Skill sharing sessions on wikis, web 2.0, a tech hunt, and webcasts marked the first day of the FTX (Feminist Tech eXchange) Hub as part of the Power of Movements forum, from November 14 – 17 2008 in Capetown. The FTX Hub is a place to put those skills into practice – and to share ideas around how critical communications rights are to women’s rights with over 2000 women attending this forum, organised by the Association for Women’s Rights and Development.
Seven women and thirteen men from Anglophone and Francophone Africa and the Caribbean met during the last days of September in Gorée Island, Senegal. They have many things in common, but one in particular is their ability to make innovative connections in gender, agriculture and information and communication technologies (ICTs). This ability has led them to be finalists of the Gender, Agricultural and Rural Development in the Information Society (GenARDIS) small grants fund.
Congratulations to APC member Jinbonet of Korea, who will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on November 14th. As innovators of ICT for social justice, Jinbonet has been a leader in its commitment to social rights, gender equality, use of free and open source software (FOSS), and has been an integral part of APC’s work in Asia and at large. APC has learnt so much from this truly dedicated and steadfast organisation, and will continue to do so.
How can feminists use technology to their advantage? On November 10, the first ever Feminist Tech eXchange (FTX) in Cape Town will bring together more than 100 activists from around the globe to address this type of question. Organized by the APC Women’s programme in the run up to the massive women’s movement forum AWID, the capacity-building and information-exchange event will explore various technologies such as video, audio, social networking platforms and other emerging ICT tools. The event will act as an open space to network, share knowledge, and learn new skills and strategies for how to make technology work best for the women’s movement.
Following the initial rush of Information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) projects in rural Africa, many did not yield the anticipated outcomes, and interest has been dying down. People then began talking about “sustainable ICT” projects, in which it was understood that projects would become self-sufficient after their initial donor-led investment and set-up period. But with the use of mobile phones gaining in popularity, popular rhetoric has begun to question the need of ICTs beyond the mobiles phone. While mobile phones certainly have had a great impact in rural areas, a new study by Ian Howard, commissioned by APC, through the analysis of two case studies he argues that the need for telecentres and affordable internet connections exists, as such centres cater to rural and niche markets the way larger companies cannot.
“The principles that I learned in the APC workshop helped me work in resource-constrained environments,” says Alex Gondwe, techie at the Baobab Health Partnership in Malawi. Alex is setting up wireless internet connections between health institutions to improve patient care and HIV/AIDS data collection and he shares his tips here.
Last year APC and partners trained local technicians, community leaders and telecentre operators from the Andes on the basic principles of setting up wireless internet access in their communities. Now the participants report on the impact once they went back home.
Non-profit internet provider GreenNet has recently released a new ultra-low power computer. The tiny computer can run on a car battery for hours and uses a maximum of nine watts of electricity. Sustainable in almost every way – from its fabrication, to its distribution and consumption – the E2 also comes fully equipped with free and open source operating systems. APCNews interviewed Sharif Fanselow of GreenNet to find out more about this revolutionary computer.
According to March 2008 statistics only 3.6% of internet users in the world were from Africa. Asia contributed to 37.6% of internet users globally, but this percentage is inflated by large numbers of users from China. The number of fixed lines has not increased significantly, and in some cases has even shrunk. And, in addition to this, a new divide is emerging: the broadband (or “high speed internet”) divide. In Manaus, deep in the Amazon jungle, “broadband” is available but at a cost. There, a 200Kbps connection (hardly considered speedy in better connected parts of the world) costs about $100 USD a month.
Business people, community activists and policy-makers have an interest in as many people as possible –including people in the lowest income-brackets- having access to the internet, being able to check out important information on websites and communicate cheaply via email or internet phone.
In order to reduce poverty and foster inclusive development through affordable access to the internet, APC is working on a resource kit for realising a universal access agenda, present promising options, experiences, lessons and opportunities in pro-poor access provision in developing societies.
Monday October 13 2008 marked the beginning of MobileActive08 Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over 350 participants from more than 40 countries attended the first of the three-day event, whose theme is “Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Technology for Social Impact”. The event brings together key stakeholders that are interested in the use of mobile technology for social development, and the participants, which include NGO and nonprofit practitioners, will explore how mobile phones are being used to advance civil society work and investigate new opportunities. Follow the proceedings of the event and read about the discussion topics online.
On October 11 2008, internet privacy advocates will be meeting in over twenty of Europe’s major cities and capitals in the Americas to launch the Freedom Not Fear campaign, which protests mass-surveillance and mass data retention that many governments world-wide are undertaking. Together, they will promote democracy, free speech and human rights, and raise awareness on this issue through protests, art displays, flash mobs and parties. This event takes place shortly after the data retention meeting in Budapest on September 19 2008, where APC members Green Spider and BlueLink were among the policy experts, academics and activists that met to discuss the new European data retention policy that will take effect in January 2009.
APC partner Tactical Tech, an international NGO that helps activists use information and ICTs to increase their impact, are currently accepting applications for the first international camp on info-activism. The Info-Activism Camp, a seven-day event will take place from February 19 – 25 2009 in Bangalore India. As the first meet-up of this type, participants will learn and share advocacy techniques using ICTs through workshops, group discussions, interactive sessions and live demos.
As other African countries along the SAT-3 submarine internet cable struggle with the high costs of monopolised international bandwidth, Mauritius has encouraged a lowering of prices through price-setting. But Mauritius Telecom had lowered its rates even before the government scale came into effect. The Cyber Island has seen a significant increase in its call centre and outsourcing sectors. Can Mauritius provide lessons to countries that are looking to boost their economies? This study written by Russell Southwood for APC in May, and now available for the first time in French and Portuguese, examines the relationship between international bandwidth prices in Mauritius and the impact of its Cyber Island strategy.
Why African governments need to listen to the case for "open access" to international communications infrastructure
Africa faces two serious challenges regarding internet connectivity – high prices and unreliable connections. The SAT-3/WASC cable, a submarine cable that runs from Portugal to South Africa, has the potential to help alleviate some of the connectivity challenges however, a study released by the APC in May 2008 and now in French and Portuguese written by Abiodun Jagun, reveals that the cable remains largely under-utilised. APCNews talks to Abi Jagun about her findings.
APC member Computer Aid has recently caught the BBC’s attention with its adaptive technologies in Kenya. The BBC’s Click covered Computer Aid’s new focus on making computers and their programmes available to everyone, including people who cannot see. You can read a the full BBC article, which examines how Computer Aid is helping Kenyans change their lives, and the challenges involved.
World’s largest non-profit supplier of refurbished computers launches campaign for action against toxic trade
APC member Computer Aid is urging the UK government to take action against the illegal dumping of e-waste (computers, hard drives, cd roms, etc.) in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and China. It is calling on the government to provide adequate funding for the Environment Agency to effectively police and prevent e-waste from being exported to the developing world. The campaign also targets commercial traders that are abusing re-use and recycling initiatives and computer manufacturers that are turning a blind eye to their equipment being dumped in these countries.
The recent release of the 2008 Basic Capabilities Index (BCI) results, an alternative poverty estimate produced by Social Watch, revealed that the current rate of progress is moving at a snail’s pace. Out of 176 countries where a BCI figure is being measured, only 21 have made noticeable progress over the past 8 years. As such, the international poverty reduction goals for 2015 will not be met; in fact in certain areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, an entire century would be needed. Social Watch is an initiative of the Third World Institute (ITeM), member of APC in Uruguay.
Africans pay five to ten times more than Canadians do to access the internet. It is even more costly in rural settings, where a connection is often hard to find. However, what is even more scandalous is the fact that the consumers have no say. A walk on the dark side of the internet.
Smelled like a revolutionary spirit around Popinci, central Bulgaria, when residents and activists raised barricades around their village. They believed that a planned gold mining project in the nearby hills would harm the environment and their health. They demanded it to be cancelled. The villagers’ impulsive action has put the project on hold for the last three years. But this, or any other community, might not have been as successful in attaining a concrete outcome, had it chosen to fight for access to high speed internet. And the reason is simple. Unlike the environment, internet is not widely perceived by authorities, legislators and policy makers as an essential common good.