Category Archives: Global Ideas

My heart’s with Ethan

 Chris Jordan, Cell Phones, 2007 (courtesy: http://www.chrisjordan.com/)

Ethan Zuckerman remains my No. 1 favourite blogger of all times, and given how much I struggle to update GlobaLab at least 2-3 times a week, while trying to work and retain a decent social life, I am in awe at his amazing prolificacy.

A quick browse at his last few entries would be enough to feed an average person’s brain for 6 months. Over the last few days, he’s been busy reporting from the PopTech conference, which he describes as “the annual three-day gathering of scientists, inventors, geeks, philosophers and thinkers in coastal Maine“. The event is a catwalk for amazing projects and ideas that are truly transforming the world. If you haven’t followed the event, you can read Ethan’s posts on some of the most interesting presentations, including (but there are more):

It took me good part of the day to read them all, and there are many more celebrity bloggers who reported from the event, including BoingBoing, Next Billion, and a few (but not many) non-English speaking bloggers.

If this isn’t enough for you, check out Ethan’s earlier post about a new initiative to fight counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Ghana (hopefully soon the whole of Africa), mPedigree, which will use mobile phones to track drugs from their original producers all the way to the pharmacy shelves, allowing each buyer in the chain to ensure that they’re dealing with a legitimate product. Or check out the entry in which he takes a good shot at unravelling the complex situation in Somalia, in response to the Onion’s eye-opening video Situation in Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex, a must see for all Africanists:

In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

What can I say? Ethan, you are my personal hero!!!

How many bricks to build a World Digital Library?

The Washington Post showcases an amazingly visionary project, the World Digital Library, which plans to digitize the accumulated wisdom of humankind, catalogue it, and offer it for free on the Internet in seven languages:

The World Digital Library will make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials. The objectives of the World Digital Library are to promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness, provide resources to educators, expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet, and to contribute to scholarly research.

They don’t come more visionary than this one…

[via Jon]

Blog Action Day

Like almost 10,000 other bloggers, I am taking part in Blog Action Day on 15 October. For once, the blogosphere will resonate with one, common topic: the environment.

It’ll be interesting to see if and how this will work, and whether it will have a lasting impact. Personally, I have always been fascinated by how the blogosphere can become a social mobilisation tool, so I’ll be posting and checking the results closely.

JR: Photography as Social Activism

JR - 28mm project (courtesy: http://www.jr-art.net/)

On Africa Visual Mediaitself a really interesting blog on African and Africa-related cultural artifacts in film, photography, television, and print– I came across a post about a visit that photographer/street artist JR made to the banlieues or ghettos that ring Paris after the 2005 riots. The upclose portraits (blown up to poster-sizes) of the young men and women whom he photographed were then pasted across Paris, an open-air (and illegal) exhibition entitled ‘28mm – portrait of a generation‘ that – in Kamau Mucoki’s words – brings the gallery to the street and forces Parisians to confront the images of these youths who are usually depicted as rioting, violent hoodlums.

Below is an excellent video of the shooting and pasting of the portraits he took in collaboration with Ladj Ly:

This is not the first time JR uses photographs as a social mobilisation and activism tool. He was also behind the Face2Face project, on which I blogged in the past. With a number of other artists – such as the Bolognese graffiti creator BLU, with whom he collaborated on the Outsides project in Wuppertal, and to whose genius I will dedicate another post soon – he wants to use public spaces as vehicles for his strong political messages. Thus, breaking the ostentatious separation between ‘art’ and ‘life’, he transforms his pictures into posters and makes open space photo galleries out of our streets.

Simply amazing.

JR - Lilou on Sao Paulo Roff tops (courtesy: http://www.jr-art.net/)

ShareIdeas.org and Focuss.eu

ShareIdeas

Two excellent Web 2.0 initiatives for development and social change that that embody all that is exciting about this new collaborative technology:

ShareIdeas.org is an online community and a wiki for sharing ideas on how to use mobile communications for social and environmental benefits. ShareIdeas.org belongs to the growing global network of individuals and organizations that use this virtual gathering place to communicate – and collaborate.

Focuss.eu provides a high quality search engine for practitioners, researchers and students in the area of global development studies. Other than generic search engines, like Google and Yahoo, focuss.eu indexes a specific choice of electronic resources, selected by librarians, researchers and practitioners working in participating institutions. The resources are selected based on their relevance for the development studies and the quality of the information. Since its inception in October 2006, a number of development-oriented academic centres and organisations have started adopting and promoting this tool more widely.

N2Y2: Web 2.0 projects for social change

Net2 logos

Last post of the day and of the month, since I am going back home tomorrow and won’t have Internet access (gasp! horror!) from our Tuscan retreat

In May 2007, over 300 participants gathered to discuss the 21 Projects that had been selected by the NetSquared community as having the greatest potential to leverage the social web to create social change.

This was a real talent contest between several innovative ideas, from Kabissa‘s proposal to strengthen Web 2.0 applications across the African continent through their network of over 950 local organisations, to Yankana‘s idea to help non profits located in developing countries adopt and benefit from social web tools, without advanced technical skills, financial resources for infrastructure or english language knowledge.

Only 3 made it to the final stage:

  • MAPLight.org, a project aiming to illuminate the connection between money and politics, connecting campaign contributions and votes for U.S. Congress, while providing groundbreaking transparency so that bloggers, journalists, and citizens can hold legislators accountable.
  • Miro, an open source, open standards video. Their pitch: “We are to Google, AOL and YouTube what public television is to the big networks. We are a nonprofit, fully open source and open standards, dedicated to creating the next Firefox of web video.”
  • Freecycle.org, an initiative that has empowered globally local social networking, with the purpose of creating a gift economy/community: “The magic: it’s easier to give something away than throw it away & keeps it out of landfills; a cyber-curbside; a digital segue from commodity to community“.

Although these are all really good projects, it’s a shame that none seems to address directly the needs of communities in developing countries, which some of the other proposed projects did.

The Village – Saving the World through MMOG

The Village - Homepage image 

Via the Charity Blog I came across the Village, an online massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) that immerses the player into the role of an entrepreneur building companies to bring prosperity to the villages of the Third World.

Inspired by the logic of Kiva – the micro-credit organisation that allows people to select projects they want to fund through an online database of micro-entrepreneurs – the Village aims to bring the real world of social entrepreneurship and the virtual world of online gaming closer together.

This is a good idea, but still doesn’t answer the question that has been bugging me for the last 6 months: could these two worlds – the real and the virtual – be brought even closer together, and integrated with the increasing universe of mapping tools that are being developed for non-profit organisations and NGOs?