Category Archives: Information Technology

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!!!

What will drive change in the next 50 years?

From globalisation to nanotechnology, vote here for the Drivers of Change that you think will influence your area of work.

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]

Knowledge Politics Quarterly journal launched

Here come the big, bad ICT4D guys...

With the launch of the first issue of its quarterly journal, Knowledge Politics – the think-tank dedicated to exploring the implications and possibilities of the development of an ‘information society’ – has entered the arena of online academic journals, offering an innovative and open space for reflection and dialogue on how technology (and in particular Information Communication Technologies – ICTs) is affecting the social, political and economic universes. In addition to the journal, KP’s site also offers a number of thematic portals, ranging from Internet Governance and Information Society Theory, to Knowledge Economy and Digital Rights.

Apart from the fact that the journal and the other publications by KP are exploring some truly interesting issues, this post is actually about shameless self-promotion, since one of the published papers (PDF) was written by me. It’s about Web 2.0 and international NGOs, and the political implications of the changes in online knowledge management practices for the operational and advocacy activities of non-governmental agencies. The vignette above neatly summarises the prevailing attitude of NGOs towards Web 2.0 (and ICTs more generally) and their role in development. My position is, of course, rather different…

In true Web 2.0 spirit, comments and feedback – especially from NGO staff – are most welcome!

nonprofits, teens, and blogs

Below, I am reproducing an extract from a really interesting post on Studio 501c – a blog devoted to exploring ways in which new ICTs can benefit social organisations – on organizations that have sponsored a youth or teen blogging project. Some examples are well known, other new to me and worth investigating. The full post can be accessed here.

“[…] Britt Bravo wrote of one organization that has a blog on which teens post but which, because of safety reasons, prefers not to be publicized widely. Britt also mentioned:

Beth Kanter kindly posted my email query to her blog and suggested these resources:

In response to her post:

Michaela Hackner of World Learning wrote, “We’re in the process of developing strategies for this, starting with our study abroad blogging pilot this fall. We also host a Serbian youth program that we are planning to introduce to Vox.”

Lisa Canter said to “take a look at this dynamic NY youth organization” — www.girlsclub.org (Click on “A Day in the Life.”)

Nick Booth shared www.frankleytalk.com, which is “just getting started and is based in a neighbourhood in Birmingham (England).”

Marshall Kirkpatrick shared the resources below and suggested I look at “variations on this query” at http://snipurl.com/1qexf (danah boyd’s blog).

[…]

nonprofits, nota bene: Michaela’s idea of using Vox for a youth project is a great one. This free platform allows bloggers to create members-only groups called “neighborhoods.” Users can log onto the neighborhood page to see recent posts from all other members. As the Vox site says, “You can choose the privacy level for every post, every picture, every sound clip, every video. Put up posts for the world. Put up posts for just your family. Or just your friends.

Web 2.0 in development slideshare

A brief, yet comprehensive, overview of practical examples of Web 2.0 usage in the international development sector, by Joitske Hulsebosch:

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?

Mapping tools for non-profit organisations

 Aram Bartholl's Map project converts Google map markers into physical objects that can be moved around public spaces

Via the excellent Social Source Commons, a “place to share lists of software tools that you already use, gain knowledge and support, and discover new tools“, I came across this cool list of GIS tools, which have been used by NGOs and non-profits to map their activities online.

For those of you interested in showing on a map what you are doing and how you are doing it. Incidentally, NetSquared is also looking into this technology to understand how non-profits could benefit from adopting them, while OpenAid warns about relying on online mapping tools which are out of date and can hamper rather than aid a relief effort.