until late on Saturday night. We then edit, print, and laminate the work. On Sunday morning we hang the photographs on the streets for the community to see. We call these 'Flash Photo Weekends.' Collectively, we are documenting our lives, our families, our struggles and our accomplishments.The group is growing, as well as getting more professional. And, we are in need of more equipment. Here’s where you can help.Do you have:
* old point and shoot or SLR digital cameras (3.2 Megapixels and up)
* Battery chargers
* Flash Cards or Memory Cards
Or.... Maybe you have...
* an old laptop?
* hard drive
* firewire cables and power chargers
We are also building a library for the organization. If you have photography books that you would like to give a happy second life, please consider donating those.
Send to Sue Johnson
169 Avenue A #13
NYC, NY 10009

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Filmmaker Florian Opitz facing 14 years of prison in Nigeria

from: Opitz was arrested in Nigeria by the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) and has to appear in court today. He is accused of 'endangering national security' and faces up to 14 years in prison. Florian Opitz is a freelance documentary filmmaker, author and journalist. His last very successful documentary "The Big Sell-Out"is a political film. In various episodes the abstract phenomenon of privatisation is depicted in stories about very concrete human destinies around the globe. The documentary tells tragic, tragicomic but also encouraging stories of the everyday life of people, who day by day have to deal with the effects of privatisation politics, dictated by anonymous international financial institutions in Washington D.C. and Geneva, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO)."

Arrested with him were filmmaker Andy Lehmann (Berlin), Danjuma Saidu (Nigeria) and Judith Asuni (US/Nigeria), doing research in the Niger delta for their next film. They were alledgedly taking pictures of oil refineries, pipelines and ships. The Niger Delta has seen many bloody conflicts about resources, oil revenue and distribution of wealth, often depicted as 'ethnic conflicts' by neighbouring tribes. Judith Asuni has lived in the region for 36 years and works with the peace work NGO
Academic Associates/PeaceWorks.

The Niger Delta moved in the focus of attention with the trial against Ken Saro-Wiwa, author, television producer, and environmentalist who received the Right Livelihood Award in 1994 and was nominated for the Peace Nobel Price in 1996. He was executed in 1995. The German Journalist Association demands all four arrested to be released and calls the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs to intervene.[tt_news]

Florian Opitz has screened 'The Big Sell Out' during the last Globale film festival in May in Berlin together with Andrej Holm, leading to a public debate about privatisation. Before he left to Nigeria he left us his card and said "Call me if there is anything I can do to help from from there." It's up to us now to help
free him.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Niger Radio Station Head Taken to Prison

Niger: Moussa Kaka Taken to Niamey Prison Without Explanation Reporters sans Frontières (Paris) PRESS RELEASE 25 September 2007Reporters Without Borders today condemned the transfer of radio station head Moussa Kaka to Niamey prison after a prolonged period in custody without being taken before the prosecutor or being given any explanation, as demanded under law. Kaka, of privately-owned Radio Saraouniya, and correspondent in Niger for Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Reporters Without Borders, was moved to prison on 24 September, four days after his arrest."It is astonishingly lax to arrest one of the country's most prominent journalists without producing any serious proof and flouting the law. In such a serious case, it is beyond belief that the Nigerian authorities should show such contempt. It gives legitimate reason to question the credibility of the procedure which led to Moussa Kama being sent to prison," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. The journalist was held in custody for a four-day period which expired at 6pm on 24 September without ever being formally charged.

The only indication of what the journalist is accused of came from the prosecutor general of the Niamey appeal court, Adama Harouna, who said on 21 September that he faced proceedings for "violating state security", because of his alleged links with the Tuareg rebellion of the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ). His lawyer, Mr Coulibaly said that he should be taken before the prosecutor's office during 25 September.

In a statement released yesterday, RFI voiced its "very serious concern about the fate of our correspondent". "In the absence of precise facts setting out the details of the accusations against our correspondent, RFI questions the exact reasons which led the authorities in Niger to arrest and then imprison a journalist, well known for his professionalism and independence," it said.

Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.

Niger journalists free - for now

Niamey - Police in Niger have released two journalists held for allegedly defaming the country's finance minister but they still face prosecution, a press association said on Friday.

"They have been freed but the prosecutor has notified them that legal procedures will follow their normal course," Boubacar Diallo of the Association of Independent Press Editors told AFP.

Soumana Maiga, founder of the biweekly L'Enqueteur, was detained Wednesday, while Ibrahim Souley, the publication's director, was briefly detained last Thursday before being held again for questioning five days later.

L'Enqueteur published a series of articles last month that included allegations that Finance Minister Ali Lamine Zeine had been involved in embezzlement and favouritism in ministry appointments.

Two other journalists are also being held in Niger.

Moussa Kaka, Radio France Internationale's correspondent in the country, has been detained since September 26, while Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, director of the biweekly Air-Info, has been held since October 9.

They face charges over alleged links to a Tuareg rebel group active in the country's north.

Prosecutors at Agadez, in the north of the country, questioned Manzo Diallo for the first time on Friday, grilling him for three hours in the presence of his lawyer Moussa Coulibaly, who also represents Kaka.