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February 27 2014

February 26 2014

February 23 2014

February 19 2014

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February 16 2014

February 14 2014

What Guinea Needs Now is Peace and Stability

Conakry Ville via wikimedia license CC-BY-2.0

Downtown Conakry via wikimedia CC-BY-2.0

Serge Lamah reports on his blog[fr] that Oyé Guilavogui, the communication minister has pointed out the pressing needs for Guinea today :

Vous vous rappelez, en 2011, les avions en direction de Conakry ne désemplissaient pas. Les hôtels étaient pleins à tout moment, aujourd’hui, allez-y, il y a de la place toutes les saisons. Les avions viennent à moitié vides parce qu’il n y a pas eu de calme, on ne s’est pas acceptés. Donc on est obligé de tout remettre à plat pour faire revenir les investisseurs. Pour qu’un investisseur mette son argent dans un pays, le premier critère est qu’il faut qu’il y ait la stabilité, la paix.

You remember in 2011, planes bound for Conakry never emptied. Hotels were always but today, there are always empty rooms all year long. The planes are half empty because there is always uncertainty and we have yet to learn to live with each other again. So we are forced to get back to the drawing board and in order to appeal to investors again. For an investor to invest in a country, the first criterion is that there must be stability and peace. 

February 11 2014

International Open Data Day Set for February 22

Bloggers, hackers, designers, statisticians and other citizens who are interested in Open Data and Transparency will gather online and offline for the International Open Data Day on February 22, 2014. The event takes place to encourage governmental data openness.

Open Data Day is a gathering of citizens in cities around the world to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data to show support for and encourage the adoption open data policies by the world's local, regional and national governments.

Anyone can organize a local event in their city as long as the event is open for others to join. The attendees can participate in creating anything related to Open Data, be it with local or global applications, visualizations, scraping data from a government website to make it available for others or even organize a series of workshops with government officials, journalists or other stakeholders affected by open data.

The hashtag that will be used for the even is, #ODD2014. Some Twitter users have already started posting their comments on the hashtag.

Dozens of cities are participating in the hackathon.

International Open Data Hackathon

International Open Data Hackathon

Announcements are also made on Twitter for local events in different places.

The Open Data Day in Egypt, http://t.co/PdqDzokxcP

Add your city to the list if it is not already there, and start planning for a local event there.

Remembering Dr Alison Jolly, Lemurs of Madagascar Expert

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist  1937-2014- Public Domain

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist 1937-2014- Public Domain

After leading a distinguished career as a primatologist at the Berenty Reserve of Madagascar, Dr. Alison Jolly has died at home in Lewes, East Sussex, aged 76. Dr. Jolly, a PhD researcher from Yale, made her name as the first scientist to do an in-depth account of the behaviour of the ring-tailed lemur, L. catta, beginning field work in 1962. David Attenborough recently wrote : ‘not only they but the people and land of Madagascar captured her heart’. 

February 10 2014

INFOGRAPHIC: Pursuit of Happiness in Africa

Happiness Value Index for the African Continent via Afrigraphique CC-NC-2.0

Happiness Value Index for the African Continent via Afrigraphique CC-NC-2.0


The Afrographique blog mapped the happiness index for the African continent. Topping the ranking are Angola and Mauritius who hold the same happiness index as Albania and Russia, respectively. In related news, the Pharell’ single “Happy” has been used by dancers around the world to celebrate the new year 2014. All the videos are compiled at the blog We are Happy from . Below are the videos from Antanannarivo, Madagascar:

and Cotonou, Benin:

Why are Rice Farmers Protesting in Thailand?

Protesting farmers in front of the Ministry of Commerce in Bangkok. Photo by Karnt Thassanaphak, Copyright@Demotix (2/6/2014)

Protesting farmers in front of the Ministry of Commerce in Bangkok. Photo by Karnt Thassanaphak, Copyright@Demotix (2/6/2014)

Hundreds of rice farmers have been protesting in the past several days in Bangkok after the Thailand government has repeatedly failed to provide payments under the rice pledging program. Delayed payments have already reached 130 billion Baht affecting more than a million farmers.

Introduced in 2011 after the election victory of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the program involved the government buying the rice output of local farmers at high a price before reselling the rice to the global market. The program was meant to improve the savings of farmers.

For five decades, Thailand was the world’s largest rice exporter but it has been overtaken by India and Vietnam in recent years. Critics blame the rice pledging program for the huge financial losses in the rice sector.

The rice protest has intensified the country’s political crisis as anti-government protests continue to gather thousands in the streets of Bangkok.

Majority of farmer-protesters are not affiliated with the People's Democratic Reform Committee which has been the lead organizer of the anti-government protests. In fact, many farmers are from the village strongholds of the ruling party.

The opposition has expressed support to the protesting farmers and has initiated a donation campaign to help sustain the protest in the city. The opposition is also blaming corruption under the Yingluck government for the present suffering of rice farmers.

For its part, the government said it was unable to pay farmers because of the protests which caused the dissolution of the parliament. It urged protesters not to block or occupy government banks.

It assured farmers that the government is finding a mechanism on how to deliver the payments. It also rejected criticism that the rice subsidy program has become a disastrous populist policy:

Ultimate goal of the rice pledging scheme is not the Government’s popularity, but simply the upgrade of income security for the better lives of farmers, and for the better future of our posterity since rice farming means growing the better future on our own land without any impact to the country’s monetary and fiscal disciplines.

But Bangkok Pundit believes a new subsidy program should be implemented by the government:

…some other form of subsidy which doesn’t involve the government being in the business of selling rice is a better option. A direct subsidy of something similar would be a much easier scheme to implement and manage. You can set a budget and you wouldn’t have to go through the problems the government is facing now with trying to issue bonds and who to borrow the money from.

Below are some photos and reaction on Twitter. In this photo, farmers mounted a street blockade near Bangkok, the country's capital.

Bangkok protesters showed solidarity to the farmers by gathering cash donations:

@PravitR thinks the Prime Minister should immediately apologize to farmers:

February 09 2014

An Info-Activism Tool-Kit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tacticaal Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tactical Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

The Women's Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit by Tactical Technology Collective is a new guide for women's rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community based organizations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning. This has been developed in collaboration with advocacy organizations from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Egypt.

This Toolkit has been customized from an updated version of two earlier toolkits: Message in a Box and Mobiles in a Box. The website will soon be translated into Arabic, Swahili, Bengali, and Hindi.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

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.

Public Buses Return To Cambodia’s Capital


Promotional poster of the Phnom Penh bus trial.

Phnom Penh residents in Cambodia have one month to ride public buses which is part of an experiment to re-introduce public buses in the country’s capital in order to reduce traffic congestion.

Phnom Penh has one million motorbikes (motorcycle taxi or motodup) and 300,000 cars but this expanding urban hub surprisingly doesn’t have a mass transportation system.

The Phnom Penh governor hopes the one-month trial which will end on March 4 will help convince Cambodians to use public buses:

…the purpose of this pilot project is to reduce traffic accidents and traffic congestion as well as to change the Cambodians’ habit from using personal cars to public buses.

Public buses were first deployed in 2001 but the program lasted for only two months because of lack of government subsidies and passenger interest. Aside from riding the motor taxis, Phnom Penh residents also use the popular tuktuks.

Abigail Gilbert sees several benefits of using the bus:

The last public bus trial, more than 10 years ago, was not popular, as locals preferred the door to door service of the two-wheeled variety. This new City Bus trial, partly funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, will discover if attitudes have changed. There are some clear benefits for visitors to the city, including the icy air-con, the impossibility of bag snatching, a set fare, and a clearly marked route.

Phnom Penh resident and prominent blogger Tharum Bun welcomes the arrival of the buses:

We’ve talked a lot about traffic jam, too many motorcycles and vehicles, and no public transportation. Starting early this February, the bus will run on Monivong Boulevard. It’s an opportunity for most of us, who are willing to get back on the bus.

But Tharum learned that some motor taxi drivers are worried about the impact of the buses on their livelihood:

The motor taxi driver told me that he’s worried about this this public transportation as he’s got only one source of income.

The trial will involve 10 buses running every day from 5:30am until 8:30pm.

Many Phnom Penh residents were excited about the bus trial and they quickly posted photos of the public buses on Twitter:

*Thumbnail used is from @KhiriCambodia

February 08 2014

Legalizing And Regulating The Sex workers in Sri Lanka

Shilpa Samaratunge, a development worker, discusses in Groundviews about the problems surrounding the sex workers in Sri Lanka. Instead of abolishing and criminalizing them, which is the path Sri Lanka currently is on, she suggests to legalize the profession and impose regulation and provide health-services for the sex workers.

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