Friday, September 26, 2008

Picnic 08: Suprising Africa

Ali Balunywa

A presentation by Ethan Zuckerman; co-founder of Global Voices, a research fellow at the Berkman Centre and a prodigious blogger interested in the impact of technology on the developing world.

Binyavanga Wainaina Kenyan author and journalist and Helen Omwando head of market intelligence for Royal Philips Electronics were at hand to comment at the end of the presentation.

The presentation was done between 17.20 and 18.00 at the E-Art Dome in Amsterdam on 26 September 2008. It was an eye opener on the vibrant and fast-moving technological and creative developments in cities and rural areas across Africa, from mobile banking to new communication patterns.
In a fast paced tone, Zuckerman explain what surprise Africa was all about. He explained that it was not about disease, war, conflict as portrayed by the media, but about the new innovative and profitable Africa.

He used many examples of nations in Africa on the move. Madagascar, he claimed was the third largest island in the world with special wildlife and people. He informed the audience about a young Madagascan boy who dropped out of school because his parents could not afford US $90 per year fees! The boy went ahead and invented a windmill using a bicycle dynamo which now powers his parent’s house. A Malawian blogger uploaded this story and it was picked by a Kenyan-American blogger. The story was picked from there by the West and the boy was invited to the US.

This shows that out there are many such stories that go untold!

Well meaning white guys like U2 singer Bono and Sir Bob Geldof, long advocates for international aid to Africa, have led international effort to focus on Africa.

The world of African bloggers is quite active. There are thousands of Kenyan bloggers. They are influential and their postings are popularly used by radio talk shows. During the presidential elections in Kenya, there was a media blackout- except blogs. Bloggers documented the election fiasco and posted on their blog.

In Africa, there exist 3 groups of people. Group 1 includes leaders, despots and aging politicians. Group 3 are the kids and group 2 the new generation. The latter are the group with disposable income. They are producers not consumers. Their symbol is the mobile phone. This is an important phenomenon for the whole continent.

Everyone in Africa can now access a phone. In Tanzania, 97% of the people interviewed can make a telephone call. The mobile telephone infrastructure is shared in Africa. This is the beginning of solving Africa’s problems.

Cash is now sent via the telephone by way of telephone credits. Someone in the city can now send his/her relative in the village cash via the mobile. This system was developed in Uganda. It is called sente local language meaning money.

In Kenya a cash transfer system called pesa Kiswahili for money is now well developed to international standards. One can now pay his tax and other payments using a mobile phone. Kenyans in the Diaspora exploit this means of transfer and thus avoid the exorbitant charges by western union and other money transfer agencies.

This system is also available in Zambia.

In Nairobi an 18 year old built a car safety system with a mobile phone. A stolen car can be disabled by a mobile phone. A recording of the conversation of thieves can also be made.

In Zimbabwe, Mugabe was forced to share power because rigging could not take place. The opposition used the mobile phone to report results at their headquarters. They compiled the results before the electoral commission. There was therefore, no way could Mugabe’s party rig the elections in their favour. Mobile telephony can now fix elections.

Zuckerman advised the West to invest in infrastructure in Africa and stop trade in cash crops, human beings and other smaller imports. The way forward is to invest in mobile telephony, power generation and roads. The returns from Africa are more than 50% on stock markets.

China is busy investing in infrastructure in Africa and will reap big in future. They will be able to access minerals and oil more cheaply.

Africans in the Diaspora are also an inspiring lot. They have answered the call to go back and develop Africa. A Ghanaian formerly working with Microsoft Corporation returned home and invested in a university. It is now one of the most respected in Ghana. This is replicated elsewhere in Africa.

At this point Binyavanga Wainaina Kenyan and Helen Omwando came in. Helen discussed the corporate perspective. She highlighted the fact that almost 30% of the African countries have reported a more than 6% GDP growth rate over the last 5 years unlike western countries. However, she averred that out of the 26 billion Euros annual Income for Philips only 1% comes out of Africa!

Wainana was optimistic of the future of Africa saying presently, platforms are being created around things like governance. He asserted that people are wilfully finding their way around.

When asked how Kenya recovered so quickly after the election fiasco, Wainana admitted that the violence shocked everyone. On the other hand, he said the system simply buckled, yet everyone had confidence in it. Nonetheless, the politicians quickly pulled their act together, talked and the systems were revived.

Wainana claimed the difference between Africa and other countries was that Africans live in tribes, well as the rest of the world lives in states, nations and realms. This therefore is the big problem for Africa.

Egypt claims Uganda land

by Ali Balunywa

Egypt’s minister of Agriculture, recently claimed that the Uganda government had allocated Egypt 2 million acres of land to grow wheat and corn this year. He asserted that the land was in a number of places. 2 million acres is equivalent to 2.2% of Uganda’s total area.

Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper quoting the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper of 30 August 2008, cited minister Amin Abaza of Agriculture as saying, “Uganda allocated to us (Egypt) 2 million feddans of land in a number of places.”

According to the Monitor, it was not clear whether the land was sold or leased freely. President Museveni is want to make decisions favouring investors without consultations. He has for example given away land in several prime areas in the city free to foreign investors only regularised the transactions later.

The monitor approached several executives including the Uganda Investment Authority, the Minister of lands and a number of political executives say they have no knowledge of the alleged deal.

However Reuters news agency reported recently that Arab countries, many of them oil rich but largely desert, were seeking large patches of land in fertile Africa to grow food for their populations to stem the increasing food prices.

The claim from Cairo came after Egyptian President Hussein Mubarak visited Uganda -- for the first time in his 27 years in power -- at the end of July.

Members of Parliament led by Ms Betty Kamya on 25 September have tasked government as a matter of urgency to explain the agreement with the Egyptians, believed to be in final stages to explain the circumstances under which Egyptians are claiming at least 2 per cent of Uganda’s fertile agricultural land for wheat and corn plantations..

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Picnic 08: Commercial collaborations: tools, Things and Toys

Presenter: Michael Tchao, General Manager; Nike Techlab/
Nike+, at Nike which connects physical products with virtual online services and athlete communities.

Time and date: 11.55 25 September 2008

Mike Tchao started his presentation by introducing Nike’s digital collaboration with Apple computers called
Nike+,. He added that through digital innovations, sports will be transformed. Doing so would turn information into inspiration.

Nike is looking for an emotional demand connection by re thinking running. Digital technology provides information to runners on how far, how long, how fast one is running or how many calories have been used.

This technology has evolved since 1987 (sonar technology), 1999 (tumour), 2002 (a modern system; emotional experience.)

Nike made an analysis of runners and grouped them into a pyramid. The apex with a few people had the core runners who are self motivated. The rows below have fitness runners, walk runners and the inactive. These people according to Nike need motivation. Nike took it upon itself to come up with a solution.

Nike in another survey established that today 75% of runners run with music and 40% would not run. It has also been established that over 150 million Apple Ipods have been sold and that Nano is the most popular. A connection was thus made between sport and music. Thoughts of a link were important.

Two years ago, Nike and Apple launched a partnership. A GPS sensor was placed in a Nike shoe. It links with an Ipod transforming it into a system that records how you are running, where, how long and other services. It congratulates a runner on completing a run or achieving a target or breaking a record.

After the run one can log into the Nike website for more information. Once logged in, you can set goals; targets etc and Nike will assist you to achieve them by offering information through the Ipod.

A social community network has been established virtually connecting all runners all over the world. It provides information on who is ahead, who is behind or who is buying lunch! The application also allows you to set up a goal before running and provides you real-time data on your run. The Nike community is thus connected!

Nike has gone further to start organizing international runs; women marathons, a digital running community! On 31 August 2008, Nike organized the human race which took place in 26 cities in 26 countries all over the world. Some of the proceeds of the race were donated to charity.’
The question Mike raised at the end of his presentation is what if Nike got the whole world to run?

My answer is that Nike would earn hundreds of billions of dollars in sales! Nike has strategically placed itself in a position to be the leading sports shoe seller. This is one thing Mike did not tell us. A running Nike shoe costs around US $100.00. With a virtual community tightly connected, who needs any other advertising medium? The income that Nike is reaping from its technological innovation is quite enormous. Music and sports are 2 things that today’s generation has embraced fully. If they can be tightly knit in a social community network, no sale could be easier.

For purposes of the New Media studies, Nike’s virtual social community and the Nike+, chip in the shoe are of special significance.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Corruption still rides high in Africa; TI

By Ali Balunywa

In a report released by Transparency international (TI) on 23 September 2008, out of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world, six are in Africa. They include Sudan, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the detailed Index, which was released yesterday in Berlin, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden shared the highest score at 9.3, followed immediately by Singapore at 9.2.

Somalia was ranked at the bottom at 1.0, (the most corrupt in the world because dozens of aid workers, journalists and boat crew members have been kidnapped for ransom in the past year), slightly trailing Iraq and Myanmar at 1.3 and Haiti at 1.4.

Of the 180 countries surveyed, eight West African countries placed in the bottom 20: Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, and finally, Guinea placing sixth from last.Cape Verde, the only West African country to have graduated to the UN status of middle-income country, ranked 47.

Botswana is the highest country in Africa in the CPI 2008 with a score of 5.8 out of 10. It is the 36th on the global table“In the poorest countries, corruption levels can mean the difference between life and death, when money for hospitals or clean water is in play,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of TI in a public statement at the release of the 2008 report. “The continuing high levels of corruption and poverty plaguing many of the world’s societies amount to an ongoing humanitarian disaster and cannot be tolerated.”

Nigeria moved up 27 places on the global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2008, ranking 121 out of 180 countries surveyed by TI, the global anti-corruption watchdog. The country is now placed the 59th most corrupt out of 180 countries. It obtained a score of 2.7 out of a possible 10.
Six African nations namely Democratic Republic of Congo (171), Equatorial Guinea (171), Chad (173), Sudan (173), Guinea (173) and Somalia (180) were ranked in the bottom 10 countries on the list.

In East Africa, Uganda falls behind Rwanda and Tanzania, which are at position 102. However, it is ahead of Kenya – which improved slightly from position 150 to 147.Uganda slipped from position 111 to 126 among 180 countries surveyed by Transparency International, an international corruption watchdog. Uganda is at per with Ethiopia , Eritrea and Mozambique at a score of 2.6 on the scale of 10. South Africa, on the other hand, dropped under the score of 5 and slipped from position 43 to position 54.

The Berlin-based watchdog said unchecked levels of corruption would add $50b, or nearly half of annual global aid, to the cost of achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. It called for a more focused and coordinated donor approach aimed at strengthening institutions of governance and oversight in recipient countries. It also singled out the performance of wealthy exporting countries, which saw their scores decline, saying continued evidence of foreign bribery scandals suggested a broader failure by the developed nations.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

An analysis of web 2.0: YouTube


Web 2.0 is a term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web. In short, Web 2.0 emphasizes the idea of the proliferation of interconnectivity and interactivity of web-delivered content. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis and blogs. The term became notable after the first O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004.

web 2.0; Youtube

Terminology: turned the passive ‘user’ into an active producer of content and shaper of the ultimate user experience. It is more playful, more participative and often joyful to use. It allows users to store and share personal videos, subsequently, linked, searched and/or rated. Its huge and sudden popularity made it the Internet phenomenon of 2006. You tube might be the best known web 2.0
YouTube turned out to be something quite different than what its creators earlier imagined. It was originally created as a dating website based on videos ... It was launched in April 2005 and it didn’t take off. People didn’t use it (YouTube) very much. The founders looked at the product and realized that it should open to any contact. Also, the interface was opened up so you could choose what you wanted to watch, search for videos, link to related videos and give people the ability to ‘tag’ videos so other people could find your video with a keyword. It grew explosively.”
So adaptability to user demand is one key to success in launching a new computer-based system such as YouTube. The computer-dating concept was too limiting. You Tube’s founders tinkered with the product to allow activity that the users wanted. They made it easier to post and locate videos, regardless of use or intent. The product took off.

1. Statistics
According to Alexa’s website (, YouTube is the third most visited website and the first if we do not include search engines.Also, if we look at the Web ratings by country, we realize that YouTube is also quite popular, for instance, it is the 5th most accessed site in the US, Portugal and Spain, the 6th in Canada and Japan and the 8th in the UK. Each day, there are 100 million downloads and 65, 000 uploads, that is 1,538 downloads per upload.
Total videos uploaded as of March 17th 2008: 78.3 Million. Videos uploaded per day: over 200,000YouTube by Category:
Music: 19.8%Entertainment: 19.0%People & Blogs: 14.2%Comedy: 13.4%Sports: 6.9%Education: 6.0%Autos: 5.2%Film: 4.7%HowTo: 2.6%News: 2.6%Pets: 2.2%Science: 2.2%Travel: 1.3%Most commonly used tags: video, sexy, sex, music, rock, rap, funny, news, pop, dance, film, short, TVAverage Video Length: 2 minutes 46.17 secondsTime it would take to view all of the material on YouTube (as of March 17th 2008): 412.3 yearsAverage Age of Uploader: 26.57Unambiguously User-Generated (amateur): 80.3%

2. Politics
IT HAS been called the YouTube election. America’s 2008 presidential campaign may be remembered as much for the candidates’ frantic activity on the internet as for their stump speeches and television spots. Pundits, inevitably, are talking of the dawn of a new era—or, more precisely, of the maturing of campaign politics on the internet.
YouTube Has Speech-to-Text Functionality.....and it Works.
Barack Obama released his video announcing his candidacy for nomination of the Presidency on YouTube. A video made by the campaign for Hillary Clinton released on her website and widely watched on YouTube, it was a creative hit. Mrs. Clinton and her would-be First Gentleman sit in a diner, discussing which song she will choose for her campaign theme.

3. Software/ Applications
YouTube’s software allows you to download videos from YouTube and many others and convert them to other video formats. The program is easy to use, just specify the URL for the video you want to download and click the Ok button! It also allows you to convert downloaded videos for Ipod, Iphone, PSP, Cell Phone, Windows Media, XVid and MP3.

4. YouTube Culture
Sarah Mogin of Carnegie University in December 2007 wrote in the Daily Vidette newspaper of Illinois State University that YouTube culture is the greatest thing since sliced bread. With sliced bread you can toast it, you can make a sandwich out of it, and you can spread things on it: peanut butter, jelly, jam, and even Nutella and that like YouTube offers just as much flexibility.
According to Sara, it is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and probably greater, for it extends into the worlds of justice, politics, education, and entertainment and also dispelled the myth that celebrities are flawless.

Sarah could not have put it better.

In my evaluation, Youtube success is based on its users, content and design. Its users are young internet savvy content designers themselves, communicating and socializing via the Web. The content is an aspect of personal broadcasting of a user that wants to communicate and extend him or her via the web.However, it also has its shortcomings beyond seemingly being a poorly designed, chaotic and cluttered website;

i) Navigation history is lost when the user logs into the system, so, for instance, the loss of videos watched, quick lists, etc;

ii) Comments are frequently chats between users, but as these are not presented over a linear, dated logic, the context and understanding are mislaid.

(iii) Scores of YouTube users post copyrighted clips everyday

iii) Youtube can be addictive

Friday, September 19, 2008

Homosexuals, prostitutes, mini-skirt wearers an endangered species

by Ali Balunywa

Uganda is at it again as a government minister proposes the banning of miniskirts! Mr. Nsaba Buturo, the ethics and integrity minister says miniskirts should be banned because women wearing them distract drivers and cause traffic accidents.

According to the New Vision, a daily newspaper in Kampala, wearing a miniskirt should be regarded as “indecent”, which would be punishable under Ugandan law; Buturo told a press conference in Uganda’s capital Kampala last Wednesday. He riled against the dangers facing those inadvertently distracted by short skirts. “If you find a naked person, you begin to concentrate on the make-up of that person and yet you are driving,” he said.

Minister James Nsaba Buturo is a man with many wars to fight; prostitution, pornography, reality television shows and homosexuality. This week he unveiled a new weapon against prostitution; name the sellers - and buyers - in the media.

At the same press conference held at the government media centre in Kampala, Dr Buturo said the new strategy to curb what he said were growing cases of prostitution, was a "weapon of shame".

According to the daily Monitor newspaper, Dr Buturo warned; "We want to shame the public officials who even use government vehicles to buy prostitutes. We want to shame the husbands who go after these prostitutes and those running brothels. Their names will be published in print, television, Internet and other possible arena."

Dr Buturo said the government would involve the community and the Police to identify and shame the sex workers and their clients.

In a related development, last year Dr Buturo said the government is committed to stopping homosexuals who try to impose a strange, ungodly, unhealthy, unnatural, and immoral way of life on the rest of our society.

In 2005 Uganda became the first country in the world to introduce laws banning same-sex marriage. Section 140 of Uganda's penal code carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for homosexual conduct, while Section 141 punishes 'attempts' at carnal knowledge with a maximum of seven years of imprisonment. Section 143 punishes acts of "gross indecency" with up to five years in prison, while a sodomy conviction carries a penalty of 14 years to life imprisonment.

In February last year, the Media Council - a state censorship board - banned a staging of the play, "The Vagina Monologues," by the US author Eve Ensler, because it "promotes illegal acts of unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution."

As senior government officials are busy harassing gays and prostitutes on one hand, other government officials are busy robbing the treasury dry! What is interesting however, is that these people causing economic damage to the country do it with so much impunity that one wonders if it is not state sponsored. Otherwise, why should these men and women walk free, be promoted, allowed to keep their ill gotten wealth while gays and prostitutes fill up the prisons in the country?

Book review; The rise of Blogosphere, by Aaron Barlow

Reviewer: Ali Balunywa 13 september 2008

“The rise of the Blogosphere”, a book by Aaron Barlow was published in 2007 by Praeger publishers. It is a hard cover book in which Aaron in very interesting prose takes the reader through the history of the main stream media and the dawn of the blogs in the historical context of the American press.

Aaron Barlow’s purpose of writing this book was to provide the reader with a cultural/historical account of the blog and to analyse the different aspects of the phenomenon. The author writes the book from a point of view of a disappointed mainstream newspaper reader and a blogger. He does it in a non technical way which is easy to follow by non technical readers.

The book is in the field of the Media genre with emphasis on the rise of the new media. His intended audience are media students, media practitioners and bloggers and also serves as a scholarly resource. He wrote the book in an informal coherent, concise and simple style that is easy to understand by any reader. The book is organised in such a way that the reader is taken through the metamorphosis of the main stream media over the last 200 years. The chapters are arranged chronologically and he winds up each chapter by pleading the case for alternative media.

The book furnished me with a lot of information on the history of the media. It also answered many questions over the way news is presented and why. In addition, it justified for me the use of the objectivity rule in media reporting. These and others are lessons that you won’t get in a journalism school.

The book scores highly in achieving its purpose because the reader is provided with a historic/cultural analysis of the evolution of the blogs. I recommend this book to all students of journalism, the new media and lay people interested in media affairs. The book will furnish you with historical facts pertaining to the mainstream media and provides you information on how blogs came into being.

The theme of the book is the effect of the main stream detaching itself from the public sphere (people). The author goes out of his way to explain how the main stream media deviated from its founding objectives of initiating and participating in political debate and instead turned professional thus removing itself from the public sphere. The author is very supportive of the new media (blogs) to take from where the main stream media left, to reconnect back to the people.

The author presents his case by outlining the history of the main stream media since the 17th century in America. He takes us back 200 years and mentions the important personalities in the industry since. His argument that the main stream media detached itself from the people is explained by examples of the newspapers then. How they professionalised then commercialised the industry and in so doing isolated the people.

The book is an eye opener and thoroughly explains how the blogs commenced. However, the book is not written objectively per say, for the author writes with a foregone conclusion regarding the main stream press. In every chapter he makes his case for alternative media because of the actions of the traditional media. He never tires to mention that commercialisation of the press detached it from the people as the owners chased after profits instead.

I don’t agree with the author when he sounds the death bell for the main stream media and in his opinion thinks the blogs will take over. I think the traditional media still has a lot to offer the people. What is wrong with professionalising a vocation? Engineers, doctors, lawyers have done it and the sectors are still vibrant. Why should it be the journalism profession to expire? I do support objectivity in the industry because the opposite would cause more chaos than the author thinks.

According to the Miniwatts marketing group research of August 2008 out of the 6.6 billion world population, only 1.4 billion use internet. It is therefore not possible that the main stream media can be affected to a big extent by blogs. According to the World association of newspapers (WAN), newspaper circulations world-wide rose 2.3 percent in 2006 while newspaper advertising revenues showed substantial gains.
WAN said global newspaper sales were up +2.3 percent over the year, and had increased +9.48 percent over the past five years. When free dailies are added to the paid newspaper circulation, global circulation increased +4.61 percent in 2006 and +14.76 percent over the past five years. And in the third world for example, newspaper circulation is continuously growing as more and more radio and television stations open up.

The author’s frustration with mainstream press arose out of his failure to find news about Africa when he returned to America. And since he was just resettling in America, American news did not make any sense for him, thus the disappointment. In my first years in Europe, I also didn’t find anything for me to read in the European media. It was therefore normal for me to feel nostalgic about home and the media left behind. But this did not make me condemn the European media!

The author however, supports his argument by quoting many authoritative individuals whom he included in his notes at the back of the book. He also included an impressive list of the selected bibliography.

All in all, the book makes very interesting reading and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Diasporas embracing the New Media for Development

Use of the new media has reached new dimensions. A cyber organisation known as Busoga Yaiffe was formerly established in June 2007. It operates in all the five continents, and its registered address, is in Jinja, a city in Uganda.

Its main objective is to mobilize local, national and international resources and capabilities for the cultural and socio-economic development of Busoga. However other objectives include:

· Re-develop the soga culture and language through any activity that promotes the interests and well being of the Soga people and traditions.

· Provide a platform for networking and sharing information, knowledge and skills, potentially useful for re-branding projects and renewal of collective identification with our deep rooted culture.

· Develop and implement strategic projects to address the chronic socio-economic stagnation as well as the root causes of and remedies for poverty, disease and ignorance.

· To uphold the right of individuals to freedom of association and participation in any Basoga activities without regard to any sectarian tendency as defined by the International human rights of the day.

Membership is open to all Basoga people in the world who are actively engaged or interested in promoting the objectives of the organization. Basoga are an ethnic group found in Uganda.

This organization started as a yahoo group of Diaspora Ugandans who felt at home penning a few lines in their own language to other Ugandans in the rest of the world. When the membership grew to over 300, there was a general suggestion to formalize the organization and involve it in development activities in Uganda.

All the activities of the organization have been organized virtually. The name of the group and the constitution were identified, proposed and adopted over the cyber net. This was done democratically using Yahoo Group’s Poll dynamics. An executive committee was also voted in office using the same means. The chair is in Germany, treasurer in Uganda, and secretary in the US. Regional chapters were also identified. What is interesting is that most members have never met apart from looking at the profiles and photos posted on the site.

The organization has come up with a 5 year strategic plan for the development of its region in Uganda. It has partnered with various other civil society organisation in its quest to raise money for its development activities in the region.

From the contributions of its members, a launch of the organization was made in Uganda. Development promotions and talk shows were also aired on radio. A memorandum of understanding was signed with the department of meteorology which donated thousands of solar powered batteries to Busoga Yaiffe to give to peasant farmers to listen to weather forecasts in order to improve their farming methods. An FM station was also provided with the package.

Meanwhile, members in the Diaspora have contributed funds for the uplifting of the education standards especially for the girl child. A number of members from the US and Middle East have taken into their guardianship young girls who dropped out of school for lack of fees yet they are brilliant. They provide all their school requirements.

A commission of inquiry was set up by the organization to establish the causes of the declining academic standards in the region in order to find solutions for them.

Health wise, the Diaspora Ugandans collect new and used hospital equipment from their host countries in the west and send it home to equip the hospitals and health centres. Medicines are also provided.

The new media here has been used to augment mobilization of people and resources for development without physically moving from one place to the other.

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