These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
"ICT in the service of “peace” often refers to a broad range of activities encompassing conflict prevention and management, peace operations, humanitarian relief and disaster assistance, and post-conflict peace building and reconstruction.
For example, the ICT4Peace Foundation is committed to effective communication in “crisis management, humanitarian aid and peace building”. A recent USIP collaboration, Blogs & Bullets examines how new media can change the politics of unrest, revolution, violence, and civil war. Their work emphasizes five levels of analysis: individual transformation, intergroup relations, collective action, regime policies, and external attention."
The New Yorker
Africa’s Cell Phone Revolution
"The morning after I arrived in Liberia, in 2007, I watched a mob beat a man bloody in the street. He was a cell-phone snatcher, they told me. It was brutal, but understandable: a cell phone was the most valuable thing many Liberians owned, or at any rate the most easily snatchable, and after post-war purges the new police were young, scared, and seldom seen.
At the time, Liberia was the only country in the world whose capital city had no municipal electricity. Yet most people I met seemed to have a cell phone. Where did they charge them? For many, the solution was charging stations: roadside stands run by small entrepreneurs fortunate enough to have generators. You’d drop off your cell, get a ticket in return, then come back in a few hours to claim it, fully powered."
US Institute of Peace
Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics
"New media, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, have played a major role in episodes of contentious political action. They are often described as important tools for activists seeking to replace authoritarian regimes and to promote freedom and democracy, and they have been lauded for their democratizing potential.
Despite the prominence of “Twitter revolutions,” “color revolutions,” and the like in public debate, policymakers and scholars know very little about whether and how new media affect contentious politics. Journalistic accounts are inevitably based on anecdotes rather than rigorously designed research.
Although data on new media have been sketchy, new tools are emerging that measure linkage patterns and content as well as track memes across media outlets and thus might offer fresh insights into new media."
"For civil society organizations across Africa, the expanded use of Information & Communications Technology (ICT) has launched a new era marked by easier, more frequent, and more widespread communication directed to a variety of key audiences. The advent of social networks has resulted in greater awareness for many important causes and collaboration among different groups on crucial social initiatives, and as civil society organizations continue to maximize the potential of social platforms, their influence will continue to grow over time.
Today, Kabissa and WiserEarth released a study that sheds light on the habits, concerns, and needs of activists in West African civil society with respect to social networks and ICT at large. Polling an indicative sample of civil society representatives across 15 different West African countries in October and November 2010, the survey provides a preliminary glimpse into the nature of daily interaction with social networks and communication technologies in the region."
"ICMM has reiterated its support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) at the fifth global conference in Paris today.
Over the last two years significant advances have been made by the many partners in the EITI process, which now brings together 33 countries around the world.
The EITI process has led to increased transparency within the extractives sector by encouraging companies to disclose revenue payments made to governments and in turn requiring countries to publish the payments received."
International Women’s Day 2011
"This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The day was commemorated for the first time on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, following its establishment during the Socialist International meeting the prior year. More than one million women and men attended rallies on that first commemoration.
The United Nations observes International Women’s Day this year on 8 March 2011. The theme is “Equal Access to Education, Training and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women.” UN Women is organizing or cosponsoring a number of events around the world to commemorate the day."
"One of the problems facing developing countries is that people in rural communities tend to walk around with dead cell phones. That is because mobile devices are cheaper than ever, but power plants are still expensive. But as a work-around in off-the-grid communities, phone owners have learned to run charge cords off of used car batteries.
Now, Fenix International, a San Francisco-based design firm, may have a better solution for these communities: a new ruggedized battery and generator system called ReadySet. The device, its designers believe, could put more electricity in off-the-grid homes, create jobs, reduce indoor air pollution by replacing kerosene lanterns with LEDs, and eliminate car battery acid leaks. Plus, the telecom industry is hooked on it. Network carriers can make 10 to 14 percent more money from users who can keep their phones charged, and an estimated 500 million cell phone users worldwide live off the grid, according to a report from the mobile communications group GSMA."
"At the heart of current policy thinking about Africa there is a significant knowledge gap concerning governance and development. The March 2011 issue of IDS Bulletin, is concerned with what can be done about that, drawing on new findings from the research consortium, Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP). APPP is committed to discovering forms of governance that work better for development than those prescribed by the current 'good governance' orthodoxy. It aims to do so chiefly by examining the range of post-colonial experience in sub-Saharan Africa focusing especially on under-appreciated patterns of difference in institutions and outcomes."
"With the Middle East upended by protests that were organized with the help of services like Twitter and Facebook, Al Jazeera English has plans to launch a new talk show that centers around social networking, Wired reports.
Dubbed, “The Stream,” the new Al Jazeera English program has been in the works for the past year, making its soon-to-come debut simply lucky timing, as protests in the Arab world continue to percolate. (In places like Libya, the protests have turned into all-out civil war.)"
"freedominfo.org is a one-stop portal that describes best practices, consolidates lessons learned, explains campaign strategies and tactics, and links the efforts of freedom of information advocates around the world. It contains crucial information on freedom of information laws and how they were drafted and implemented, including how various provisions have worked in practice.
In the last decade, dozens of countries have enacted formal statutes guaranteeing their citizens’ right of access to government information. Elsewhere, even without legal guarantees, citizens are asserting their right to know. Throughout the world, freedom of information movements are changing the definition of democratic governance."