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February 09 2014

Tanqeed's Bi-Weekly List of Recommended Readings On Pakistan

Tanqeed, a quarterly magazine on politics and culture on Tumblr, is an experiment in critical reflection on Pakistan. It is a blogzine, a scrapbook and a reporters’ notebook. This year, Tanqeed is accepting recommendations of lectures, essays, articles, videos on a range of subjects including politics, culture and society from Pakistan and beyond and plans to publish them bi-weekly.

India's Solar Vision Promises Clean Energy And Happy Farmers

Solar array pattern captured at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY

Array of solar panels at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY-NC-SA

Around 628 million people around the world do not have access to electricity and 290 million of them are from rural India. Many Indian farmers have to rely on archaic power grids and fossil fuels to run water pumps for their irrigation.

The Indian government is aiming to replace 26 million diesel-powered groundwater pumps with more efficient solar-powered irrigation models. This will save about six billion US dollars a year in electricity and diesel subsidies for the country. This will also help tackle the rising demand for coal as two-thirds of the country's electricity is generated by coal. Additionally crowd-sourcing of unused solar power will also add a lot of energy to the national grid.

India nearly doubled its solar capacity in 2013 to a cumulative 2.18 gigawatts of power. The country plans to install 10 GW of solar plants by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022, according to the the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), India’s flagship solar policy. India is also considering to apply to the World Bank for a 500-million-US-dollar solar loan to build the world's largest solar power plant (4GW) in Sambhar in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Yadav K writes in Indian Public Sector blog details about the 4GW power plant in Sambhar:

The project will spread across 19,000 acres at Sambhar in Rajasthan and will entail an investment of Rs 7,500 crore in the first phase. [..] The solar PV (photo-voltaic) power plant will use PV modules based on crystalline silicon technology and with an estimated life of 25 years, the solar plant can supply 6,400 million units of energy per year. It eco-friendly project will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 4 million tonnes per year.

Katie Fehrenbacher writes in technology blog Gigaom:

As more devices become connected to networks and the Internet — here comes the Internet of Things — more and more of them will seek to have their own power source, and currently solar power is one of the cheapest and most mobile forms of distributed energy available. [..]

If India does reach these numbers of solar-powered water pumps, it would be the largest deployment of this technology in a single country. Reducing the grid electricity usage, and the use of expensive diesel, will not only lower carbon emissions, but it could also help the power grid operators better run their networks and reduce the power costs for the farmers.

Here are more reactions on Twitter:

However, the rapid development requires industrial production of Solar plants which may create new bio-hazard:

Blogger & Solar Energy expert Ritesh Pothan thinks that there are a number of issues that must be resolved if 2014 is to see India make any progress towards its solar ambitions.

More info on India's solar developments can be found in Renewable Energy India and Solar Power India Facebook pages.

Campaigning for Women's Rights Made Easy

Women's rights campaigning is the focus of a new info-activism toolkit by Tactical Technology Collective.

The toolkit is particularly useful to women's rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community-based organisations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning.

It includes step-by-step guides from basics like how to launch a campaign to more complex issues such as digital security and privacy.

The Toolkit was developed as part of a project with CREA, along with seven partner organisations
based in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and East Africa. It is now available in English only but will soon be translated into Arabic, Swahili, Bengali and Hindi.

February 08 2014

Why Vietnam-made Game Flappy Bird is Popular

Vietnam-made game Flappy Bird is today's number one app in the iOS App Store in over 100 countries. It already has more than 50 million downloads and it even beat Facebook's Paper app. Anh-Minh Do of Tech in Asia explains the popularity of the game:

It’s so hard that it’s ridiculously frustrating, annoying, and somehow existentially hilarious. It’s so hard it’s funny. In this way, Flappy Bird is punishing. If you take a gander at the reviews on the App Store, you’ll immediately see how much people love to hate it. And this is probably the single biggest reason for its success. People love to torture themselves, and they love to share it. The difficulty of the game is engineered for virality.

February 07 2014

Caribbean Numbers Involved in Telephone Phishing Scam

If you see a missed call originating in the Caribbean from someone you don't know, it is likely that you have been targeted by perpetrators of the ‘one-ring phone scam’. While the numbers used in these phishing activities can originate anywhere in the world, Slate reports that Caribbean numbers have been noticed with alarming frequency over the past few weeks:

The Better Business Bureau lists calls from Antigua and Barbuda (268), the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), the British Virgin Islands (284), and Grenada (473) as potential scam threats. People who do call back could be charged something like $30 for the international call, depending on the carrier, and see fraudulent service fees showing up on their phone bills. This process of ‘cramming,’ when third-party scammers sneak bogus charges onto legitimate phone bills, is ever on the rise, according to the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission.

Affected persons around the world took to Twitter to report the issue:

Occurrences of these calls have also been reported in Trinidad and Tobago on Facebook. Shelley-anne L Thompson weighed in on the discussion:

I get that like once a month and have never called. come on, people you know this scam! dont let your curiosity trap you.

Maisha Hyman had this to say:

I'm glad to see this! I've recently had hang up calls from Antigua and Grenada! Like wtf?!

Others were more concerned about the impact of the scam on the region. Michael Nahous of Trinidad and Tobago was not amused:

How can they charge you $30.00 without some contract arrangement with the telephone carrier….its only digicel, cable wireless and the local telephone companies in these islands…if they know its a scam why cant they just disconnect the number.

People affected by the scam are being urged to alert their service providers if they spot any unusual charges on their phone bills.

Last Chance to Submit Papers for Re:Publica 2014

re:publica 14 - INTO THE WILD

The organizers of Re:Publica in Berlin, Germany have extended the deadline for submission of papers for speaking topics to February 7, 2014. The topic for this year's conference, which typically attracts around 5,000 people, is INTO THE WILD, exploring the unknowns of a post-Snowden era. Submit your papers today! The event will be held on May 6-8. Expect to see Global Voices there too. #RP14

Pre-Registration Open for Brazil's Global Internet Governance Event

In preparation for the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance that will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 23-24 April 2014, the organizers are now accepting pre-registrations through a form for expression of interest. The event is a partnership between the state-convened Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br), and the non-governmental multistakeholder platform ./1net.

According to the website of the event, NetMundial.br

This meeting will focus on crafting Internet governance principles and proposing a roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem.

The organization of a global Internet governance event began a few weeks after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivered a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2013, when she criticized the United States for spying and mentioned that Brazil “[would] present proposals for the establishment of a civilian multilateral framework for the governance and use of the Internet and to ensure the effective protection of data that travels through the web.”

February 06 2014

Nigerian Blogger Blossom Nnodim Talks ‘Social Media for Social Good’

Blossom Nnodim is a Nigerian writer, master of ceremonies and social media enthusiast. Nnodim is passionate about the good inherent in social media, and she not only uses social media to create value, but also to spread good. 

Global Voices caught up with Nnodim to discuss her #AdoptATweet campaign, the positive impact of social media, and the role of online platforms in Nigerian politics.

Nwachukwu Egbunike (NE): ”Author, blogger, compère (MC).” That’s how you describe yourself! Can you tell us about the Blossom we don’t know about?

Blossom Nnodim -

“Social Media for Social Good means creating a positive societal impact using social media as a voice.” – Blossom Nnodim
(Image used with her permission)

Blossom Nnodim (BN): The Blossom you do not know is one that is outwardly fearless but inwardly at a crossroad between doing what is right and what is expected from the society. She deliberately sees life as a “half filled” cup despite the fact the emptiness often time outweighs the fullness.

NE: You are the creator of #AdoptATweep, a social media and entrepreneurship project. What is it all about, how did it come about and what has been the story so far?

BN: The #AdoptATweep brand came out of a desire to create as many “overlords” as possible on Twitter. I joined Twitter actively after the existing “cabal” had already being formed. At this point I realized that most Nigerians tend to take Twitter validations serious either by way of retweets or follow-backs by an assumed overlord.

The real truth about coming up with the #AdoptATweep concept was to demystify the entire Twitter concept and make regular users become celebrity users in the shortest possible time.

Following the success of the first year, the concept naturally took on a more serious approach and it was at this point that the “Twitter-preneurship” focus of #AdoptATweep was explored and the focus shifted. More details can be found here.

NE: You are an advocate of Social Media for Social Good. Can you explain what this means?

BN: Social Good is an action that benefits society. This gives a somewhat non reaching definition especially with the invention of social media. As such, the striking word in the term “social good” is the social component, which aptly conveys the “shareable” aspect of the term. Social Media for Social Good means creating a positive societal impact using social media as a voice.

Anyone with access to technology, Internet, qwerty keyboard, etc. can organize an impact reaching campaign that has the possibility of benefiting the society. Social good is the process of using social media and social-focused communities to create a positive impact on our surrounding environment.

NE: There have been fears over Nigeria’s government ramping up of Internet surveillance and, most recently, failed attempt to gag netizens. What is your take on free speech and the Internet?

BN: There is a thin line between freedom of speech and hate speech. This line is not always clearly defined and as such netizens could in a bid to break the news inadvertently share updated that could tear down instead of building up.

The Internet surveillance bid and recent attempt to “gag” citizens at first glance may seem like an effrontery on freedom of speech. Deep down, the key focus is on false information. The only challenge is on the full explanation of what false information means. If the Federal Government [of Nigeria] is both the decider on what false information is and who becomes culpable in disseminating false information, the challenge could range from intimidation of the opposition to clear cut witch-hunting.

NE: Do you think the Nigerian blogosphere has the capacity to influence traditional media's news reporting, especially in matters of investigative journalism or seeking greater accountability from political leaders?

BN: It is sad to note that most traditional media platforms have allowed the narratives of the new media to shape and define their news reportage especially in the negative spectrum of professionalism. There are ethics and values that guide news reportage in the traditional media which is commonly lost by the qwerty hugging private citizen with access to internet and social media. What that conveys is that sedation is rife and unsubstantiated news is common with the social media and as such the traditional media should be more informed in news selection culled from the social media.

In summary, I believe the traditional media might have inadvertently allowed some of its core values to become eroded in the quest to keep up with the quickness and speed associated with the new media.

There are however, a few success stories where news trend in the new media have spiraled a more objective reportage by the traditional media.

NE: A large percentage of Nigerian youth are upward mobile, tech-savvy and vocal netizens. Do you think that these young netizens can propel the change that Nigerian needs?

BN: The large proportion of the yuppie generation is ideally passion driven with little or no concern for diplomacy and tact. The latter attributes are core ingredients in driving change. When passion is the only driver, what we see is a class of people that allow sentiments to rule their advocacy efforts.

I believe that if more young people focus on getting their facts right before embarking on any given campaign, the change that is expected will become inevitable. Secondly, young Nigerians should shed the entitlement mentality and make far reaching demands that even politicians cannot relegate to the background. What we see is a situation where politicians believe that they are doing young people a favor by making the special advisors and technical assistants. This may seem ideal in the short run but in the long run, we find out that several of such positions have little or no impact in policy shaping.

NE: The national electoral umpire just announced the schedule for the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. Do you think that social media will break new ground in the campaign and influence voting during this election?

BN: The power of social media will not be absolute if offline engagements are not put in place to ensure effectiveness of online campaigns. The extent social media will add value to the quality of the 2015 election will be determined by the offline actions ranging from voter registration, exercising franchise and field monitoring to ensure credible election process.

The outcome of an election is decided by the ballot box and not the update box of social media platforms.

NE: What do you think will be the future of the Nigerian blogosphere after the 2015 elections?

BN: I foresee a better sanitized reportage as most individual bloggers and social media users will ideally align with specific political parties. We will have folks leaning to affiliations not out of fear of walking solo but out of conviction that they are on the right track.

A two mega party system is actually what Nigeria needs and post-2015, we will have a better driven opposition that will be more focused on issues than on propaganda.

Trinidad & Tobago: Strategizing Social Media

ICT Pulse recommends 5 critical building blocks upon which organizations can develop an effective social media strategy.

February 05 2014

Meet 3 Talented African Lady Geeks Involved in New Media

The new technology sector is booming on the African continent. The force behind this growth is mainly driven by the talent and passion of young Africans for innovation and information technology. However, these talented young people are also well aware that various areas of the tech industry in Africa are still a work in progress: skill development, competitiveness and equal opportunities for all.

We asked three talented bloggers from Francophone Africa for their opinions on new media in their region and what being a female geek (known as a ‘geekette‘) means for them.

Mariam Diaby [fr], who is based in Côte d’Ivoire, defines herself above all as an entrepreneur interested in all things digital. Her studies took her as far as London to the London South Bank University.

Julie Owono is studying law in Paris and is currently studying to take the bar exam. Originally from Cameroon, she contributes regularly to online publications such Global Voices and Quartz Magazine and is head of the Africa office of Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders).

Lalatiana Rahariniaina, based in Antananarivo, Madagascar, has been blogging since 2008. Passionate about writing and photography, Lalatiana shares her views on Malagasy society on her French-language blog Ampela Miblaogy (Woman Who Blogs). One of the winners of Radio France International's Mondoblog competition in 2011, she received training from the Atelier des Médias [fr] – RFI in Senegal. Atelier des Médias is a francophone social network that studies the evolution of media around the world.

Mariam Daby with permission

Mariam Daby. Photo used with her permission

Global Voices (GV): Do you think of yourself as a geek (or geekette)? 

Mariam Diaby (MD): Alors là, pas du tout. C'est vrai que j'ai toujours adoré les jeux vidéos (même si je n'y joue plus très souvent), que mon premier réflexe est de “tripatouiller” tout nouvel appareil technologique qui me tombe sous la main, que l'informatique a fait partie de mon cursus universitaire et que je travaille dans le domaine, mais non, je ne suis pas une Geek. Je suis juste attentive au monde des NTIC.

Mariam Diaby (MD): Not at all. It's true that I've always loved video games (even if I don't play them very often), that my first instinct is to play around with any new device that falls into my hands, that IT is major part of my studies at university, and that I work in that field, but I'm not a geek. I just pay close attention to the world of IT.

Julie Owono (JO): Qu'est-ce qu'être une Geekette, aurais-je envie de demander. Dans l'imaginaire, Geek et son féminin Geekette représentaient des êtres peu sociables, toujours le nez dans leur ordinateur, à la poursuite du dernier gadget électronique. Cette vision a sûrement changé aujourd'hui, et si Geekette, c'est être une personne qui utilise de manière intensive les nouveaux médias, dans un but précis, je pense en effet pouvoir dire que j'en suis une. Internet et les outils qui en sont des dérivés offrent des possibilités en terme de démocratie, de participation multi-acteurs dans le jeu politique, de gouvernance, de transparence, toutes ces questions qui m'importent. Je suis à ce sujet très fière d'un outil nommé Feowl sur lequel j'ai travaillé, et qui permet de mesurer le défaut d'électricité dans les métropoles africaines.     

Julie Owono (JO): ”What does it mean to be a geekette?” is what I want to ask first. It used to be that geeks and geekettes were thought of as unsocial, with their noses pressed to their computer screens, searching for the latest electronic gadget. This perception has surely changed today, and if being a geekette means being someone who uses new media intensively with a specific goal, I think I could say I'm one. The Internet and related tools offer possibilities in terms of democracy, multi-stakeholder participation in politics, government, transparency, all of these things which are important to me. In this respect, I'm really proud of a tool I'm working on called Feowl, which allows the electricity deficit in African cities to be measured.

Lalatiana Rahariniaina (LV): Si geek veut dire être passionné dans un domaine précis – dans mon cas le blogging – alors je pourrai peut-être en faire partie. Je tiens juste à préciser que ma vie n’est pas que virtuelle.

Lalatiana Rahariniaina (LV): If being a geek means being passionate about a specific topic – in my case blogging – then maybe I am one. But just to be clear, my life is more than just the online world.

GV: How are female African geeks seen in the world of new media?

MD: Je crois que les femmes africaines ont su s'imposer ces dernières années. Des femmes comme Marieme Jamme représentent le visage de la “Technology African Woman”. Il n’ y a pas de différence entre femmes et hommes, il n'y a que les compétences qui parlent, et sur ce point il n'y a rien à redire. Pour moi, elles ont le mérite qui leur revient.

MD: I think African women have known how to find a place for themselves in recent years. Women like Marieme Jamme represent the face of the ‘Technology African Woman'. There is no difference between women and men, what's important is their skills, and on that point there's no more to be said. For me, those women deserve a lot of credit.

Julie Owono avec sa permission

Julie Owono. Photo used with her permission

JO: Il faut d'abord signaler que nous ne sommes malheureusement pas si nombreuses… ou alors nous nous cachons bien ! J'organise parfois des formations portant sur l'utilisation des nouveaux médias, les candidatures féminines se font rares ! A quoi cela est dû, peut-être est-ce à cause de l'éducation distributive, en fonction des genres, qui irrigue encore le système éducatif et l'inconscient de beaucoup de parents dans l'éducation qu'ils transmettent à leurs enfants : les filles auraient plus des âmes de littéraires que de techniciennes. Il faut croire que les choses ne sont pas si différentes ailleurs qu'en Afrique, mais fort heureusement, elles sont en train de changer progressivement. On voit se développer sur le continent de plus en plus de programmes pour encourager les vocations de femmes technophiles, et celles-ci, surtout parmi les jeunes générations, ont une idée différente de leur place dans ce monde des nouveaux médias, et de leur rapport avec ces nouveaux médias. Et puis, le fait d'avoir de plus en plus de modèles ne peut qu'aider. J'ai moi-même été, et suis toujours, très inspirée par le parcours d'Ory Okolloh. Donc pour répondre, la geekette africaine c'est encore une perle trop rare, mais c'est aussi un formidable réservoir d'idées, de projets, et de progrès.

JO: First of all, it needs to be said that there aren't many of us… or we're hiding somewhere! Sometimes I organise training events for using new media, and female participants are rare! Why that is, maybe it's because of distributive education, based on gender, which still guides the principles and subconscious of lots of parents in educating their children: girls are seen as literary, not technical. Things aren't very different outside of Africa, but happily they are changing slowly. We're seeing more and more programmes being developed to encourage girls to choose technical careers, and these women, particularly in younger generations, have a different idea of their place in the world of new media and their relationship to new media. And the fact that they have more and more role models must help too. I myself was, and am, always inspired by Ory Okolloh. So as an answer, the African geekette is still too rare, but she's also an incredible reservoir of ideas, projects and progress.

LR: Je ne pense pas que dans le monde des nouveaux médias on distingue particulièrement les femmes des hommes. Cependant, si on parle de Madagascar, on constate qu’il y a peu de femmes par rapport aux hommes qui s’intéressent réellement aux nouveaux médias.

LR: In the world of new media, I don't think we really discriminate between women and men. But if we talk about Madagascar, you can see that there are few women in relation to men really interested in new media.

GV: Regarding ‘bro’ culture in Silicon Valley, is the glass ceiling more difficult to break through in the world of new media?

MD: Je ne pense pas du tout, au contraire. Les réseaux sociaux sont tellement efficaces en terme de viralité, qu'il est encore plus facile de diffuser l'information sur les geekettes comparé aux médias traditionnels.

MD: I don't think so at all. To the contrary, social networks are so effective in terms of going viral that it's even easier to diffuse information about geekettes compared to traditional media.

JO: Finalement, à force de vouloir être totalement différent, “disruptive” comme on dit, le secteur des nouveaux médias a fini par ressembler aux secteurs d'activités plus traditionnels : un monde sexiste, où les femmes n'aurait qu'exceptionnellement un rôle important à jouer. Pour autant, contrairement à avant, le plafond de verre est peut-être moins insurmontable : avec Internet, et l'ouverture que cet espace offre, il peut être un peu moins compliqué d'accéder à un réseau d'autres femmes ayant réussi, et de se faire introduire, d'être soutenu lorsqu'on a des idées, de mettre en application ces idées avec trois sous pour commencer, recevoir des financements, avoir des modèles de réussite (je pense à Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer et al.), comme je l'écrivais plus haut. Le plafond de verre il est surtout dans le mental à mon avis : penser que pour y arriver dans ce domaine, il faudrait avoir le cerveau d'un homme dans un corps de femme.

JO: At the end of the day, by seeking to be completely different, ‘disruptive’ as we say, the new media sector has ended up resembling more traditional branches of business: a sexist world, where women only rarely have an important role to play. Nevertheless, compared to before the glass ceiling is maybe less impossible to break through; with the Internet and the opportunities that it offers, maybe it's a bit less complicated to get in touch with a network of other women who have succeeded, to be introduced as a newcomer, to be supported in our ideas, to start working on these ideas without the need for a huge amount of capital, to get financial aid, to have successful role models (I'm thinking of Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer etc.), as I mentioned before. In my opinion, the glass ceiling is above all psychological: thinking that to get somewhere in this field, you need to have a man's brain in a woman's body.

Lalatiana Rahariniaina avec sa permission

Lalatiana Rahariniaina. Photo used with her permission

LR: Je ne crois pas. Dans le cas de Madagascar, comme je l’ai dit précédemment, les intérêts des femmes sont ailleurs. C’est ma façon de voir en tout cas. Mais j’avoue que c’est un défi permanent entre les tâches, les devoirs, les activités qui m’incombent. Et c’est peut-être l’une des raisons de cette grande absence des femmes malgaches dans le monde des nouveaux médias. Sinon, puisqu’on parle du sujet, le glass ceiling n’a pas sa raison d’être. Si les femmes veulent vraiment s’y mettre, je ne vois aucune raison qui pourrait les en empêcher. Il faut arrêter de se passer pour des victimes. C’est une grande opportunité pour montrer ce dont femmes sont également capables de faire sans toujours vouloir « s’immiscer » ou entrer « de force » dans une « culture bro ». A croire qu’on doit demander la permission aux hommes. Pourquoi ne pas créer notre « propre culture » ? Petite précision, je ne cherche pas à dénigrer qui que ce soit en disant cela – genre groupe d’hommes contre groupe de femmes. C’est juste pour dire que de notre côté, nous les femmes, nous pouvons également faire les choses, alors faisons-les.

LR: I don't think so. In Madagascar, as I said before, women's interests lie elsewhere. That's how I see it, anyway. But I admit that it's a constant challenge, between the tasks, the obligations and the activities that fall to me. And maybe that's one of the reasons for this absence of Malagasy women in the field of new media. But seeing as we're on the subject, there is no reason for the glass ceiling to exist. If women really want to do so, I don't see any reason why they shouldn't achieve their goals. The victim culture needs to stop. It's a great opportunity to show that women can achieve just as much without always wanting to ‘interfere’ or push their way into the ‘bro’ culture. You would think we need men's permission. Why not create our own culture? Just to be clear, I'm not trying to take away from anyway by saying that – I don't see it as women against men. All I want to say is that we, as women, can also do things, so let's do them!

GV: What are the strengths and weaknesses of geek culture in your country?

MD: En Côte d'Ivoire, nous avons des Geeks, des informaticiens et des sympathisants de la technologie. Parmi les Geeks, il y a ceux qui pensent innovation et développement, et il y a les autres. Nos technologues font bouger les choses à petits pas avec la communauté qui grandit, mais l'accès technologique n'est pas optimal pour qu'une culture geek s'impose et que notre Silicon Valley locale éclose réellement. Cependant, ces dernières années, ça bouge fort avec les forums et évènements technologiques.

MD: In Côte d'Ivoire, there are geeks, IT technicians, and people who like technology. Among the geeks, there are some who focus on innovation and development, and some who don't. Our technologists are making progress in small steps with a community that is growing, but access to technology isn't good enough for a geek culture to really get off the ground and for our own Silicon Valley to really flourish. Despite that, in recent years there has been a lot of movement, with forums and technology events.

JO: La culture geek au Cameroun évolue rapidement, elle est dynamique, inventive. Elle se créé ses propres opportunités, et je pense qu'elle fera évoluer la société. Sa principale faiblesse : les pouvoirs publics camerounais n'ont pas encore compris l'intérêt d'investir massivement dans les nouvelles technologies. C'est d'ailleurs le sens d'une préoccupation que j'ai quand je pense à mon pays : le coût prohibitif de l'accès à Internet. Quelle culture geek peut sereinement s'épanouir sans un Internet de bonne qualité et à un prix raisonnable ?

JO: The geek culture in Cameroon is changing rapidly, it's dynamic, inventive. It's creating its own opportunities, and I think it will make society change too. The main weakness is that the administration in Cameroon hasn't yet understood why it should make huge investments in new technology. That's the reason behind one of my preoccupations when I think about my country: the prohibitive cost of Internet access. What sort of geek culture could blossom without high quality Internet at a reasonable price?

GV: What would you like to see changing in the near future regarding IT?

MD: De la vulgarisation  des investissements pour la formation et l'équipement. C'est entre autre, ce dont le secteur IT a besoin en Côte d'Ivoire.

MD: Greater investment in education and equipment. That's one of the things the IT industry needs in Côte d'Ivoire.

JO: Plus de femmes bien sûr, et un Internet beaucoup moins cher en Afrique Sub saharienne.

JO: More women, of course, and much cheaper Internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa.

LR: Une meilleure utilisation des outils TIC par les citoyens.

LR: People making better use of ITC tools.

North Korea Rips Off Mac OS X

North Korea has released its own operating system, Red Star Linux, which remarkably resembles Apple's Mac OS X. One tech writer calls it ‘basically a Linux distro skinned to look like OS X‘ and if you want to check yourself, visit North Korea Tech blog who explains in detail with many screen shots. 

Data Journalism Awards Calling for Entries

Data Journalism Awards

Global Editors Network will be awarding 8 prizes in 8 categories for the most impressive work in data journalism from all over the world. A combined total of 16,000 Euros will be awarded to the winners. Submit your entries to the Data Journalism Awards before April 4, 2014.

February 04 2014

China's Second Largest Online Retailer JD.com Files for US Stock Listing

JD.com Inc., a major Chinese e-commerce company, has filed to raise up to 1.5 billion US dollars in an initial public offering (IPO) in the US, making it the largest IPO of a Chinese Internet company in the states thus far.

JD is a major competitor to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China's biggest e-commerce company, which is also considering going public in what is expected to be a much larger IPO valued around 100 billion. JD's business model is more similar to that of Amazon.com in that it is a direct seller of goods held in sprawling warehouses, while Alibaba runs online marketplaces.

The company's most distinctive feature is its highly efficient delivery team that reaches third-tier cities and is currently expanding to rural villages. Below is the latest advertisement of the company that highlights its delivery service:

JD.com, founded by its chairman Richard Liu Qiangdong only ten years ago, had 35.8 million customer accounts by the end of the third quarter of last year. After two years of losses, the company said it registered a profit of 60 million yuan (about 9.9 million US dollars) in the first three quarters of last year, mainly due to interest income.

The company said it would use the funds raised to “acquire land use rights, build new warehouses and establish more delivery stations,” according to the filing. It currently operates 82 warehouses and 1,453 delivery stations across China.

Although the company's profit comes from its interest and the reach of its e-commerce platform is far behind Alibaba and Tencents, JD.com has its supporters. IT news commentators Xie Pu and Xu Ji highlighted the great potentials of the company's logistics, in particular its nationwide warehouse and goods delivery network:

为京东点赞,因为刘强东比起其他电商公司,更早看到虚拟与现实的交融,京东十年来做对了一件事——自建物流。物流建设成就了京东,它进可攻,退可守。

We support JD.com because Richard Liu sees the intertwine between the virtual and the real. In the past ten years, it built its logistics system. JD.com is a logistic infrastructure. It helps the company to sustain and expand its business.

我们为京东点赞,也因为京东赚钱不容易。电商不是游戏,毛利低得可怜,要自建物流,还要供养数万快递配送员,能够赚到不容易赚到的钱,这样的公司,才好长期看好。

We support JD.com because it does not make easy money. E-commerce is no game and it has very little profit margin. To make money by building its logistic infrastructure and hiring tens of thousands delivery workers, this is not an easy task and the long-term effect will show.

China’s e-commerce boom

By 2015, China will have surpassed the US as the leading e-commerce market, according to consulting firm Bain & Company. On November 11, China marked its “Super Singles” day for jewelry and other sales to entice couples to shop for their loved ones. Sales hit five billion US dollars. By comparison, last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined reached around three billion dollars.

In such as huge market, local corporates such as JD.com perform much better than international giant corporates such as Amazon. Chinese New York Times columnist Li Chengdong compared JD.com and Amazon's performances in China on his Weibo:

凡是亚马逊进入的市场,基本是第一名。进入中国10年了,且提供的体验是要优于亚马逊全球的标准。拼钱,亚马逊更多;拼技术,亚马逊更强;拼仓储,亚马逊自建更早更先进;拼品牌,亚马逊更要强于京东。如果非要分析亚马逊中国为什么打不过京东?京东有不一样的就是刘强东,而亚马逊中国是一帮职业经理人!

In the rest of the world, Amazon occupies the number one position in all its markets. The company has been in China for about ten years and its services in China are on average better than the rest of the world. Amazon has more money, better technology, more advanced warehouses than JD.com. If I have to explain why Amazon cannot beat down JD.com, it is because of Richard Liu. Amazon is run by a team of professional managers [rather than an entrepreneur like Liu].

However, Jing Nanke, who is customer of both Amazon and JD.com, disagreed with Li's judgement:

胡说八道,这两家网店我都是经常去买东西,到我还是喜欢京东。在服务,响应时间,送货时间,平台友好程度上,京东都远优于亚马逊。看好京东,亚马逊在中国牛不了。

Nonsense, I am customer of both online platforms and I like JD better. Its customer service, delivery service and platform friendliness is better than Amazon. I don't think Amazon can gain an upper hand in China.

Lingpeng1973 said the “professional managers” of Amazon are poor at localization of e-commerce:

这些职业经理人们根本不了解在中国电商怎么玩,只对西雅图负责,不求有功只求无过,碰上刘强东、李国庆这帮不按规矩出牌的地头蛇,只能苟延残息。以前还看好其强大的技术背景和仓储实力,但随着京东等的崛起,亚马逊在中国的机会已经失去。

The professional managers don't understand how to run e-commerce in China and they are responsible to Seattle. They don't want to make mistakes rather than taking risks to compete for success. Thus, when competing with Richard Liu and Li Guoxin [CEO of Dangdang.com, China's biggest online bookstore], who play the game differently, it barely makes business. Because of Amazon's super technology and warehouses, it had great potential before. Now that JD.com, among others, have established themselves in China, Amazon has lost its edge.

Li Guoqing, CEO of another online retailer, Dangdang.com, believed that going public in the US could help JD.com to improve the company's capital flow and transparency:

目前公认美国资本市场过热,是融资好时机。老刘说“13年盈利,但14年不上市”,那我再劝一句:14年Q1务必在美国上市,补充资本金不足和增加被美国会计准则审计的透明度。

Now the US capital market is becoming overheated, which offers good timing for fundraising. Liu once said “JD will gain profits in 2013 but will not go public in 2014″, but I would advise him to go public in the first quarter of 2014 so as to improve capital flow and increase audit transparency.  

February 03 2014

Submit Cartoons on NSA Surveillance and Win $1000

Commander Keith Alexander on bridge

Commander Keith Alexander on the bridge” Cartoon shared by DonkeyHotey (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Web We Want invites cartoonists, creatives and artists to join The Day We Fight Back on February 11, 2014 by creating an original cartoon about online surveillance and the right to privacy. The cartoons should help increase awareness about the NSA and demand accountability for mass digital surveillance in a way that makes people want to click and share.

Deadline for submissions is February 8.

Prizes:

1st place: USD $1000
2nd place: USD $500
3rd Place: USD $250

Rules:

1. Anyone can participate.
2. By submitting the work, the author agrees that it is licensed under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution Share Alike license. There is no limit of submissions per author.
3. The Author will provide a name or pseudonym to the submission. Further personal details will be requested for the winners – but their real name will remain private upon request of the author.
4. The winners will be announced on February 11, 2014. The winner will be picked by members of the Web We Want Executive Committee.
5. The award will be transferred to the winners within 30 days after the announcement.

Submissions:

1. By email: send your cartoon – high definition, .jpg, .pdf, .svg or .png to
grants@webfoundation.org SUBJECT: Cartoon by February 8th.
2. By Twitter: Tweet your uploaded image to @webwewant with the hashtag #webwewant
3. Adding your nationality and country of origin is optional but highly encouraged.

January 31 2014

Films on Digital Security Turn a Shade of Noir

Tactical Technology Collective, an organization dedicated to the use of information in activism, has produced a series of short films that focus on digital security and privacy.

The movies are in a film noir style and include three interviews with human rights defenders from different regions, talking about the digital security threats they face in their countries.

The video above is called “The digital traces we leave behind” and is only one of three that can be found here.

January 30 2014

According to Google Autocomplete ‘Colombia is Passion’ and ‘Mexico is Culture’

Colombian blogger Javier Moreno typed “[Name of country] is” on Google search to see auto-complete suggestions for each country in Latin America and Europe. He modeled his experiment after the English version of the Google search “Why [country] is.”

From his search in Colombia he got results like “Ecuador is dangerous,” “Brazil is a Latin country”, “Bolivia is God's people,” “France is socialist,” “Belguim is expensive,” and “Spain is different.”

He added his results to two maps in his blog Rango Finito [es].

 

January 29 2014

3 Out of The Top 10 Most Inspirational Bangladeshis are Tech-Centric

While commenting on the a list of 10 most inspirational Bangladeshis around the world published by the London-based organization ‘British-Bangladeshi Power and Inspiration’, blogger Aminul Islam Sajib points out that 3 of them had significant contribution in technology field.

A Business Model Competition to Ignite Start Ups in Madagascar

Harinjaka, founder of the co-working space Habaka and Madagascar-based blogger, created the 2014 Antananarivo Start Up Cup [fr] whose objective is to select and support the best business ideas in Madagascar. He thinks that there is a bright future for entrepreneurship and innovation [fr] in Madagascar. Here is a poster for the event [fr] :   

“The objective of the Start Up Cup is to connect founders with business investors and VCs.” via the Facebook Page of the event with permission

Why the Caribbean Should Pay Attention to the Net Neutrality Decision

ICT Pulse takes a look at the recent decision about net neutrality in the United States and the potential consequences for the Caribbean.

January 28 2014

Kenya Blog Awards 2014 Open for Submissions

The 2014 BAKE Kenyan Blog awards is now accepting submissions until February 10, 2014. Users can vote online from March 1 to April 30, 2014 for their favorite blogs in 17 different categories, including the new additions of Best Health Blog and Best County Blog. 

Bake logo

Logo of BAKE. Image source: http://bloggers.or.ke.

The Kenyan Blog Awards, an initiative of the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE), seeks to reward bloggers that post on a regular basis, have great and useful content, are creative and innovative. Other categories include: 

  • Best Technology Blog
  • Best Photography Blog
  • Best Creative Writing Blog
  • Best Business Blog
  • Best Food Blog
  • Best Environmental/Agricultural Blog
  • Best Fashion/Beauty/Hair/Style Blog
  • Best Politics Blog
  • Best New Blog
  • Best Corporate Blog
  • Best Topical Blog
  • Best Sports Blog
  • Best Entertainment/Lifestyle Blog
  • Best Travel Blog
  • Kenyan Blog of the Year

Below is a video of the inauguration of the Kenyan Blog Awards:

Blogs can be submitted using this link.  

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