Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

November 27, 2014

DML Central
Educating Educators: Q&A With Connected Learning Advocate Kira Baker-Doyle
Connected Learning Advocate Kira Baker-Doyle Blog Image

Kira J. Baker-Doyle, assistant professor of education at Arcadia University, and her colleagues designed Arcadia’s Connected Learning Certificate program so educators of all levels, from Kindergarten through graduate school, could build a network and teach and learn from each other. The program launched this fall and it’s driven by students who propose and select the content and topics of discussion.

“The program embodies connected learning,” Baker-Doyle said.

Connected learning is an educational approach designed for our ever-changing world. It leverages the advances of the digital age to make that dream a reality — connecting academics to interests, learners to inspiring peers and mentors, and educational goals to the higher order skills the new economy rewards. Six principles — interest-powered, production centered, peer supported, shared purpose, academically oriented and openly networked — define it and allow young people to experience learning that is social, participatory, interest-driven and relevant to the opportunities of our time.

The following are answers to a few questions I recently asked Baker-Doyle about how she employs the principles of connected learning in her own teaching and as director of her university’s Literacies, Technologies and Citizenship Studies programs. 

Q: How do you define connected learning?

When I explain connected learning to others, I start from where the concept came from: research on how young people are learning today in and outside of school. It’s easy for others to understand once I ask them what engages their children or young siblings or students outside of school. I’ll ask: “What do you see them doing that they are deeply engaged in, learning from, and drawn to because they enjoy it?” Oftentimes, they will mention things like, “Minecraft,” or “Rainbow Looms.” Then I might ask, “what are the characteristics of these activities?” They often point out: it is social, they are making, they are sharing, they have a shared purpose or goal, they are driven toward mastery of a subject or concept, and, quite frequently, they are using connected technologies to access resources and information and to share. It’s at that point that I tell them that they have just defined some of the basic principles of connected learning.

In addition, those who teach and understand connected learning start from a critical awareness of social inequalities. We use the connected learning framework to design experiences in which these inequalities are addressed, whether by empowering marginalized youth through student-centered, real-world problem-solving or by fostering increased access to opportunities and resources using connected technologies. So, in addition to being about social, and authentic learning, connected learning also is about nurturing critical citizenship.

One of the biggest changes in the 21st century has been the democratization of knowledge. Connected technologies have changed how we see who is an expert, what information we own, and ultimately, what we value as “knowledge.” Connected learning integrates what we know about how to engage learners within this new social paradigm, and is centered on building equity and opportunity for all learners.

Q: Why did you create the Connected Learning Certificate program at Arcadia, and what’s it all about?

The Connected Learning Certificate Program was initiated and designed collaboratively by a number of amazingly innovative teachers, researchers, and educators. I love the creation story itself, as it really reflects some of the central tenets of connected learning. The seed of the idea of a program began when Meenoo Rami and Christina Cantrill approached me separately with ideas about designing courses to teach at Arcadia’s School of Education. We had a big “visioning session” with a few other colleagues about how these courses might be linked — not only linked, but also how they could build and sustain a community. Our “Aha!” moment came when we realized that what we really wanted to do was build a network of learners, and let them drive the program.

So, our program challenges the traditional higher education model in a fundamental way: instead of centering the program on the distribution of content, the program is centered on the cultivation of networks of learners, who share and drive content. I’ll give you a specific example. One aspect of our certificate program is called the “Connected Learning Camp.” Connected Learning Camps are one-credit, one-week long intensive courses on “hot topics” in connected learning (such as Wikipedia in education, open badges, or digital storytelling). The certificate is designed so that members of the Connected Learning Certificate community can propose (application here) and vote on potential new camps. Since we just started the certificate program this year, we are kicking off with the first two camps this spring (see here for more info on them), which we hope will generate interest in the idea.

Another way the certificate program is different is that it is designed to be “institutionally distributed.” In other words, we can collaborate with other colleges and universities to offer similar courses that can feed into the program. We have a wonderful board of advisors helping to think about how to do this, including Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Bill Penuel, Antero Garcia, and Philipp Schmidt. I’m really looking forward to seeing the community grow and to support the development of a network of leaders in connected learning (a central goal of our program).

Q: How does it work?

Our certificate program requires 12 credits (180 hours) of courses in four areas: connected learning practices, connected learning theory and history, content focus, and technologies.  

At Arcadia, we offer “Teacher Practice in a Connected World” (taught by Meenoo Rami) “Seeking Equity in Connected and Networked Learning” (taught by Christina Cantrill), and two Connected Learning Camps this Spring: “Philadelphia: The City as Your Resource” (taught by Christopher Rodgers) and “Wikipedia for Educators” (taught by Karen Kohn). The content area course is selected from a variety of courses, based on a learner’s interest area.

Q: What do your students gain from the program?

Students are invited to become part of a community of leaders of connected learners through the certificate. So, it is not a once-and-done kind of experience. Rather, through initial participation in the courses, students become familiar with the discourses, practices, and stances of connected learning and, over time, become immersed in the culture and community of connected learners. The hope is that the graduates of the certificate come back to offer connected learning camps, continue to share their innovative practices and work, and feel like the community is of value to their ongoing professional development.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Traditionally, people have thought schools of education offer classes only for K-12 teachers. However, this certificate program was designed for educators in all realms — anyone who works with learners (we intentionally use the words ‘learner’ and ‘educator’ here instead of ‘student’ and ‘teacher’ for that purpose). People who work in nonprofit organizations and need to design training programs, museum educators, health educators, coaches, consultants, and higher education instructors would all benefit from learning about connected learning. In fact, I believe that the more diverse a community is, the richer and more stimulating the ideas and discussions become.

Banner image: Kira J. Baker-Doyle explains connected learning to two of her students — Aistin Eppenstein, center, and Katey Hoffman — at Arcadia University. Photo by Jen Rusch

by mcruz at November 27, 2014 04:00 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
The Story Behind Iran's Censorship Redirect Page

Written by Mahsa Alimardani and Auke Rick Akkerman for the Masters in New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam's Digital Method Initiative

The Internet environment is like a raging river full of water, and the water keeps on brimming and roaring. If we devise a plan for this river, and can direct it as we wish to a dam, we can create opportunities out of it. But if we leave it, and do not devise plans for it, then it will become a threat. (Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Fars News, 2012)

Imagine you are in Iran and trying to access www.bbc.co.uk, a website blocked by Iranian authorities. You open up your browser and then search for the URL. But instead of being taken to the BBC's website, you'll arrive at a screen that looks something like this:

The first page Iranians will encounter when they try to access blocked pages.

The first page Iranians will encounter when they try to access blocked pages.

This page, known as “M5-8”, informs the user that “access to the requested website is not possible. For complaints click here.” M5-8, which is hosted on the country's national network and is thus inaccessible outside Iran, offers a list of links to categories listed under “culture and religion”, “society”, “Internet services”, “science and education”, “news and media” and “electronic government”.  

After about 30 seconds, the website redirects to www.peyvandha.ir, a government-administered website full of alternative links for browsing the net, as well as literature related to Iran’s Internet policy (“peyvandha” means “links” in Persian). 

peyvandha.ir, the second censorship re-direct page Iranians view.

peyvandha.ir, the second censorship re-direct page Iranians view.

Peyvandha.ir harkens back to the era of the web directory. The directory was a popular tool in the early '90s, used by Yahoo! and the Open Directory Project, before the rise of search engines lead to a reliance on algorithmic page ranking for websites.

Asserting Control Through the Web Directory

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the directory still exists in the form of peyvandha.ir — a place where Iranian Internet users are given a pre-selected set of options for sites to visit. But despite the technical limitations it represents, peyvandha.ir can be a useful tool for researchers — it provides a window into the thinking behind state information control and the broader political goals that this seeks to accomplish.

After the contested 2009 presidential elections and subsequent social unrest, Internet controls were heightened inside Iran. Iran’s Cyber Crime Law was developed and implemented, giving rise to the CCDOC, the centralized censorship body affiliated with the Ministry of Justice. Peyvandha.ir came into existence the following year.

Peyvandha.ir has undergone six major updates since it was first created. These updates are not merely technical — they reflect the evolution of web design from the Iranian state, illustrating how Iran represents itself through online interfaces. They can also help us better understand censorship within Iran on the whole. Using screen captures from the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, we were able to trace and reflect on the evolution of peyvandha.ir over time.

The Evolving Narrative of the Internet

Each version of peyvandha.ir has included literature related to Iran's Cyber Laws — these have evolved as norms on what constitutes filtered content have become more entrenched within Iran.

The first version of  peyvandha.ir redirected users to a new page and then told them, “In the Name of God, according to the Computer Crimes Act, access to this website requested is not possible.”

While earlier versions of the page prominently featured nationalistic and religious elements, more recent designs are sleek and more subtle about the censorship they represent.

The first version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from April 24, 2010.

The first version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from April 24, 2010.

In the second version, users were simply told that the links they were viewing were “some of the registered links.” Within version 2 we also saw the peyvandha.ir website creating pages related to Internet policy, now located at the bottom of the page (in element 4 below):

The second version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from August 12, 2010.

The second version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from August 12, 2010.

Version 3 continued with the theme of religious references, with a poem featured that states, “If you listen to the words of the poet Saadi, he says he consents to require the consent of Him” (element 2). Immediately to the right of this, users see the text “in the name of God the merciful” (element 1), as if to imply that these pages are being censored at the will of God.

The third version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from April 23, 2011.

The third version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from April 23, 2011.

These religious references continued in version 4, whereby the main feature of the page was a changing image that made reference to national holidays and events, maintaining the theme of allusions to Shia Islam and National Imams. The first image (seen below) depicts a mosque, marking the festival of Imam Reza, asking users to click on a link to submit ideas for the festival. Instead of the categories and the subcategories that are featured in previous versions, there are links featured as “suggestions” and “accidental” links.

The fourth version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from May 15, 2011.

The fourth version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from May 15, 2011.

Version 5 brought attention to the “Islamic nature” of censorship and the theological regime behind it. The links featured on this page are much more in keeping with state propaganda than other versions. The page features many links to websites about the martyred soldiers of the Iran-Iraq war, as well as websites that feature reviews of American video games, entitled “Reviews of Satan’s Games.”

While version 4 did not display any links, all previous versions of peyvandha.ir featured the popular Persian language blogging platform Blogfa. But version 5 omits the platform altogether. Sources responsible for the design of this page tell us this is because founder Alireza Shirazi asked for the website to be removed from the list. The six links related to Internet policy and contact information for site administrators are still located at the bottom.

The fifth version of peyvandha.ir from the After the Green Movement Report, captured on November 28, 2012.

The fifth version of peyvandha.ir from the After the Green Movement Report, captured on November 28, 2012.

The last two iterations of the website in version 6 and 7 are very similar in design. According to an anonymous source involved in the site's development, the sudden change was intended “to make filtering more pleasant,” or rather to appear as a subtle part of the Iranian Internet experience, rather than one presented with indoctrinating aspects of the government.

The significant change that comes in version 7 is the prominent feature of the Internet policy links in element 2:

The sixth version of peyvandha.ir from the Wayback Machine captured on April 2, 2013.

The sixth version of peyvandha.ir from the Wayback Machine captured on April 2, 2013.

The current version of peyvandha.ir from the Wayback Machine captured on December 18, 2013.

The current version of peyvandha.ir from the Wayback Machine captured on December 18, 2013.

The following is a video narration of how peyvandha.ir has morphed throughout the years.

The changes in the page demonstrate the evolution of how Iranian state has represented its censorship policies. This page serves as one reflection of state policies regarding online expression in the age of President Hassan Rouhani. Rhetoric, words, and the actions of Iran's leaders now often seem liberal — Rouhani's support of a free Internet, and the active presence of his cabinet on the blocked platforms of Facebook and Twitter — but bloggers still face arrest and platforms continue to be blocked.

by Mahsa Alimardani at November 27, 2014 12:10 AM

Global Voices
The Story Behind Iran's Censorship Redirect Page

Written by Mahsa Alimardani and Auke Rick Akkerman for the Masters in New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam's Digital Method Initiative

The Internet environment is like a raging river full of water, and the water keeps on brimming and roaring. If we devise a plan for this river, and can direct it as we wish to a dam, we can create opportunities out of it. But if we leave it, and do not devise plans for it, then it will become a threat. (Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Fars News, 2012)

Imagine you are in Iran and trying to access www.bbc.co.uk, a website blocked by Iranian authorities. You open up your browser and then search for the URL. But instead of being taken to the BBC's website, you'll arrive at a screen that looks something like this:

The first page Iranians will encounter when they try to access blocked pages.

The first page Iranians will encounter when they try to access blocked pages.

This page, known as “M5-8”, informs the user that “access to the requested website is not possible. For complaints click here.” M5-8, which is hosted on the country's national network and is thus inaccessible outside Iran, offers a list of links to categories listed under “culture and religion”, “society”, “Internet services”, “science and education”, “news and media” and “electronic government”.  

After about 30 seconds, the website redirects to www.peyvandha.ir, a government-administered website full of alternative links for browsing the net, as well as literature related to Iran’s Internet policy (“peyvandha” means “links” in Persian). 

peyvandha.ir, the second censorship re-direct page Iranians view.

peyvandha.ir, the second censorship re-direct page Iranians view.

Peyvandha.ir harkens back to the era of the web directory. The directory was a popular tool in the early '90s, used by Yahoo! and the Open Directory Project, before the rise of search engines lead to a reliance on algorithmic page ranking for websites.

Asserting Control Through the Web Directory

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the directory still exists in the form of peyvandha.ir — a place where Iranian Internet users are given a pre-selected set of options for sites to visit. But despite the technical limitations it represents, peyvandha.ir can be a useful tool for researchers — it provides a window into the thinking behind state information control and the broader political goals that this seeks to accomplish.

After the contested 2009 presidential elections and subsequent social unrest, Internet controls were heightened inside Iran. Iran’s Cyber Crime Law was developed and implemented, giving rise to the CCDOC, the centralized censorship body affiliated with the Ministry of Justice. Peyvandha.ir came into existence the following year.

Peyvandha.ir has undergone six major updates since it was first created. These updates are not merely technical — they reflect the evolution of web design from the Iranian state, illustrating how Iran represents itself through online interfaces. They can also help us better understand censorship within Iran on the whole. Using screen captures from the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, we were able to trace and reflect on the evolution of peyvandha.ir over time.

The Evolving Narrative of the Internet

Each version of peyvandha.ir has included literature related to Iran's Cyber Laws — these have evolved as norms on what constitutes filtered content have become more entrenched within Iran.

The first version of  peyvandha.ir redirected users to a new page and then told them, “In the Name of God, according to the Computer Crimes Act, access to this website requested is not possible.”

While earlier versions of the page prominently featured nationalistic and religious elements, more recent designs are sleek and more subtle about the censorship they represent.

The first version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from April 24, 2010.

The first version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from April 24, 2010.

In the second version, users were simply told that the links they were viewing were “some of the registered links.” Within version 2 we also saw the peyvandha.ir website creating pages related to Internet policy, now located at the bottom of the page (in element 4 below):

The second version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from August 12, 2010.

The second version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from August 12, 2010.

Version 3 continued with the theme of religious references, with a poem featured that states, “If you listen to the words of the poet Saadi, he says he consents to require the consent of Him” (element 2). Immediately to the right of this, users see the text “in the name of God the merciful” (element 1), as if to imply that these pages are being censored at the will of God.

The third version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from April 23, 2011.

The third version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from April 23, 2011.

These religious references continued in version 4, whereby the main feature of the page was a changing image that made reference to national holidays and events, maintaining the theme of allusions to Shia Islam and National Imams. The first image (seen below) depicts a mosque, marking the festival of Imam Reza, asking users to click on a link to submit ideas for the festival. Instead of the categories and the subcategories that are featured in previous versions, there are links featured as “suggestions” and “accidental” links.

The fourth version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from May 15, 2011.

The fourth version of peyvandha.ir as captured by the Wayback Machine from May 15, 2011.

From the international and cultural festival of Imam Reza, the almighty. Text in Arabic: Greeting to god. Small text on left: Send your submissions (for this celebration). Text says: With one signature, support the Bahraini victims. In red it says: Ya Fatemeh (wife of Mohammad). The small text on the bottom says in Arabic: Give us patience in the name of Fatemeh. In green text: Please rush the arrival of the 13th Imam. In coloured text: The pillars of Mohammad’s family, greeting. Image of shrine to Imam Hassan, underneath it text says: The pure shrine Imam Hassan son of Ali, Imam Ali son of Hossein, Imam Mohammad son of Ali, Imam Jafar son of Mohammad. Text on the left: Registration for the fifth opening of the national digital media convention. Self-emulation for the mourning Imam Hossein during month of Muharram (October -November) accompanied by a poem above. Text says: ey Hossein! Text at the top says “The Imam has arrived” and text at the bottom says “The Shah Left”. The image at the center is of Ayatollah Khomeini descending from his airplane from Paris in 1979, cementing the beginning of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This image is surrounded by the front pages of newspapers from that day declaring his arrival. The page was commemorating the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in February 2011.

Version 5 brought attention to the “Islamic nature” of censorship and the theological regime behind it. The links featured on this page are much more in keeping with state propaganda than other versions. The page features many links to websites about the martyred soldiers of the Iran-Iraq war, as well as websites that feature reviews of American video games, entitled “Reviews of Satan’s Games.”

While version 4 did not display any links, all previous versions of peyvandha.ir featured the popular Persian language blogging platform Blogfa. But version 5 omits the platform altogether. Sources responsible for the design of this page tell us this is because founder Alireza Shirazi asked for the website to be removed from the list. The six links related to Internet policy and contact information for site administrators are still located at the bottom.

The fifth version of peyvandha.ir from the After the Green Movement Report, captured on November 28, 2012.

The fifth version of peyvandha.ir from the After the Green Movement Report, captured on November 28, 2012.

The last two iterations of the website in version 6 and 7 are very similar in design. According to an anonymous source involved in the site's development, the sudden change was intended “to make filtering more pleasant,” or rather to appear as a subtle part of the Iranian Internet experience, rather than one presented with indoctrinating aspects of the government.

The significant change that comes in version 7 is the prominent feature of the Internet policy links in element 2:

The sixth version of peyvandha.ir from the Wayback Machine captured on April 2, 2013.

The sixth version of peyvandha.ir from the Wayback Machine captured on April 2, 2013.

The current version of peyvandha.ir from the Wayback Machine captured on December 18, 2013.

The current version of peyvandha.ir from the Wayback Machine captured on December 18, 2013.

The following is a video narration of how peyvandha.ir has morphed throughout the years.

The changes in the page demonstrate the evolution of how Iranian state has represented its censorship policies. This page serves as one reflection of state policies regarding online expression in the age of President Hassan Rouhani. Rhetoric, words, and the actions of Iran's leaders now often seem liberal — Rouhani's support of a free Internet, and the active presence of his cabinet on the blocked platforms of Facebook and Twitter — but bloggers still face arrest and platforms continue to be blocked.

by Mahsa Alimardani at November 27, 2014 12:08 AM

November 26, 2014

Creative Commons
CC goes to #Mozfest 2014

Creative Commons staff, affiliates, and supporters were active participants and contributors at this year’s Mozilla Festival, which has become an annual rallying point for the Open Web and our shared values. Our sessions covered a wide range of issues, from new technology, to open education and science, to working as an open organization. Thanks to Mozilla for inviting us. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event.

mozfest
Christos Bacharakis / CC BY-NC-SA

CC makes tools for makers

by Matt Lee and Ryan Merkley

In CC makes tools for makers, CC’s Ryan Merkley and Matt Lee joined Mozilla dev Ali Al Dallal to talk about tools and technology solutions that could enhance the reach and value of CC-licensed works. CC shared some early screens for The List, a new mobile app that allows anyone to create and share a list of wanted images, and allows users to respond by taking pictures and sharing them in a global archive, all licensed CC BY. CC also shared CC Search, which will aggregate results from publicly-facing search APIs of openly licensed works. Ali demoed a prototype of MakeDrive, which will allow a user to search for a CC image, then grab it into their own local synced storage.

Participants broke into smaller groups to discuss challenges and opportunities, and identified solutions that were shared back with the group. Issues ranged from UX and usability needs to opportunities for monetization. Everyone was encouraged to join The List mailing list at creativecommons.org/thelist for updates, and to head to hackspace.cc to join the development process and contribute.

Portrait of a Creative Commons Artist

by Jane Park

mozfest2014
#ARTOFWEB / Kat B / CC BY-SA

In Portrait of a Creative Commons Artist, a group of musicians, filmmakers, museum curators, and arts education practitioners gathered to discuss the kinds of art being created in today’s digital landscape and how and why they share their artworks and the artworks of others. Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, the artists’ motivations for sharing included no commercial goals. Motivations cited included wider distribution; to grow a community of like-minded artists; to elicit feedback or emotion; and result in new inferences and ways of thinking.

We also identified barriers to sharing in certain environments, such as child privacy in arts education and the time-consuming effort involved in cataloging artworks for museums. We addressed individual artists’ hang-ups to sharing, such as fear of plagiarism and not being quite ready or confident in the quality of one’s art to open it up for public criticism. Lastly, we brainstormed potential solutions to overcoming these barriers and help artists feel more comfortable with sharing their works online under more liberal re-use terms, such as Creative Commons licenses. Such solutions included: a tool that could display a canonical representation of your work, including all derivatives made from the original; a better attribution prompt enabling artists to specify exactly how they want to be attributed; and a registry of artworks in the commons. Additional needs included improved interaction design with artworks online, consulting or advisement on how to share such networked art, and simplified best practices around sharing and attributing open artworks. Full agenda and notes from the session are available, in addition to Kevin’s coverage of the session in The Open Standard, “The Plight of the Open-Source Artist” — which is aptly licensed under CC BY-SA.

This session affirmed and informed our intentions with several CC projects in development, such as a registry of CC-licensed works, a smart phone application that would make it easier for photo contributions to the commons (The List), and the Free Culture Trust, a coalition of organizations that would offer comprehensive services to artists wanting to donate their art to the commons.

Mapping #SchoolofOpen and #TeachtheWeb to places

by Jane Park

In Mapping #SchoolofOpen and #TeachtheWeb to places, community members from Creative Commons, School of Open, and Mozilla Webmaker came together to physically map their open web education programs, such as Maker Party and the recent School of Open Africa launch. We “hacked” a map of the world by creating our own version of it, and most interestingly, Africa was front and center with the U.S. largely as an afterthought. After mapping, we self-organized into two streams: those leading open web education for adults and those leading open web education for kids and teens. After much discussion, we are now planning to better bridge our communities to increase our impact in several regions, including Africa, India, and the U.S. We will be creating a digital version of our Hack the Map activity, allowing others to add themselves virtually over time, and also planning a joint School of Open and Mozilla Webmaker event with our communities for 2015.

OpenMe – Kids can Open

by Jane Park

In OpenMe – Kids can Open, a few of us from the CC, School of Open and National Writing Project communities gathered to discuss current efforts around CC and open web education for kids and strategies for replicating those efforts in other jurisdictions. Kelsey Wiens, CC South Africa public lead and School of Open program lead for CC4Kids, shared her experience with piloting CC4Kids in schools. Generally, starting with private schools resulted in more favorable results, in addition to partnering with existing organizations with strong ties to schools, such as Innovate South Africa’s Code4ct. We are now in conversation to pilot the CC4Kids model in the U.S. with the National Writing Project’s Educator/Innovator network. To start, we will be hosting a webinar as well as sharing a call to the network for after school pilot participants.

Walking the talk – How to work open

by Jane Park

In Walking the talk – How to work open, CC facilitated the strand on Partnerships and collaboration, or how to better work together as open organizations with overlapping missions and projects. How do we not reinvent the wheel and collectively have greater impact? Part of the solution lies in better communications and transparent organizational practices, but how do we translate these needs into an action item? We brainstormed several “best case scenarios” and in the end came up with a strong list of concrete solutions, with an Annual Capacity Building Conference for open organizations at the top of the list. Such a conference would focus specifically on knowledge sharing for the purpose of building capacity within and outside of our organizations to achieve our missions and realizing our vision for universal access to research and education and full participation in culture. Other ideas included:

  • A Natural Language Processing tool that links cross-organizational communications in different languages in one hub
  • Culture training for organizations that encourages failure and knowledge sharing, versus an environment where keeping information secret results in a competitive edge
  • Working groups of ambassadors in each city to represent all open organizations in that city (and that would work to bring in new organizations seeking representation)
  • A Task Rabbit-like platform for open organizations that would match organizations needing capacity in a certain area with an organization that could provide it

Complete notes from the session are available, in addition to results from the Community Building track of which this session was a part. The wranglers for the track are now working on a community building toolkit and will be rallying all organizational representatives in the next few months to make one of the above ideas into a reality. We vote for the Annual Capacity Building Conference of open orgs!

Skills Mapping for Open Science

by Billy Meinke

mozfest science
Billy Meinke / CC BY

In the Skills and Curriculum Mapping for Open Science session, facilitators and participants on Mozilla Science Lab’s “Science on the Web” track came together to build a map linking together the many nouns and verbs that describe interactions between people and scientific research, all of which are connected the Commons. An underlying focus of the session was to identify the ways scientists and citizens interact with outputs of research including content, data and code.

Taking a simplified approach to mapping these nodes will lend to the ability of others to expand on the map, and to translate the nodes into learning objectives that can be included in education and training programs around open and reproducible science. Over the two days of the festival, we facilitated the mapping of outputs and interaction types, aiming to capture key statements that describe the way scientific artifacts are created, reused/remixed, and shared. We welcomed scientists and non-scientists alike to stop by and critique the map as it was constructed, and to add nodes or connections where they felt something was missing. Did you ever once produce a dataset for your research blog? Then you’ve created data! Have you ever downloaded an Open Access research paper? If you have, then you’ve reused content! Have you ever uploaded a script to Github? Then you’ve shared code! It’s easy to drop most interactions people have with science into these buckets once we take a step back, and simplify the statements around what we do with scientific content and code in the Commons.

To allow others to build on the skills mapping done at Mozfest this year, a digital version of the map has been uploaded to Github , and is open for anyone to revise, tweak, and add to as they wish. Plans to expand this work include a full build out of high-level learning objectives, and alignment to existing Open Educational Resources in science training programs. A number of universities have expressed interest in piloting an undergraduate or graduate-level course on open and reproducible science, and the idea is that this map will be useful when developing such a course, revealing how and where skills learned in such a course apply to the way we work with content and code in the Commons.

by Ryan Merkley at November 26, 2014 11:50 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Authorities Take Healthy Milk Activist to Court in Serbia
Street art in Novi Sad, Serbia. Photo by molimonster69 on Flickr.

Street art in Novi Sad, Serbia. Photo by molimonster69 on Flickr.

Another Twitter user from Serbia has been called in by police to appear in court for his activism on social networks and “in real life”. Marko Živković from Belgrade was involved in March 2013 protests against a government decision to increase the allowed quantity of aflatoxins in milk and dairy products manufactured and imported into the country.

This morning the police called me to tell me that they have a warrant to bring me in to court because of #MlekoUp (#MilkUp). More than 20 months later this is the epilogue of the Aflatoxin Affair.

— dr Marko Zivkovic (@MarkoZvkvc) November 21, 2014

Aflatoxins are toxic metabolites that are produced from certain types of fungi and can be found in milk and other foods. Up to certain levels these are safe for consumption. But in 2013, the government of Serbia decided to increase the legal limits on what is deemed to be safe levels of aflatoxin in milk from 0.05 to 0.5 micrograms per kilogram. This overnight increase of ten times the previously allowed amount led both citizens and some manufacturers to demand comprehensive explanations of the change from the government and for some, a protest of the decision.

A small group protests peacefully against the decision to raise permitted aflatoxin levels in milk in Belgrade in March 2013. Photo from Istinomer.

A small group protests peacefully against the decision to raise permitted aflatoxin levels in milk in Belgrade in March 2013. Photo from Istinomer.

After being pressured in the early months of 2013 by citizens, local organizations, and the European Union, which warned Serbia that its dairy products would no longer be welcome in most of Europe as the allowed quantity of aflatoxins in milk is 0.05 micrograms per kilogram in the EU, the government reverted its decision.

Živković, an IT developer from Belgrade, was involved in social media activities against the government's decision, and was incidentally chosen by other individuals protesting in front of the headquarters of the Government of the Republic of Serbia to speak to journalists on behalf of the protesters on March 1, 2013. At the time, Živković told press:

“Okupili smo se spontano na Twitteru i već danima razgovoramo o ovome što se dešava (sa mlekom), a kada smo juče na televiziji čuli odluku vlade da za 10 puta uveća dozvoljenu koncentraciju toksičnog aflatoksina, odlučili smo izrazimo protest.”

“We gathered spontaneously on Twitter and have been discussing what has been happening (with milk) for days. When we heard of the government decision to increase the allowed concentration of toxic aflatoxin by 10 times on television yesterday, we decided to express our protest.”

Over a year and a half later, Živković received an unpleasant call from police, informing him that he was wanted not only for questioning, but to appear in court. In other tweets, Živković said that the police official on the other end of the line would not tell him exactly what the charges against him were, but that he was to appear in court for failing to respond to a request to come in for questioning regarding what has been popularly dubbed the “Aflatoxin Affair”. The Twitter user claims never to have received any such request to report to authorities prior to the telephone call.

Živković has received tremendous support from other Belgrade residents and Twitter users from throughout Serbia and the Balkans. He has also said that he will let his supporters know when he will be reporting to the police regarding this matter in the days to come.

by Danica Radisic at November 26, 2014 11:46 PM

Netizen Report: In Vietnam, Reports from Prison Renew Fears of Jailed Blogger's Fate
From Friends of Dang Xuan Dieu Facebook page.

From Friends of Dang Xuan Dieu Facebook page.

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Marianne Diaz Hernandez, Lisa Ferguson, Hae-In Lim and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. We begin this week's report in Vietnam, where new information about a blogger imprisoned since 2011 has sparked both local and global campaigns calling for his release.

Dang Xuan Dieu, a Vietnamese blogger and community organizer, was arrested and imprisoned in 2011 and had scarcely been heard from until early October 2014.

After a fellow inmate who was recently released from prison reported that Dieu has been held in solitary confinement, and was beaten and starved by the authorities, his friends began a grassroots campaign that has since spread worldwide to raise awareness about his status. Dieu explained his motivations for his work in a message smuggled out of the prison, written in what close contacts believe was his own blood:

I long to live in a society of FREEDOM and TRUTH. One in which no class divisions exist and people live with LOVE and RESPONSIBILITY to one another. But it is because of this that I have been persecuted, and for this I am willing and ready to die!

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found Dieu’s imprisonment stands in violation of international human rights doctrine and international law.

Venezuela targets online activism with new “cyber terrorism” law

Venezuela's socialist party proposed an amendment to the country's Law on Organized Crime last week that would codify “cyber terrorism” as a crime. Deputy Eduardo Gómez Sigala, who opposes the bill, told media outlets that under the new policy, people who use social networks or other electronic media to “promote or attack the constitutional order” or “disrupt public peace” could face between one and five years in prison.

Censorship but no consensus at China’s World Internet Conference

A draft declaration on Internet governance failed to reach approval among participants at the World Internet Conference, a gathering of executives of many of the world’s largest technology firms including Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu and Apple, held in Wuzhen, China Nov. 19 – 21. The declaration sought to promote “multilateralism, democracy, and transparency” in Internet governance and advocated respect for Internet “sovereignty”, signaling strong support for national governments to lead the way on policymaking for the Internet. 

In the lead-up to the conference, Chinese censorship authorities strengthened their restrictions on the web. Edgecast, one of the world's largest content delivery networks (CDNs), experienced a DNS “poisoning” attack which left thousands of websites and mobile apps inoperable across China.

Chinese viewers say so-long to subtitling sites

Two leading websites in China that facilitate movie subtitling closed their virtual doors last week. In China, S. Korea and other countries where foreign films are often not released with subtitles in their dominant language, Internet users often take it upon themselves to translate and write film subtitles into a special file format that can be activated and synced to a movie file so that viewers can see the subtitles as it plays. Shooter.cn, a popular platform for the subtitling industry, ceased operations last week after government officials announced new measures to reduce foreign film piracy. Another platform, YYeTs.com, paused operations in an effort to “clean up” their content.

The NSA, Tor and Taylor Swift

The U.S. National Security Agency hosted a question and answer session on its Tumblr page, with Civil Liberties and Privacy Officer Becky Richards taking questions on Tor anonymity, the legality of surveillance, Fourth Amendment rights, and pop icon Taylor Swift. Richards said the NSA plans to launch a privacy and civil liberties internship program, and that one of her main priorities was to increase transparency at the agency. We'll see about that.

European Parliament to push for Google split?

The European Parliament is considering a resolution that could push Google to split its products, making its search engine into a separate company. The resolution reflects concerns that the company may be deliberately downranking certain sites or imposing exclusivity restrictions on certain advertising partners in order to keep smaller ad businesses out of the market. 

Similar concerns were raised in the U.S. in 2011, prompting a two-year investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission into various concerns about ad practices, and whether or not the company engaged in “search bias”. The investigation resulted in some policy changes at the company, though search bias allegations were ultimately dismissed. Critics think it is unlikely that the EP resolution, if passed, could actually result in such a split. 

New security tips and tools for human rights defenders online

Detekt, a new open-source detection tool developed by Italian security researcher Claudio Guarnieri, enables PC users to identify signs of infection by surveillance malware widely used by governments. 

Berlin's Tactical Technology Collective released a digital security guide aimed at helping environmental rights defenders in Sub-Saharan Africa to protect themselves against increasing digital threats from governments and corporations alike. 

Cool Things

A New York Times feature article on the secret life of passwords explores how these security measures often reflect some of the most intimate details of our lives. 

New Research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report by email

by Netizen Report Team at November 26, 2014 08:19 PM

The Silent Crackdown on Serbian Media
(R), Olja_Bećković (L). Images mixed from wikimedia commons and  Vreme.com

Popular journalists Predrag Sarapa (L), Olja Bećković (R) recently had their political shows taken off-air in Serbia. Images mixed from Vreme and Media Center Belgrade.

The current and previous government in Serbia invested years into cleaning up the image of this Eastern European country that was known for decades as a hot spot for crime and war. Figureheads from across the political spectrum have sought to demonstrate their commitment to Serbia’s accession to the European Union. Publicly, they appear to want Serbia to become a truly free, democratic, and economically successful country. The reality, however, is different.

While most of Serbia's politicians appear committed to bettering the economy and quality of life in Serbia, their practices surrounding one of the most basic and necessary human rights in the country – the right to freedom of expression – are far from conducive to developing an open and prosperous society.

Pressure on independent media from ruling politicians has been mounting in recent months. Following a wave of critical reporting on government officials’ poor management of relief and rescue operations during massive floods in the region last spring, three long-standing and popular television shows were taken off the air. Journalists and editors routinely avoid reporting on these matters in media, with most living in daily fear of losing their livelihoods, which usually amount to a monthly net salary of between EU 250 and 300.

The media landscape in Serbia mirrors that of many other countries in the region. As in Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and other countries, media houses rely chiefly on advertising revenue to stay afloat, which is often connected to political parties and figures. In Serbia, this unofficial but powerful system has been exploited by various democratic coalitions that held power between 2003 and 2012.

Almost a year ago, in February 2014, there were already signs that popular talk shows that discuss politics and economy might be taken off the air. During the pre-election campaign ahead of the March 2014 early parliamentary elections, the pressure became more evident to the public and it finally began to affect the public directly, with some social media users being brought in for police questioning and sometimes detained for tweeting critically about the government. The Serbian Progressive Party won an absolute majority in government in the March 2014 elections.

In September and October 2014, three long-running television shows, which often discussed politics, economy, and society in the country, were taken off the air.

The first to go was popular talk show “Impression of the Week” (“Utisak nedelje”) created and hosted by journalist Olja Bećković, who had led the program for over 20 years, since the Milošević era. Ms. Bećković has begun openly speaking about receiving telephone calls from Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, pressuring her to change guests and topics on her show. In an interview with Al Jazeera Balkans, Ms. Bećković expressed regret for not speaking out about direct pressure from Vučić and his cabinet earlier and said, “Yes, he [Vučić] called me.”

The next to fall was “Sarapa's Problem”, led and hosted by popular journalist Predrag Sarapa on Belgrade's Studio B television. The description of the show on Studio B's official website describes the show as:

Emisija “Sarapin Problem” ima za cilj da aktuelizuje najuočljivije političke i društvene probleme, i to bez namere da ih rešava.[...] Cilj je upravo zbog toga da gosti različitog profila i opredeljenja ponude svoja rešenja.

The show “Sarapa's Problem” has as its goal to actualize the most obvious political and social issues, without any intention to solve them.[...] The goal is, specifically because of this, for guests of different backgrounds and [political] tendencies to offer their solutions.

Studio B and others related to the state-owned television claim that Mr. Sarapa's show, one of very few that discussed current political and social topics, was taken off the air due to poor ratings. Journalists and Belgrade residents gathered by the dozen the same day the show was taken off the air and later by the hundred to protest this decision, while social media and websites flooded with support for Mr. Sarapa's journalistic plight, which since has been ironically dubbed “Sarapa's new problem”. Sarapa has also been speaking out openly about the pressure placed on him and was quoted in a recent interview saying,

Censorship is no longer a relic of the past, it's the present that we must fight against.

The third to fall was another highly regarded investigative reporting show by the name of “Insider”. The show, hosted by prominent Serbian investigative journalist Brankica Stanković, who has seen more than her fair share of trouble over the years for reporting on organized crime and political corruption in the country, was apparently pushed into having to desist from airing the show. The independently produced show had a long-standing collaboration with one of the national networks when network executives insisted on new terms for renewal of their contract, including preparing the show's new season for airing over a month earlier than planned. As the show relies on investigative stories, the show's producers, journalists, and host said they could not meet the deadlines that the network insisted on and refused to produce a show of lesser quality.

In late October, just days after learning that her show no longer had a contract with Serbia's national B92 network, Brankica Stanković was awarded the prestigious Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) in New York. B92 network commended Ms. Stanković on the award and wrote about it, but offered no new terms for renewal of their contract with her and her team.

The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia and similar organizations have complained time and again against these actions, calling attention to the political pressure on Serbian journalists and demanding freedom of media and rule of law, but to no avail. Officials in Serbia seem to prefer to keep their voters entertained, rather than well informed about current political and social events.

by Danica Radisic at November 26, 2014 07:31 PM

Kazakh Authorities Censor Videos of Children in ISIS Training Camps
Kazakh child soldiers in an ISIS training camp. Widely shared on Youtube.

Widely shared on Youtube.

Viral video footage purporting to show Kazakh minors training to fight for ISIS, the Al-Qaeda splinter group that has proclaimed itself a ‘caliphate’ in parts of the Middle East, is all over the Internet. Kazakhstan, however, is doing its best to block out the noise and pretend the problem will go away. 

In an extraordinary step, Kazakh officials, whose restrictive domestic legislation prevents the spreading of any “extremist propaganda” within the country's own Internet space, have even written to a media outlet in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan to request that its report on the ISIS footage be “deleted”. 

ISIS — who have styled themselves as the “Islamic State” to the disapproval of many Muslims – released a clip showing children from Kazakhstan learning Arabic and handling weapons in a training camp November 22. The videos were initially aired by news outlets in the Middle East, before reports featuring the clip subsequently appeared in media across the world, including Kyrgyzstan's Kloop.kg.

On November 24, the same day the outlet published an article titled “Video of the Islamic State: Children from Kazakhstan Threaten to Kill the Unfaithful,” Kazakhstan's State Prosecutor wrote to Kloop and asked the site to remove the article, citing Kazakh domestic legislation and a UN Security Council resolution 1373 that stipulates “all States shall take the necessary measures to prevent the commission of terrorist acts, including provision of early warning to other States with the help of information exchange.”

As the Prosecutor's request became big news in Kyrgyzstan, however, Kazakh media has remained almost completely silent on the video. 

Photo from Al Hayat media and re-posted on Daily Mail.com

Screenshot from footage that aired on Al Hayat media. Widely shared.

The disturbing clip shows Kazakh children assembling and taking aim with a Kalashnikov rifle.

Asked in Kazakh how he sees himself in the future, one of the boys, who refers to himself as Abdullah, says:

I will be the one who slaughters you, O kuffar [non-believer]. I will be a mujahid, insha'allah.

After Abdullah speaks, another boy, also talking in Kazakh, explains life in the training camp:

In this training camp, we learn the Noble Qur'an, the Arabic language, Tajwid [rules for proper proninciation and recital of the Qur'an], and Fiqh [Islamic law]. We learn all this for the pleasure of Allah. We are going to kill you, O kuffar. Insha'allah we'll slaughter you.

With the State Prosecutor issuing a warning to .kz websites not to cover the video, Kloop.kg was an obvious place for Kazakh Internet users to flock. But not long after the outlet refused to adhere to a foreign government's removal request, some Kazakhstan-based readers began reporting difficulties accessing the article in a discussion on Kloop chief Bektour Iskender's public Facebook page.

Sergei from Kazakhstan responded:

Открывайте любой заблокированный глупой властью сайт черед Puffin browser  на все мобильные устройства качается с гугл плей/эпп стор  и абсолютно ВСЕ открывает! Всем удачи  ничего не скрыть уже в 21 веке!

Open any website blocked by the stupid authorities via a Puffin browser. On all mobile technology it can be downloaded via Google play/App Store and absolutely everything opens. Best of luck, you can't hide anything in the 21st century!

Zhenya expressed sorrow at the fate of the ISIS children, who she assumed were from disadvantaged backgrounds:

Следовало ожидать в стране, где дети из неблагополучных семей никому не нужны. Очень горькая правда, но показывает в тоже время как важно заботиться о благе всего общества, особенно, если это касается детей.

This was to be expected in a country where no one needs children from disadvantaged families. This is the bitter truth, but at the same time it shows how important it is to take of the welfare of the whole society, especially children. 

Limited coverage of the video was provided by Time.kz, which interviewed Russian political scientist Aleksander Knyazev about the footage. Knyazev called on the Kazakh government not to bury its head in the sand:

Вполне возможно, что это постановочный ролик. Но нужно его изучать, и делать это должны специалисты. Хорошо, если бы это прокомментировали спецслужбы [Казахстана], сказали, какой информацией они владеют, насколько это может быть правдой и какие угрозы может нести для Казахстана.

It is possible that video is a fake. But specialists have to prove it. It would be better if the state representatives of Kazakhstan would share information about whether this video is true or not, and what threats [recruited children] can pose for Kazakhstan.

At least one member of the political establishment has raised his voice on the footage. Speaking on his YouTube channel November 23, a religious conservative MP in the Kazakh parliament,  Bekbolat Tleukhan, said the threat the child soldiers posed to the republic was “huge”:

Дети в ИГИЛ – это огромная опасность для нашей страны. Показывать ненависть путем ислама есть самое худшее. Они вовлекают в свою деятельность маленьких безвинных детей, дают им оружия, заставляют говорить “Мы вас зарежем, мы вас зарежем” – хуже этого ничего нет, еще никогда такого не было. Теперь я даже сомневаюсь люди ли они, не говоря о том, что мусульмане. Нам нужно оберегать каждого ребенка в Казахстане. 

Children in ISIS are a huge threat to our country. [ISIS] involve in their activity small, innocent children, give them weapons and force them to say: “We'll slaughter, slaughter you “. There can be nothing worse. Now I even doubt whether they are people, let alone Muslims. We need to protect every child in Kazakhstan.

Tleukhan concluded that ISIS is now Kazakhstan's no.1 enemy:

Если сравнивать с временами Советского Союза, то враг всегда был снаружи, а сейчас враг выходит изнутри нашего народа. ИГИЛ – это враг номер один для Казахстана.

If we contrast with Soviet times, the enemy was always outside. Now the enemy comes from within our own people. ISIS is the enemy #1 in Kazakhstan.

According to the head of the State Committee of National Security of Kazakhstan, Nurtai Abykaev, about 300 Kazakhstanis are among the members of ISIS, half of whom are women. 

by Global Voices at November 26, 2014 07:29 PM

Creative Commons
K-12 OER Collaborative launches RFP for math and English

Math, Math, Math, math, mathh....maaah.....
Math, Math, Math, math, mathh….maaah….. / Aaron Escobar / CC BY

The newly founded K-12 OER Collaborative has released an RFP for the creation of open educational resources (OER) in mathematics and English language arts and literacy. As all content developed under this RFP will be openly licensed under CC BY 4.0, U.S. states, territories and school districts (and anyone else in the world) may freely reuse, revise, remix, redistribute and retain these educational resources.

Forty-three US States + Washington DC + Guam + American Samoan Islands + US Virgin Islands + Northern Mariana Islands (map) have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)… and they all need current, high quality, affordable, CCSS-aligned educational resources for their students, teachers, parents and districts.

Will these US States and territories have the public funds necessary to update educational resources (including textbooks) for these two subjects?

According to the Association of American Publishers school districts across the U.S. spend over $8 billion on instructional materials every year. Textbooks quickly fall into disrepair, students are not allowed to write in or keep their books as they graduate each grade, and teachers are not legally and technically empowered to update outdated educational resources. In addition, much of this spending is on costly, yearly subscription fees for digital content which school districts merely lease (not own).

This aggregate demand represented by the nationwide need for new CCSS-aligned educational materials creates a unique opportunity for states to acquire higher quality, more effective content in a smarter, far less expensive, and far more flexible manner, and make these resources available to teachers, parents and districts. Specifically, states and districts can transition from expensive and rigidly controlled materials to OER.

The RFP specifically seeks complete courses for the following grades and subjects:

  • K–2 English Language Arts/Literacy
  • 3–5 English Language Arts/Literacy
  • 6–8 English Language Arts/Literacy
  • 9–12 English Language Arts/Literacy
  • K–5 Mathematics
  • 6–8 Mathematics
  • 9–12 Mathematics — Integrated/International Pathway (Secondary Mathematics I, II, III)
  • 9–12 Mathematics — Traditional Pathway (Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2)

Courses will be designed to meet Common Core State Standards, accessibility standards, technical specifications, and an open licensing requirement of CC BY 4.0 on all new content produced. For details on the development process, see the complete RFP.

An informational webinar will take place next week on December 3, 2014 at 10:00 AM PST for those interested. RSVP at http://k12oercollaborative.org/rfp/webinar/.

The deadline for an initial Letter of Intent is January 9, 2015 by 5:00 PM PST.

About the K-12 OER Collaborative

The K-12 OER Collaborative is a coalition of eleven U.S. states and eight organizations, including Creative Commons. Together we are working to make quality K-12 educational resources aligned to state standards and accessible under the most open Creative Commons license, CC BY, so that we can drive down the cost of K-12 education for everyone. Learn more about the collaborative at http://k12oercollaborative.org.

by Cable Green at November 26, 2014 06:53 PM

Global Voices
In Cricket-Crazy India, Basketball Is Quietly Empowering Girls’ Lives
The EMRS Gangyap girls. Image used with permission.

The champions – girls basketball team of Gangyap's Ekalavya Model Residential School, Sikkim, with their coach. Image used with permission.

They hail from one of India's many mountain villages, and chances are that their lives would have been spent in quiet anonymity had it not been for an enthusiastic and persevering coach and their own grit. But now these girls have transformed themselves into national level champions in a sport that they had not even heard of earlier — basketball. Theirs is a truly inspiring story. They are the girls of Gangyap.

Gangyap is a remote mountainous village, located at an altitude of 6,500 feet in the Himalayan mountains of Western Sikkim. Over the last few years, the village has come out of the shadows, thanks to a group of its teenage girls who, under the guidance of their school principal-cum-coach, has become an unlikely powerhouse in the Indian under-19 CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) Basketball league.

Siddharth Yonzone, 37, was appointed the first principal of the Eklavya Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS) for Scheduled Tribes that opened in Gangyap around 2009 and he recalls that at the time, the school wasn't connected by proper roads and there were no proper school building or playground. Yonzone introduced basketball to the small number of students (52 enrolled in the first year, and 33 passed) as an extra-curricular student activity and became their coach and mentor.

At Gangyap, few had heard of basketball before, but that did not deter Yonzone, himself a basketball fan. There were many challenges, but the fledgeling team and their coach persevered. This video by documentary filmmaker Mandira Chhetri explains how the girls had to build their own basketball court from scratch, through manual labour:

Despite the challenges, however, the girls basketball team of Gangyap started playing in the championships in 2010 and surprised everyone when they stole the headlines in 2011 by winning the under-19 CBSE Basketball national level championship, the first team from north-east India to do so. The girls team has lifted the East Zone trophy for the fifth time this year and are currently preparing to take part in the 2014 under-19 national championships, to be held in December.

The Girls of Gangyap in action. Image used with permission.

The girls of Gangyap in action. Image used with permission.

Global Voices conducted an interview with Siddarth Yonzone over email to learn more about the team and how the game has had an impact on the lives of the girls and their community.

Global Voices (GV): What made you think of creating this basketball team with the girls, who are from the remote, tribal areas of Sikkim?

Siddarth Yonzone (SY): I'm a basketball fan, a basketball lover. When I was working in a government school as an English teacher, I had taught the game to a group of boys. This was around 2001-2004. In 2007 I was offered the post of a principal in a new school called ‘Eklavya Model Residential School’ where we had to begin with just one class, that was class VI. Seeing the very sad condition of the new school, the ignorance of the children and so much more, I wanted to catch their interest through basketball, music and some other literary stuff (of course all of which I am interested in)  I brought two girls with me to the new school (who I had started coaching in the previous school) named Rinchen abd Nim Lhamu, aged 10 and 12, respectively. With them I tried to build a team. Of course there was no court to play on. So I put up basketball rings on a wooden post. Though the other girls had never heard or seen the game, I thought of instilling confidence in them of some kind and had to start from somewhere … I felt it could be done through basketball and music.

GV: What made you choose basketball as a sport for these girls, when it is not really a very well-known or popular game even in some of India's top schools?

SY: For me, taking the road less travelled has always been my way. Moreover since I was such a fan of the game, I wanted to make it popular in places hidden from the rest of the world. I had also seen the standard of the game played by the girls in Sikkim and other places and I was not happy about it. I wanted to train a team from scratch. I also made them watch NBA and WNBA. Apart from the game, this also helped the girls learn about different places, etc.




GV: Did you have to face any challenges in creating this team and teaching them the game? Can you share one or two incidents to illustrate?

SY: Yes! There were so many challenges, but with the grace of God, (and of course, we were training very hard) the girls started winning immediately. The captain, Nima Doma, naturally learned the game and became a star player. The girls started defeating opponents who were double their age and physically bigger, stronger, older. One of the biggest challenges we faced was that by class VII, they had won their first state championship (all aged 11-14) but they were not allowed to represent the state, which they wanted to very badly. Some people tried to discourage me and the girls by saying so many things. It was only in 2010 when they were in class VIII and IX that they went out of the state to play and won so many championships . But then even today, there are many tournaments to which this team is not invited; organisers give the excuse that there is no competition when our team is called … (basically there are many who have still not acknowledged this team despite the many championships they have won all over India, in Bhutan and in Nepal too. Another challenge is that some people started to grow very jealous of the girls … It was so difficult (and still is). These people criticize behind the girls’ backs, say this is not their game, they mock and try to put down the girls. Sometimes the girls tell me of how difficult it is to belong to the team. I really don't know the reason why but since these girls were from the remote tribal areas, they were first generation learners coming from economically weak backgrounds, they were not looked after well. Scholarships/incentives for winning the CBSE under-19 national championship twice were not offered or even talked about. The girls finally got a basketball court in their seventh and final year of their schooling after learning for six years on muddy, stony, unbalanced courts. There were even some people who wanted to go out of their way to deny them a basketball court! They are so many other challenges, but the girls were interested and I got the support from their families and the biggest thing was, we met several well wishers, friends and family who helped us ..

The EMRS Basketball team. Image used with permission

The EMRS girls basketball team, in their school jerseys. Image used with permission

GV: What keeps the team motivated? Has it changed their day-to-day life or even their dreams in any way? Can you give an example?

SY: I guess it's the love of the game. They have set for themselves a very high target. Nima Doma, for example, dreams of playing in the WNBA. I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen but I’m certain if lady luck does smile on her, she will not disappoint the selectors. She’ll never let that opportunity go to waste. Even the support given by friends, family and well wishers have ensured that they continue to improve in the game. I try as a coach to give them targets; we have several meetings even when there aren't any tournaments coming up. Their day-to-day life has changed tremendously. They have become athletic in nature, health conscious, more confident, they started to perform very well in their academics. They have travelled to so many places within India and also Bhutan, Nepal … they have seen more of the country because of basketball. They have higher dreams now. They've met various kinds of people on their journeys, some kind and generous, others spiteful and envious … they've even been invited for tea by her majesty, the queen of Bhutan, who spoke to and advised the girls and gave them presents. Recently, five of the outgoing (school leaving) seniors have appeared for an entrance test for physical education in Gwalior. If it not been for basketball, their options or dreams would be very little.

GV: The girls team has performed fantastically in so many competitions now. Has their story had any impact on the local communities from where they come — in their villages or in their families?

SY: Yes, they have been welcomed grandly on their return after winning championships by the school and local communities. They are many people in and around Sikkim who look up to the girls as role models. We hear that in many schools, certain principals, head masters and teachers narrate stories of these players, motivating other students to try and achieve what these girls have; their families and villages are proud of them. Reports of their victories in newspapers, magazines, etc., have also inspired many other people. I sometimes meet people for the first time, but they seem to know pretty well about the team and their victories. They thank me and the team … they have said that the girls have inspired them in so many ways. On the other hand, I also feel that they should have been given a little support by the people in important positions, to enable them to get into the colleges they desired, but that has not been given …It makes me want to wonder why? Is it because they are girls? Is it because they are tribals? Is it because they are first generation learners from weak economical backgrounds? I could be totally wrong here but these things do make me think. It could also be because basketball is not a very popular game … especially with too much cricket in India, and too much fuss about contact and indoor sports in Sikkim. But one very important point I want to make is no matter the number of critics and obstacles in our path, certain well wishers have made a difference to the lives of the players.

We wish the girls of Gangyap many more successes in the days to come and hope that Siddharth Yonzone's vision will bring greater empowerment to many more such girls. We look forward to seeing them win — in basketball, and in life.

The post was written in collaboration with Aparna Ray.

by Rezwan at November 26, 2014 11:51 AM

From Apathetic Software Programmer to Award-Winning Hong Kong Citizen Journalist
Chan  Chak To sets up his camp in Admiralty, a major sit-in site of the Occupy Central movement and continues to record what he has witnessed online. Photo from inmediahk.net.

Chan Chak To sets up his camp in Admiralty, a major sit-in site of the Occupy Central movement and continues to record what he has witnessed online. Photo from inmediahk.net.

Citizen journalism platform Hong Kong In-Media has organized the E-Citizen Awards to promote original reporting, political cartoons, photography and commentary online. Below is an interview with Chan Chak To, the winner of the Best Journalism award, who wrote a first-person account of the rehearsal for Occupy Central's massive sit-in on July 1, 2014. The interview was originally written in Chinese by Marco Mak, a contributing reporter for inmediahk.net. This edited English version below is translated by Cheung Choi Wan.

He is a post-80s computer engineer who loves computer games, football and dating girls. However, his ideas and his life have changed tremendously in 2014. Enter 511 in any search engine and you find his name—Chan Chak To. He is one of the 511 people arrested on July 2 for taking part in an action of civil disobedience.

On the evening of the arrest, Chan recorded in detail his frontline experience—from the moment he was arrested and taken onto a tourist bus, to what he encountered at the Hong Kong Police College in Wong Chuk Han where he was detained, up until the moment of his release. His article is full of humor, but sincere. The readers are transported to the very scene of the protest and are able to comprehend, from a closer distance and from a more realistic angle, how it all started. Chan’s article has won Best Journalism in Hong Kong In-Media’s E-Citizens Award. The day the article was published, it went viral online. It was a surprise for Chan.

What is even more unexpected is that Chan says that his future path was changed by that night. What made him come out the evening of July 1? According to Chan, it all began in June. He admits frankly that he got a two-week leave in June only to stay home to watch the World Cup. It was a coincidence that during this period of time, Hong Kong's Legislative Council deliberated the government’s preliminary funding request for the development plan of the northeast New Territories. Chan says that he witnessed the parliamentary abuse, especially when Ng Leung Sing, the chairperson of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, forced through the funding request. Chan decided that he should do something for Hong Kong.

Chan emphasizes that he was not ready to “storm the metal fence” and confront police when he was outside the Legislative Council on June 13. “I was really ashamed of myself when I saw the students, who were younger than I, fighting. They were not at all afraid of arrest. I found myself ‘useless'. Compared with them, I probably had less to worry about. I should have stepped forward a bit more.” At that very moment he had only one thought: “No matter what, I must do something to protect them.” Tears flowed from his eyes when this thought came to his mind, and he kept asking himself why he was such a coward. 

Chan felt guilty and regretted his behavior on June 13. When the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) announced that they would rehearse Occupy Central's massive sit-in, planned for later in the year, after the pro-democracy march on July 1, Chan made up his mind that he would not be a deserter again and set off for the march.

Coincidentally, his ATM card was damaged that day and he asked his girlfriend to loan him $500 as possible bail money. “This time I was prepared for the arrest.”

Chan was a Form 7 student when the July 1 march against legislation of a set of laws on national security took place in 2003. He did not join the march. Instead, he stayed home to play computer games. He was also not interested in nor concerned about social issues or politics. He has never taken up any leadership position in student organizations in the university and turned a deaf ear to student union’s affairs. “I have always felt disengaged and was not enthusiastic about taking part in the social movement.”

Chan says he is a very independent person. He had his own room in the dorm. [...] Four years ago Chan left his job as a computer engineer and went to Australia where he met his girlfriend. For a while he worked on a farm picking strawberries all day long. He then worked as a hotel attendant cleaning one bathroom after another. He enjoyed what he did and kept asking himself, “Why is life in Hong Kong so oppressive? The working hours are long and there are only a few holidays.” Chan wished that he could find his true “place” during the working holiday.

Before going to Australia, he was a telecommunication software programmer. The programs sent automatic mobile messages to client, “for example, when you arrive in Macau, you would receive a welcome message, etc. After a while you would feel that it is utterly meaningless.” Before he returned, he had thought of becoming a reporter when he came back to Hong Kong because there was a sense of mission in the profession, which was to report truth, and he loved to write too. He once told himself, “Don’t return to your old job because it had only brought unhappiness.” However, life is often disappointing. When he came home, he found that writing software programme appeared to be his only skills. He could not find a reporting job and had to return to his old profession. However, he started to write what he saw and heard on social media.

Chan has a blog for sharing his thought among friends. “A few years ago I suffered from pneumothorax and was hospitalized. I wrote down my experience and feelings.” His article, “One in 511”, which won the In-Media’s E-Citizen Award recorded the details of the many scenes he witnessed from the evening of July 1 into the next day, such as the feelings of his fellow demonstrators, sketches of the police and his heartfelt appreciation of a middle-aged man who travelled to Hong Kong from Shenzhen just to participate in the protest. “Apart from sharing my own feelings through reporting and recording what happened, I wish to tell people around me by practicing what I believe in and demonstrate that social action and even civil disobedience are not something very remote from our lives.”

“I never imagined that there are so many people in Hong Kong who are concerned with social issues. Take [Occupy Central], for example. Every day there are people dressed in suits who come to Admiralty to see what is happening here.” If we want to motivate people who are politically apathetic, Chan believes that the political messages have to be written in plain language. “People refuse to read writing with too much academic jargon. I want to write soft stories that people find touching. I like Wong Tze Wah [a famous comedian in Hong Kong who comments on political news with humor]. Perhaps I have adopted his approach unconsciously.”

Chan was arrested three months ago. He has returned to the street again and has set up his tent on Connaught Road Central [one of the sit-in sites], all because he wants to be persistent in fighting for what he believes in. His family does not agree with what he is doing because they are worried that if he has a criminal record, his opportunities for promotion and career prospects will be affected. “I have used up all my paid leave for this year. I am taking unpaid leave now.” However, if his company called him, he would immediately return to his position. Chan explains with a smile that his girlfriend has also taken part in the protests and stayed overnight on the street. She supports and understands him completely. “She understands what I am doing and even told me: you can fight and I would work hard to earn us a living!”

What touches him most is that he finally managed to win his family's support with his actions; they visited him at Admiralty. Chan says he rarely talks about social issues with his friends, but he posts his thoughts and what he hears and sees on social media. “Most of my colleagues are post-70s. They always wonder why people do not simply focus on their jobs, instead of stirring up trouble.” Chan wants to use his writings and his actions to tell them that in this society money is not the only thing that matters. He wants to tell them that there are other values that are worth fighting for. People take part in social movements because they want to bring progress to our society.

by inmediahk.net at November 26, 2014 12:26 AM

November 25, 2014

Global Voices
Lovers of Myanmar's Architecture, Feast Your Eyes on These Photos From Yangon
Yangon’s most famous landmark, Shwedagon Pagoda. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Yangon’s most famous landmark, Shwedagon Pagoda. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) was Myanmar’s capital before the military government transferred the government center to Naypyidaw in 2006. Although it is no longer the capital, it is still the country’s premier commercial center and largest city. It is also known for its numerous historic buildings and religious monuments.

Yangon’s “rich architectural heritage” is featured in a forthcoming book by Manuel Oka, Ben Bansal, and Elliott Fox. While preparing the book, they created pages on Facebook and Tumblr, where visitors can find photos of both popular and lesser-known buildings in Yangon. They also asked Burmese netizens to submit photos and provide descriptions of the buildings featured on the website.

Global Voices recently spoke to Ben Bansal about the project: 

Mong Palatino (MP): What inspired you to start this project?

Ben Bansal (BB): We're three authors: me, Manuel and Elliott. Each of us has a different perspective. I'm a development economist and I'm fascinated by the history of cities and how they evolve. Manu, our photographer, is an architect as well. We owe him the book's amazing photos, but also his technical knowledge. Elliott works in the humanitarian and human rights sector. He's had a greater exposure to the politics of modern Myanmar. Yangon speaks to each of us. We hope the book will convey all this.

MP: What has been the response of Burmese netizens and authorities?

BB: Burmese netizens have been wonderful! We started a Facebook page, posting one building and a teaser description each day. In a few months we've reached more than 6000 followers, most of them Burmese obviously. With every building, somebody will chime in with an extra piece of information we can use. In that sense, this is also a crowdsourcing experiment! We haven't heard from the Burmese authorities.

MP: What do you think are the measures needed to preserve and popularize these historic buildings in Yangon?

BB: The Yangon Heritage Trust is doing vital and inspiring work to create a conservation roadmap. They're also doing a great job of lobbying the government. Now we hope the government will listen to them consistently. Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, for example, have lost some of their historical depth. But it's also important to point out that, often, people fixate on colonial heritage. We hope the book will highlight a broader story: the post 1948 architecture is also fascinating in its own way. And there's the city’s amazing religious heritage: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim. If Yangon can keep that story intact, it will be an example to the world.

Below are some of the Yangon buildings that showcase the city's diverse and unique architecture:

"The Holy Trinity Cathedral is the main Anglican church in Yangon."  Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

“The Holy Trinity Cathedral is the main Anglican church in Yangon.” Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

The former headquarters of Burmah Oil.  Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

The former headquarters of Burmah Oil. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Surti Sunni Jamah Mosque on Shwebontha Street.  Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Surti Sunni Jamah Mosque on Shwebontha Street. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Built in 1920, the former residence of the Kayah (Karenni) State governor.  Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Built in 1920, the former residence of the Kayah (Karenni) State governor. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

The folklore palace and restaurant Karaweik Hall.  Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

The folklore palace and restaurant Karaweik Hall. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Yangon City Hall.  Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Yangon City Hall. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Independence monument near the former high court.  Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Independence monument near the former high court. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Aerial view of Yangon.  Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Aerial view of Yangon. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Ngadatgyi Pagoda. Designed with "Buddha’s hand gesture when he achieved enlightenment.  Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

Ngadatgyi Pagoda. Designed with “Buddha’s hand gesture when he achieved enlightenment. Photo by Manuel Oka for Yangon Architectural Guide (DOM Publishers, 2015)

All photos by Manuel Oka, used with permission.

by Mong Palatino at November 25, 2014 11:37 PM

16 Days to Campaign Against Gender Violence

From the campaign website.

To encourage action against violence in general and gender violence in particular, the Center of Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), based at Rutgers University in the US, has launched a 16 day campaign “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World”. Starting November 25, campaign participants “will highlight the systemic nature of gender-based violence and militarism which encourages inequality and discrimination”.

Global Voices Online will be participating in this campaign;  we will publish stories, debates and conversations on social media around the world about violence in society and violence against women. 

The campaign also aims to raise awareness around the fact that most governments designate weapon spending more urgent and important, than funding projects devoted to education, equality and safer public spaces. Despite recognition of gender based violence as a public health issue and a human rights concern by international organizations, the low priority given in international development agendas continues to be alarmingly low. 

According to the World Health Organization:

Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women – are major public health problems and violations of women's human rights.

Recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

On average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.

Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.

Violence can result in physical, mental, sexual, reproductive health and other health problems, and may increase vulnerability to HIV.

Risk factors for being a perpetrator include low education, exposure to child maltreatment or witnessing violence in the family, harmful use of alcohol, attitudes accepting of violence and gender inequality.

Risk factors for being a victim of intimate partner and sexual violence include low education, witnessing violence between parents, exposure to abuse during childhood and attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality.

In high-income settings, school-based programmes to prevent relationship violence among young people (or dating violence) are supported by some evidence of effectiveness.

In low-income settings, other primary prevention strategies, such as microfinance combined with gender equality training and community-based initiatives that address gender inequality and communication and relationship skills, hold promise.

Situations of conflict, post conflict and displacement may exacerbate existing violence and present additional forms of violence against women.

To broaden strategies and engage different groups, CWGL is launching the campaign on the International Day to end Gender-based Violence (Nov 25) with the Day of Human Rights (Dec 10):

The intersectionality of age, class, gender, geographic location, race/ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation among other categories of analysis inform the ways in which women experience and respond to violence, inequality, and discrimination. They also affect the ways in which communities and the States respond since States’ relations with the people are mediated in part through the above categories […] Integral to a world free of gender-based violence where all are able to experience freedom from fear and want is, in part, the recognition of the indivisibility of human rights, and that women’s rights are human rights.

The campaign has identified three priority areas of action: Violence perpetrated by state actors, proliferation of small arms in cases of intimate partner violence, and sexual violence during and after conflict. For each area, the page of the campaign suggests different types of strategies to raise awareness and participate in the struggle against these abuses.

by Laura Vidal at November 25, 2014 10:40 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Unpacking open data: power, politics and the influence of infrastructures

Liveblog of a #Berkman lunch written with Erhardt Graeff.

Tim Davies (@timdavies) is a social researcher with interests in civic participation and civic technologies. He has spent the last five years focussing on the development of the open government data landscape around the world, from his MSc work at the Oxford Internet Institute on Data and Democracy, the first major study of data.gov.uk, through to leading a 12-country study on the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries for the World Wide Web Foundation.

A broad coalition of companies, governments, and other entities have come together to open data. This work is based on the belief that opening data creates myriad benefits to society, for transparency, for economic value, and other benefits.

Does open data reconfigure power relationships in the political space? The past, promise, and reality of open data reminds wide.


For the last 5 years, Tim's been following the spread of open data policy and practice, initially in the UK and then increasingly around the world. He's starting from the desire that those people affected by decisions have a role in shaping those decisions, and asks whether there are certain open data structures and practices that achieve this normative goal.

Today, the impact of open data is often anecdotal. Tim seeks not only to prove whether open data is impactful, but also what conditions improve the chances that it is.

He puts forward three null hypotheses:
H1: Open data is not delivering widespread inclusive civic engagement;
H2: Open data is not delivering scalable innovation;
H3: Open data is not substantially shifting the balance of power between citizen and state.

The Open Data Barometer

A comparison of international open data policies

Open Data Research following the usage of open data in 12 developing countries and developing standards: http://standard.open-contracting.org/.


Open data's roots can be found in the civic technology movement. Tim harkens back to Sebastopol, 2007, when Carl Malamud and others set forth principles for open government data. They had built civic tools, but were often frustrated by a lack of access to the data needed to power the tools. They were interested in very specific datasets, but this didn't make for a very compelling movement, so a broader movement emerged.

This open government data strand joined another thread, particularly in Europe, of the public sector information industry. In Europe, state data was often open, with downstream value chains making use of the information. (is this what Tim said?)

Civic technologists sought free access to data, whereas the public sector information industry sought to capture value in exchange for providing government data. In the UK and US, governments dealt with political crises to stem democratic disaffection. Open data portals emerged as a potential solution.

The various factions converged on what Tim calls the standard model of open data. The big tent of open data was defined around:

  1. Pro-actively published
  2. Machine readable
  3. Legally re-usable

Machine readable cares about the format the data is in, but doesn't look at how the data is structured internally, i.e. we prefer CSVs or XML files. Legal re-usability comes from the explicit application of an open license.

This creates a fairly binary definition of what is and is not open data. Any personally identify data, or data derived from such data, cannot be included in such systems. We've restricted the open data space with this dichotomy.

The theory of change is you-centric. Data comes out of government, private groups use it in apps or other intermediary ways, and you get impact. It's a domino model. Deeper questions emerge. What kind of change are we actually creating?


Is the standard model being applied around the world?

The power to choose what is shared remains with governments. Tim shows a graph of datasets that have been opened in the UK. Most of the data that have been opened like census and trade data are the least sought after by open data requesters, where as many of the most demanded data like maps and transport data are less opened. And the data with the greatest potential to hold government accountable around company and land issues, are the least opened.

Very few of the open datasets Tim analyzed actually meet the three central goals of pro-actively publication, machine readability, and legal re-use.

Brazil's open data

The unequal application of the standard model was made evident as Tim looks at the policies in each country he has studied. The initial launch of open data policies in the US, UK, and India are framed in democratic terms, whereas later open data policy rhetoric has been around economic potential.

The portal is the common denominator across each country. But other terms, like making data freely available, or specifying its license, are less standard.

Currently, countries are focusing a lot on "high-value" datasets now that might have the greatest impact. Tim points out the UK's National Information Infrastructure and Denmark's Good Basic Data for Everyone.

Infrastructures are generally invisible in our daily lives, only becoming visible when they break down. They set the frameworks within actions take place. And their malleability is limited because of knock on effects to changing them. But every so often there are opportunities to make major change.

Standards tend to proliferate. But in open government, the governments themselves are helping set standards. The Open Government Partnership is encouraging common adoption of standards, the G8 open charter nudges governments towards interoperability.

Open data standards are often treated as purely technical issues, but Tim cites Interop in arguing that our decisions around what to make interoperable, or not, go much deeper than technology.

Tim has been fascinated by the standardization of the contracting process and how that shapes the outcomes for open data standards. Standards don't just shape the data the government publishes -- they also shape how government works with data internally. The Open Contracting Data Standard model encourages governments to release data on an ongoing, iterative basis, rather than dump large numbers of datasets online.

There is an opportunity to see the opening of data as part of a broader process that rethinks government infrastructures towards openness. But there are many threats to this civic potential. The shift from open data as a civic virtue towards economic utility means that government partners are more likely to be economic actors. We could end up locked into infrastructures that don't serve the public good.

Recommendations:

  1. We need to situate data in context. It shouldn't be dumped into abstracted, decontextualized data portals.
  2. We should move from epiphenomenal data to active data. Moving away from releasing coincidentally associated data to data that is connected to specific activity in the same way public registers traditionally documented the work of government.
  3. We should shift from "raw data now" to an inclusive information infrastructure where we consider who's involved in making these decisions

Question & Answer

Q: [About who is at the table on the standardization process and why.]

A: Governments will identify a data sharing need or open data movement will generate pressure for some set of data. This triggers a standardization process. There does not necessarily mean that corporate interests enter here and shape that standard. De facto standardization is the norm, whoever is the first mover in a space by a group that commits to using the data in some public way like Google Maps data.

Q: I'm interested in how interested cities are in the open data movement. The public's running with it and asking questions of cities that cities aren't capable of responding to.

A: A number of case studies have looked at cities and what we're probably seeing is that those individuals inside government who are directly involved in open data policy are creating space for collaboration between parties, but this is usually an accidental artifact of open data's culture and positive relationships.

Q: The power of the permalink in open data—openness as a stream rather than a drop. In NY, massage and physical therapists mobilized against regulations that would affect their business after they were able to get a permalink to the legislation. But there is an effort against permalinking to legislative data to protect business interests in selling legal data. What are your views on permalinks and the stream versus the drop?

A: That's an absolutely key point on the way the technical and web infrastructures play out. A permanent URL to online documents is a good baseline to start with, because that makes the document a public object we can discuss.

Q: Do you have a definition of civic hacking and what role should it play in open data?

A: Jolly good question. I'm not sure I have one. If I were to create a definition of civic hacking, it would be broad enough to include not just code, but also information about local communities and rethinking how those communities reimagine how those spaces should work.

Q: Interested in the shift from the rhetoric of democracy to economy. I'm wondering if one of the dangers is like when free becomes a business model, does open become a business model that governments can use—and how does that neo-liberal turn affect the democratic qualities of government?

A: The key work here is that of Joanne Bates, who wrote a great PhD thesis on the UK's open data policy with a critique to its neoliberal term, where data is provided in places of service,s or where government data becomes a subsidy to all sorts of private industries. These are important questions: How to prioritize what data gets released? How is the decision shaped and who is involved? There is an "open data user group" in the UK, that is largely commercial interests who invites civil society orgs to participate.

Q: How do you have a nuanced discussion around inclusive information infrastructures if the mantra is so uniformly open = good?

A: One way to deal with that is to create broader language that incorporates other modes of sharing. There is a need for much better language in this space. Open language has been appropriated to talk about private data sharing and other things which clouds the issue.

Q: Locally, there is a company called Bridj that looks at how public transportation is utilized in the city. They want to create an opportunity for small buses for hire on-demand. This could create heavy congestion at bus stops in the city of Cambridge. They are cherry picking from other public transportation companies. Bridj are even offering data to the city to give back (feeling responsible to do so) what they find. But the city is typically a data producer not a data ingester. Have you seen other examples of that, such as where the city is in the position to ingest data?

A: This is a great example, and the key idea here is that governments need to think about two-way flows of data, and they're not often set up to do this. In the UK, OpenStreetMappers used open data to improve the government's inaccurate stop locations, but there's been little evidence that the government has successfully re-integrated the volunteer corrections.

Q: Civil society institutional investors hold lots of money and power. That information isn't machine readable, but it does exist in IRS 990 forms. Civic education can map, manage, and analyze these pooled assets and make these resources part of the public conversation. In the corporate world right now, there's a huge amount of effort going into standardizing corporate disclosure and reporting across economic, environmental, and other data. As the platforms get created, my focus is on the emerging educational infrastructure that will be needed for those intermediaries working with citizens to re-discover the voice and power they already have. How we engage and empower "plain people" to understand the data?

A: That is key to look at those intermediary abilities. It's not just about who those individuals are but how they fit into a wider ecosystem. Any attempt to take data and mediate it, changes it. What kinds of organizations can engaged at the grassroots? One of the findings in the developing countries research was a need to do capacity building in local communities not just with governments and recognized that its a long, multi-year process. We don't have good methods for creating the relevant communities of practitioners and there is a need to bridge cultures in order to do that work.

Q: Where is the talk of standardization in the health world, internationally or locally, or is there none?

A: That's not something I know a lot about. I know there is an issue around what is public data and what is patient data and how you maintain privacy.

Q: Did your research notice a difference in 'open standard' adequacy between national and municipal datasets?

A: The cities case studies from the ODD project would help here -- I haven't looked at that.

by mstem at November 25, 2014 06:56 PM

Creative Commons
The best community we could ask for

The best community we could ask for

November 25, 2013, was a day we had looked forward to for years — the official launch date of Version 4.0 of the Creative Commons licenses. But despite months of planning, something unexpected started to happen just after we hit publish: our website started to fail.

We spent the next 12 hours working to fix the current setup while simultaneously moving our website to higher-performance servers. That situation was maddening: for a few hours, half of the world could see the new 4.0 licenses, and half couldn’t. Finding a fix was our highest priority. All hands were on deck to ensure we delivered on our promise of providing stable, trustworthy infrastructure for our licenses.

And deliver we did. By the morning of the 26th, the entire world awoke to a new set of CC licenses — licenses that reflect two years of work by some of the best minds in copyright law on the planet.

I’m telling you about the site outage for two reasons. First, it shows us for what we are: a very small organization with extremely limited resources. CC licenses will always be free, but maintaining them isn’t. Whether it’s tech infrastructure, adoption support, or helping users understand the licenses, our stewardship responsibilities are ongoing, in demand, and require resources.

Second, and more importantly, it says a lot about you. A lot of you were up all night with us. The people who could see the new licenses were excitedly sharing details with those of you who couldn’t, and asking us how they could help. I remember laughing to myself, “How many site outages get live-blogged?” Basically, you’re the best community we could ask for.

If you can, please consider making a gift to help carry Creative Commons into 2015. Together, we built state-of-the-art licenses that we’ll all be using for the next decade. But there’s a lot more work to do, for all of us.

Thank you for sharing with us in this dream of a world where knowledge and culture are more accessible to everyone. We’ll never stop fighting for that world, even if it means pulling a few all-nighters.

Support Creative Commons

by Diane Peters at November 25, 2014 05:56 PM

Global Voices
Fighting for Climate Justice From the Front Lines of Disaster
Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Photo by Flickr user joemeth robles. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Photo by Flickr user joemeth robles. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This article by Antonia Bruno was produced by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Other Worlds and posted by 350.organ organization building a global climate movement. It is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

It’s been a year since Super Typhoon Yolanda (often called Typhoon Haiyan in other countries) swept through the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people and destroying the homes of many more. As UN negotiator for the Philippines Yeb Sano explained in his 2013 address to the United Nations, for many people, this is what climate change looks like:

To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change…. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian Ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned… And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.

Following the typhoon, survivors in affected communities in the Philippines came together in a deep expression of solidarity to help each other rebuild their homes and lives. Using only reclaimed materials—remains of their homes and other disaster debris—residents of the municipalities of Bantayan and Madridejos worked together to reconstruct their neighbourhoods, one house at a time. Salvacion Fulmenar, a resident of Bantayan Island, explained that 50 of her neighbours built her house with her.

The residents also worked together to increase resiliency against future disasters, particularly around the issue of waste management. Shalimar Vitan, Asia-Pacific Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), explained the connection. “Yolanda made us realise how much waste, more than anything else, is relevant to disasters, because the aftermath of a disaster is garbage and waste, equivalent to a year’s supply. A sustainable treatment of waste builds our preparedness for disasters and it builds the resiliency of communities.” Residents worked with local and international non-profit organisations to conduct waste audits and seminars in the impacted communities.

A sustainable treatment of waste does more than build preparedness for disasters—it also helps to combat climate change. Waste disposal through dumping or burning is a major contributor to climate change.  On the flip side, waste reduction and recycling significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Given that climate change is causing increasing extreme weather, better waste management actually helps to prevent events like Super Typhoon Yolanda.

But reducing waste in the Philippines is not enough to stop climate change or to protect vulnerable communities living there. What’s needed is for the issues of waste and climate crises to be solved collaboratively across borders. And in an inspiring Asia Pacific grassroots partnership, that is exactly what’s happening.

Solidarity for clean air, good jobs, and justice

One of the greatest injustices of climate change is that those who have done the least to cause it—like the residents of the Philippines hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda—feel the impacts first and worst through rising sea levels and extreme weather. Meanwhile, areas that are responsible for the largest greenhouse gas emissions often feel little pressure to reduce their emissions. They tend to be wealthier with more powerful governments, thus they are less susceptible to international pressure and often have infrastructure that is  better able to withstand extreme weather. For example, while Super Typhoon Yolanda was ripping through the Philippines, just across the sea, Prime Minister Abott of Australia continued to deny the existence of climate change.

Yet underneath the political divides of the Asia Pacific region, at the level of the citizenry, strong international bonds have formed. Grassroots communities of the Philippines and Australia have been supporting each other in a common fight against incineration.

In addition to being a major contributor to climate change, incineration releases cancer-causing toxins, kills jobs, and violates the principles of environmental justice. The Philippines stands out as the only country to have banned incineration, setting this important precedent 15 years ago. However, this ban is currently under attack by companies, elected officials, and government agencies. Meanwhile, Western Australia is facing an unprecedented onslaught of incinerator proposals from polluting corporations trying to pass the dirty practice of waste burning as “green.”

People from both countries have been meeting to share information about incinerators, reports, and strategies. Just after Super Typhoon Yolanda struck, Australian toxics expert Lee Bell traveled to the Philippines to visit with communities threatened with incinerators. Lee spoke to members of Congress, the media, and the general public.  He also conducted small meetings and workshops to update the local network on trends in the incineration industry, and shared a community handbook on questions to ask your government about an incinerator proposal. Shortly after, residents of the Philippines mobilised support and gathered signatures for an Australian petition against the export of hazardous waste.

These are just a couple examples of what is a rich and ongoing partnership. Jane Bremmer, a resident of Western Australia who works with the Alliance for a Clean Environment and the National Toxics Network explained, “The connection between the Philippines and Australia is really important. Our massive contribution to air pollution and climate change directly affects the Philippines and contributes to natural disasters. Collaborating with them has also strengthened our own work fighting incinerators, teaching us how to work more effectively and communicate across different cultures.”

Froilan Grate, president of the Mother Earth Foundation in the Philippines, said, “The number one argument for incineration in the Philippines is that it’s being done successfully in First World countries, and that it’s modern and high tech. So we need a lot of foreign groups giving their voice and opposition to shatter this lie.”

The governments of the world are not working effectively together on the connections between climate change and waste, issues that affect us all. They may spend years passing the buck, avoiding blame and responsibility for rising sea levels and extreme weather. But as the cross-border collaboration between Australia and the Philippines demonstrates, what governments are failing to do, people are already doing. Across political differences, geographic divides, and cultural differences, global citizens are joining together in a unified fight that is cultivating a new world of climate justice.

by 350.org at November 25, 2014 03:57 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
China Touts Local Ground Rules for the Global Internet
World Internet Conference, by Badiucao for China Digital Times.

World Internet Conference, by Badiucao for China Digital Times.

Wuzhen, China's futuristic town in the Zhejiang province, said hello and goodbye to the World Internet Conference last week. Many, of course, find it ironic that China—where the government blocks hundreds of foreign websites—hosted a summit about the World Wide Web, but local commentators seemed unfazed. Several speakers at the conference even argued that the outside world must accept China's confidence in its Internet regulations and understand that foreign businesses cannot profit in China without obeying local laws.

Conference attendees enjoyed special, temporary access to hundreds of blocked websites overseas. But throughout the rest of the country, the Chinese government stepped up censorship efforts. Edgecast, one of the world's largest content delivery networks (CDNs), experienced a DNS “poisoning” attack which left thousands of websites and mobile apps inoperable across China.

GreatFire.org, a website devoted to monitoring online censorship in China, claims the Chinese authorities are risking massive “collateral damage” by disrupting access to large numbers of apolitical sites in order to protect the state's sovereignty over the domestic network. For example, the attack on Edgecast inadvertently blocked Sony Mobile's global and Chinese sites, The Atlantic, Drupal.org, Gravatar, and others.

According to China's official media, hosting the Internet conference was an effort to ”show confidence in sharing China's opinion on how to face online threats and how to enhance international cooperation online.” China's confidence, no doubt, comes largely from its enormous market of 632 million Internet users, 527 million of whom access the Web using mobile devices. Statisticians project there will be 850 million Internet users in China by 2015.

Many interpret China's Internet confidence to signal the country's growing determination to impose a Chinese approach to Internet governance worldwide. Su Xinghe, a Chinese commentator on tech news, says of China's new assertiveness:

极权在互联网领域的管控比以往任何时代都要严密,与一盘散沙的美国网路相比,中国的网路更加有组织、有纪律。20年来,从各种关于“备案”的法律法规,到广电总局等政府机构下达的内容限制令,再到对网路“有害资讯”的清除,以及对发布这些“有害资讯”的网路使用者的打击,中国互联网的发展可谓一日千里,为世界各国提供了相当宝贵的经验。[…]
互联网一直被当作意识形态领域斗争的前沿阵地,“带鱼”的上位和“野鸡”网站的兴起表明,当局发起了一场“占领互联网”的行动。以红色传统、社会正能量和歌功颂德为主体内容,以打击西方反华势力和国内自由民主思潮为抓手,充分利用资源和管道优势,让那些当局希望的内容充斥互联网——就如同文革时铺天盖地的大字报一样,给民众施以强力洗脑和强制服从的压力。适逢其时的世界互联网大会,便于当局将这样的内容更趋于官方化,在话语领域起到更好的压制作用。

Authoritarian power is good at using the Internet to monitor people. When compared with the United States’ loose control over the Net, China is more organized and disciplined. In the past 20 years, so many rules and regulations have been implemented [to restrict Internet service and content providers. Government authorities, including the State Administration of the Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, keep issuing content-restriction directives and deleting "harmful information" on the Web. The distributors of harmful information are penalized. The development of Internet governance is far-reaching and this experience is valuable to other countries. […]

The Internet is considered to be at the forefront of China's ideological struggle. The rise of state-sponsored celebrities like Zhou Xiaoping and state-sponsored websites like “Phoenix” demonstrate that the authorities have launched a campaign to “occupy the Web” with the Chinese Communist Party's red tradition and “positive energy as praise” to help suppress anti-Chinese and Western values, like freedom and democracy. By controlling Internet resources and content platforms, the authorities fill the Web with the kind of content they want people to see, similar to the posters that covered every street corner during the Cultural Revolution. The objective is to brainwash people and use political pressure to make them submissive. Hosting the World Internet Conference, China's authorities can legitimize its practice in official language and further repress dissents.

In what was likely a Freudian slip, state-sponsored online celebrity Hua Qianfang praised China's “big-nation confidence” as “Sima Zhao's mind“, a Chinese idiomatic expression used to describe a hidden and immoral intention of usurping the throne or seizing power. During the World Internet Conference, many Chinese netizens repeated the idiom to mock the authorities’ hidden intention.

In Chinese, the whole expression reads, “Everyone on the street knows what's in Sima Zhao's mind.” The hidden intention is implied, and left unsaid. In fact, the director of China's State Internet Information Office, Lu Wei, told the China Digital Times:

Freedom and order are twin sisters, and they must live together […] The same principle applies to security. So we must have a public order [internationally]. And this public order cannot impact any particular local order. […] What we cannot permit, is the taking advantage of China’s market, of profiting from Chinese money, but doing damage to China. This will absolutely not be permitted. It is unacceptable to harm China’s interests, to harm China’s security, or to harm the interests of China’s consumers. Assuming respect for this bottom line any internet company is welcome in China.

The DNS attack on Edgecast and its “collateral damage” to thousands of business websites thus amounts to what Liu Wei says is China's determination to maintain “local order,” despite certain economic costs.

As China's role online grows and it becomes a key player in the shaping of global Internet governance, its approach to sovereignty still worries human rights activists. William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, urged international business leaders to speak out about online freedom at the Conference, but the subject unfortunately didn't make the program.

As digital sovereignty continues to shape the future of Internet governance, it seems it will be left to local civil society to play a more significant role in China's fight for an open and free Internet.

by Oiwan Lam at November 25, 2014 03:22 PM

Global Voices
China Touts Local Ground Rules for the Global Internet
World Internet Conference, by Badiucao for China Digital Times.

World Internet Conference, by Badiucao for China Digital Times.

Wuzhen, China's futuristic town in the Zhejiang province, said hello and goodbye to the World Internet Conference last week. Many, of course, find it ironic that China—where the government blocks hundreds of foreign websites—hosted a summit about the World Wide Web, but local commentators seemed unfazed. Several speakers at the conference even argued that the outside world must accept China's confidence in its Internet regulations and understand that foreign businesses cannot profit in China without obeying local laws.

Conference attendees enjoyed special, temporary access to hundreds of blocked websites overseas. But throughout the rest of the country, the Chinese government stepped up censorship efforts. Edgecast, one of the world's largest content delivery networks (CDNs), experienced a DNS “poisoning” attack which left thousands of websites and mobile apps inoperable across China.

GreatFire.org, a website devoted to monitoring online censorship in China, claims the Chinese authorities are risking massive “collateral damage” by disrupting access to large numbers of apolitical sites in order to protect the state's sovereignty over the domestic network. For example, the attack on Edgecast inadvertently blocked Sony Mobile's global and Chinese sites, The Atlantic, Drupal.org, Gravatar, and others.

According to China's official media, hosting the Internet conference was an effort to ”show confidence in sharing China's opinion on how to face online threats and how to enhance international cooperation online.” China's confidence, no doubt, comes largely from its enormous market of 632 million Internet users, 527 million of whom access the Web using mobile devices. Statisticians project there will be 850 million Internet users in China by 2015.

Many interpret China's Internet confidence to signal the country's growing determination to impose a Chinese approach to Internet governance worldwide. Su Xinghe, a Chinese commentator on tech news, says of China's new assertiveness:

极权在互联网领域的管控比以往任何时代都要严密,与一盘散沙的美国网路相比,中国的网路更加有组织、有纪律。20年来,从各种关于“备案”的法律法规,到广电总局等政府机构下达的内容限制令,再到对网路“有害资讯”的清除,以及对发布这些“有害资讯”的网路使用者的打击,中国互联网的发展可谓一日千里,为世界各国提供了相当宝贵的经验。[…]
互联网一直被当作意识形态领域斗争的前沿阵地,“带鱼”的上位和“野鸡”网站的兴起表明,当局发起了一场“占领互联网”的行动。以红色传统、社会正能量和歌功颂德为主体内容,以打击西方反华势力和国内自由民主思潮为抓手,充分利用资源和管道优势,让那些当局希望的内容充斥互联网——就如同文革时铺天盖地的大字报一样,给民众施以强力洗脑和强制服从的压力。适逢其时的世界互联网大会,便于当局将这样的内容更趋于官方化,在话语领域起到更好的压制作用。

Authoritarian power is good at using the Internet to monitor people. When compared with the United States’ loose control over the Net, China is more organized and disciplined. In the past 20 years, so many rules and regulations have been implemented [to restrict Internet service and content providers. Government authorities, including the State Administration of the Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, keep issuing content-restriction directives and deleting "harmful information" on the Web. The distributors of harmful information are penalized. The development of Internet governance is far-reaching and this experience is valuable to other countries. […]

The Internet is considered to be at the forefront of China's ideological struggle. The rise of state-sponsored celebrities like Zhou Xiaoping and state-sponsored websites like “Phoenix” demonstrate that the authorities have launched a campaign to “occupy the Web” with the Chinese Communist Party's red tradition and “positive energy as praise” to help suppress anti-Chinese and Western values, like freedom and democracy. By controlling Internet resources and content platforms, the authorities fill the Web with the kind of content they want people to see, similar to the posters that covered every street corner during the Cultural Revolution. The objective is to brainwash people and use political pressure to make them submissive. Hosting the World Internet Conference, China's authorities can legitimize its practice in official language and further repress dissents.

In what was likely a Freudian slip, state-sponsored online celebrity Hua Qianfang praised China's “big-nation confidence” as “Sima Zhao's mind“, a Chinese idiomatic expression used to describe a hidden and immoral intention of usurping the throne or seizing power. During the World Internet Conference, many Chinese netizens repeated the idiom to mock the authorities’ hidden intention.

In Chinese, the whole expression reads, “Everyone on the street knows what's in Sima Zhao's mind.” The hidden intention is implied, and left unsaid. In fact, the director of China's State Internet Information Office, Lu Wei, told the China Digital Times:

Freedom and order are twin sisters, and they must live together […] The same principle applies to security. So we must have a public order [internationally]. And this public order cannot impact any particular local order. […] What we cannot permit, is the taking advantage of China’s market, of profiting from Chinese money, but doing damage to China. This will absolutely not be permitted. It is unacceptable to harm China’s interests, to harm China’s security, or to harm the interests of China’s consumers. Assuming respect for this bottom line any internet company is welcome in China.

The DNS attack on Edgecast and its “collateral damage” to thousands of business websites thus amounts to what Liu Wei says is China's determination to maintain “local order,” despite certain economic costs.

As China's role online grows and it becomes a key player in the shaping of global Internet governance, its approach to sovereignty still worries human rights activists. William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, urged international business leaders to speak out about online freedom at the Conference, but the subject unfortunately didn't make the program.

As digital sovereignty continues to shape the future of Internet governance, it seems it will be left to local civil society to play a more significant role in China's fight for an open and free Internet.

by Oiwan Lam at November 25, 2014 03:19 PM

Meet Global Voices Contributor and Free Spirit María Angélica Marín
María Angélica Marín

María Angélica Marín at the GV Summit 2012 in Nairobi. Photo by Laura Schneider for Global Voices, used under Creative Commons licence Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).

María Angélica Marín has collaborated with Global Voices since 2009, contributing more than 1,300 translations of content to the community. She is a dedicated traveller and a lover of technology. Enthusiastic to discover new things and with a fresh and free spirit, she agreed to share her experiences with us.

Global Voices (GV): Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What career path did you follow? What are you doing at the moment? 

María Angélica (MA): Soy una ciudadana chilena que ha estudiado, trabajado y andado en más de un lugar. Parte de mis estudios universitarios los hice en Chile (Bio-estadística, Demografía y Mediación Familiar), parte en Francia (Maestría y Doctorado en Demografía) y otra parte en Canadá (Salud Comunitaria). Como profesional he trabajado también en varios países: Chile, Suiza, Italia, Honduras, Perú, Francia, Canadá, El Salvador, Brasil, Gabón, EE. UU., Argentina (uf! ya es suficiente), esto en organismos nacionales, internacionales, ONG y como obrera en la empresa privada.

Fuera de GV actualmente hago poco y nada relacionado con mi profesión aunque tengo una debilidad por los temas de derechos humanos y sobre todo los de salud. Corrijo textos traducidos al español para una escuela en Estados Unidos, en cierta época del año colaboro en la reunión de cosas útiles para familias de bajos recursos, en la confección de prendas abrigadoras para personas de la tercera edad y no hay duda que hago vida social y me encanta salir “a descubrir mundo”, es decir a descubrir barrios en Santiago y parajes fuera de Santiago. Mantengo contacto con mis amistades fuera de Chile ya sea visitándolos o recibiéndolos y por cierto gracias a la nueva tecnología (a la que soy bastante aficionada) dialogando con ellos frente a frente.

Ya que mencioné nueva tecnología la verdad es que, hace años, comencé rechazándola y luego la necesidad de tratar datos hizo que tuviera que estudiar para poder dialogar con el programador. Así, me hice poco a poco usuaria y en cierta medida adicta y eso ha hecho que entre mi entorno poco aficionado a ella me haya convertido en una especia de asesora lo que constituye otra de mis ocupaciones fuera de GV.

María Angélica (MA): I am a Chilean citizen who has studied, worked and travelled in more than one place. I completed part of my university studies in Chile (bio-statistics, demography and family mediation), another part in France (master's and doctorate in demography) and another part in Canada (community health). As a professional, I have also worked in various countries: Chile, Switzerland, Italy, Honduras, Peru, France, Canada, El Salvador, Brazil, Gabon, USA, Argentina (oof! that's enough), in national and international organisations, NGOs and as an employee of private companies.

Besides GV, I currently do rather little and nothing to do with my profession, although I have a weakness for human rights issues, especially those related to health. I correct texts translated into Spanish for a school in the USA, during certain periods of the year I participate in gathering useful items for low-income families and in the production of warm clothing for elderly people, and there is no doubt that I maintain a social life and I love to go out and “discover the world”, that is to discover districts of Santiago and landscapes outside Santiago. I stay in touch with my friends from outside Chile by visiting them or having them stay and talking to them face to face thanks to new technologies (of which I'm quite a fan).

Now that I've mentioned new technologies, the truth is that years ago I started off rejecting them, but then it was necessary to process data and I had to study so that I could communicate with the programmer. That way, I gradually became an Internet user, and to a certain extent an addict, and that's meant that I've become a sort of adviser to those people in my social circle who aren't so keen, and that is another of my occupations outside GV.

GV: How did you come across GV? What keeps you collaborating?

MA: Pregunta algo difícil de responder pues yo misma me la he hecho y la verdad es que ignoro la respuesta. Seguramente buscaba alguna información y caí en GV. Al ver que se podía colaborar traduciendo decidí probar (¡en probar no hay engaño!), resultó y aquí estoy feliz de hacerlo. Tenía alguna experiencia en traducción desde mis primeros tiempos como estudiante en Francia y en un cierto momento en Suiza.

Colaboro con gusto con GV pues creo en la utilidad de conocer no solo información de grandes medios si no también de blogs y otros. Me atrajo y sigue atrayendo la variedad de temas que se tratan, el espíritu de grupo y de colaboración de cada uno, la libertad que tenemos no solo de elegir lo que queremos hacer, también de cuándo lo hacemos. Nos comprometemos por que queremos y por el tiempo que queremos, nosotros somos responsables de nuestro compromiso.

En fín, me permito subrayar que no solo traduzco, no hace mucho osé escribir algunas cosillas tanto en español como en francés que han aparecido en GV y espero seguir haciéndolo.

MA: That's quite a difficult question to answer, as I've asked myself and to tell the truth, I don't know the answer. I was probably looking for some piece of information and I came across GV. When I saw that you could collaborate as a translator I decided to try (there's no harm in trying!), it worked out and here I am happy to do it. I had some experience in translation from my time as a student in France and during a period in Switzerland.

I really enjoy collaborating with GV as I believe in the importance of finding out information not only from mainstream media but also from blogs and other sites. I was, and continue to be, drawn by the variety of topics addressed, the team spirit and desire to collaborate of each individual, the freedom we have not only to choose what we want to do, but also when we do it. We get involved because we want to and for as long as we want to, we're each responsible for our own commitment.

Finally, I'd like to emphasise that I don't just translate, recently I also took the step of writing a few things in Spanish and French which have appeared on GV and I hope to carry on doing so.

GV: You were able to attend the GV Summit in 2012. What did you think of the experience?

MA: Si, pude asistir pues tuve la SUERTE y PRIVILEGIO (así, con mayúscula) de haber sido invitada. Me hice miles de preguntas sobre qué podría hacer allí, cuál sería mi aporte, con quien me iba a encontrar, cuáles serían las semejanzas y diferencias con los Congresos, Reuniones, Seminarios y muchos otros eventos de ese tipo a los que he asistido o participado.

En fín, fue toda una experiencia que califico de LINDA, ENRIQUECEDORA y muy diferente a las que he tenido en mi vida profesional. Me encantó ser una más entre muchas personas de todo horizonte, poder conversar con quien quisiera sin el rito de hacer “courbettes” (inclinación de cabeza en demostración de respeto) frente a un gran sabio o a un profesor de gran fama, o al autor del libro x o de la teoría a, b, c, d, … No cabe duda que me sentí “en mi salsa” al encontrar personas de diferente importancia profesional así como de países, culturas, colores, … esto último a veces me hace falta en Chile.

En cuanto al contenido de las sesiones de trabajo aprendí mucho sobre GV, su historia, su evolución, métodos de trabajo así como de los planes futuros (en constante evolución). Me permitió considerarme parte de GV y no solo una colaboradora. Valoro muchísimo el que toda la comunidad GV sea consultada y tenga voz y voto.

MA: Yes, I was able to attend as I had the LUCK and the PRIVILEGE (like that, in capital letters) to have been invited. I asked myself thousands of questions as to what I could do there, what my contribution would be, who I would meet, what the differences with the conferences, meetings, seminars and many other events of that type which I have attended or participated in would be.

In the end, it was quite an experience, one which I would describe as BEAUTIFUL, ENRICHING and very different from those I'd had in my professional life. I loved being one of many people from all over the world, being able to speak to whoever I wanted without the ritual of “courbettes” (nodding your head to show respect) when meeting a great thinker or famous professor, or the author of X book or of theory A, B, C, D… There's no doubt that I was in my element meeting people at different professional levels as well as from different countries, cultures, colours… I sometimes miss the latter in Chile.

As for the content of the working sessions, I learnt a lot about GV, its history, its evolution and working methods as well as its future plans (in constant development). It allowed me to consider myself part of GV, not just a collaborator. I really value the fact that the whole GV community is consulted and has a voice and a vote.

GV: With your broad experience, what would you recommend to younger generations starting out in translation or who want to travel the world? 

MA: Uf! estas son dos preguntas disfrazadas en una. Mis respuestas van por separado.

Respecto a aventurarse en el mundo de la traducción sin ser traductor(a) solo diría que quien quiera hacerlo necesita primero que nada hacerlo a su lengua materna o eventualmente en un idioma que conozca muy pero muy bien, agrego que es importantísimo que lo hagan en un tema que les guste y que ojalá conozcan, que deseen saber mas de él, que estén dispuestos a hacerlo lo mejor que puedan aunque ello signifique mucho trabajo. Y lo último, querer superarse y hacerlo bien.

Respecto a quienes tengan ganas de recorrer el mundo les diría que deben o tienen que ser curiosos, respetuosos, sacrificados (especialmente cuando el dinero escasea), fáciles para adaptarse a todo o casi todo, tener una cierta propensión a hacer amistades y cuando sea posible devolver (en el sentido de hacer algo semejante o mas de lo recibido si fuere necesario) los apoyos y favores recibidos, no olvidar las amistades hechas.

En fin, para mi no hay nada mejor que hacer lo que a uno le guste pues lo hará a fondo, con gusto y alegría y lo disfrutará plenamente. No hay duda que es bueno o muy bueno experimentar en un área desconocida pues ello enriquece, sin embargo si no nos gusta debemos ser sinceros y decir hasta aquí llego, sin esconder las razones por las que se toma la decisión. En pocas palabras: SINCERIDAD ante todo.

MA: Oof! That's two questions disguised as one. I'll answer each separately.

With regard to starting out in the world of translation without being a translator, I'll just say that anyone who wants to needs to do it first of all in their native language or, at a push, in a language they know very, very well. I would add that it is very important that they do it in a subject area which they like and know about, that they want to find out more about, that they're willing to do it as well as they can even if that implies a lot of work. And the last thing, to want to improve themselves and do it well.

Regarding those who want to travel the world, I would say that they should be curious, respectful, self-sacrificing (especially when money is scarce), adapt easily to every or almost every situation, have a certain propensity to make friends and when possible to return (that is, to do something similar or to exceed the favour received if necessary) the support and favours they receive, not forget the friendships made.

Finally, for me there is nothing better than doing what you like as you'll do it thoroughly, with pleasure and happiness and you'll enjoy it fully. There's no doubt that it is good, or very good, to experiment in an unknown area as that enriches you, however if we don't like something we must be honest and say ‘that's enough', without hiding the reasons leading us to make that decision. To sum up: HONESTY above all.

Thanks, María Angélica!

by Eleanor Staniforth at November 25, 2014 02:23 PM

Miriam Meckel
Multiorganversagen

WiWo_48_14_Titel_Musk_FIN3

Mehr Bodenkontakt, Trennung von Person und Funktion, Regeltreue im Amt – was im Urteil gegen Thomas Middelhoff steckt.

Nein, es ist nicht nur die teure Posse eines pathologischen Narzissten, der gerne als wirkmächtig in die Geschichte des deutschen Managements eingegangen wäre. Im Fall des Thomas Middelhoff, im doppelten Sinne des Wortes, liegt auch Potenzial zur Veränderung. Durch Schaden wird nicht jeder Mensch klüger, Unternehmenskultur aber kann durch negatives Beispiel besser werden.

Die Reaktionen auf die Verurteilung des früheren Arcandor-CEO wegen Untreue fallen sehr unterschiedlich aus: Schadenfreude, Entrüstung, Fassungslosigkeit. Es geht ein Bewusstseinsrüttler durch manche Vorstandsetage. Eine Reisekostenabrechnung kann Menschen und Karrieren stoppen.
Sie steht für eine feine, aber unumgängliche Linie zwischen Person und Funktion. Vielleicht gibt es ja einen Gott, aber ganz sicher sitzt er nicht auf dem Vorstandssessel eines Unternehmens. Der Mensch, der auf diesem Sessel sitzt, ist fehleranfällig und im Job sogar ersetzbar. Diese Einsicht muss “Big T.”, wie Middelhoff einst genannt wurde, irgendwann abhandengekommen sein. Er dachte bis zuletzt, er könne der Frank Sinatra des deutschen Managements werden: “I did it my way.” Spielregeln waren für ihn individuell. Das macht jedes Zusammenspiel schwierig bis unmöglich.
Was früher einmal mit Führungsstil oder ähnlich weichen Begriffen beschrieben wurde, lässt sich heute konkreter fassen: kooperative Führung statt autoritäre Herrschaft, Governance statt (Selbst-)Gefälligkeit. Das ist der Knackpunkt im Fall Middelhoff. Mit einer Portion Zynismus ließe sich sagen: Sind bei uns nun die Gerichte für die Reisekostenregelungen in Unternehmen zuständig? Ganz sicher nicht. Dass es in diesem Fall so ist, liegt an vielfachem Versagen. Wo war der Aufsichtsrat von Arcandor, als Middelhoff Flüge mit Privatjet und Hubschrauber und eine Festschrift für seinen Vorgänger bei Bertelsmann aus der Arcandor-Kasse bezahlte? Wo war das Controlling des Unternehmens? Wo waren die externen Wirtschaftsprüfer, und wo war das Compliance Management? In der Medizin nennt man so etwas Multiorganversagen. Dem Überleben einer Person ist es ebenso wenig zuträglich wie dem eines Unternehmens.

Mit dem Ende der Deutschland AG wurden die typischen Kapitalverflechtungen zwischen Unternehmen aufgelöst. Manche personellen Verflechtungen über Vorstands- und Aufsichtsratsmandate aber blieben erhalten. Und die Anforderungen an eine Corporate Governance nach internationalem Standard wurden durchaus nicht überall konsequent umgesetzt. Unsere Recherchen haben gezeigt: Fehlende oder unklare Reisekostenregelungen für Vorstände, die externe Aufsichtsratsmandate wahrnehmen, sind durchaus kein Einzelfall. Es gibt gute Vorbilder: Manche Unternehmen, wie die Lufthansa, haben in der Satzung festgelegt, dass die Reisekosten der externen Aufsichtsratsmitglieder übernommen werden. Auch trägt zum Beispiel Bertelsmann, wiederum satzungsgemäß, die Kosten, wenn Henkel-Chef Kasper Rorsted, Mitglied des Bertelsmann-Aufsichtsrats, für die Sitzungen anreist. Viele andere Unternehmen können oder wollen keine Auskunft geben. Das liegt nach Aktienrechtler Oliver Maaß an mangelnden Regelungen in vielen Unternehmen und daran, dass selbst Aufsichtsräte mit hohen Vergütungen oft “Pfennigfuchser” sind. Sein Lieblingsfall, so Maaß, war “eine Auslagenrechnung über eine Banane”.

Den Witz über die Republik gleichen Namens können wir uns an dieser Stelle sparen. Aber vielleicht bleibt angesichts von “Big T.” doch eine Middelhoffnung: Wenn nicht Gerichte per Untreueparagraf über Reisekosten urteilen sollen, braucht es klare Compliance-Regeln und einen Aufsichtsrat, der sie durchsetzt. Auch die Wiederbelebung des gesunden Menschenverstands kann nicht schaden. Die gelingt, indem man nicht nur im Hubschrauber reist, sondern gelegentlich Kontakt zur Außenwelt sucht. Der letzte Satz des Songs “Major Tom” (völlig losgelöst) lautet übrigens: „Mir wird kalt.“

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at November 25, 2014 08:11 AM

Global Voices
Bahrain's Justice Minister Picks Fight With Newspaper Editor on Twitter
Many voting stations in the opposition areas have been mostly empty as they are boycotting the elections of Bahrain 2014. Photo by Majed Tareef. Copyright Demotix.

Many voting stations in the opposition areas have been mostly empty as they are boycotting the elections of Bahrain 2014. Photo by Majed Tareef. Copyright Demotix.

Bahrainis voted for the first time since a popular uprising on the tiny island began in 2011 and was later brutally suppressed by authorities. Turnout depends on who you ask — the government says 51.9 percent of voters went to the polls, while the opposition (which boycotted the elections) puts the figure at around 30 percent.

The difference in percentages was noted by daily newspaper Al-Wasat's editor-in-chief Mansoor Al-Jamri, who reminded readers there's more to elections than simply winning in the numbers. But his observations about freedoms sparked a war of words on Twitter with Bahrain's Minister of Justice Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling Al-Khalifa royal family.

In the November 24 editorial column titled “Beyond the numbers war,” Al-Jamri wrote:

بغض النظر عن الأرقام، فإن العملية السياسية الناجحة تقاس بمؤشرات أساسية لا يمكن إغفالها، ومنها فيما إذا كانت السجون مليئة أم فارغة من معتقلين لأسباب سياسية، وفيما إذا كان المختلفون في الرأي يمارسون حياتهم بصورة عادية ولا يوجد خطر على حياتهم، وفيما إذا كان بالإمكان أن يمارس الجميع دوراً ما من دون أن يتعرض لتمييز أو مضايقة بسبب انتماءاته أو أفكاره… في ذلك الحين، فإن الأرقام تصبح مادة للتحاور بدلاً من تحولها إلى مادة للتندر أو الاحتراب.

Beyond the numbers, a political process has indicators that can't be ignored. It includes whether the prisons are full or empty of people arrested for political reasons. Whether people of a different opinions live normally without fear for their life. Whether people are free to perform their roles without being discriminated against or harassed for their opinions or affiliation. After that, numbers will be a matter of debate instead of a laughing matter or a matter of increasing strife.

The minister seemed infuriated by the article — or what it hinted at. He tweeted in response:

It's out of lunacy that a person would claim that there is a numbers war!! The war is around us and the will of the people prevented it from being on us. Remain in your virtual war and spare the people this lunacy

Al-Jamri replied to the minister:

Calm down, your excellency, an open mind makes more room for justice

Al-Jamri is the 2011 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee and the co-founder of the paper. Another co-founder, Kareem Fakhrawi, was tortured to death in 2011.

The minister responded, proclaiming that the victory was “historic” despite the opposition's calls for boycott:

Doubting the historic victory of 22 November and framing it as a numbers war is miserable attempt. Justice isn't a matter of temper, but a heavenly message and that's enough

Only six out of 40 candidates have passed the first round of elections, which were marred by reports that the government had offered incentives including priority for employment and public services for those who ran in the elections and even an iPhone for some students who voted. The winner of the most votes so far has 4,197, about the same number as political detainees estimated by the opposition.

Al-Jamri wrote:

Your excellency, the term “numbers war” is not mine, it was in the wire news yesterday… Maybe you were too busy to review it. Thanks.

He was referring to news agency Agence France-Press (AFP), which is one of the news outlets that covered the elections. Bahrain's government has a history of denying foreign journalists a visa or entry into the country at the border.

The minister replied:

Reading what is published is a part of my job… if there's a foul term being used outside the country it's only fair that we prevent its promotion inside the country

Bahrain has also gone after home-grown journalists who have covered the uprising.

Al-Jamri pointed to the issue of freedom of opinion by tweeting in reply:

Yes, you have an opinion, which I respect and others have their opinions, which I respect as well, mutual respect is a merit

The minister didn't agree:

When judges are in charge of publishing the numbers, it's not a matter of opinion. It's an indisputable fact.

The judicial system in Bahrain had been the target of much criticism from international rights group, especially after fast-tracking hundreds of people through unjust trials in 2011. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said, “Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system.”

Al-Jamri responded to the minister:

That doesn't abolish the right to have a different opinion, even God had a debate with Satan

The minister offered a final tweet on the matter:

God didn't hold a debate with Satan!!! And this is not our topic!!! And this metaphor is not acceptable… and I'll stop at this point

Bahrain's elections took place in a climate of fear, where political dissent is a crime, freedom of expression is poor and the state sponsors an unspoken policy of sectarianism. The question is, what value does a vote have if it has all that baggage?

by Mohamed Hassan at November 25, 2014 12:05 AM

November 24, 2014

Global Voices Advocacy
Venezuela: Draft Law Would Criminalize Online Protest, Remove Checks on Surveillance
A police officer watches protesters in Maracaibo, Venezuela 2014. Photo by María Alejandra Mora via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A police officer watches protesters in Maracaibo, Venezuela 2014. Photo by María Alejandra Mora via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Venezuela's socialist party proposed an amendment to the country's Law on Organized Crime last week that would codify “cyber terrorism” as a crime. Deputy Eduardo Gómez Sigala, who opposes the bill, says it could be used to “intimidate and prevent citizens [from] express[ing] themselves through social networks.”

The draft was distributed on Nov. 19 but deliberations on the amendment have since been postponed.

Gómez Sigala told media outlets that under the new policy, people who use social networks or other electronic media to “promote or attack the constitutional order” or “disrupt public peace” could face between one and five years in prison.

Protests that peaked last February have since continued across the country, as have the trends of inflation, violent crime, and corruption that triggered demonstrations. The bill comes on the heels of numerous arrests of citizens using social media to organize protests and criticize government activities.

Article 72 of the text reads:

Attempt against public disorder [sic].
Whoever by use of mass media, electronic, telephone, social networking, advertising [or] audiovisual material originates, disseminates, promotes or exalts individual behaviors or activities of structured groups seeking to undermine constitutional order or seriously disturb public peace or the security and defense of the nation, or [to attempt] one or more terrorist acts, shall be punished with imprisonment of one to five years.

On Twitter the next day, Venezuelans used the #ciberterrorismo (#cyberterrorism) hashtag to gather information and express their opinions on the reform. Christopher Di Marco, an educator and expert in computing, tweeted:

Rights, it was nice knowing you. We are all enemies of the State until proven otherwise. #Cyberterrorism

The image, which contains an article quoted by Di Marco from the draft of the bill, highlights the issue of “preventive interception.” It reads:

The Prosecution, through the criminal investigation bodies, may intercept documents, correspondence and wired or wireless communications from presumed terrorists or members of armed bands, terrorist organisations, structured groups or organisations, without court oversight, with a maximum of seven days, which content will be transcribed and added to the investigation, keeping the original sources of recording, ensuring its inalterability and subsequent identification. Besides, it may obtain intervened information between different government agencies.

Users also contested the vague language of the proposal, particularly terms such as “public peace” that could be subject to a broad range of interpretations by authorities. Journalist and cyberactivist Luis Carlos Díaz wrote:

The proposal not only invents the crime of #cyberterrorism from social networks. It also invented the “public peace”.

Along with the “preventive interception” provision, the draft also introduces concepts of “preventive home search”, “preventive detention”, and “preventive tracking”, all of which would give prosecutors the power to order these procedures without a court order.

There is little information on when the draft will be discussed at the National Assembly. But with the backing of the socialist party, which holds 99 out of 151 seats, its approval will be all but guaranteed.

by Marianne Diaz at November 24, 2014 11:40 PM

Global Voices
Another Celebrity Wants to Help Africa, And He's No ‘Band Aid’
Akon in West Africa for his electrify project with permission

Akon in West Africa for his electrify project with permission

Since the Live Aid Event organized by Bob Geldof and a bunch of his famous friends in the mid-1980s, Africa has known many world-famous celebrities who show a willingness to help the continent. Most of these initiatives, however, have fallen well short of their stated objectives.

For many in Africa, the Ebola epidemic has made clear the gap between celebrities’ awareness-raising campaigns and realities on the ground, where “parachuted initiatives” by Western stars collapse after brief runs in the global news. By now, the limits of humanitarian work by such celebrities—indeed Western humanitarian work generally—are well documented.

“Band Aid 30″‘s remake of “Do They Know It's Christmas,” for example, does little to expand—let alone acknowledge—Africans’ agency in the fight against Ebola.

Contrasted with the song “Africa, Stop Ebola,” created by African artists including Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou, and Mariam and Salif Keita, it's hard to deny the difference in tone.

Despite Band Aid 30′s good intentions, Africans have long been offended by the patronizing tone of the “Do They Know It's Christmas” song's adapted lyrics. (The updated song includes lines like, “Where a kiss of love can kill you and there's death in every tear,” “Well tonight we're reaching out and touching you,” and so on.) On the other hand, the lyrics of the Africa Stop Ebola song emphasizes what citizens in the affected region can do to help stop the spread of Ebola. The song is performed in French and vernacular languages (Haoussa, Fula etc.) widely spoken across the region to ensure that the message is understood by the majority of the population in the affected region.

Amidst Band Aid 30′s campaign and the backlash in Africa, a far lesser known initiative is getting underway: a project by American singer Akon, who has family ties to Senegal, to help electrify West Africa.

Akon, whose full name is Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Bongo Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam, spent much of his childhood in Senegal and was ranked Africa's fifth most powerful celebrity in 2011 (on a list that included 40 names). In a video on Vimeo, Akon explains his electrification project:

He adds:

The lack of electricity is currently a major problem in Africa. A significant number of households in rural areas and even urban cities do not have access to electricity. This is a real obstacle to Africa’s Sustainable Development.

In that perspective and within the framework of a Public-Private partnership, an alliance was signed between the private entities and the governments of different African nations to support the initiative. The project will consist of the installation of solar equipment in households and promote their energy sufficiency that also will allow millions of children to have access to electricity and improve their education through extended study hours.

Akon's project is planned to be long-term, separating it from the one-off efforts often carried out in Africa that typically require large advertising campaigns. Akon's work is not directed at a Western audience, and it isn't an awareness-raising campaign. He is currently on an extended trip through West Africa, where he's meeting local entrepreneurs and political decisionmakers. He will visit nine different countries: Senegal, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo and Côte d'Ivoire.

In Guinea, Akon met with students at the Gamal Abdel Nasser University in Conakry and said:

I'm also a businessman, but I want to do business that benefits Africa [..] all the resources needed to develop Africa are at the disposal of the continent, and that all Africans needed to do is to take the driving seat.

In Cotonou, Benin, Arnaud Dounhmanmoun writes:

Au Bénin, une phase expérimentale a déjà eu lieu et c’est le village Avlo à Grand Popo qui a été retenu.L’artiste procèdera à la réception des matériels, Il s’agit des kits solaires pour les ménages ainsi que les lampadaires solaires pour l’éclairage public.

In Benin, an experimental phase [of the project] is already underway—implemented in the village of Avlo in the Grand Popo region. The artist [Akon] will be there to collect materials: solar kits for households, and solar lamps for street lighting.

In Mali, Modibo Fofana on Journal du Mali says Akon is also helping change the image of Africa with investors, despite the Ebola crisis:

Après une visite en Guinée, Akon est arrivé au moment où le Mali a connu le premier cas. Selon Akon, la médiatisation à outrance de cette maladie en Afrique contribue à ternir son image. “C’est à nous de changer l’image de l’Afrique. Quand les gens voient que je suis au Mali malgré l’annonce d’Ebola, cela va rassurer les autres.”

After a visit to Guinea, Akon arrived in Mali as it reported its first case [of Ebola]. According Akon, media coverage of the disease in Africa unfairly tarnishes the continent's public image. ”It's up to us to change Africa's image. When people see that I'm in Mali, despite the announcement of Ebola, this will reassure others.”

While it is too early to tell whether Akon's approach will bear more fruitful results than the overhyped Band Aid initiative, at least, Akon has focused on the potential for Africa to self-sustain its development rather than wait for the ever-elusive western saviors.

by Rakotomalala at November 24, 2014 11:13 PM

Colombians Push for Peace After Kidnapping Derails FARC Talks
Las delegaciones del Gobierno de Colombia y de las Farc durante el acto de cierre del punto cuatro de la Agenda de Conversaciones: "Solución al problema de las drogas ilícitas" en el Centro de Convenciones de la Habana, Cuba - 16 de mayo de 2014. Foto: Omar Nieto Remolina - SIG. Presidencia de Colombia

Delegations from the Colombian government and the FARC during the closing remarks of the fourth topic on the Agenda of Discussions: “Solution to the problem of illicit drugs” in the Convention Center in Havana, Cuba on May 16, 2014. Photo: Omar Nieto Remolina – SIG. Office of the President of  Colombia

Colombia has found itself on shaky ground in Havana, Cuba, ever since peace talks between the Colombian government and militant group FARC in Havana, Cuba were suspended due to the kidnapping of an army general and two of his companions.

At the time of this post's publishing, representatives of Cuba and Norway — guarantor countries of the peace process – announced in Havana that FARC agreed to release Gen. Alzate, along with a civilian lawyer and a corporal who were traveling with him, plus two soldiers captured a week earlier in the department of Arauca near the Venezuelan border.

Colombians have been voicing their opinions under the Twitter hashtag #TreguaYa, which means “truce now” in Spanish. Diana Marcela Otavo, (@dianamotavo), published the following tweet:

It is difficult to achieve peace when bullets are flying. #TreguaYa we need @JuanManSantos and the FARC to come back to the table and talk

Francisco Javier Cuadros also posted (@fjaviercuadrs):

At the risk of sounding pessimistic, if this peace process ends it will be another 10 years with thousands more dead before talks resume.#TreguaYa #CeseBilateral (bilateral ceasefire)

The FARC is Colombia’s largest guerrilla group. It was established in 1964 by survivors of a government crackdown on a Communist-inspired peasant group, and has long financed its 50-year-old war against the government by kidnapping, extortion and participating in the drug trade on various levels.

The agenda of the peace talks covers six issues: land reform, political participation, drug trafficking, rights of victims, disarmament of the rebels, the implementation of the peace deal.

Political leaders of various ideologies have also protested the suspension. 

Senator for the Democratic Pole Iván Cepeda, for example, wrote on the subject of a protest in Bogotá on the morning of November 19:

The people are taking to the streets to defend the peace process and #TreguaYA

[In the photo: "The people have the key to peace."]

Meanwhile, Mayor of Bogotá and former leftist rebel Gustavo Petro commented:

Our children do not deserve war, the time has come to stand up for Peace. #TreguaYA

On the night of November 19, Medellin residents joined together in the streets as shown by Juan Mosquera @lluevelove in the photo below: 

“Don't end the talks, end the war” Citizens practicing their civic duty in the center of Medellin 

Finally, during the first week of November, author JR shared the following thoughts via the blog La paz en Colombia (Peace in Colombia): 

Nadie sale bien librado de una guerra, ni víctimas ni victimarios. Si ante los unos cabe respetar y reparar su inmenso dolor, ante los otros cabe corresponder con decoro a su declarado arrepentimiento, con apego a la ley por sobre todo lo que intenta desvirtuarla. 

When it comes to war, no one gets off lightly; neither the victims nor the victors. If in the presence of some we can respect and heal their incredible grief, we must in the presence of others respectfully respond to their declarations of regret, with adherence to the law above all things that try to distort it. 

This November 19 marked two years since the Colombian peace process began in Havana, Cuba. You can read more about the talks on the Spanish-language “Official website of the round-table discussions for ending the conflict and building lasting peace in Colombia.” 

by Danielle Martineau at November 24, 2014 09:19 PM

Victims Reveal Culture of Rape and Silence at Brazil's Top University
Founded in 1912, the Medicine College of the University of São Paulo is one of Brazil's most traditional schools.

Founded in 1912, the Medicine College of the University of São Paulo is one of Brazil's most traditional schools. Image by USP Imagens. CC BY-NC 3.0 BR

Brazil’s most prestigious university is facing accusations that it failed to investigate the rape of one of its students and the sexual assault of another — and pressured the victims not to report the incidents for the sake of the school's reputation.

At a public hearing this month in the São Paulo Legislative Assembly, two female undergraduates from FMUSP, the medicine college of University of São Paulo, came forward with their reports of sexual abuse while attending parties on campus. 

An investigation opened by the human rights district attorney in the São Paulo public prosecutor’s office cites eight rape cases that took place in the school since 2011. Both the hearing and the investigation are looking into sexual violence, racism, discrimination and other human right abuses at the institution. Amidst the scandal and media attention, FMUSP has suspended all parties on its campus until further notice.

One of the students says she was raped in 2011 while she was unconscious at the party “Carecas no Bosque” (“bald heads in the woods”). The party is organized by the Academic and Athletic Association Oswaldo Cruz, one of the main FMUSP student organizations, which has existed since 1928. 

In an account given to website UOL, she said that after having too much to drink a friend took her to a place called “cafofo” – closed structures with mattresses that serve as a place for couples to hook up – where she passed out. Shortly after, a man was seen raping her while she was unconscious, a fact she learned after waking up at a hospital hours later. 

She said during the week that followed she was systematically discouraged by both classmates and faculty to report her rape to authorities:

Na faculdade, diziam que eu ia destruir a Atlética, que isso [o estupro] não podia vazar. Um ex-presidente da Atlética disse: “a gente precisa abafar: primeiro, para proteger a vítima e, segundo, porque isso vai destruir a festa”. Eu procurava as pessoas para saber se testemunhariam, e eu sentia que elas se mostravam receosas e esquivas. Todo mundo falava que eu tinha que deixar isso para trás, que tinha que tocar a minha vida para a frente. Chegavam a falar que eu não ia conseguir provar.

In the school, they said I was going to destroy the Academic and Athletic Association Oswaldo Cruz, that the story could not leak. An ex-president from the association said, “We need to silence it. First, to protect the victim and, second, because this will destroy the party.” I would ask people if they would testify, and I sensed they were fearful and evasive. Everyone said that I had to leave it behind me, to get on with my life. They said I wouldn’t be able to prove it.

She decided to take the case to the police anyway. But three years into the investigation, authorities haven't convicted anyone, though after the public hearing a suspect was charged. She said the FMUSP board of directors took notice of the case, but did nothing:

“Até hoje, quando o inquérito policial está sendo finalizado, eu descubro coisas sobre meu caso que não sabia, por exemplo, que a diretoria da Atlética não permitiu que a polícia entrasse no local da festa”.

Even today, while the police inquiry is being concluded, I found out things about my case that I didn’t know before. For example, that the directors of the association didn’t let the police enter the party.

The Academic Athletic Association of the Medicine College of USP, one the main entities of its student body. Image by USP Imagens.

The Academic and Athletic Association of the Medicine College of USP, one the main student organizations. Image by USP Imagens. CC BY-NC 3.0 BR

The other student who agreed to talk at the public hearing says she was abused by two men in November 2013 during another party organized by seniors at the Student Academic Center. It started when they insisted she go to the parking lot with them:

“Eu falava que não queria, eles insistiam para eu ir. Me puxavam, mas eu não queria ficar com eles. Nesse vai e vem acabamos chegando ao carro deles. Lá eles começaram a me beijar, enfiar a mão dentro da minha roupa, dentro da minha calça. Queriam que eu entrasse no carro, abriram a porta, e eu comecei a gritar, a fazer um escândalo, dizendo que não queria. Tentava sair e eles impediam a minha passagem. Me empurravam, e um deles começou a gritar comigo: ‘para de gritar, para de gritar!’. Eu dizia que não queria os dois e um deles respondia: ‘você quer sim, eu sei que você quer, deixa de ser chata’. E os dois me beijavam, passavam a mão em tudo, não me deixavam sair. Nisso uma menina que estava no estacionamento brigando com o namorado viu o que aconteceu, deu um grito e me chamou. Então consegui sair.”

I said I didn’t want to go, but they insisted. They kept pulling me, though I didn’t want to hook up with them. When we arrived by the car, they tried to kiss and fondle me. They wanted me to get into the car, they opened the door and that’s when I started to scream and make a scene, saying that I didn’t want to. I would try to get out and they would hold me, they pushed me and one of them said “stop screaming!” I said I didn’t want to hook up with either of them and they said, “Yes, you do, I know you do, stop being such a drag.” A girl who was also in the parking lot saw what was going on and shouted to me. That’s when I managed to get out.

Once she reported the case to the school, a commission of four professors was created. Six months later, it concluded that the interaction was consensual and the problem was alcohol consumption. She says she has been harassed by other students ever since – one of her abusers even threatened to sue her for defaming him:

“Após mais de um ano os caras continuam impunes e eu cruzo com eles quase todos os dias. Sou tida como uma vagabunda na faculdade.”

A year later, they haven't been punished and I see them almost every day. I am seen as a slut at the school. 

Culture of violence

Although this is the first time the University of São Paulo's medicine school has faced such accusations, it has long had a reputation for its violent “trotes” – a ritual organized by seniors to mark the entrance of freshman students in the school. In 1999, one case gained national notoriety when 22-year-old freshman Edison Tsung Chi Hsueh died during a a “trote” after being pushed into a swimming pool and left there, despite his protests that he couldn’t swim. After a long court battle, the four men accused were found not guilty in 2006 by Brazil's Supreme Court due to lack of evidence. 

In 2013, a group of FMUSP female students founded Geni, a feminist collective that also serves as a support group for survivors of sexual violence. Although Rosa and Leandra’s cases were the only ones taken to the police, Geni has received reports of at least eight other cases of campus sexual abuse.

A student that chose to remain anonymous told website Ponte that the problem is the extremely sexist environment at the parties, which encourages men to believe that any girl who in attendance is also available:

 “Todo o marketing é baseado no fato de que lá haverá muitas mulheres e que vai ter sexo à vontade. A USP inteira sabe que tanto a ‘Carecas’ quanto a ‘Fantasias’ são para isso, para ir lá e transar”

The whole marketing of the party is based on the idea that there will be many women there and there will be sex for everybody. The whole university knows that the purpose of both “Carecas” and “Fantasias” is just that, to go there and get laid.

The parties “Carecas” and “Fantasias”, which happen alternately every semester, charge female guests almost half the price of their males counterparts for a ticket. The idea is that male teams of each sport would put up tents to sell drinks and raise funds, but students reported that in some of them hired prostitutes do strip teases and body shots, or porn movies are played; one team calls its tent “slaughter house”. 

Marina Pinkman, from Geni, said representatives of the collective have tried to meet with the directors of the Academic and Athletic Association Oswaldo Cruz to insist that measures be put into place so that female students aren't so vulnerable at their parties. The association responded that nothing will be done before a court ruling is made: 

As meninas não reclamam muito, fica velado, pois ninguém tem coragem de criticar a Atlética, porque é uma instituição muito forte. Existe um corporativismo muito grande envolvendo a Atlética, ou o Show Medicina. Você vai ser perseguido se reclamar, se der a cara para bater”

The girls don’t complain much, everything is veiled as no one has the guts to criticize the association since it’s a very powerful institution. The association and Show Medicina [another student entity] are only out for themselves. You’ll be harassed if you complain. 

One of the posters for the "Carecas no Bosque" party. "The whole marketing idea is based on the fact that there will be women available for sex", one student comments.

One of the posters for the “Carecas no Bosque” party. “The whole marketing is based on the idea that there will be women available for sex”, one student comments.

The eight cases that reached Geni were taken to the Public Prosecutor for Justice in Human Rights and Social Inclusion, Paula de Figueiredo Silva, who opened a civil inquiry in August to investigate human rights violations at the school. She told news portal Terra:

“A princípio achei que fosse um caso pontual, mas é um relato amplo, de uma realidade de violações constantes de direitos fundamentais das minorias. Existe (na faculdade) uma realidade de discriminação e exclusão, principalmente contra mulheres e homossexuais”

At first I thought they were isolated cases, but they’re actually widespread and stem from a reality of constant violation of fundamental rights. There is (in the school) a reality of discrimination and exclusion, especially against women and homosexuals.

FMUSP issued an official statement saying it is “making efforts to improve its mechanisms of preventing such cases, investigating reports and protecting victims.” It also stated the the “culture of the institution is based on tolerance and mutual respect, values that are passed to the students.” The school said it will present a full report next week on all the sexual abuse, rape and violent “trotes” cases that have taken place at the institution.

Another hearing is scheduled for November 25 in the São Paulo Legislative Assembly, to which representatives from the Academic and Athletic Association Oswaldo Cruz are invited to attend.

by Taisa Sganzerla at November 24, 2014 09:12 PM

Strong Earthquake in Japan's Nagano Injures Dozens, Topples Homes
nagano earthquake

Screenshot of M6.8 Nagano earthquake courtesy ANN News.

An earthquake struck central Japan on Saturday, November 22, injuring 41 people and collapsing dozens of farmhouses, destroying roads, and toppling tombstones in the village of Hakuba in Nagano prefecture.

The magnitude 6.8 earthquake trapped 21 people under collapsed houses, but all were freed and no deaths were reported.

Horinouchi Ward in Hakuba Village. The first floor has totally collapsed.

Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture lies about 200 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, and was the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Following the quake, it was discovered that Hakuba sits atop an active fault line. The shifting ground caused considerable damage to roads and other infrastructure around the village, as well as to cemeteries.

Olympic Avenue has been damaged, so sad. #地震 (earthquake) #白馬 (Hakuba)

The earthquake also caused power outages that affected rapid express trains on routes in different parts of central Japan. Many Twitter users posted about being stuck on shut-down trains.

I wonder if the earthquake is responsible for this? The conductor has announced that a power outage has shut down Shinkansen bullet train service has shut down between Yokohama and Gifu in central Japan.

Twitter users near the earthquake in Nagano posted photos of the aftermath of the temblor:

Oh no! The earthquake has made a huge mess in the liquor aisle!

The aftermath of the earthquake at the Don Quixote discount store in Nagano City.

A total of 53 aftershocks had been recorded by midday Sunday, the Meteorological Agency’s earthquake and tsunami division said. 

by Nevin Thompson at November 24, 2014 08:32 PM

Young Independent Candidates Are Shaking Up Taiwan's Local Elections
The Central Election Commission tells voters how to vote.

The Central Election Commission tells voters how to vote.

Taiwan's local elections will be held on November 29, 2014 in which 11,130 public servants, including city mayors, city councilors and village chiefs will be chosen from 19,762 candidates. The outcome of the local elections will affect the result of the 2016 Taiwan legislative and presidential elections.

While the electoral system in Taiwan favors the two-party system in which the ruling party is mainly a competition between Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), this year a number of small political parties and individuals have decided to compete with the big parties in the upcoming local elections.

Among the new faces are young people who are not affiliated with any party, but who come from the Wild Strawberry Movement in 2008 and the Sunflower Movement in 2014, which led a three-week occupation of Taiwan's legislature earlier this year to protest a secretly negotiated trade deal with China. Many want to use of the occasion of elections to deliver their ideas about social justice to a wider audience and bring change to their hometowns if they win the position of village chief.

One of the young candidates, Yoshi Liu, was involved in the 2008 Wild Strawberry Movement, a student movement that stood against the police abuse of power during mainland Chinese officials’ visit to Taiwan. He explained why he decided to run for the election in an interview with reporters from News E-forum, an independent citizen media run by students and activists:

回憶2008年野草莓運動,妖西看見「社會運動無法與學生生涯結合」,也看見了社運的侷限。他直言,社運青年常被政治潔癖或信條所困,無法有效結合握有權力者,最後人散掉了、也籌措不了更多資源。但政治卻可能帶來真正改變。

When Yoshi looked back on the Wild Strawberry Movement in 2008, he saw that “students were incapable of supporting a long-term social movement”. He also believed that the social movement had their limitations. However, most young activists tried to stay away from mainstream politics and refused to work with those who were in a position of power. Eventually, they [graduated and] left the movement, and it couldn't find enough resources for future mobilization. Election politics, however, can make real change.

News E-forum reporters interviewed a political scientist to explain why many young candidates are aiming for the village chief position:

「台灣的民主化果實,是樹上很漂亮的花,地方的根逐漸在腐爛。」談到台灣地方政治,台大政治系教授王業立直言,雖然中央政府已經歷二次政黨輪替,台灣民主素養看似提升,但地方民意代表至今幾乎其實都是地方派系掌控,甚至時常與「黑金」劃上等號。
台灣地方政治猶如一個小生態系,而當選與否高度仰賴人際網絡,因此,與地方連結度強的里長便成為關鍵角色:「樁腳」。
談到青年參政如何撼動或改變現有結構,比起哪一個「個人」能夠當選,真正的期許反而多落在「如何改變現有選舉文化」這個目標上。

“Democracy in Taiwan is the beautiful flowers hanging from the tree, but its roots based in the local communities are rotten.” When discussing local politics in Taiwan, Professor Wang Yeh-Lih at the National Taiwan University's Department of Political Science said that although the island has gone through the rotation of ruling parties and society has developed a political culture in the practice of democracy, at the local level councilors and village chiefs are still controlled by local factions, which are often connected to gangs and plutocrats.

Local politics in Taiwan is like a small ecosystem. The chances of winning a position are highly related to a person's social network. As a result, the village chiefs, who are well connected in their communities, are playing the role of “vote brokers” in upper-level elections.

Regarding how young candidates can change the present system, he believed that the emphasis should be put on the goal of “how to change the existing culture of election” instead of on which individual wins the vote.

With few resources, it would be indeed difficult for young candidates to win any elections. Coolloud.org, an independent media outlet focused on social movement news, explained why the electoral system in Taiwan does not favor newcomers without financial resources:

依縣市級別和參選項目之不同,每位參選人需籌措12萬~200萬不等,對於資源龐大且還可獲國家補助的大黨來說,保證金有如一碟小菜無足掛齒,但對於小黨及一般參選人來說,保證金是首先要面對的挑戰,不少綠黨參選人雖已準備好跨越這道門檻,但隨著保證金繳進國庫,從擬參選人正式加入選戰的綠黨「候選人」們,又要面對競選基金歸零的另一道難關。
除了設定的保證金門檻,接下來從競選團隊、買廣告一路下來有如一場精彩的財力遊戲
目前的選舉機制,是以財力來評量可否參選甚至當選。

Individual candidates need to pay 120,000 to 2,000,000 New Taiwan dollars [3,909 to 65,150 US dollars] for an election deposit, depending on the particular position and level of government he or she is running for. For big political parties, which can obtain resources from the government, the election deposit is a piece of cake. However, for small parties and individuals, it is their first challenge. Although many candidates in the Green Party have gathered enough money for the deposit, they have used up all their cash and will not have enough money for their election campaigns.

In addition to the deposit, the election campaigns and advertising are all part of the glamorous money game.

Our present electoral system evaluates whether a candidate can register or even win the election by their wealth.

In addition to the election deposit and campaign funding, the mobilization of voters is also a money game. For example, Taiwanese businessmen in China who support the current ruling Kuoming Tang provide discount flight tickets for Taiwanese working in mainland China to fly back to Taiwan to vote.

To help young student voters travel back to their hometown for the elections, a citizen group called “Young citizen volunteer network” has set up a crowdfunding project to raise money for travel expenses.

The money barriers make it unfair for ordinary people to participate in elections, but young people are taking an important first step to change the rules of the game by running in local elections.

by I-fan Lin at November 24, 2014 04:12 PM

DML Central
Circuit Stickers, Notebook Hacking and Learning as Debugging
Circuit Stickers, Notebook Hacking and Learning as Debugging Blog Image

I’ve been writing for 45 years, and have always owned more physical notebooks than I need at any one time, and I’m an enthusiastic novice at electronics, so several of my antennae tingled vigorously when I first came across the term “circuit stickers” — peel-and-stick circuitry and components that are flat enough to make paper pages blink and boop. We’re used to thinking of words as, well, dead — they signify but (in most cases) don’t perform. Documents didn’t connect with each other through clickable links before the Web, either. Why NOT compose writing with light and sound as well as form and meaning? Calligraphy is legit, so why not writing that blinks, changes colors or makes sounds when you touch it? How about an Internet-linked notebook that displays beautiful seascapes in colored light that correspond with the current state of the tides?

Embracing new tools sometimes means discarding older tools and sometimes amplifies capabilities of existing technologies and sometimes brings the capability of doing things that weren’t possible before. I started out with a pen (and still use them), learned to operate a typewriter (which I discarded decades ago), and welcomed the new world of on-screen text editing (in fact, I started getting interest in personal computers when I heard that it would be possible to move words and paragraphs around without retyping). Hypertext? Even better! For those who want to check my sources or dive more deeply into the subjects I write about, I can embed links in my prose. Writing with ink on paper and publishing hypertext are both tools that I use every day. When I heard that the National Writing Project was using circuit stickers for “Hack Your Notebook Day,” that cinched it. I sent away for my starter kit.

When I asked the National Writing Project’s Paul Oh to introduce someone I could interview about notebook hacking, he put me in touch with David Cole, who lives close enough to me to go on a long walk and to sit down at my electronics bench with me. Like Jie Qui, the MIT Media Lab student who launched circuit stickers, Mia Zamora, the literature and writing professor who recently wrote about how notebook hacking enhances “writing as making,” and Nexmap’s “21st Century Notebooking” program director Jennifer Dick, San Francisco educator and curriculum developer David Cole knows that notebook hacking is not just about learning electronics. It’s about learning learning.

So much of learning is trial and error, yet the test-driven and grades-competitive curriculum seems to leave little room for the error part. Failing is shameful in many school situations — not an opportunity for inquiry and debugging. One of the first things to learn about electronics (and programming) is that things rarely work as soon as you’ve assembled the components and hooked them together. You usually have to go through an investigative debugging process to find out which wire isn’t connected correctly or which component is probably a dud. It’s not about failure. It’s about the process of getting it to work.  Debugging is essential to learning as well as circuitry.

Collaboration also is an essential part of hardware and software tinkering — and learning — today. If you are trying to solve a problem with a circuit or a program, you can find out who is discussing that precise problem online if you know how to look for them. For now, while paper circuitry is still new, the space for innovation in the medium is broad and inviting: tinkerers share their discoveries online, others build on them, and communities emerge. Inquiry is also built into these early stages of this new literacy: “What else can I do with circuit stickers and paper books?” is a wide open and generative question that can spread infectiously through groups of learners.

Lou Buran, one of the educators in the “Hack Your Notebook” seminar at the 2013 National Writing Project conference in Boston, asked his students to reflect on their making and learning. He also tried it out with his two boys:

A great thing about this project is that the boys did not require my help to find success. Both the 6- and the 10-year-olds were perfectly capable of design, implementation, and troubleshooting. Noah patiently worked on a bug for 15 minutes until he discovered that by turning the battery over, he could get his circuit to work. This led to a conversation about what he learned regarding polarity and the flow of electricity.

The connection between debugging a project and understanding the principles it is based on, and the conversation about it, are what project-based learning at its best can stimulate.

As always with new media, the first examples of notebook hacking point the way to possibilities, trace the outlines of the possibility space, but the extent of possibility only becomes visible after communities of practitioners play and work with the medium. One example that certainly retingled my antenna was Natalie Freed’s wi-fi connected tidal notebook:

Natalie begins with a hand-drawn map of Northern California tide pools done in watercolor—an especially appropriate medium, given the subject! This is followed by a poem about tides by Walt Whitman. She then explored different artistic media to test their hues and visual quality on her notebook’s paper. She made a list of questions she had on the topic of tide pools. She created a number of thumbnail storyboard sketches exploring possible visual compositions for her tidal data visualization. This was followed with technical notes about the SparkCore, what the different status color codes on the chip meant. Finally, she painted her tidal image and created the paper circuit underneath using Jie’s LED circuit stickers.

Banner images courtesy NEXMAP

by mcruz at November 24, 2014 04:00 PM

Global Voices
‘Humour Is a Sharp Weapon Challenging an Authoritarian Regime’
Biantailajiao's award winning political cartoon about the White Paper issued by Chinese government's State Council on "One Country Two Systems". People in Hong Kong believe that the new interpretation of One Country and Two Systems will ruin the city's autonomy. Use with permission.

Biantailajiao's award-winning political cartoon about the White Paper issued by the Chinese government's State Council on “one country, two systems.” People in Hong Kong believe that the new interpretation of “one country, two systems” will ruin the city's autonomy. Used with permission.

Below is an interview with Biantailajiao, a mainland Chinese political cartoonist who recently won the Best Political Cartoon in Hong Kong In-Media's E-Citizen Awards, which aim to promote original reporting, political cartoons, photography and commentary online. The interview was originally written in Chinese by Oiwan Lam and translated into English by Jennifer Cheung.

“I never thought I could win this award, especially when I saw so many excellent creations at the Occupy Central sites. I felt a little ashamed,” says Biantailajiao humbly. He won the Best Political Cartoon in Hong Kong In-Media’s E-Citizen Awards this year.

Biantailajiao's profile picture in social media. Use with permission.

Biantailajiao's profile picture in social media. Use with permission.

Biantailajiao, which means Metamorphosis Chili, is the pseudonym of Wang Liming, a mainland China-based political cartoonist. During his honeymoon in Japan, he was criticised by a number of state-run media outlets in China and labelled a “pro-Japanese traitor”. He decided to stay abroad and now lives in Japan as a university researcher. He hopes to travel to Hong Kong to receive the award and observe the creative political expressions at the sites of the so-called Umbrella Revolution there.

He used to draw cartoons for iSun Affairs Magazine, an independent publication focused on greater Chinese communities, but the magazine was shuttered in 2013. Compared to other mainland netizens, Biantailajiao pays close attention to the political affairs of Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, and Taiwan, whose independence as a country China rejects. He believes the democratic future of these two places will serve as examples for the mainland. Although Hong Kong doesn’t have democracy, the citizens’ determination in the pursuit of democracy excites him. In contrast, in mainland China, many people defend the communist party’s totalitarian rule, which leaves citizens hopeless.

An recent example of intellectuals protecting Chinese authoritarianism came during a literature forum in October, when Chinese President Xi Jinping praised young writer Zhou Xiaoping for spreading “positive energy” on the Internet. Mainland netizens have largely debunked Zhou's work as “full of lies”. In fact, famous blogger Fang Zhouzi, who is a skilled fact-checker, was kicked off popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo for his criticism of Zhou. Biantailajiao created a figurative caricature of the incident; netizens who retweeted the cartoon were questioned by police.

Biantailajiao points out that since Xi took office, Chinese citizens have enjoyed less freedom of expression. In October 2013, when the Central Propaganda Department cracked down on Weibo's opinion leaders, he received a subpoena from police accusing him of “spreading false information”. During the interrogation, the officers cautioned him to be careful, given that he had hundreds of thousands Weibo followers at the time.

Facing such pressure, Biantailajiao and other online opinion leaders have acted more cautiously since November 2013. Following the questioning, he limited his drawings to social problems that didn’t criticise the communist regime. Instead, he put his energy into a Taobao online store selling snacks from Japan and Taiwan that he operated with his friends. He never imagined that in May, when he was on honeymoon with his wife in Japan and collecting items for his Taobao store, that mainland authorities would level accusations of being a “pro-Japanese traitor” against him.

His accounts on Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, a similar service, were later deleted, and his Taobao shop was closed (later re-opened), cutting off a major source of income. On 9 August, he described the episode in a tweet as “the worst censorship” he had ever experienced.

Some speculated that the move was a retaliation against his satirical cartoon on Hong Kong's Occupy Central protests, a massive movement calling on the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments to allow genuine democratic elections. On 17 August, he published a cartoon that featured a mainland delegate going to Hong Kong to denounce Occupy Central and implied that mainland Chinese authorities mobilized anti-Occupy Central protests from behind the scenes. The next day, dozens of official mainland media outlets republished an article titled “See Through the Pro-Japanese Traitor Face of Biantailajiao”.

He felt wronged. “I have been very careful not to talk about politics and any topics related to Sino-Japan relations. I only wrote about people and things I appreciate, but for that I was labelled as a traitor”, he says.

A political accusation like that worries him a lot. He believes his suppression has nothing to do with him being “pro-Japanese”, but due to his drawings criticising Xi Jinping and supporting Occupy Central. As the attack he faced came from both online and print media, such coordinated moves convinced him that it was an “unified deployment from inside the party”. He was afraid he might be further persecuted when he returned to China. Eventually, with the help of a Japanese friend, he found a two-year unpaid research position at a university and decided to remain in Japan.

‘Irony and satire can also help citizens disperse their inner fear’

Political cartoons are a low-income, high-risk venture in mainland China. How did Biantailajiao step into profession of no return?

He says he began drawing comics when he was young. In the beginning, he drew love stories like other cartoon fans. But in 2006, when he signed up for “Mop hodgepodge”, a popular mainland forum on social affairs, he started using simple drawings to respond to social problems and gradually branched out into political cartoons.

Earlier, he worked in the advertising industry. In 2009, he began using the pseudonym Biantailajiao to publish his political cartoons on Weibo. At that time, he idolized the opinion leaders, or the so-called “big Vs” on Weibo. However, since there are not many political cartoonists who dare criticise the government, he quickly became a big V himself and embraced hundreds of thousands of followers, which surprised him.

Living in an authoritarian society gives Biantailajiao endless inspiration: “In this society bizarre things happen every day. You can simply retell these stories in the form of cartoon, then the cartoon will carry a sense of absurdity.”

One of Biantailajiao's favorite political satire.

One of Biantailajiao's favorite political cartoons.

Of course, Biantailajiao has had to self-censor his drawings. Yet the euphemistic expressions he adopts can have wider appeal, and have become part of his unique style. One of his favorite cartoons uses three fortresses to represent three different types of countries: the normal one has its guns pointed outward, the ideal one has its guns pointed at the sky, and the evil one has its guns pointed inward. Everyone who reads the cartoon knows which country the cartoon is mocking.

“Humour is a sharp weapon challenging an authoritarian regime. The dictators have no sense of humour. Irony and satire can also help citizens disperse their inner fear”, Biantailajiao says, an opinion formed after many years of drawing cartoons under pressure in mainland China.

However, apart from facing political repression, drawing political cartoons in mainland China has also alienated him from some of his family and friends. His income has not been stable, either.

In 2011, he left the advertising industry and freelanced illustrations for various publishing houses. He also managed social media accounts for some companies. By working this way, he could have more time to publish his political cartoons on Weibo.

Since leaving China, he can enjoy the freedom to draw cartoons and express what is on his mind. However, he now faces new dilemmas too. Many mainland netizens have begun asking him to self-censor his cartoons because if they are too explicit and too critical, netizens who retweet them will be harassed by the police. Recently, a friend was questioned by the police after he retweeted a cartoon by Biantailajiao that mocked President Xi Jinping and writer Zhou Xiaoping. “In the future, I still need to practice self-censorship to make my cartoons subtle so that my work can continue to be circulated on China’s social media”, Biantailajiao says in frustration.

His readers have always been mainland friends and fans. Now that he has left the country, it is likely that in the future, he will need to draw cartoons that address Sino-Japanese relations for his career to take root in Japan.

by inmediahk.net at November 24, 2014 03:56 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
A workshop with Kenya Red Cross

Hi. It's been a bit, so just in case - I'm Willow Brugh, and one of the hats I wear is as a research affiliate at Center for Civic Media. I also wear "digital responder," "fellow at Berkman," "stick figure draw-er," and "faciliatator" hats. I care about how people help people, more directly, across cultures, as equals. This means I often work at the overlap of technology and disaster/humanitarian response through participatory events. I also advise organizations and distributed social groups in how to engage with each other. My month working with KRCS and Climate Centre culminated on Nov 11th in a codesign workshop to explore the work I had done, comment on the current understanding, ensure it was appropriate and accurate, to then decide on next steps together. This was an exercise in not waiting until the last minute to ask people to sign off - it was asking people what they thought during the process, asking for their participation. You can read more about (my personal take on) the set-up over here.

3 points were important to impart during this workshop, to the purpose of improving conditions in Dadaab, which was my purpose of work. 1) making information tangible makes it easier to iterate on that knowledge, 2) there are many ways to make information fun to make and enjoyable to take in, and 3) there are TONs of tools out there that can assist both of these, as well as opening up new paths to engagement with a wider community (either through code or through content creation). As anyone, the attendees were busy with meaningful projects, and so making the most of their time was vital. While I hadn’t had a chance to interview all the important parties for the workshop, having Dr. James Kisia's support meant some still came, so we had a diverse set of individuals at the workshop. I set out with the following objectives:

Long-term objective for this working session: A better curated knowledge base for improving conditions in / responding to needs in refugee camps and informal settlements, especially as extendable to climate change issues. Audience: Refugee response groups, climate change organizations, active citizens.
Mid-term objective from this working session: A thriving platform for the sharing and improvement of information on Dadaab within KRCS. This platform might be technical, process-based, or both. Audience: KRCS Dadaab-focused staff and volunteers.
Short-term objective from this working session: A list of knowledge sets to curate and give to others for streamlined working conditions. Audience: Incoming Dadaab Refugee Operations personnel.

Introductions Matter.

It is easy, in workshops, to lead with titles and roles. But "ice breakers," or interesting introductory questions, can give us a chance to learn more about the people in the room than we would otherwise. These can also "warm up" the participants to think differently than their day-to-day. For this workshop, we used the most intense one I know: "In one to two sentences, say why you do what you do." This also helps focus the conversation on actualities and purpose, rather than on semantics and process. It is important to consciously invest in this step, as it affects the rest of the workshop.

Framing.

The workshop was a demonstration of how information creation and sharing can work, including live documentation. We went over the rough agenda (as placed on a hackpad, a collaborative document editing tool), the expectations of results, and that it was ok to refocus the conversation if we got too far off track. Because everyone (except me) in the room was familiar with KRCS practices and language, we already had a head start on many workshops I facilitate. When this isn’t the case, it’s important to encourage people to use inclusive language for everyone in the room. Here’s how we framed the day:

Today, we're going to focus on what needs to happen while we’re all in one room, as an exercise in what one platform and method of knowledge transfer and iteration looks like. There will be plenty of room for improvement and refinement, but we’re here to put mechanisms in place for these feedback loops, NOT to get bogged down in it during this precious time. The purpose of modeling this is to model it, not to talk about how it might be modeled.
For any given question, you’re going to answer for you specifically. Be constructively selfish. The methods will mean you can do similar expansion of knowledge in your own groups. We're going to do a LOT in 4 hours (your brevity will allow it to be less), so strap yourselves in and let's get rolling (this is a US analogy for getting ready to ride a roller coaster, not sure if it translates well).

But before we could structure our knowledge, to take action... we had to figure out what knowledge we even had. What I had found was spread through reports, implicit in charts and too-short summaries of initiatives.

Knowledge is Important to Detail.

We took a few minutes to make some sticky notes about what information is important for people to know around us as individuals. This is where the encouragement to focus on Dadaab, as well as to be "constructively selfish" part came in handy - it helped people stay on topic, even though we were still broad at parts. Each sticky note had three areas to it: one set of information they wanted the people around them to have; where that information lived; how others found out about that information.

We then reflected. Someone was surprised at how little information had clearly known housing. Another commented on lack of general knowledge around Dadaab. We talked a little bit about accepting "failure" as an important part of improving and learning. We also talked about the amount of time that goes into learning and sharing new things.

New Options

With this understanding of current status, and a more concrete idea of what needs are, we dove into new options for expressing and sharing information. KRCS is admittedly embedded in the 200 page report accompanied by a 30 page executive summary method of disseminating information. We admitted that these are not necessarily the best way of communicating information -- which is tragic, given the time, energy, and expertise which goes into creating such reports. We looked at some of the animations I make, as a way of story telling.

We also talked about RSS and APIs, automatic updates to other websites and databases based on changes on KRCS's own database or website. While the technical ability to automatically populate to other places, like the UNHCR website, opened up smiles and possibility, the overhead of permissions and new technical infrastructure was also daunting. We sidebarred the conversation for the sake of agenda, and moved on to hearing from 3 groups I invited about their codesign-based, open source tools which would be applicable to integrating residents of Dadaab more into response processes.

  • Ushahidi: A local incident-report mapping platform, Ushahidi has been invested in the local entrepreneurial scene for over 5 years. This tool is in wide use throughout Kenya and other parts of the world.
  • Thicket: An up-and-coming "fuzzy cognitive" processing tool, Thicket is to be used alongside other data inputs/outputs. It visualizes and models the interconnected nature of the system at hand. For our purpose, they produced a visualization of what gender-based violence impacts, and is impacted by.
  • Sahana: a decade-long open source project specific to disaster and humanitarian response. The everything-and-the-kitchen-sink platform is already nominally in use by some parts of KRCS for missing persons.

Discussion

In the frame of these new paths to expression as well as the accompanying digital channels, we talked about what all this might mean for KRCS. At this point, we had completed the parts of the workshop I could provide structural support for -- at the 2 hour mark! The bulk of participants stuck around for another 2 hours, applying what we had heard about to their own work, discussing what it meant for the larger organization, and to the efforts on which they embark. 3 main takeaways came out of this.

The Take Aways.

We see the path to a self-improving KRCS as being reliant upon knowledge being made apparent, and that knowledge being ingested and subsequently iterated on. To this end, we are taking a three-pronged approach - knowledge creation (summaries of work / stories to tell), knowledge storage and propagation (technical options), and embracing a self-examining culture (cultural shifts).

A Celebration of Documentation

We took the notes from the meeting and made them public (thus how you’re reading this)! Taariq turned around a word cloud from the raw notes with startling rapidity.

We took pictures! KRCS already has a head start on the desire to share and engage, given the popularity and engagement of their Twitter and Facebook pages. This is merely an extension of this.

Dedication to a Cause

We each agreed to make an ingestible-in-5-minutes summary of our work. We each also agreed to review these summaries and provide feedback. Even more than that, we agreed to document the workshop itself in public. This is that. Thanks for reading!

by willowbl00 at November 24, 2014 02:21 PM

Doc Searls
The Most Spectacular Place You’ll Never See

Unless you look out the window.

When I did that on 4 November 2007, halfway between London and Denver, I saw this:

baffin Best I could tell at the time, this was Greenland. That’s how I labeled it in this album on Flickr. For years after that, I kept looking at Greenland maps, trying to find where, exactly, these glaciers and mountains…

baffin1…were.

While I’m sure there are good maps of Greenland somewhere (Nuuk? Denmark?), Google, Bing and the rest are no help. Nor are the fat world atlases. Here’s an island the size of a continent, with lots of Fjords and islands and glaciers and mountains and stuff, many of which were surely named by the natives or visitors, and there ain’t much.

But:::: good news.

There, out my dirty and frosty window over the trailing edge of the wing, was the same long deep valley I had seen seven years before. Only now I was equipped to learn what was what, and where. My GPS and the plane’s map — there on a screen mounted in the back of the seat in front of me — agreed: we flying over the Cumberland Peninsula of Baffin Island, an Arctic landform almost twice the size of New Zealand, in Nunavut, Canada’s newest, most arctic and least populated territory.

The valley, I discovered on the ground, is called Akshayuk Pass. It connects the North and South Pangnirtung Fjords, bisecting the peninsula. Imagine a Yosemite Valley with a floor of glaciers draining into Arctic rivers, flanked for seventy miles by dozens of Half Domes and El Capitans — crossing the Arctic Circle, through an island where the last Ice Age still hasn’t ended.

On the west side of the pass is the Penny Ice Cap, a mini-Greenland inside the forbidding and spectacular Auyuittuq National Park. Wikipedia explains, “In Inuktitut (the language of Nunavut‘s aboriginal people, the Inuit), Auyuittuq (current spelling: ᐊᐅᔪᐃᑦᑐᖅ aujuittuq) means ‘the land that never melts.’” Nobody lives there. Hiking across it ranges from difficult to impossible. The only way to fully take it in is from the sky above, like I found myself doing right then. It was thrilling.

On the first flight over, I became fascinated by a mountain, just south of the Penny Ice Cap, that looked like an old tooth with fillings that had fallen out. It’s in the lower left side of this shot here from the 2007 trip:

asgard So I recognized it instantly when I saw it again two days ago. Here’s how it looked this time:

agard2 Now that I could research the scenery, I found it was Mt. Asgard, named after the realm of Norse gods. From below it looks the part. (That link is to amazing photos by Artur Stanisz, shot from Turner Glacier, which Asgard overlooks in the shot above. Fun fact: one of the great James Bond ski chase stunts was shot here. See this video explaining it. Start at about 1:33.)

So now we have all these albums:

Which join these others on Flickr:

A digression on the subject of aviation…

A bit before I started shooting these scenes, a flight attendant asked me to shade my window, so others on the plane could sleep or watch their movies. Note that this was in the middle of a daytime flight, not a red-eye. When I told her I booked a window seat to look and shoot out the window, she was surprised but supportive. “That is pretty out there,” she said.

Later, when we were over Hudson Bay and the view was all clouds, I got up to visit the loo and count how many other windows had shades raised. There were very few: maybe eight, out of dozens of windows in the economy cabin of our Boeing 777. Everybody was watching a movie, eating, sleeping or otherwise paying no attention to the scenery outside.

No wonder a cynical term used by airline people to label passengers is “walking freight.” The romance and thrill of flying has given way to rolling passengers on and off, and filling them with bad food and failed movies.

Progress is how the miraculous becomes mundane. Many of our ancestors would have given limbs for the privilege of seeing what’s on the other side of our window shades in the sky. Glad all we need is to give up our cynicism about flying.

by Doc Searls at November 24, 2014 01:21 AM

November 23, 2014

Rising Voices
By the Numbers – Interaction in the Maya Tz'utujil Language Online

The users of the Facebook group Tz’utujil Tziij have been very active publishing in the group. During the month of September, 29 persons publishing 96 texts in the the Maya Tz'utujil language, 20 photographs, and 5 links generating 329 “likes” and 356 comments in only one month.

This tell us that the users of the group are reading and responding to the messages that are shared. There is interest sharing the language in the community, but more community awareness is still needed, as well as spaces to share the language. Each day more and more people are joining the group.

Photo provided by grantee project.

Photo provided by grantee project.

In the Facebook Page Maya Tz'utujil, beginning in the month of April to September, there were 42 bilingual phrases, 14 photographs, 19 links related to indigenous languages, 2 audios, and 5 short videos shared. This generated 262 “likes”and 101 comments in the Maya language. These statistics show that this Page reached 9487 persons.

This page is open to the public and we have fans from many countries across the world where they help promote the language in a bilingual manner in both Maya Tz'utujil and Spanish. We can see that people have interacted with the content sharing their questions. We also receive messages soliciting information about where to find information about Mayan languages, and we help them find the information that they need.

by Israel Quic at November 23, 2014 12:01 AM

November 22, 2014

Doc Searls
On “native” advertising

gaudifaceIn an email today I was asked by a PR person if I wanted to talk with somebody at a major newspaper about its foray into “native” advertising — a euphemism for ads made to look like editorial matter. Among other things they asked if native advertising would “signify the death of credible journalism.” Here was my response:

I think tricking up advertising to look like journalism crosses a line I wish (name of paper) would keep up as a thick wall.

In publishing, editorial is church and advertising is state. The difference should be clear, and the latter should not be confused with the former. For nearly all its history, this was the case with (name of paper), and all serious publications.

While native ads don’t signify the death of credible journalism, they do signify a sell-out by publishers using them.

If (person at the paper) wants to try convincing me otherwise, I’m game. But be warned that the likelihood that I’ll give native ads a positive spin — for any pub — is close to nil.

Bonus link — Andrew Sullivan on Native Ads: Journalism has surrendered. Great interview.

by Doc Searls at November 22, 2014 11:57 PM

Global Voices
Opposition Representatives Propose “Freedom from Fear” Law in Serbia

Nineteen representatives of the Serbian National Assembly filed a proposal for a new law that would guarantee Serbian citizens freedom from fear. While freedom from fear is allegedly a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, some ruling politicians in Serbia have brought it into question in recent months through apparent abuse of power.

Screenshot of a page of the official proposal of the Law on Freedom from Fear, as posted by Deputy Speaker of the Serbian National Assembly Gordana Čomić on Slideshare, used with permission.

Screenshot of a page of the official proposal of the Law on Freedom from Fear, as posted by Deputy Speaker of the Serbian National Assembly Gordana Čomić on Slideshare, used with permission.

The proposal comes from opposition assembly representatives who are members of the Democratic Party (Demokratska stranka – DS) and the New Party (Nova stranka – NS). Of the 250 representatives in the Serbian Assembly, elected in an early parliamentary election in March 2014, 158 are members of the Serbian Progressive Party (Srpska napredna stranka – SNS), led by current Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić. Prime Minister Vučić and his collaborators have often been in the news throughout 2014 for pressuring media and individuals. Vučić has denied these claims, but some of his cabinet's practices are becoming apparent.

Journalist Milena Knezevic wrote for Index on Censorship earlier in 2014:

Index has tracked the media freedom situation in Serbia since the early days of the current government. There have been reports of a journalist being interrogated by police for sharing a Facebook post, as well as physical and verbal attacks — often with impunity. But indirect control of media, smear campaigns and other methods of covert “soft censorship” also pose a serious challenge to Serbian press freedom. “Milošević never muzzled the media this perfidiously. His methods were far less sophisticated and everything was out in the open,” said Beckovic [a prominent journalist]. And it seems her colleagues agree that censorship is prevalent. Ninety per cent of journalists responding to a recent survey said censorship and self-censorship does exist in Serbian media, while 73% and 95%, respectively, said the media does not report objectively and critically.

The full proposal for the Law on Freedom from Fear, filed on November 20, 2014, was posted by Democratic Party member and Deputy Speaker of the Serbian National Assembly Gordana Čomić on her personal Slideshare account. Part of the submitted document explains the reasons for bringing forth the proposal:

II Razlozi za donošenje zakona

Razlozi za donošenje ovog zakona sadržani su, pre svega, u potrebi da se zaštite Ustavom zajemčeni slobode građana u slučajevima kada su te slobode ugrožene od strane organa javne vlasti[...] Smatramo da niko, a naročito organi javne vlasti, ne smeju da zloupotrebom ovlašćenja prilikom obavljanja poslova iz svoje nadležnosti zastrašuju građane Republike Srbije, i stvaraju stanje straha i neizvesnosti, pri čemu se građani prisiljavaju protiv svoje volje da nešto čine ili ne čine.

II Reasons for passing the law

The reasons for passing this law consist of, above all, the necessity to protect civic freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution in cases when those freedoms are violated by governments authorities[...] We deem that no one, especially government authorities, is allowed to incite fear in citizens of the Republic of Serbia through abusing authority while conducting duties within their jurisdiction, or create a state of fear and incertitude, forcing citizens to, against their will, do or not do something.

In a short conversation with Global Voices on November 22, 2014, Deputy Speaker Gordana Čomić said that she hoped all National Assembly representatives would understand not only the importance of passing this law, but the importance of bringing it forth before the Assembly for discussion at the soonest possible date. In accordance with Assembly procedures, the soonest possible date for the proposed law to reach the floor of the National Assembly is 15 days from the date of filing, while Ms. Čomić expects the date for discussing the proposed law in the Assembly will be on December 10, 2014.

by Danica Radisic at November 22, 2014 06:53 PM

How the Tunisian Electoral Authority Robbed Me of the Right to Vote
 Tunis, Tunisia. 26th October 2014 -- A female voter casts her ballot at a polling station in Tunis during the Tunisian Parliamentary election. -- Polling stations closed at 6.00pm after voters turned out to cast their ballots in Tunisia's parliamentary elections to elect 217 members of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People. Photograph by Chedly Ben Ibrahim. Copyright: Demotix

Tunis, Tunisia. 26th October 2014 — A female voter casts her ballot at a polling station in Tunis during the Tunisian Parliamentary election. — Polling stations closed at 6.00pm after voters turned out to cast their ballots in Tunisia's parliamentary elections to elect 217 members of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People.
Photograph by Chedly Ben Ibrahim. Copyright: Demotix

It all started when I registered to cast my absentee vote in Tunisia’s 2014 legislative elections in New York City. I live in Denver, so I figured it was the best place to vote, as I can usually find pretty cheap air tickets to the Big Apple. Usually, but not always: sadly, I never managed to make it to New York in October to cast my vote. The presidential elections in November, however, would find me in The Hague, and as Tunisia’s Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE) offered all Tunisian citizens living abroad the option to change their voting location, I decided to change my location to there. 

The process was simple enough: send in a copy of your passport, proof of your original registration, and fill out a form. Send the documents to your regional representatives, and they'd send them back to Tunisia for the ISIE to review. I submitted my documentation to the regional office, and they responded courteously confirming that I had submitted all the required paperwork and my file was complete. They would send it to the main authority in Tunis, and wait to hear back.

Maybe you're wondering how I could choose so casually to switch my voting location from a city in one country to a city way over on another continent. Under ISIE rules New York and The Hague part of the same electoral district. Districts for Tunisians living abroad are as follows: France 1; France 2; Germany; Italy; Arab world countries; Americas and rest of Europe. And in theory, you should be able to vote at any voting location within the same district, correct?

Not according to the ISIE. For the 2014 legislative elections, the ISIE changed the rules and made everyone re-register in order to vote; and if you re-registered to vote in New York (or Houston, or Vienna, or any other city), you better believe that that exact city is where you would be going to vote.

On November 13, the ISIE released the names of those “selected” to vote. My name was not on the list—and neither were the names of many, many others in my district who had requested a change. In the Montreal office, only three people were accommodated. Three. And we were not given any reason or justification as to why our names weren't there.

To say I feel furious is an understatement. I am a full Tunisian citizen who has yet to vote even once, because of the incompetence of the Tunisian electoral authority. I was so excited to finally be voting for the first time, to be exercising the most fundamental of my rights. But the ISIE decided that it could arbitrarily choose who could vote and who could not. It decided that it has the power to rob citizens of their rights.

The regional representatives did not have much to say but remind those rejected that it is “up to the ISIE” to decide whose request could be accommodated. A message posted on their Facebook page reads: “The fact that your file is complete does not guarantee acceptance by ISIE. Almost every day we have published on our page that only ISIE has the power to authorize the change. We understand your frustration, but we unfortunately have no more answers than you do.”

i also have to wonder whether this has anything to do with politics. Though I can't know for certain whether my application was rejected as a result of my political views, I do know this: the ISIE has made it very difficult for Tunisians abroad to exercise their right to vote, and several instances were reported during October's legislative elections where certain individuals were unable to locate their names at the offices where they were registered and were therefore rendered unable to vote. There were also reports of bureau members convincing friends (usually sharing the same political convictions) to go to vote and fill up the voting booths.

So given how bad the legislative elections were—extreme disorganization reigned supreme in the offices abroad, I anticipate that tomorrow's presidential elections will be even worse. The saddest part is that I have not felt this angry at my country since the time of Ben Ali. Back then I felt Tunisian was constantly rejecting me, making me feel like a second-class citizen every time I tried to open my mouth about this or that, or to exercise very basic rights and duties.

Today, I feel the very same way. I feel I have been treated unjustly, I feel robbed, and I call on the judicial authorities in Tunisia to initiate an investigation and find answers to the following question: why were the location change requests denied? On what basis were Tunisian citizens forfeited their right to vote?

Wafa Ben Hassine is a Tunisian-American law student specializing in International Law and Internet Law. She is an advocate for global human rights with a special focus on the Arab world.  

by Wafa Ben Hassine at November 22, 2014 05:49 PM

Over 2000 Macedonian Students Celebrated International Student Day in Protest

Over two thousand students took to the streets of the Macedonian capital Skopje on November 17, 2014 to march against the decision of the government to impose external testing in the country's universities. The protest march began in front of the St. Cyril and Methodius university main building. Students then proceeded to block streets around the University and marched towards the Ministry of Education and Science, with occasional stops in front of the Government building and the Student Parliament.

Student march in Skopje, Macedonia. Photo by Marjan Zabrcanec, used with permission.

Student march in Skopje, Macedonia. Photo by Marjan Zabrcanec, used with permission.

In a speech before the march, members of a student movement called Student Plenum expressed the students’ collective outrage at what many have called the destruction of higher education in the country. The students activists called for other students to “wake up” and asked attendees not to succumb to provocations from the ruling party and others.

Student Parliament is an NGO which nominally serves as an official representative of the student body and is favored by the government as such. The university students become its members by default. The students symbolically “buried” the Student Parliament during the protest because of its failure to take responsibility and a position on the matter, as the legitimate representative of the student body. They laid wreaths at the doors of the Student Parliament headquarters and called on members of the Parliament to come out, but found only locked doors.

The last destination of the march was the Ministry of Education and Science, where the students then asked Minister Abdilaqim Ademi to come out and face them. Since there was no response, and some the participants shouted demands for his resignation. The Student Plenum later left a letter addressed to the Minister with their official demands. In the letter, the students once again expressed the arguments considering the external testing which according to them is contrary to the right for education and the autonomy of the educational institutions. They believe that such a move is unnecessary.

The protest was peaceful, with no incidents and with strong police protection. The massive student march in Skopje was also officially the students’ celebration of November 17, commonly marked as International Day of Students in Macedonia and other countries.

Previously, Student Plenum organized four meetings during which students discussed this government decision and other university-related matters. The meetings were held in different departments of the University in question and the number of participants increased at every new meeting. Their Facebook page gathered over five thousand supporters in just one month and serves as a place where they will announce future meetings and activities.

In addition, the movement's panel organized two, as they called them, “guerrilla actions” where they set banners with messages from the students in public view. One such action addressed the participants of traditional student hike on nearby Vodno mountain, asking them “Good morning students, are you awake?”

The vast majority of the Macedonian online community applauded the march, and expressed outrage against the muted coverage of the event in the country's media. Using the hashtag #СтудентскиМарш (#StudentMarch), Twitter and Facebook users attempted to add to its public visibility on social networks. Many local activists stated that the youth brought hope of breaking the overwhelming apathy grappling Macedonia, which has been ranked on of Europe's poorest countries in recent years.

The protest seems to have had tangible results, although the Minister of Education attempted to publicly label the protesters as “controlled by the opposition”, stating that “only political parties are allowed to demand resignations from ministers”. Student Plenum denied these allegations. Several days after the protest, high government representatives started giving conciliatory statements about the protest, attempting to pacify the protesters by announcing a “softer” version of external testing, which would be implemented as of 2017. Student Plenum responded that they do will not accept any such “amnesty” because their goal is to save future generations external testing, which they deem as unjust.

by Emilija Petreska at November 22, 2014 03:53 PM

November 21, 2014

Global Voices
Bahrain Will Stamp Out Popular Protests, but Not Support for ISIS
A protester in Bahrain holds a sign that reads:

A protester in Bahrain holds a sign that reads: “No to the state-sponsored terrorism, Bahrain is a gulf state that is witnessing the third year of an uprising led by the majority Shia population. Photograph by Hussain Altareef. Copyright: Demotix

Bahrain is officially a part of a regional military coalition fighting the brutal, oppressive offshoot of Al Qaeda known as ISIS that has violently taken over large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. But the monarchy-backed government still seems to be turning a blind eye towards ISIS sympathizers, financiers and sectarian preachers within the country. Government critics say this move helps them create sectarian tension, which is used to silence pro-democracy activists in Bahrain, who have been leading a movement for reform since 2011.

A recent social media campaign presents a clear example of the growing support for ISIS in the tiny island kingdom. In one YouTube video, four Bahraini ISIS members call on other Bahrainis to take up arms and join the fight against their ruling “tyrants”, the Sunni Al Khalifa royal family, and the country's majority Shia population. Despite this, there has been no public investigation of the video.

ISIS propaganda flourishes in Bahrain under government watch

Other videos have called for support for ISIS and incited sectarian violence:

youtube-is

The poster of the videos, AbuAldergham, as he calls himself, has challenged the authorities by publishing his real name, phone number, and personal history online:

dhergham

I am Abu Dergham Al Hijri.
My real name is Mohammed Al Mahmood
I graduated from the Religious Institute
This is my phone number 33784938

The country's cyber-crime unit, which routinely targets bloggers and human rights activists with detention and imprisonment, has not arrested the creators of these videos.

To give another example, Abdulla Mubarak Albinali, brother of Turki Albinali, the mufti or person in charge of interpreting Islamic law for ISIS, has been publishing pro-ISIS content online for some time. He was briefly questioned by Bahraini authorities, but has not been arrested. His other brother, Mohammed Mubarak Albinali, is the ISIS fighter “Abu Alfida Alsalami” from the YouTube call for arms referenced above. Both brothers received praise from their father Mubarak Abdulla Albinali, who many claim is a lieutenant colonel.

ISIS helps frame a sectarian narrative

Do these people believe they will not face repercussions for their actions? Bahraini human rights defenders observing the situation have raised this very question. Many believe the regime wants to encourage a sectarian narrative to crush the independent movement for greater human rights protections in Bahrain.

It could prove difficult for Bahraini authorities to counter the threat of extremist groups — after all, they have worked with them actively in the past. Extremist groups were summoned as a part of the crackdown on the 2011 uprising, which saw thousands upon thousands take to the streets to demand several different reforms and freedoms from the government.

The crackdown encouraged sectarianism, a witch hunt of “traitors,” the demolition of Shia mosques and bigotry and insults from police forces. It required entities who would support the rhetoric of a sectarian divide, and for that extremely sectarian groups were needed.

In fact, Turki Albinali, the mufti for ISIS mentioned above, rose to prominence as a member of counter-revolutionary forces that were used to resist those who were seeking change in Bahrain. In the video below from 2011, he makes a speech to a group in Busaiteen calling on them to “defend” their nation against the “traitors” — a reference to the pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain. Among those in the audience are people carrying axes, sticks and swords. Albinali even received the blessing of some high-level officials who visited the gathering in Busaiteen. Yet they experienced no repercussions from authorities because they were in line with the sectarian narrative that was being employed. 

Turki Albinali exploited the platform provided to extremists. He gave Friday sermons, inciting hatred against the protesters. He also held protests in front of the United States Embassy in Bahrain, waving ISIS flags.

This rise of sectarianism was no surprise — it rapidly became an unspoken state-sponsored policy. As New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof put it:

My New York Times colleague Michael Slackman was caught by Bahrain security forces a few weeks ago. He said that they pointed shotguns at him and that he was afraid they were about to shoot when he pulled out his passport and shouted that he was an American journalist. Then, he says, the mood changed abruptly and the leader of the group came over and took Mr. Slackman’s hand, saying warmly: “Don’t worry! We love Americans!”

“We’re not after you. We’re after Shia,” the policeman added. Mr. Slackman recalls: “It sounded like they were hunting rats.”

The government of Bahrain did not intervene to stop the rise of the likes of Turki Albinali for the same reason it did not join the Gulf-wide crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. They are valuable allies who endorse the sectarian narrative of the regime against social uprising. These groups may be the regime's last ally inside Bahrain.

Bahrain's powerful ISIS Sympathizers

This will not be the first time Bahrain has contributed to the growth and empowerment of militant groups. In his book “The Professionals – Politic and Crime – International Moneylaundering,” Heinz Duthel writes:

After September 11, 2001, money laundering become a major concern of the US Bush administration's war on terror, although critics argue that it has become less and less an important matter for the White House. Based in Luxembourg, Clearstream, “a bank of banks” which practice “financial clearing”, centralizing debit and credit operations for hundreds of banks, has been accused of being a major operator of the underground economy via a system of un-published accounts; Bahrain International Bank, owned by Osama bin Laden, would have profited from these transfer facilities.

The use of Bahrain as a financial haven for militant groups isn't new, but what's alarming is their ability to grow recently, to the extent where a member of Bahrain's royal family was tweeting in support of ISIS from his Twitter account featuring a backdrop photo of the group's flag (his account is currently suspended).

“ISIS soldiers take control of the villages of the northern Reef (countryside) after killing scores of members of Sahawat (awakening).” The account of a Bahraini member of the royal family who showed support to ISIS, currently suspended.

Another member of the royal family promoted Jabhat Al Nusra (a branch of Al Qaeda) “stocks:” 

Supporting Al Nusra men with weapons

[The image reads:] Campaign for equipment.
Alansar share: 10,000 Riyal
Golden share: 5,000 Riyal
Silver share: 1,000 Riyal
Bronze Share: 500 Riyal
Normal Share: 200 Riyal
To make a contribution of support, please contact one of the accounts below. It's safe and easy

The issue could soon become a concern for Saudi Arabia, which is battling Al Qaeda within its kingdom. Bahrain sits just off the coast of Saudi Arabia, separated by a narrow stretch of water only a few dozen kilometers wide. The two neighboring kingdoms share chummy relations — Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain in 2011 to help suppress a popular uprising there. 

In the recent Dalwa massacre in Al Ahsa in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, three men who fought in Syria for Al Qaeda allegedly opened fire on a group of Shia Muslims, killing five. This attack could easily have been planned in Bahrain. Not long after the violence, Al Qaeda decided to once again join arms with ISIS, and many times before Bahrainis were arrested in Saudi for attempting attacks related to Al Qaeda.

Something similar could even happen in Bahrain. In fact, Bahrain's Foreign Affairs Minister Khalid Al Khalifa tweeted in response to the killing:

Had it not been for the care of Allah and the alertness of the security apparatus, we wouldn't have been surprised if a crime such as the one in Al Ahsa occurred in Bahrain. Thank you Interior Ministry

by Noor Mattar at November 21, 2014 11:39 PM

Info/Law
The Antidote for “Anecdata”: A Little Science Can Separate Data Privacy Facts from Folklore

Guest post by Daniel Barth-Jones

For anyone who follows the increasingly critical topic of data privacy closely, it would have been impossible to miss the remarkable chain reaction that followed the New York TLC’s (Taxi and Limousine Commission) recent release of data on more than 173 million taxi rides in response to a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request by Urbanist and self-described “Data Junkie” Chris Whong.  It wasn’t long at all after the data went public that the sharp eyes and keen wit of software engineer Vijay Pandurangan detected that taxi drivers’ license numbers and taxi plate (or medallion) numbers hadn’t been anonymized properly and could be decoded due to the failed encryption process.

Soon after Pandurangan’s revelation of the botched unsalted MD5 cryptographic hash in the TLC data, Anthony Tockar, working on a summer Data Science internship with Neustar,  posted his blog “Riding with the Stars: Passenger Privacy in the NYC Taxicab Dataset” with the aim of introducing the concept of “differential privacy” and announcing Neustar’s expertise in this area. (It’s well worth checking out both Tockar’s short, but informative, tutorial on differential privacy and his application of the method to the maps of the TLC taxi data as his smartly designed graphics allow you interactively adjust differential privacy’s “epsilon” parameter and see its impact on the results.)

To illustrate possible rider privacy risks for the TLC taxi-data, Tockar, armed with some celebrity paparazzi photos and some clever insights as to when, where and how to find potential vulnerabilities produced a blog post replete with attention grabbing tales of miserly celebrities who stiffed drivers on their tips and cyber-stalking strip club patrons, which quickly went viral. And so as to up the fear, uncertainty, and dread (FUD) factors surrounding his attacks, Tockar further gravely warned us all in his post that:

Equipped with this [TLC Taxi] dataset, and just a little auxiliary information about you, it would be quite trivial for someone to follow your movements, collecting data on your whereabouts and habits, while you remain blissfully unaware. A stalker could find out where you live and work. Your partner may spy on you. A thief could work out when you’re away from home, based on your habits.

However, as I’ll explain in more detail, sorting out these quite concerning claims in a rational fashion which will enable us to consider complex decisions about the possible trade-offs between Freedom of Information and open government principles and data privacy concerns requires that we move beyond mere citation of anecdotes (or worse, collections of anecdotes in which carefully targeted and especially vulnerable, non-representative cases have been repackaged as “anecdata”). Instead, we must base our risk assessment in a systematic investigation appropriately founded in the principles of scientific study design and statistically representative samples. Regrettably though, this wasn’t the case here and has quite often not been the case for many headline snatching re-identification attacks that have repeatedly made the news in recent years.

The ensuing TLC Taxi headlines in the follow-up press for Tockar’s blog (“If you think you’ve anonymized a data set, you’re probably wrong or “How Big Brother watches you with metadata) and accompanying twitter buzz (ranging from “yet another amazing piece on finding out detailed picture of people’s lives from anonymized data” to “It’s virtually impossible to anonymize large data sets”) soon conveyed that the verdict was in on this latest data re-identification attack, and we should all (to paraphrase the hype) “be afraid, be very afraid”.

When Does 99.9999936 % Equal Zero Percent?

Somehow in the mind’s eye of many readers, even though Tockar’s taxi ride re-identifications were selectively focused only on a particularly vulnerable and almost unimaginably small proportion of the 173 million rides, Tockar’s blog was seen as yet another demonstration that “anonymized data really isn’t”.  However, it would hopefully be clear that examining a miniscule proportion of cases from a population of 173 million rides couldn’t possibly form any meaningful basis of evidence for broad assertions about the risks that taxi-riders might face from such a data release (at least with the taxi medallion/license data removed as will now be the practice for FOIL request data). Even though no evidence had been presented for at least 99.9999…% of the rides, the wisdom of the crowd as conveyed by twitter buzz had somehow reached the conclusion that “It’s virtually impossible to anonymize large data sets”. The irony of this wayward conclusion is that, as is the case for most of the famous re-identification attacks which have made headlines (Governor Weld, AOL, Netflix, Personal Genome Project , etc.), the more accurate conclusion should be “anonymized data really wasn’t”, at least not anonymized to any demanding de-identification standards as are routinely imposed on de-identified data under the HIPAA Privacy regulations for health data).

With close examination it appears that these supposed re-identifications from the TLC taxi data may be constructed more with smoke and mirrors than they are actually exposing unavoidable privacy threats posed by the released taxi data; or at least this would have been the case if the TLC data had been properly anonymized using rigorous de-identification standards.

Making a Splash with Celebrity Targets and Failed Hash

Tockar was apparently able to re-identify his two celebrity targets (Bradley Cooper and Jessica Alba) by using the cab’s medallion or license plate data which was left exposed by the failed cryptographic hash in the TLC data. Using the failed hash and additional clues on time and location of the pick-ups or drop-offs obtained from celebrity blogs posting photos taken by paparazzi who were tailing the celebs, Tockar was able to fairly easily look up their rides. By exploiting this clear anonymization failure, he showed that he could re-identify two out of 173+ million taxi rides. Not long after this, J.K. Trotter from Gawker then took this a step further and added another nine re-identifications to the celebrity ride re-identification tally.

So amazingly, by re-identifying a mere 11 celebrity rides out of 173 million rides (using data which hadn’t been properly de-identified), the perception of readers had been swayed to conclude that the taxi data represented some innate inability to reliably anonymize data rather than being properly perceived as resulting from a failure to implement appropriate anonymization methods and as a reminder of a simple fact: If you have packs of paparazzi trailing you and photographing your every move, you just won’t have much privacy. For example, in the Alba case, it seems pretty clear from the photos that she was being photographed both at the pick-up and drop-off for her ride. So her scandalous “privacy loss” attributable to the TLC data boils down to just a questionable insinuation that she failed to tip, considering that cash tips aren’t captured by the TLC data.

The 11 in 173 million risk demonstrated for this celebrity ride re-identification (or 1 in 15,743,614) is truly infinitesimal.  To put this in perspective, this risk is over 1,000 times smaller than one’s lifetime risk of being hit by lighting. With proper de-identification applied and the cryptographic hash problem fixed in any future data releases, this spooky specter of celebrity cyber-stalking using TLC taxi data is likely to vanish as soon as one turns on the lights.

Clubbing It?

The situation is likewise with the purported (but in my opinion after detailed examination, highly dubious) re-identifications of Hustler Club patron rides. For this next cyber-stalking attack, Tockar mapped out all rides starting near the Hustler Club between 12 to 6 am. His next step was then to promptly discard over 80 percent of the rides because they were less than 5 miles in length and he recognized that Manhattan was generally too densely populated to isolate individuals. He then proceeded to map the remaining rides and search for clusters of drop-off locations. Through this process he identified 23 drop-off clusters (including a huge “mega-cluster” surrounding Wall Street) which he attributed only to individuals who frequented the Hustler Club. What wasn’t mentioned in his blog was the 3,000 seat concert venue and two nightclubs nearby, or the NYC Taxi Cab stand located at the corner in front of the strip club.

hustler

NYC Taxi Stand in front of the Hustler Club

I’ve examined the U.S. Census Block data (the smallest geographic unit used by the Census) for census blocks surrounding each of these drop-off clusters in some detail. Most of the Census block areas surrounding the clusters show populations of well more than 1,000 persons and all but two of these 23 clusters are likely to have populations of at least a few dozen persons within an easy one-to-two minute walk from the cluster. (Certainly, under the assumption that Tockar could be right about these rides belonging to a strip club patron coming home in the middle of the night, it seems wise to suppose that they could also be likely to have the cab stop short of their residence.)

Having studied Tockar’s allegations in some detail, I personally don’t believe them to be any more than conjecture. But to avoid further promoting any possible privacy intrusions resulting from Tockar’s publicizing this attack, (a journalistic and research ethics issue which I’ve written about elsewhere), let’s just go with the assertion that he re-identified someone who was at the Hustler Club.

Cherry-Picking

Still, it’s safe to say that, if Tockar did actually re-identify anyone using this approach, the re-identification risk associated with this demonstration is very small and could only be plausibly achieved by “cherry-picking” and limiting the attack strategy to utilize both a pick-up area and drop-off areas where the residential population density was quite low.

And, of course, given that such attacks will only be feasible by selectively focusing on areas with very low population densities, then the proportion of individuals within New York who could possibly be impacted by such attacks would also have to be very small indeed, simply because New York City’s population densities in most areas are very high which would thus would protect the very vast majority of people from any possibility of such an attack. In fact, within the New York City limits more than 90% of the population lives in Census Blocks where there are at least 50 people residing within an area equivalent to a one-minute walking distance and, furthermore, more than 99% of the population lives in Census Blocks where there are at least 16 people residing within an area equivalent to a one-minute walking distance. And, because Taxi service naturally tends to concentrate toward those areas providing the greatest ride opportunities, taxi ride densities from one very low population density area to yet another very low density area are comparatively quite rare.[1]

It’s worth further pointing out that, with such miniscule re-identification risks, Tockar’s fear-inducing admonitions that TLC Taxi data would be used by your suspicious partner, a thief, or some other malicious actor who is out to bring you harm, just ring hollow. As was more broadly recognized for statistical disclosure risk assessments in general decades ago, ensuring a very low probability of re-identification success further dissuades data intruders from even attempting it in the first place because the chance of success is so very remote. So, it takes some real mental gymnastics to suppose that someone who means you harm will bother to file a FOIL data request with the TLC and typically wait for months to get the data in order to achieve their end. If you have someone who is out to get you, your problem isn’t the extremely unlikely event that they’d go through all the effort to use TLC data to do so in spite of their having virtually no chance of success. Your problem is that there is someone who is out to get you and they’d likely find many other much easier opportunities than those presented by the TLC data to achieve their ends.

Still, the TLC data attacks (like so many data re-identification demonstrations) are able to effectively invoke fear because they succeed with a logical diversion in this probabilistic equivalent of a game of Three Card Monte. You start off contemplating the probability that an individual (i.e., you) might be targeted in such a data attack; but what you are actually shown is the probability (although still remote) that somebody (i.e., anyone and everyone who could be targeted in the attack) could be attacked. And, even though the revealed risk is exceedingly remote, this risk unfortunately isn’t processed by our brains rationally, because we have an empirically demonstrated reduced capacity to rationally assess probabilities and respond rationally to risks when fear has been invoked. Having now witnessed evidence of a successful attack, our assessments of the probability of it actually being implemented in the real world may subconsciously become 100 percent–which is highly distortive of the true risk calculation that we face.

Getting Beyond Anecdata

So, how can we avoid undue influence from such targeted, non-representative data re-identification demonstration attacks? One of the first steps would be to pay highest credence only to re-identification studies which have used scientifically valid research designs and which have used statistical random sampling methods to assure that their results are representative of the true re-identification risks posed by the data. Had a statistically valid random sample been used instead of only selectively targeting especially vulnerable opportunities in the data, it’s very unlikely that any re-identifications would have been demonstrated from the TLC data given the very high population and taxi densities in most of New York. This isn’t to say that Tockar’s quite clever insights into how the data might be attacked had no value. His focused attacks do provide valuable insight into some potential (but very rare) vulnerabilities, which point us to some fairly straightforward de-identification steps that might be useful for future data releases. But I would contend that, in order to rightly claim the title of “data science” or “re-identification science”, the methods used need to also provide us with some systematic and generalizable means of properly assessing the data re-identification probabilities for the entire population at risk.

By doing this, the discipline of consistently using statistical and scientific methods to examine data privacy risks can help us separate data privacy facts from folklore. Clearly, the antidote that will get us past using anecdote (and it’s much more deceptive sibling “Anecdata”) is to instead rest upon a solid foundation in the roots of scientific study design and statistics.

Then, once we are properly armed with some solid evidence regarding typical re-identification risks posed by the data under a variety of relevant data intrusion/data privacy threat models[2], we’ll be much better equipped to make some challenging, but highly necessary, decisions about possible trade-offs between our values regarding open information and government and the also vitally important issue of protecting individual’s privacy. Unfortunately, as I’ve written about and illustrated elsewhere, the “unfortunate truth” is that we will inevitably be forced to choose between trade-offs in data utility and data privacy because of fundamental mathematical constraints.

Fortunately, by performing systematic, scientifically sound risk evaluations and using realistic threat models, we can get past falling prey to simplistic and flawed reasoning about the complex questions which surround the challenge of balancing the public good stemming from Freedom of Information laws and open data initiatives with the equally important issue of substantively protecting against possible data privacy risks and harms.

Daniel Barth-Jones, M.P.H., Ph.D., is a HIV/Infectious Disease Epidemiologist on the faculty at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. His work in the area of statistical disclosure control and data privacy under the HIPAA Privacy Rule provisions for de-identification is focused on the importance of properly balancing competing goals of protecting patient privacy and preserving the accuracy of scientific research and statistical analyses conducted with de-identified data.

This post has been updated to add detail and fix links.

[1]   This suggests what is likely to be a data utility-preserving solution for protecting against such remote risks. A fairly simple redaction of taxi rides picking up  or dropping off in areas with low population densities but also retaining certain high taxi density areas (such as occurs on the adjoining streets at the Times Square pedestrian plaza or Central Park) would leave the vast majority of the taxi data intact. This approach might also be combined with some further well-designed time and location noise injection perturbations accounting for the densities of pick-up/drop-off times and locations and their associated correlations with trip distances, fares, etc. in order to further protect against re-identification while producing little important reduction in the data utility for the very vast majority of rides.

As proposed by Tockar, Differential Privacy provides yet another possible alternative for protecting data privacy which often works well for very large data sets such as the TLC Taxi data, but it is not without important misinterpretations, limitations and criticisms, one of most important of which is the critical problem of how to properly set the value of the privacy parameter epsilon in order to reduce the probability of re-identification to some acceptable threshold value.

[2] Statisticians involved in data disclosure risk assessments have been using such threat modeling approaches for at least the past 15 years. See Elliot, M. and Dale, A. Scenarios of attack: the data intruder’s perspective on statistical disclosure risk within linked reference.

 

by jyakowitz at November 21, 2014 09:03 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
University Teacher Unpopular with Islamist Hardliners is Killed in Bangladesh
Picture of Rajshahi University Campus in a misty winter morning. Image from Flickr by  Kamrul Hasan. December 16, 2013 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Picture of Rajshahi University Campus in a misty winter morning. Image from Flickr by Kamrul Hasan. December 16, 2013 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Professor Shafiul Islam, a professor of sociology in Rajshahi University was attacked with a machete by unknown assailants outside his home in Rajshahi city on November 15. He died from his injuries in a nearby hospital some hours later. According to news reports, the professor led a push to ban students wearing full-face veils at his university in 2012, stoking the wrath of Islamist hardliners. The professor argued that full-face veils made it difficult to identify individual students and that they could even be used to cheat on university examinations. 

Rajshahi is a major urban and industrial centre of North Bengal and is located on the river Padma near Bangladesh-India border. Rajshahi University is a stronghold of the religious political party Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chatra Shibir. Pro-Jamaat newspapers in 2010 reported that Shafiul Islam had banned the burqa as the then-chair of the university’s sociology department, a policy that offended religious sentiments among many in the majority-Muslim country. At that time, Shafiul had sent rejoinders to some of those newspapers claiming that he had only expelled one female student from his class because she was cheating using her burqa.

A previously unknown Islamist group claimed responsibility for Shafiul's killing, after opening a Facebook page late on Saturday:

Screenshot of the Facebook page

Screenshot of the Facebook page

Their status reads:

Our Mujahideens have killed an ‘atheist’ of Rajshahi University who had banned wearing burqa in his department.

Threat

Threat

Public outrage over the assassination has since become palpable both online and off:

According to reports, the Facebook page generated more than 2,000 likes from people who appeared to support the killing. In a long status update on November 17, posts on the page hinted at who might be the next targets of the group. One status update gave an exhaustive list of potential targets including university and secondary school faculty, public representatives and local opinion leaders, heads of organisations, judges, lawyers, doctors, intellectuals, journalists, and even actors.

After the Facebook page link was published by various media outlets, netizens flagged the page using Facebook's abuse reporting system, arguing that it violates the platform's Community Standards. The first section of Facebook’s Community Standards reads:

Safety is Facebook's top priority. We remove content and may escalate to law enforcement when we perceive a genuine risk of physical harm, or a direct threat to public safety. You may not credibly threaten others, or organize acts of real-world violence.

The Community Standards also address harassment:

Facebook does not tolerate bullying or harassment. We allow users to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but take action on all reports of abusive behavior directed at private individuals. Repeatedly targeting other users with unwanted friend requests or messages is a form of harassment.

Nevertheless, in the days following the page's publication, Facebook responded to abuse reports with generic messages such as these:

Screenshot of Facebook's reply

Screenshot of Facebook's reply

Screenshot of Facebook's reply.

Screenshot of Facebook's reply.

Netizens persisted in reporting the page as an abuse of Facebook's Community Standards. On Nov. 18, 2014 Facebook removed the page.

Screenshot of Facebook reply

Screenshot of Facebook reply.

Police say that they believe the killing may have been perpetrated by militants backed by the conservative religious Jamaat-e-Islami group.

Rajshahi University has seen killings of its teachers Professor Mohammad Yunus in 2004 and Professor Taher Ahmed in 2006. Pranab Kumar Panday writes in an op-ed in the Daily Star:

It is really unfortunate to see that public university teachers are being harassed and killed very often. [..] These incidents are creating a sense of insecurity among the teachers of public universities. They are also indicative of the deterioration of law and order in the country.

Meanwhile, the threats continue. The Facebook page that claimed responsibility for killing Shafiul Islam recently announced their next target. The post reads:

Next Target . . . teacher of Bogra Govt. Women`s College. Offense: Banning burka. Offense date: September 2014. Punishment: Death. Chance: Yes. All atheists who oppose Islam be careful.

by Rezwan at November 21, 2014 06:54 PM

Global Voices
University Teacher Unpopular with Islamist Hardliners is Killed in Bangladesh
Picture of Rajshahi University Campus in a misty winter morning. Image from Flickr by  Kamrul Hasan. December 16, 2013 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Picture of Rajshahi University Campus in a misty winter morning. Image from Flickr by Kamrul Hasan. December 16, 2013 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Professor Shafiul Islam, a professor of sociology in Rajshahi University was attacked with a machete by unknown assailants outside his home in Rajshahi city on November 15. He died from his injuries in a nearby hospital some hours later. According to news reports, the professor led a push to ban students wearing full-face veils at his university in 2012, stoking the wrath of Islamist hardliners. The professor argued that full-face veils made it difficult to identify individual students and that they could even be used to cheat on university examinations. 

Rajshahi is a major urban and industrial centre of North Bengal and is located on the river Padma near Bangladesh-India border. Rajshahi University is a stronghold of the religious political party Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chatra Shibir. Pro-Jamaat newspapers in 2010 reported that Shafiul Islam had banned the burqa as the then-chair of the university’s sociology department, a policy that offended religious sentiments among many in the majority-Muslim country. At that time, Shafiul had sent rejoinders to some of those newspapers claiming that he had only expelled one female student from his class because she was cheating using her burqa.

A previously unknown Islamist group claimed responsibility for Shafiul's killing, after opening a Facebook page late on Saturday:

Screenshot of the Facebook page

Screenshot of the Facebook page

Their status reads:

Our Mujahideens have killed an ‘atheist’ of Rajshahi University who had banned wearing burqa in his department.

Threat

Threat

Public outrage over the assassination has since become palpable both online and off:

According to reports, the Facebook page generated more than 2,000 likes from people who appeared to support the killing. In a long status update on November 17, posts on the page hinted at who might be the next targets of the group. One status update gave an exhaustive list of potential targets including university and secondary school faculty, public representatives and local opinion leaders, heads of organisations, judges, lawyers, doctors, intellectuals, journalists, and even actors.

After the Facebook page link was published by various media outlets, netizens flagged the page using Facebook's abuse reporting system, arguing that it violates the platform's Community Standards. The first section of Facebook’s Community Standards reads:

Safety is Facebook's top priority. We remove content and may escalate to law enforcement when we perceive a genuine risk of physical harm, or a direct threat to public safety. You may not credibly threaten others, or organize acts of real-world violence.

The Community Standards also address harassment:

Facebook does not tolerate bullying or harassment. We allow users to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but take action on all reports of abusive behavior directed at private individuals. Repeatedly targeting other users with unwanted friend requests or messages is a form of harassment.

Nevertheless, in the days following the page's publication, Facebook responded to abuse reports with generic messages such as these:

Screenshot of Facebook's reply

Screenshot of Facebook's reply

Screenshot of Facebook's reply.

Screenshot of Facebook's reply.

Netizens persisted in reporting the page as an abuse of Facebook's Community Standards. On Nov. 18, 2014 Facebook removed the page.

Screenshot of Facebook reply

Screenshot of Facebook reply.

Police say that they believe the killing may have been perpetrated by militants backed by the conservative religious Jamaat-e-Islami group.

Rajshahi University has seen killings of its teachers Professor Mohammad Yunus in 2004 and Professor Taher Ahmed in 2006. Pranab Kumar Panday writes in an op-ed in the Daily Star:

It is really unfortunate to see that public university teachers are being harassed and killed very often. [..] These incidents are creating a sense of insecurity among the teachers of public universities. They are also indicative of the deterioration of law and order in the country.

Meanwhile, the threats continue. The Facebook page that claimed responsibility for killing Shafiul Islam recently announced their next target. The post reads:

Next Target . . . teacher of Bogra Govt. Women`s College. Offense: Banning burka. Offense date: September 2014. Punishment: Death. Chance: Yes. All atheists who oppose Islam be careful.

by Rezwan at November 21, 2014 06:42 PM

Creative Commons
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to require CC BY for all grant-funded research

Philanthropic foundations fund the creation of scholarly research, education and training materials, and rich data with the public good in mind. Creative Commons has long advocated for foundations to add open license requirements to their grants. Releasing grant-funded content under permissive open licenses means that materials may be more easily shared and re-used by the public, and combined with other resources that are also published under open licenses.

Yesterday the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it is adopting an open access policy for grant-funded research. The policy “enables the unrestricted access and reuse of all peer-reviewed published research funded, in whole or in part, by the foundation, including any underlying data sets.” Grant funded research and data must be published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (CC BY). The policy applies to all foundation program areas and takes effect January 1, 2015.

Here are more details from the Foundation’s Open Access Policy:

  1. Publications Are Discoverable and Accessible Online. Publications will be deposited in a specified repository(s) with proper tagging of metadata.
  2. Publication Will Be On “Open Access” Terms. All publications shall be published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Generic License (CC BY 4.0) or an equivalent license. This will permit all users of the publication to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and transform and build upon the material, including for any purpose (including commercial) without further permission or fees being required.
  3. Foundation Will Pay Necessary Fees. The foundation would pay reasonable fees required by a publisher to effect publication on these terms.
  4. Publications Will Be Accessible and Open Immediately. All publications shall be available immediately upon their publication, without any embargo period. An embargo period is the period during which the publisher will require a subscription or the payment of a fee to gain access to the publication. We are, however, providing a transition period of up to two years from the effective date of the policy (or until January 1, 2017). During the transition period, the foundation will allow publications in journals that provide up to a 12-month embargo period.
  5. Data Underlying Published Research Results Will Be Accessible and Open Immediately. The foundation will require that data underlying the published research results be immediately accessible and open. This too is subject to the transition period and a 12-month embargo may be applied.

Trevor Mundel, President of Global Health at the foundation, said that Gates “put[s] a high priority not only on the research necessary to deliver the next important drug or vaccine, but also on the collection and sharing of data so other scientists and health experts can benefit from this knowledge.”

Congratulations to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on adopting a default open licensing policy for its grant-funded research. This terrific announcement follows a similar move by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, who recently extended their CC BY licensing policy from the Open Educational Resources grants to now apply foundation-wide for all project-based grant funds.

Regarding deposit and sharing of data, the Gates Foundation might consider permitting grantees to utilize the CC0 Public Domain Dedication, which allows authors to dedicate data to the public domain by waiving all rights to the data worldwide under copyright law. CC0 is widely used to provide barrier-free re-use to data.

We’ve updated the information we’ve been tracking on foundation intellectual property policies to reflect the new agreement from Gates, and continue to urge other philanthropic foundations to adopt open policies for grant-funded research and projects.

by Timothy Vollmer at November 21, 2014 05:15 PM

Global Voices
Burkina Faso Is Taking Steps Toward Democracy (and Africans Are Taking Note)
Acting president of Burkina Faso CC-BY 20

Acting President of Burkina Faso, Michel Kafando. CC-BY 20

Former diplomat Michel Kafando has been appointed to fill the leadership void left behind by deposed Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré until the next elections, further heartening others throughout Africa that a popular uprising might just work in their country too.

Compaoré, 63, who gained power through a military coup 27 years ago, was forced to abdicate his post and hastily flee his country on October 31 due to civil unrest in the streets of Burkina Faso. Thousands of Burkinabés took to the streets of Ouagadougou, the capital of this West African country, as well as other cities in the interior, to denounce him and his supporting oligarchy's campaign to revise the constitution. 

The following video in French describes the events that led to President Comparoé's downfall:  

 

Following Compaoré's departure, the position of head of state was temporarily filled by Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida, as a means of securing the continuity of power. Still, the public at large maintained its stance that a civilian should take up leadership during the transitional period until the next elections. In a very powerful speech, Lieutenant Colonel Zida announced the charter for the transition and the imminent arrival of a civilian transitional leader

Depuis le 30 octobre 2014, le peuple burkinabè s’est réconcilié avec lui-même et avec son histoire. [..] En ce jour, je voudrais à l’occasion de cette cérémonie consacrant la signature de la Charte de la transition, pour rendre un vibrant hommage à notre peuple, dont la grandeur s’est illustrée à bien d’égards, forçant respect et admiration de tous les peuples épris de démocratie, de liberté et de progrès.Ainsi, concitoyennes et concitoyens comme vous l’avez voulu, le processus pré-transitionnel engagé depuis le 31 octobre 2014 est conduit par les Forces armées nationales qui se sont engagées à remettre le pouvoir aux civils.

Since 30 October 2014, Burkinabes have come to terms with their history. [...] Today, as we sign this Charter of Transition, I would like to pay my most profound respects to our people, who have embodied greatness in so many ways, and in so doing, have earned the respect and admiration of those who are committed to democracy, freedom, and progress the world over. And so, my citizens, as you have wished, the pre-transition process that had begun since 31 October 2014 is being led by the National Armed Forces, which have undertaken the task of returning power to the people. 

Kafando was subsequently appointed to steward the transitional period until the next elections. 

Lieutenant Colonel Zida - domaine public

Lieutenant Colonel Zida – public domain

Still, the fight for democracy was a difficult one. In fact, Compaoré had in fact managed to carve out a path that would allow for his re-election. He intended to bring forward a reform to article 37 of the constitution, which had been ratified in June of 1991, and which stipulates that the President of Burkina Faso cannot be re-elected more than once. Mr. Blaise Compaoré who had already been re-elected wished to change this position by putting the question to vote in the National Assembly, which was controlled by his party and his allies.

Alain Doh Bi explains how events unfolded in a bulletin published on his blog:

L’ex-Président Blaise Compaoré s’est entêté à vouloir modifier l’article 37 de la Constitution du Burkina Faso en vue de briguer un nouveau mandat, après 27 années de règne sans partage. Le peuple Burkinabé s’est levé comme un seul homme, depuis le 28 octobre 2014. Après 48 heures de manifestations populaires, Blaise Compaoré, Assassin de Thomas Sankara, est tombé [...]

Des hauts gradés de la Gendarmerie et de l’Armée Burkinabé ont décidé de se rallier au peuple. Une concertation spontanée entre les leaders de la manifestation et les hauts gradés de l’armée a permis de convenir d’une transition militaro-civile. 

Former President Blaise Compaoré insisted on wanting to modify Article 37 of the Constitution of Burkina Faso with the intention of bringing a new mandate after 27 years of undisputed power. The people of Burkina Faso have united in protest since 28 October 2014. After 48 hours of protests, Blaise Compaoré, murderer of Thomas Sankara,(ed. note: Sankara, was the president of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987)   was ousted [...]

Some high-ranking officials of the Burkinabe police force and army decided to align themselves with the cause of the people. An improvised dialogue between protest leaders and said army officials made way for a transition from military to civilian power. 

Young people mobilized throughout the country to demand officials to vote against the constitutional changes; they also turned to social media. 

One such group, Le Balai citoyen (the Citizen Broom), opened a Facebook page that garnered more than 20,000 followers and was very active in organizing protests. The group positions itself as follows: 

A propos du symbole: … « On a modestement appelé ça le balai citoyen, et c’est tout un symbole. Le Burkina Faso a besoin d’un sacré nettoyage. Depuis presque trente ans on subit, on subit et on réagit pas. Il y a une part infime de la population qui a commencé à s’enrichir impunément pendant que le reste dégraisse. Je crois qu’il grand temps de foutre un bon coup de balai à tout ça pour crier notre ras-le-bol. » …

Voila ce qu'est ce mouvement ‘le balai citoyen” pour les initiateurs.

A word on our symbol: … “we humbly called ourselves ‘le Balai citoyen', and it is quite the symbol. Burkina Faso needs a profound cleansing. For almost 30 years we have suffered; we suffer and we do not fight back. There is a tiny segment of the population that began to get richer by skimming the fat off of the rest of us without impunity. I think that it is high time to clean out all of that in with one fell swoop and say enough is enough”

This is what the “le Balai citoyen” movement represents for its founders.

Across social networks and online media, dictators in other African countries have come under heavy scrutiny and been warned. 

“Citizen Broom Movement – The struggle lives on” A poster created by the Citizen Groom Movement via their Facebook Page (with their permission)

Bruno E. LOMA recalls the circumstances that led up to the social crisis in a post entitled “In Africa Toying with the Constitution Is the Price We Pay” that was published on maliactu.net on 4 November 2014:

Tous les moyens sont bons pour modifier la Constitution du pays pour se maintenir au pouvoir. Ils s’y accrochent pour tenter de prolonger leur mandat au-delà des délais légaux. La recette est toute trouvée, réviser la constitution par un vote des élus à l’Assemblée. Ce qui n’est pas toujours acquis car certains élus, même de la majorité présidentielle, par patriotisme ou par respect pour ceux qui ont voté pour eux, s’y opposent. Par peur de ne pas avoir le maximum d’élus en leur faveur, nos chers présidents trouvent d’autres parades comme l’imposition par voie référendaire de cette révision de la constitution.

When it comes to modifying the country's constitution in order to remain in power, anything goes. They cling to it in an attempt to extend their mandate well beyond the legal limits. They have discovered the formula: revise the constitution by putting it to vote with the elected officials of the Assembly. It doesn't necessarily work because some representatives are against this — even when they support the presidential majority. This is out of a sense of patriotism or respect for those who put them in power. For fear of not having the majority in their corner our dear presidents find other means of curtailing resistance, such as calling a referendum for constitutional reform.

In a series of columns on afrikaexpress.inf, Régis Marzin paints a complete portrait of the elections scheduled to take place in several African countries during the 2015-2016 electoral cycle. He analyzes the issues and potential obstacles to maintaining social order:

Au début des années 90, les revendications ont abouti à des conférences nationales et à des révisions des constitutions pour encadrer les mandats présidentiels, et une limitation du nombre de mandats à 2 a été ajoutée partout, sur le modèle américain … 

Pour les 8 dictatures stables du système néocolonial français, dans 6 pays, au Tchad, au Cameroun, à Djibouti, au Togo et au Gabon, les limitations à 2 mandats ont été supprimées– elle a été aussi supprimée en Algérie -, alors qu’elles sont toujours là dans 3 pays en Mauritanie, au Congo Brazzaville et au Burkina Faso. Au Burkina Faso, la limitation a été enlevée en 1997 puis remise sous la pression des revendications de la rue en 2000. La stratégie des opposants s’y refocalise maintenant d’autant plus sur ce point.

… En Guinée Equatoriale et en Angola, où il n’y a aucune limitation dans les constitutions, Téodoro Obiang et José Eduardo Dos Santos sont au pouvoir depuis 1979, depuis 35 ans. Téodoro Obiang était déjà proche de la tête; du régime avant. Réélu en 2009 pour 7 ans il aura 74 ans en 2016, alors que la constitution lui interdit de se représenter après ses 75 ans. Il rejoint dans les records Paul Biya, 81 ans, dont 32 ans au pouvoir, qui aura 85 ans à la fin de son mandat en 2018, alors qu’aucune transition démocratique n’est amorcée. Au Tchad, le 5emandat d’Idriss Déby prévisible en 2016 sera contesté en fonction de la répression et de la mobilisation dans le reste de l’Afrique.

Outcry in the early 90s led to national conferences and constitutional revisions to rein in presidential mandates, and a limit of two terms, based on the American model, was applied across the board. [...]

Of the eight stable dictatorships within the French neo-colonial system, six [sic] countriesChad, Cameroon, Djibouti, Togo, and Gabon [and Algeria] have removed these two-term limits. Term limits have also been removed in Algeria, however, they still remain in three countries: Mauritania, Congo Brazzaville and Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, the two-term limit was removed in 1997 but then reinstated in 2000 under the pressure of street protests. Opponents are refocusing their efforts in this regard.

[...] In Equatorial Guinea and Angola, where there are no limits written into the constitution, Téodoro Obiang and José Eduardo Dos Santos have been in power since 1979 — some 35 years. Téodoro Obiang also previously held a position of high office. Re-elected in 2009 for seven years, he will be 74 in 2016; however, the constitution prohibits him from holding office after he turns 75. His tenure is almost matched by Paul Biya, 81, who has held office for 32 years and who will be 85 at the end of his term in 2018. In spite of this, no transition to democracy has been initiated. In Chad, Idriss Déby's fifth term, which he is facing in 2016, will be contested as a result of the protests taking place in the rest of Africa.

Members of the opposition in Gabon, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, and the Central African Republic met in Paris on 14 November 2014 to adopt a common declaration demanding that constitutions be respected, and insisting that:

L’expérience burkinabé constitue désormais un exemple pour l’Afrique entière.

Henceforth, the experience of Burkina Faso should be held up as an example for all of Africa.

Though few African countries will achieve more than one of the Millennium Development Objectives many are led by dictators who have held power for decades. They have built up oligarchies around them that exploit their country's wealth; enjoying a level of luxury on par with that of Hollywood celebrities while their people are entrenched in the darkest poverty. They consider themselves to be above the law, and they have superimposed their will on that of the people.

On Facebook and Twitter, there are many messages supporting the change:

Hadja Madina Kouyate Barry: Si j'ai un conseil à donner aux africains, c'est de chasser tous les dictateurs changeurs de constitutions. Surtout pas de déchirement entre nous après leur départ car la France est toujours prête à aider les dictateurs à s'enfuir. 

Quand j'ai vu sur France 24 une déclaration de Hollande sur l'évacuation de Blaise Compaoré franchement j'étais malade. Pourquoi les occidentaux ne sont jamais du côté du peuple ?

Hadja Madina Kouyate Barry: If I have any advice for Africans it is to get rid of all dictators who meddle with the constitutions. Most importantly, let us not tear each other apart when they are gone, because France is always ready to help those dictators flee.

Frankly, when I saw on [news organization] France 24 that there was an announcement from [French President] Hollande on Blaise Compaoré evacuation, I felt sick to my stomach. Why do these westerners never side with the people?

Alli Konseiga: rappelez vous que l'Afrique entière a les yeux sur nous Cibals. D'autres jeunes dans des pays où les dirigeants sont comme notre ex presidents voudront s'inspirer de vous. Si notre travail est fini, on s'en va. Rappelons nous, assainir sans se salir. Merci Cibals

Alli Konseiga: remember that all of Africa is watching our Cibals [the name given to supporters of le Balai citoyen]. Young people in countries with leaders who act like our former presidents will be inspired by us. If our work is done, we will go. Remember: we must not get our hands dirty as we clean up. Thank you Cibals.

Fatou Baldé Yansane: … Je crois que les populations africaines sont en train de gagner du terrain. Les fantaisies de changements de constitutions et les élections tripatouillées seront difficiles à consommer dans les prochaines années.
La nouvelle génération doit se positionner à défendre ces valeurs pour éviter d'être engloutie dans le ravin des présidents suicidaires.

Fatou Baldé Yansane: … I believe that African people are gaining ground. Changing the constitution on a whim and tampering elections will become difficult in the next few years.
The new generation must position itself to defend its values in order to avoid being swallowed up by the abyss of disastrous presidents.

Africa: After the uprisings in #Burkina, #Gabon & #Chad. That is what's in store for Djibouti's regime in [the absence of democracy]

by Danielle Martineau at November 21, 2014 04:29 PM

Lawrence Lessig
On the Center for Competitive Politics Complaint

The Center for Competitive Politics has filed a complaint against the Mayday PAC, charging that we…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at November 21, 2014 03:19 PM

Global Voices
All Set for Global Voices Meetup in Beirut, Lebanon, on November 26

gv-meetup-logo-gvmeetup-400We are pleased to announce the next in series Global Voices Meetup, that will take place in Beirut, Lebanon, on November 26th at the March Lebanon Offices from 5:30pm to 8pm. (Check the map here.)

Other similar meetups were held in Cairo, Tunis, Lagos, Skopje, and other cities around the world. This meetup will include Global Voices Online community members from Tunisia, Egypt, France, the US, Bahrain, as well as from the local Lebanese community. These community members are involved in a wide range of citizen media, technology, and journalistic projects and activities, and may serve as a valuable resource for others interested in becoming more active in this field. The meetup is part of global activities organised to celebrate Global Voices 10th anniversary.

The official invitation to the meetup in Beirut

The official invitation to the meetup in Beirut

Global Voices’ partner in this event, MARCH Lebanon, is a local civil society NGO that focuses on freedom of expression, women's rights, and intersectarian dialogue. MARCH is at the forefront of many of Lebanon's censorship battles and is proud to share its experiences with you during this event.

The meetup will bring together many of these community members to share their experiences and help facilitate connections between others that share similar interests or missions. Hosted by Thalia Rahme (@thalloula), as well as other GV volunteers, the gathering will focus on:

  • Censorship
  • Fact Checking
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Mainstream and Citizen Journalism

The event is open to all, but participants must RSVP on Facebook. Official hashtags for the event are #GVMeetup and #GVis10

For more information, please contact Thalia Rahme or Maya Gebeily:

trahme [at] gmail.com

or info [at] marchlebanon.org

by Thalia Rahme at November 21, 2014 02:05 PM

Murder of Beauty Queen and Her Sister Reminds Honduras of the Horror of Machismo Violence
Imagen ampliamente difundida en Twitter.

Image widely shared on Twitter.

On the same day that María José Alvarado Muñoz was due to depart for London to represent Honduras in the Miss World 2014 pageant, her and her sister Sofía Trinidad's bodies were found in Cablotales close to Aguagua River in the country's north. Both women had been shot to death. 

The sisters were reported missing six days earlier on Thursday, November 13, after they attended a birthday celebration for Sofía Trinidad's boyfriend, Plutarco Antonio Ruíz, who is accused of the murders. 

“We can indeed confirm that these are the two young sisters who were buried in the area of Cablotales town in Santa Bárbara,” Criminal Investigation Director Leandro Osorio told Tegucigalpa-based Radio América. The bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition, after being buried for several days, he added.

Besides Ruíz, police also have a man named Aris Valentín Maldonado Mejía in custody. Authorities believe, however, that more individuals might be involved. Local media have reported that an argument between Ruíz and Sofía Trinidad may have led to the violence.

Osorio said that Ruíz led police to the place where the bodies were found. He also said that the alleged murder weapon was confiscated and that the vehicle presumably used to transport the bodies has been impounded.

The Miss World organization issued a statement from their chairwoman, Julia Morley, in reaction to the news:

To everyone around the world who has been touched by the awful news from Honduras this morning.
We are devastated by this terrible loss of two young women, who were so full of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of María José Alvarado & Sofía Trinidad at this time of grief.
We are receiving messages of condolences and support from our Miss World family across the world, who all share our sadness at such a tragedy.

We will be holding a special service with all of the Miss World contestants on Sunday, where we will be honoring the lives of María José Alvarado and Sofía Trinidad, and say prayers for them and their family.

- With Love Julia Morley, Chairman Miss World Organisation.

Merly Eguigure, the coordinator for human rights organization Movimiento de Paz Visitación Padilla, remarked that many times men feel overshadowed when women stand out more than them and claimed that 98 percent of murders of women in Honduras go unpunished.

On Twitter, users have expressed their grief over the crime and posted images and information:

María José Alvarado (1995-2014)
Today, Honduras misses your eyes.

Rest in peace, María José Alvarado, Miss Honduras World 2014. God, protect Honduras and deliver us from all evil!

The tragedy of María José and Sofía Alvarado must make us react. No more silence in the face of violence. YES TO PEACE.

One user tweeted about ending every beauty pageant:

HONDURAS IS MOURNING for the irreparable loss of Miss Honduras World.
Now that we are on the topic, may beauty pageants be suspended for good. That is a worldwide shame.

According to data from the National Autonomous University of Honduras’ Observatory of Violence, 14.6 women were murdered in 2013 for every 100,000 residents. Honduras has the highest rate of violent female deaths in the world. 

by Gabriela García Calderón at November 21, 2014 12:04 PM

Lawrence Lessig
Year two of the NHRebellion walks happens this January. This…

Year two of the NHRebellion walks happens this January. This year, there are four routes, all converging on Concord on January 21, the 5th anniversary of Citizens United.

The first begins again in Dixville Notch, on the anniversary of Aaronsw‘s death, January 11. The second begins in Keene, on January 17. The third and fourth begin in Nashua and Portsmouth on January 18. 

It is an amazing team pulling all this together. The project now lives within OpenDemocray, an organization founded by Granny D. I am eager to walk, and meet old and new friends across New Hampshire again. 

Come if you can, for a day or as long as you can. And if you can host walkers along the way, or help drive or give support, please sign up here. 

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at November 21, 2014 10:44 AM

Year two of the NHRebellion walks happens this January. This…

Year two of the NHRebellion walks happens this January. This year, there are four routes, all converging on Concord on January 21, the 5th anniversary of Citizens United.

The first begins again in Dixville Notch, on the anniversary of Aaronsw‘s death, January 11. The second begins in Keene, on January 17. The third and fourth begin in Nashua and Portsmouth on January 18. 

It is an amazing team pulling all this together. The project now lives within OpenDemocray, an organization founded by Granny D. I am eager to walk, and meet old and new friends across New Hampshire again. 

Come if you can, for a day or as long as you can. And if you can host walkers along the way, or help drive or give support, please sign up here. 

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at November 21, 2014 10:44 AM

Year two of the NHRebellion walks happens this January. This…

Year two of the NHRebellion walks happens this January. This year, there are four routes, all converging on Concord on January 21, the 5th anniversary of Citizens United.

The first begins again in Dixville Notch, on the anniversary of Aaronsw‘s death, January 11. The second begins in Keene, on January 17. The third and fourth begin in Nashua and Portsmouth on January 18. 

It is an amazing team pulling all this together. The project now lives within OpenDemocray, an organization founded by Granny D. I am eager to walk, and meet old and new friends across New Hampshire again. 

Come if you can, for a day or as long as you can. And if you can host walkers along the way, or help drive or give support, please sign up here. 

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at November 21, 2014 10:44 AM

Lokman Tsui
what i have been up to the past three months

since i joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong, i’ve been busy preparing for two new classes, dealing with the Hong Kong protests and getting used to new colleagues and work environment.

i’m also happy to say that i’ve been busy writing. i wrote a piece in the guardian explaining why the hong kong students know that the time to act is now. [local backup].

my friend jason and i decided to take “explaining the students’ perspective” one step further. we took a letter that a student wrote to her parents, and translated it into a comic. this comic went viral on facebook. [english version]

i’ve also given a couple of interviews in Chinese. here’s an article about me in the school magazine, what i research, why i joined the school and also some of my views on the students and the hong kong protests. [local backup].

i also appeared on “money cafe” a casual talk show on business, where i discussed what’s at stake when internet companies want to enter the China market. the best part might not be the actual content, the best part might be hearing me discuss internet surveillance, free expression and the business of this all in my crappy cantonese. [part 1] [part 2]

my latest op-ed is in the south china morning post, on the importance of “one country, two internets” for hong kong. [local backup]

by Lokman Tsui at November 21, 2014 08:43 AM

‘One country, two internets’, and why we need to protect it

Late on Tuesday, a small group of people charged the Legislative Council building and broke a glass panel. Reports indicate they did so because they feared the passing of “Internet Article 23”. The original Article 23 is of course the controversial national security bill that provoked half a million Hong Kong people to protest in the streets in 2003. So what exactly is “Internet Article 23”, and should we be concerned?

“Internet Article 23” is actually more than one bill. Lawmakers and advocacy groups use it to refer to at least two different regulations, both with the potential to seriously undermine the free and open internet we enjoy in Hong Kong.

One is the Copyright Amendment bill, a much needed update to the otherwise outdated copyright bill. But many fear that it will punish citizens for remixing original content with social or political commentary as parody or satire. To understand why people are concerned, you only need to take one quick lookonline or walk by the Occupy areas: among the many art pieces, one of the most popular is a life-size cutout of president Xi Jinping holding a yellow umbrella that many people take selfies with.

The other regulation in question is the Computer Crimes Ordinance. Originally intended to battle computer fraud and hacking, it has been drafted in such a way that it has serious potential for abuse. The most recent case involves the arrest of a citizen for “inciting” others to commit an offence. His crime? Posting a message on an online forum asking others to join him in the pro-democracy protests; the original post has been removed and the police have so far declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

Let’s not forget what is at stake. We only need to look across the border to see a tightly monitored, closely controlled internet where citizens have to watch what they say to each other, even on seemingly private messenger apps such as WeChat. Then they might find themselves at a dead end if they try to find out what is going on; Sina Weibo and Baidu have been filtering search results for “Hong Kong students”, “Hong Kong tear gas” and “true universal suffrage”. And because people started sharing yellow umbrella pictures, Instagram is now the latest member to the club of global internet platforms that are blocked in China, joining Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, amongst others.

In contrast, we have a free and open internet in Hong Kong. Anyone can share their story and decide for themselves what is meaningful or not; no longer does a small and powerful elite determine this for the rest of society. Let’s be clear: a free and open internet doesn’t mean that people can say whatever they want without any consequences; all countries regulate speech to some extent. But it does mean that the conversation is open and inclusive: whether you are a yellow, blue or red ribbon supporter, you don’t have to ask anyone for permission to speak.

Whether you agree with the protesters or not, it is undeniable that they have breathed new life into a conversation that most people had given up on, a conversation about the future of Hong Kong and the status of “one country, two systems”. Sometimes we disagree or even yell at each other, but that’s what it means to have a honest, frank and real conversation, warts and all.

To my knowledge, the Hong Kong government hasn’t censored anything related to the protests. This is surely a good thing. But if the last few weeks have taught us anything, it is that our “one country, two systems” setup isn’t sacrosanct or set in stone. That is why I am asking all of us to keep a close eye on “one country, two internets” and to make sure we preserve and protect the free and open internet in Hong Kong.

The author is an assistant professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. 

by Lokman Tsui at November 21, 2014 08:36 AM

新媒體中的言論自由 徐洛文教授專訪

特約記者:徐梓傑 (本科四年級生)

震撼全球的佔領運動,新傳上下各人也緊貼着運動的進展。這時要跟老師進行訪問,話題也離不開這場運動。

眼前香港的局勢,相信你我也意想不到。他,新傳學院助理教授徐洛文也如是說。

今年八月,他重返校園,加入中大新傳學院,就遇上罷課和佔領運動,這名回流香港的助理教授以「Surprise」形容。「香港社會累積了好多年不滿,好似好易就『撻着火』,但在很多人已經放棄的時刻,見到學生一直『頂』住」。他這年執教本科一年級生的Development of Mass Communication課,九月下旬,學生罷課,他才剛剛開課三星期,還未趕得及認識學生。但看見學生們對佔領運動的熱情,已令他留下深刻印象。「下一代這麼有心,學生很有理想,我很榮幸當上他們的老師。」

他從大學校園跳到Google,遊走亞洲各國,現在又到了本院執教鞭。三年前,他離開香港城市大學的教席,轉往Google公司,從事公共政策及政府關係的工作,主要與言論自由有關。負責與亞太區各國政府協商,例如某國關於言論自由的政策出台,他與工作團隊便會提交文件,游說政府改善政策,又或者政府看見上載至Youtube的片段出問題,他便代表Google跟對方斡旋。

他憶述最深刻的一次,要處理「Innocence of Muslims」影片惹起回教人不滿的投訴。影片反伊斯蘭教的主題激發不少回教徒於各國示威,最嚴重的包括利比亞及埃及。面對亞洲大部分伊斯蘭教國家的投訴,他的工作是要應對當地政府。當時,巴基斯坦政府要求影片下架,是否下架他需要考慮兩個主要問題:一、法律問題;二、影片是否違反Google內部的政策(例如不容許有三級片)。就着這段影片,因為其內容並無違反Google政策,因此,公司決定這段影片不用下架,而巴基斯坦政府結果封鎖了Youtube。

他形容,大學教學研究與擔任Google公司的前線工作,猶如「識食」同「識煮」的關係。不論在大學任教,還是較早時在美國修讀博士課程期間,他主要研究互聯網、新媒體的全球化政策,當時的論文大多從批判角度入手,是「評價菜式」。但加入Google工作,他便要「親自下廚」,通過游說工作,改變一國政策。因為政府有關資訊傳播的政策如何推行,皆直接影響Google 公司的工作。離開Google,他放棄了高薪厚職、公司股份,還有每年豐厚的聖誕禮物(通常是智能手機)。為的是甚麼?

徐洛文直言有感於自己在Google的工作發展去到瓶頸:「始終我不是一個政治家」,他在Google的工作,可以影響公司,甚至政府政策,但工作成果相對抽象,滿足感不大。他想多寫評論文章,但又受制於Google員工的身分。只有離開工作崗位,重投校園他才享有自由,延續學術研究;重拾教鞭也因為他希望接觸年輕人,看著學生成長,他說這樣「更有滿足感」。

遊走各國,他還是落腳香港,是因為對香港有感情。他父母為香港人,早年舉家移民至荷蘭阿姆斯特丹。他在荷蘭出生、長大,但一直有跟在港的表姐聯繫,那時還是寫信的年代。他跟表姐閒話家常,也會談到香港文化。小時,他跟香港學生一樣,愛看香港卡通、電視電影:「還是那個熟悉的原因──因為睇無綫劇集大。」回想中學年代,親友更會從香港寄一些劇集光碟給他。

慢慢地,互聯網普及,他跟表姐也改以電郵聯繫,上網也能收看港台節目,不用再等幾星期從香港寄來的影碟。他感受到互聯網的力量,相信互聯網能打開他的世界,能改變世界。他着迷於互聯網和新媒體的發展,後來考上荷蘭的萊頓大學 (Leiden University),雖然本科和碩士並非修讀傳播學相關學科,但他的碩士論文題目是Internet in China。輾轉他往美國賓夕凡尼亞大學修讀媒體傳播相關的博士學位,2010年學成回流香港,展開其教學及工作生涯。

四年過去,他漸漸習慣香港的生活模式,但同時也感受到社會上,新一代與上一輩的矛盾加劇。這次佔領運動,更讓他印證社交媒體的重要角色。「WhatsApp,Facebook等新媒體是新一代的溝通平台,他們透過社交媒體,把自己親身經歷抒發出來,這些內容與主流媒體的故事很不一樣。」。他認為,正因為新一代的溝通方式,催化了這次佔領運動遍地開花。新媒體能夠讓新一代找到身分認同,互相組織起來就成為運動的群眾力量。他又相信,在主流媒體一片「懷疑論」、「河蟹論」的報道下,新媒體的言論空間更見重要。

面對新世代的學生,他謙稱學生們教識他「謙虛」、「勇氣」和「爭氣」。他看見學生面對將來,有勇氣積極爭取更好未來,但又不像上一輩般,否定未來的可能性。在強權之下,他寄語學生要對將來有信心,人權和民主要自己爭取。

為了一盡己責,9‧28催淚彈事件後,他在《衛報》投稿,希望世界更了解香港發生的事,他說,不只年輕人有責任,老師也有。

徐洛文教授小檔案

by Lokman Tsui at November 21, 2014 07:56 AM

Hong Kong’s activists know they must act now if democracy is ever to happen

The Hong Kong people are considered the world’s most polite protesters. We queue, recycle and clean up after ourselves. Our protests have always gone without a hitch. Not any more. A lot of people I’ve spoken to this week are in disbelief.

On Friday night the police arrested and attacked many of the students present with pepper spray after a few tried to climb a fence to reclaim what many consider a public space in front of government headquarters. Then, on Sunday, when adults joined the students in their protest, not only did the pepper spray return but the police unleashed canister after canister of teargas into the densely packed crowd. It was at this point that I noticed many Hong Kong people saying: “This isn’t supposed to happen here. This isn’t the Hong Kong I know.”

Yet other people I have talked to, many from an older generation, don’t have much sympathy for the protesters. They feel it is not possible to win against the government, especially when it is backed by Beijing, and argue that the protests are not worth the trouble, that there could be repercussions. Tiananmen Square comes to mind, naturally. But Tiananmen is not the only historical context for understanding what is happening Hong Kong, let alone the best one.

The current protests are as much about democracy as they are about growing social inequality. Students see their options shrinking in front of them. An apartment has always been expensive in Hong Kong, but it has become almost impossible for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder. According to a recent survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a family of four must pay 13 times their annual income to purchase a tiny 37 sq metres (400 sq ft) flat. To top it off, Hong Kong took top honours in the recent Economist crony-capitalism index, beating Russia to first place.

Unsurprisingly, trust in the government is at an all time low. This distrust has been building up for over a decade. In 2003, the public came out in massive numbers to protest against Article 23, a national security law that the government was trying to push through, and would have impinged on our freedoms. The protests were peaceful but persistent. To the surprise of many, the protesters pressured the government to shelve the plan indefinitely.

More recently, in 2012, the public protested against the national education plan that the government was trying to push through. This scheme would be mandatory to all students, and many citizens called it brainwashing propaganda because it included textbooks that dismissed the multiparty systems and glossed over Tiananmen and the Cultural Revolution. Yet again, to the surprise of many, the protests pressured the government to overturn its decision to make the plan mandatory.

The latest proposal the government is trying to push through is the election framework for 2017. The Hong Kong Basic Law, ratified by China and the UK in 1984, stipulates that “the election of the fifth chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the year 2017 may be implemented by the method of universal suffrage”. Yet, after years of delays and broken promises, the current proposed framework mandatesthat any candidate running for chief executive has to be vetted by a small committee stacked with pro-Beijing supporters. Simply put, they want to control who can run. For many, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Let’s be realistic. None of the students I have spoken to expect “democracy” to magically solve all their problems. They also understand that many are sceptical about their chances to change the government’s mind. But history has taught them not only that change is possible but that if they don’t do it, no one else will. Armed with little more than clingfilm on their faces, face masks, safety goggles, and umbrellas as protection against pepper spray and teargas, they fight for their dream of a better future. A little hope can go a long way.

by Lokman Tsui at November 21, 2014 07:52 AM

Doc Searls
Some thoughts on App Based Car Services (ABCS)

I started using Uber in April. According to my Uber page on the Web, I’ve had fifteen rides so far. But, given all the bad news that’s going down, my patronage of the company is at least suspended. As an overdue hedge, I just signed up with Lyft. I’m also looking at BlaBlaCar here in the U.K. (where I am at the moment), plus other alternatives, including plain old taxis and car services again.

But here are a few learnings I’ve gained in the meantime.

First Uber isn’t about “ride sharing.” That’s just marketing gloss at this point. Instead Uber is what’s coming to be called an “app-based car service.” Let’s call it ABCS. I mean hey, if that’s what the New York Attorney General calls it, that’s what it is. At least for now.

ABCS is a new category, growing within and alongside two existing categories: taxis and livery. These are both old, established and highly regulated (in New York City for example, by the Taxi and Livery Commission).

My first few Uber drivers were dudes picking up some extra bucks, or so it seemed. The rest, including all the recent ones, have been livery drivers taking advantage of one more way to get a fare. Some had as many as three dedicated cell phones on their front seat: one for Uber, one for Lyft, and one for whatever car (livery) service they otherwise work for. Here are their names, in reverse chronological order: Jeffrey (whose real name was Afghanistani), Heriberto, Malik, Abdisalam, Fernando, Jourabek, Maleche, Namgyal, Mohammad, Rafael, Maged, Shahin, Imtiaz, Shaafi and Conrad. That last one was my first, in Santa Barbara.

Rather than being a new way to “share rides,” ABCS is a great hack on dispatch — a function of taxis and car services that has long been stuck in the walkie-talkie age — and payment ease.

But ABCS also hacks the whole car category as well. Why spend $300/month on a lease, or $30k for a car, plus the cost of gas, tolls, insurance and upkeep, when you’ll spend less just calling up rides from an app — and when every ride is friction-free and fully accountable? (Even to the extent that every charge is easy to post in an expense account.)

Cars are already becoming generic. (If you rent cars often, you know what I mean. A Toyota is a Nissan is a Chevy is a Hyundai.) And now we have a generation coming up that gives a much smaller damn about driving than did previous ones — at least in the U.S. All that aspirational stuff about independence and style doesn’t matter as much as it used to. How long before GM, Ford and Toyota start making special models just for Uber and Lyft drivers? (In a way Ford did that for livery with Lincoln Town Cars. Not coincidentally, several of my Uber drivers in New York and New Jersey have been in black Town Cars. Another fave: Toyota Avalons.

Anyway, I think we are amidst of many disruptions that caused by app-based ways to shrink the distance between supply and demand. Changes within ABCS are happening rapidly and in real time. Example: SheRides. Here’s one story about it.

Whatever else ABCS does, driving still won’t be a way to get rich. At best it will be a stepping stone to jobs that pay better and involve more marketable skills. So to me one question is, What are the next stones? And, Does the emergence of ABCS give workers on the supply side — other than those running the companies — a lift?

by Doc Searls at November 21, 2014 12:18 AM

November 20, 2014

MIT Center for Civic Media
Media Lab Conversations Series: Challenges in the Fight Against Ebola

Liveblog by Alexis, Jude, Ed, Lilia, Alexis, Yu, & Heather

Event description: “Partners in Health and its collaborators on the ground in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea have been playing a critical role in the fight against Ebola. To date, Ebola has killed more than 5,000 people, and continues to wreak havoc in the region. What are the facts from the ground? What technological tools are lacking that could be used to limit the current outbreak?

 

Ophelia Dahl of Partners in Health (PIH) will discuss the current state of events on the ground in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and PIH's response, as well as her recent trip to West Africa. In addition, PIH's director of research, Dr. Megan Murray, will discuss the Ebola research agenda.”

Joi: The first half of the session will introduce PIH and their work on the ground in Africa, and the rest of the conversation will be figuring out if and how the Media Lab community can do something to help. If we do, it must be impactful and actually helpful.

 

 

Ophelia: She began this work 32 years ago in Haiti, where she met Paul Farmer and began the work of Partners in Health. It was a small group there and she were executive director of Global Health. It was not easy to jump in the scene. It took far too long to build up the number of partners needed to do this work. She explains that Partners in Health is not a disaster relief organization. They do address the everyday disaster of poverty which affects the health of people.They work in Haiti as well as other countries around the world.

 

When the earthquake hit Haiti, PIH was the organization that had the platform to address the problem. They had doctors and surgeons in place as well as an existing supply chain to get resources. Now they are a large group with a home team in Boston and 11 other countries around the world. They collaborate with academics and believe it is important to generate new knowledge, and train and teach people.

 

In West Africa, the Ebola virus is named for a river in Zaire. One of the first outbreaks in 1976 killed around 300 people. Since then, there have been a few outbreaks, but none have had as many deaths or transmissions as the current virus, which began in Guinea and spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. This infection was spread from the patients to the caregivers, and the patients sought care in other cities so the disease continued to spread.

 

When we think about Ebola, we think about it as a death sentence because of the high percentage of fatalities. The reasons for these fatalities is underlying weak health systems, as well as our collective failure to treat patients. Those who have gotten the disease here have mostly all survived — those who have not were either diagnosed late or improperly. The proper treatment is not complicated. It’s managing electrolytes, keeping patients hydrated — what we would call really good nursing care.

 

Ophelia recently came back from Sierra Leone where she talked with survivors and listened to their stories. Most of the survivors were young people who survived because they were in fairly good health. They spent time in holding centers and there were many barriers to their care; these people stayed alive because of a bit of luck and because they were young.

 

When she talked to all of them, there were no mysterious cases. They all talked in detail about loved ones they had taken care of. This is a disease that is contracted because you are taking care of people (a “caregivers disease”) which is a terrible thing because you don’t want to stigmatize taking care of people.

 

One way to make help available is to hire these survivors. We have found in Haiti a lot of the time with HIV patients that what they need is a job. We hire them as community health workers (CHWs) and they become great coaches and educators.

 

The system that was weak and has now collapsed — more people are dying from Ebola rather than of Ebola. Maternal mortality has skyrocketed. There is not a single place that is open for women to give birth to their children. In order to address this you need to have staff, systems, space, and stuff in place. That is what constitutes a robust and redundant healthcare system. She provides the example of the Boston Marathon bombing, where there were many systems in place — in some cases redundant — which helped things go smoothly.

 

She highlighted two photographs in Liberia, contrasting an old treatment center and a newly built teaching hospital. The teaching center is running smoothly.

 

The barriers to supportive care are because it’s very difficult to give care in the gear that doctors and nurses must wear. It is hot, cumbersome, difficult to see through, and hard to feel anything with three layers of material. This is one problem that needs to be solved because it prevents them from taking care of people.

 

Megan: She’s the Research Director at PIH. When developing a research agenda for Ebola, they struggled to know where to begin. Most of PIH’s research focuses on improving care. She discusses PIH’s usual delivery model. PIH intervenes at three levels. ETUs (Ebola Treatment Units) are temporary units. They accommodate people who are sick and need intensive care. PIH provides clinical staff, laboratories, and equipment. At the second level are CCCs (Community Care Centers). When people in the peripheries are suspected of having Ebola, there’s no way to test it. They’ll have to have their blood drawn and sent to a city for testing. There are only a handful of testing sites. So the CCCs are a holding center, where some people have Ebola and other people have other illnesses (e.g. Malaria). PIH’s goal is to have the staff there using the same procedures as they would at the ETUs to prevent the spread of disease.

 

The very bottom level is to recruit and train people, mainly survivors, to provide hospital level care. Not only primary care but also screen and contact tracing.

 

Challenges and possible technical solutions

They are trying to improve case fatality rates in ECUs and CCCs by delivering high-quality care while maintaining personal protection.

 

Ebola has a much higher fatality rate than other illnesses (e.g. H5N1), so they’re trying to deliver quality care while maintaining personal protection. Many people are not getting IVs, and in some cases oral rehydration is replacing IVs, but oral rehydration is not sufficient. In the U.S. care is much stronger; people have IV lines, hookups on the wall providing oxygen, continuous monitoring, etc.

 

We can’t provide an ICU like that in West Africa right now, but we can think about building other supportive technologies to help.

 

For example, the Transdermal microneedle sensor was originally developed and used by the military. It is an electrolyte sensor that determines hydration level. PIH has started to look for funding to try to get this to a product stage for use in the field. This is an example of an existing technology that could work for Ebola care if we use them in a creative and innovative way. But, there are likely many other tools out there that could help that we don’t yet know about.

 

We need to ensure patient dignity and comfort by allowing access to relatives. There are so many terrible stories of parents losing contact with their children because they can’t go into the ICUs, they have to hand off their child to someone in a spacesuit. As a result, people don’t go to ETU’s. Most children under 12 have died of Ebola. How can we arrange for parents and their children to connect? Perhaps there are some electronic models that already exist for this.

 

Another area of focus is testing and rolling out new drugs. Funding from this has come from funding to prepare for possible instances of bioterrorism. One of the trails in Liberia is to test drugs for other uses such as flu. Most of the more effective drugs are further back in the pipeline and haven’t been tested for efficacy and tolerability.

 

We need to ensure rapid learning by optimizing data collection and management tools. There are many barriers to data collection either on paper or with computers. Imagine trying to type with 3 layers of latex gloves without being able to speak. People are working on better tools (e.g. paper that can be made wet).

 

Providing accurate and early diagnosis could enable early detection and allow clinicians to isolate and treat them at a stage where they are likelier to have good outcomes. We want to move from high tech lab to drop-of-blood test such as pregnancy test. Some issues with current tests are that they require labs facilities, take 2 - 6 hours, don’t detect early infection, and require more than a fingerstick of blood sample.

 

One of the labs that is being used in the field is built in a shipping container. However, it’s difficult to get these units to peripheral sites and out of cities because roads are bad.

 

Vaccines are also being developed, and there are 3 candidates. How should we trial vaccines? How do we deliver them? Aerosol delivery, as opposed to needle based delivery where blood oozes and brings about more risk, is still a long way away and we’re not there yet.

 

Our plan is to integrate research and knowledge generation into all our clinical activities and develop relationships with industry partners.

 

Joi: Before we jump into conversation: you mentioned two issues. The U.S. media response to illness here drumming up fear, and the difficulty of getting volunteers approved by their employers to go to West Africa.

 

Ophelia: We are leading in the wrong direction. As more people survive the disease here, the fear seems to lessen. At PIH we’ve had an outpouring of support in terms of recruits. Over a 1,000 people have volunteered to go. The key to this is training and capacity building within the country itself, but the other key to this is making sure that it’s easier for people to volunteer. We need to make sure that people are paid and compensated because it’s costly to have people away from work for a long time. Unlike in Haiti, where people can come down for a few days and help and then go back, this requires much more training. Most of the people we are working with and training now however are in-country in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

 

David: Thanks for the insights on research. I’m interested in two things: the technologies we currently have that are being used and deployed, and improving education. There are incomplete data sets that may be inaccurate, and there’s no real space and oversight for the dissemination of resources to manage the outbreak. How can we understand how the resources are actually helping? We can’t map to the health outcomes. People are doing work in their own silos, I don’t think there’s a coordinated effort. For example, when the government ordered the lockdown, there were many NGOs saying it was a bad idea. There didn’t seem to be much coordination. The education system and infrastructure is also broken. We need to provide quality education for people today to help build up other kinds of infrastructure. David plays a clip of a math lesson from Sierra Leone on the radio. “I think you see the point, it’s painful to listen to.” We need to think of technologies that would make it easy for school going children to learn from home. This is the first chance we have make use of new technologies that could have an impact on education.

 

Joi: It’s hard to imagine this happening in the U.S. because the care is so good and the infrastructure is in place. We need to start thinking about how to reach the places that are hard to get to, where the infrastructure is not that good because that is where people are really being affected.

 

Ophelia: The key thing is that building systems takes a long time. The advantage of working in one place for a very long time is that you can see the gains. Not losing heart and not being distracted is key. Things that took PIH 20 years to build, they’d be able to build much more quickly with their current infrastructure and team.

 

Megan: PIH has realized they can’t address emergencies or medical care without addressing broader social issues. So David’s point about education is well taken. One of our approaches is to provide jobs to people who have been sick, as well as education. We do a lot of education at a higher level than at high school. Our approach to research is that it must be connected to capacity building. We must use it as an opportunity to train local researchers. We can't bring those systems about without making the investment.

 

Joi: As we think about what we might do about Ebola at the Media Lab, should we focus on emergency help or capacity building? Is it one or the other?

 

Megan: We can’t just focus on capacity building. If we have a choice between two facilities, either a tent hospital or a more enduring facility, it’s important to think about what will have a more lasting impact. If it’s going to have the same impact, we want to keep in mind what’s going to be the longer-term approach.

 

David: As we see hackathons in Boston and NYC — ignore what the word means — we need to see them in Sierra Leone. Where you’re given the space and the opportunity to problem-solve. Where the people involved are learning not just how to use potential solutions, but how to hack it and make it themselves.

 

Ophelia: It’s a little bit like the argument around treatment and prevention of HIV. It’s a little bit of a temptation to say “Let’s do one or the other.” But you have to do both.

 

Joi: Sometimes we use the word “co-design” to describe our approach; when we design research, we send students and faculty and we try to work with processes and materials that are there. It helps you get better designs, and people are more likely to adopt the designs if they feel that they are part of the solutions. I wonder if this methodology would work. A lot of times we sit here in Cambridge and design something but it doesn’t work, because the parts aren’t available elsewhere for example. Is there an opportunity to do something like this.

 

Megan: Absolutely. A lot of physicians have died. The people to be asking “What do you actually need?” are the people in those places today.

 

 

Ophelia: The piece not to forget is that there needs to be delivery in this. Through any kind of discovery and development, however great a new vaccine is, making sure it can get to a hundred percent of the population is a key piece of this. Here, the delivery systems are so good, but elsewhere we’d need to able to use community health workers to help disseminate a vaccine for example. We need to make sure that we do work together because PPE devices are available to be fully used and there are great need for better tools.

 

Joi: David, you’ve been working with a lot of young people in Sierra Leone. Do you think there’s a way to involve those folks in designing things so that we’re not just sitting here guessing?

 

David: If you design in situ, thinking about distribution is very different. With Global Minimum, we work with young people to engage in creative thinking processes. We’re doing a project called Hack at Home, for students who are staying home. We’re thinking about the way that the media portrays Sierra Leone and Ebola. In our first challenge to the kids, we asked them to create content to represent a message they wanted to send about Ebola.

 

[David shows a video created by his students about the stigmatization of Ebola survivors]

 

This boy survived Ebola and is going for a stroll in his community. Other kids are avoiding him because he is stigmatized for having Ebola. This video shows how survivors are not coming to welcoming homes. Another kid explains to them that this kid is a survivor and should be accepted and welcomed. I wanted to show this video because the kid made it in his local language with his mentor.

 

Joi: In terms of technology, are you engaged with them in the process?

 

David: It’s interesting because kids use social media such as Whatsapp. It’s about meeting them where they are. It is possible to use tech with them in that way. Megan, have you thought about what the most effective way for people with prototypes at the Media Lab, what is the best way to go from the prototype to engaging with you to bring them out in the field?

 

Megan: What would be ideal would be not only to engage with us but also with clinicians and providers, community health workers in the field. We have networks of all of these people. Most of them are not on Facebook, especially in rural areas, but these people are a tremendous resource to figure out what is actually needed and iterate on design. It should be feasible, but this kind of design work is not what we usually do. There is a lot to think about.

 

Joi opens up to questions in the audience.

 

Audience: My parents are from Nigeria, and I know that Nigeria’s doing pretty well with Ebola. So what can Sierra Leone learn from Nigeria? Is there really that much of a difference between the health infrastructure in Nigeria and Sierra Leone?

 

Megan: There’s a massive difference between these countries’ health infrastructure. If you look at maternal mortality, for example, Nigeria is doing well compared with Sierra Leone and Nigeria. In Nigeria, 18,000 homes were visited and screened to detect Ebola which had a great impact.

 

David: In Sierra Leone we had months of not knowing, of denial, of looking at ourselves and saying “it’s under control.”

 

Ethan: First of all, thank you. This was incredibly helpful in terms of understanding what Partners in Health is dealing with on the ground.

 

For groups like the ML that are always trying to figure out how to solve problems, problem selection is one of the hardest things that we do. When Joi’s talking about community-based problem-solving methods and co-design, that’s about figuring out what’s the right problem to solve. You’ve given us a phenomenal list of problems that even those of us who have been paying attention to this don’t know about.  For example, the problem you highlighted of people not being able to communicate with their families — of parents not being about to communicate with their kids while in isolation. I suspect many people in the building could help address that. To the extent that you can, help us understand what the unsolved problems are — on the clinical level, on the community level, on the community information level. I’m working with a group called PenPlusBytes on the media side in Ghana. Finally, because you guys are working with people who go into the field, is there a way that some of those people could be part of a team here or elsewhere to bring those insights to us?

 

Megan: That’s something I was thinking about. Couldn’t we bring community health workers into the equation?  What do we need? We need incinerators. We need something that cools down PPE so that people can wear it at a hundred degrees. We save so much effort when we go directly to the source. Pulling those people in to the discussion will be a critical part of this. But the greater challenge is to pull people across cultural and technological barriers.

 

Ophelia: Some of the people who have come back, like nurses, might be good bridges between clinicians and community health workers. Maybe in the recruitment process for finding volunteers, we can identify some people who could come back to help design new technologies. And if you could give us even three or four things to tell them to be thinking about, that would be helpful.

 

Joi: One thing that might work, if you were going to send a team over we could have a briefing session here to teach how to think about design and manufacturing to prepare them for how to think about these issues once they’re there, and then when they come back we can have a debrief to figure out what they’ve learned and point to potential insights for design. We could use the people going and coming back as our eyes and ears.

 

Megan: When people ask “what do you need?” It’s hard — I know what the problems are but not the solutions.

 

Ophelia: The fogging on the masks is a real problem. And the double fogging, if you wear glasses. When we asked people what they did, they said they would go in and do everything that requires any sort of subtlety and nuance in the first 20 minutes. People can only spend an hour in the ETU with PPE on because it’s just too hot.

 

Joi: There are a whole bunch of companies just focus on fog-proof technologies.

 

Amy: A lot of the conversation has been about improving the systems for improving care, but I’m wondering about how much effort is spent in the field on education and equipping people with knowledge to stop the spread of this disease.

 

Ophelia: We think about generating knowledge both at a high-level and at a community level. Rapid employment and deployment of survivors is one way to spread this information. Making use of community health workers is a key way to educate.

 

Matt Carroll: This may just be from watching too much news coverage, but it seems like the response from Western countries and organizations has been kind of chaotic over there. Is that the case from your impressions?

 

Ophelia: I think that we at Partners in Health are used to, and somewhat spoiled by, being able to get things done quite quickly, with some nimbleness, because of the relationships we’ve formed over time. And it’s hard to see so many groups, all well meaning, in a jumble.

It’s difficult to have a tangle of groups and get things done quickly. Some of the groups that have been able to get things done have been organizations like MSF, which works independently. It’s harder if you want to integrate with existing systems. There’s chaos borne of infrastructure and in-country challenges, as well as bureaucracy that occurs during emergencies which can be frustrating.

 

Audience: There are two open innovation challenges related to Ebola, one with USAID, so people are trying to solve these problems in creative ways.

 

Ophelia: The results of these challenges are interesting. Chlorine is used to disinfect parts of the protective gear and equipment. There was the suggestion of making it colored, so that you could see areas that hadn’t been doused with chlorine. There’s a difference between imagining it and developing it and then getting it through customs and then getting it out of the capital city to the places where it needs to be. This shouldn’t be so hard — it should be doable. Part of that is developing it in the countries themselves.

 

David: There are two kind of technologies that should be developed, whether it is from challenges or those from the ground. There are those we have to build from there, while there are those we can not build from there. For instance, PPT’s would be ideally built from there. It would be much different if done from Sierra Leone, if some of these technologies, and what problem sets we want to attack and look separating the problem sets based on this. People here could focus on those things that require iteration over a long time.

 

Audience: Does anyone have a sense of the supply chain of getting people and information between here and there? Whether it’s getting through customs, getting permits, etc.

 

Ophelia: It’s a great question. I’d love you to help us think through some of that. We’re trying to build networks of people embedded in the countries we work in so that things can go smoothly. For instance, we have people working in customs in Haiti. We don’t yet have that in Sierra Leone.

 

Audience: I appreciate all the attention Ebola is getting, and I think education in West Africa is important, but I think we also need to work on education here. For example, some of my friends here don’t realize that Ebola is only in three countries in Africa.

 

Megan: Somehow that message isn’t getting out there to people. We’re actually overwhelmed with all of the coverage — we hire people to read the newspapers and sift through the information. There’s just so much information. Why do you think people aren’t getting the message?

 

Audience: I think a lot of people still don’t understand that Africa isn’t just one big country.

 

Ophelia: We need to start early then! You’re right — the idea that this can be brought from anywhere in Africa is really a terrible thing. If you’ve got any ideas about how to do that, working on a tool to address that specific issue would be really important.

 

Joi: This is a perfect setup to promote Ethan’s book, Rewire. What we hoped for the Internet is that it would make it easier for people to care about people who live in other places. But we’re seeing that maybe this isn’t happening, and we need to build tools to make this more likely. That’s a lot of what Ethan is doing at the Center for Civic Media.

 

David: I was stopped on my way back from Mexico. They asked, “Do you know why you’re here?” “Because I have a Sierra Leone passport? Which I’m very proud to carry, by the way!” So we need to change perceptions here.

 

As we create solutions we need to think about ways that they help young people in Sierra Leone to learn how to make and build their own solutions. But we also can’t wait any longer to act.

 

 

by alexishope at November 20, 2014 08:42 PM

Creative Commons
State of the Commons

Today, we’re releasing a new report that we think you will want to see. State of the Commons covers the impact and success of free and open content worldwide, and it contains the most revealing account we’ve ever published, including new data on what’s shared with a CC license.

We found nearly 900 million Creative Commons-licensed works, dramatically up from our last report of 400 million in 2010. Creators are now choosing less restrictive CC licenses more than ever before — over half allow both commercial use and adaptations.

We’re also celebrating the success of open policy worldwide. Fourteen countries have now adopted national open education policies, and open textbooks have saved students more than 100 million dollars. These are big moves making big impacts.

Please help us spread the word about this groundbreaking report.

If Creative Commons plays a role in how you use the internet or share your work, please consider making a gift to support the organization. Creative Commons licenses will always be free, but they would not exist without your generous support.

Support Creative Commons

by Ryan Merkley at November 20, 2014 07:55 PM

Andrew McAfee
Enterprise 2.0, Finally?

Facebook’s recent announcement that it’s readying a version of its social software for workplaces got me thinking about Enterprise 2.0, a topic I used to think a great deal about. Five years ago I published a book with that title, arguing that enterprise social software platforms would be valuable tools for businesses.

The news from Facebook, along with rapid takeup of new tools like Slack, the continued success and growth of Salesforce’s Chatter and Yammer (now part of Microsoft), and evidence of a comeback at Jive, indicates that the business world might finally be coming around to Web-style communication and collaboration tools.

Why did it take so long? I can think of a few reasons. It’s hard to get the tools right — useful and simple software is viciously hard to make. Old habits die hard, and old managers die (or at least leave the workforce) slowly. The influx of ever-more Millennials has almost certainly helped, since they consider email antediluvian and traditional collaboration software a bad joke.

Whatever the causes, I’m happy to see evidence that appropriate digital technologies are finally appearing to help with the less structured, less formal work of the enterprise. It’s about time.

What do you think? Is Enterprise 2.0 finally here? If so, why now? Leave a comment, please, and let us know.

by Andrew McAfee at November 20, 2014 07:28 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Digital Security Guide for African Environmental Rights Defenders

A new digital security guide seeks to help environmental rights defenders in Sub-Saharan Africa protect themselves and their communities. Developed by Tactical Technology Collective, a Berlin-based info-activism organization, the guide was developed through a collaborative process with groups working in this field across the region.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 1.09.57 PMThe fight to save the environment and natural resources that impoverished communities depend on is intensifying as oil and gas are discovered in more and more places throughout Africa. The loss of land to agricultural multinationals and the building of mega-dams is increasing. Extraction of myriad other resources and poaching are all at an all-time high. In the middle of all this, environmental rights defenders (ERDs) are struggling to make corporations and governments accountable to the people and to defend the integrity of ecosystems.

Reports released by such organizations as Global Witness, particularly the “Dangerous Environment“ report, show a sharp increase in known killings of environmental and land defenders by their adversaries worldwide. The report shows that three times as many people were killed in 2012 than 10 years before.

With the growth of technology and increasing use of digital advocacy and communication tools to do their work, ERDs in Africa are increasingly becoming vulnerable to cyber-attacks and harassment. Governments and corporations are targeting ERDs through loopholes left in their digital life.

In response to these trends, Tactical Technology Collective launched a digital security guide targeted specifically for environmental rights defenders.

Since 2012, Tactical Tech has been working with ERDs in Africa to help them tighten security around their digital resources. To develop the “Digital security tools and tactics for Environmental Rights Defenders in Sub-Saharan Africa” guide, Tactical Tech worked with a Kenyan environmental communications and digital security consultant. Collaborators then used a survey to assess digital threats, risks, vulnerabilities and capacities of their target constituencies in Nigeria, Liberia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, the DRC and other African countries where defenders face a constant struggle to protect the environment from the might of extractive industries.

The guide is an offshoot of Tactical Tech’s Security-in-a-Box tool that has served human rights defenders for many years. It is designed to walk defenders through a process of securing their digital resources and information exchange systems so that they can close the loopholes that their adversaries – governments and corporations – could use to either disrupt their work or harm them physically.

The guide covers topics including:

  • How to assess your digital security risks
  • How to secure your online collaborations
  • How to use your smartphone more securely
  • How to make a distress call in emergencies
  • How to protect your evidence

This guide is designed for use even by defenders with basic computer knowledge and provides links to many useful applications and tools that one can install in their computer to secure their digital life.

Read the guide online: https://securityinabox.org/communities/04

Download the guide in PDF form: https://securityinabox.org/sbox/pdfs/enviro-africa.pdf

A limited number of handy print copies is also available for those who like reading on dead trees. 

UPDATE: The guide is also available in French at https://securityinabox.org/fr/communities/04

If you know individuals or networks who may find this guide useful, please share this with them. If you have any questions or wish to learn more about the guide, please email lisa[at]tacticaltech[dot]org or maina[at]kijanimedia[dot]com.

by Samuel Maina at November 20, 2014 06:19 PM

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