Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kampala summit consents on creation of single market

Ali Balunywa,

The first tripartite summit which brought together leaders of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) ended in Kampala yesterday. Its main resolution was the agreement on the expeditious establishment of a free trade bloc and a single customs union, stretching from South Africa to Egypt and from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Kenya.

Seven heads of state attended the Kampala meet. These included the host president; Yoweri Museveni, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Burundi Vice-President Gabriel Ntisezerana.

Also present were representatives from the African Development Bank and IGAD. The other countries sent senior ministers.
According to the New Vision newspaper, the Joint communiqué included;

1. The three blocs will have a single airspace within a year
2. Inter-regional broadband network for Internet. 3. Coordinate master plans for regional transport and energy within 12 months.
4. Increasing speed of integration and political unity
5. Speed up development of joint financial systems, capital markets and commodity exchanges.
6. Creation of a single army
7. Roadmap to free trade within 6 months
8. A legal framework to facilitate free movement for business people.
9. Harmonise positions on economic partnership agreements, including the World Trade Organisation.
10. Within one year Council of ministers to determine the time-frame for the free trade zone.
11. Call to help African developing and least developing countries to address the adverse impact of the financial crisis and the global economic melt down.


According to the Daily Monitor newspaper, the merger will lead to the creation of the largest free trade area in Africa, with a population of over 527 million people and a combined GDP of $624 billion. It added that the union is yet another step towards the attainment of the African Economic Community.

However, a number of obstacles stand in the way of forming a free trade area. The biggest of which is the multiple memberships of some countries to different regional groupings and fear of bigger economies like Egypt and South Africa.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

African leaders meet in Kampala

The East, Central and Southern African region is home to more than half Africa’s population. It is also home to 3 powerful regional economic and political organisations; the East African community comprising of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. COMESA countries comprising of 19 countries viz: Burundi, Egypt, Madagascar, Sudan Comoros, Eritrea, Malawi, Swaziland, D. R. Congo, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Uganda, Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Libya, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.

SADC (South African Development community) is the most powerful organisation. It comprises of: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Mauritius, D.R. Congo and Madagascar.

On Wednesday October 2008, 14 heads of state, including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and the new South African president, Kgalema Motlanthe will converge in Kampala, Uganda’s capital to attend the Tripartite Summit that opens in Kampala.
For the first time the summit will bring together the 26 countries of the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The leaders will discuss trade arrangements and infrastructural development aimed at harmonising commerce in the region and providing a panacea to the continent’s under-development.

According to Uganda’s daily New Vision Newspaper, Uganda’s Minister for East African affairs Eriya Kategaya told journalists at the Media Centre last Friday that the five leaders of the EAC had confirmed their presence. These are; Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania), Mwai Kibaki (Kenya) and Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi).

Other leaders expected are the heads of state of South Africa, Sudan, Malawi, Madagascar, Zambia, Botswana, Seychelles, Egypt, Mauritius and Lesotho. Zimbabwe’s Mugabe had also confirmed that he would attend.
Uganda’s minister of Foreign Affairs; Sam Kutesa defended the US $ 1.5million expenditure on the summit. “The multiplier effect after spending this money on conferences is huge. Since we held CHOGM, we have received 100,000 more tourists and $300m additional in investment,” he noted.

The chairperson of the EAC Coordination Committee, Charles Gasana, advocated for the region to rely more on trade than on aid. “We have others to take advantage of our abundant resources in the name of trade, investment, aid and other catch-words,” Gasana said. “We should aim at enhancing trade between ourselves and the international community to improve our wealth, employment and our overall economic well-being.”

Karangizi outlined as key topics for discussion the facilitation of trade, rules of origin of products, customs valuation and documentation, customs laws and procedures, common tariffs, the elimination of non-tariff barriers, a common competition policy, safeguards and trade remedies, and services.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Twitter World



Ali Balunywa

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.



Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to those in his or her circle of friends. Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, email or through an application such as Facebook. Several third parties offer posting and receiving updates via email.

As of July 2008, over 2,200,000 accounts were registered.


A quick and plain English intro to twitter ...2 min 25 sec -
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o

Advantages

Twitter is integrated with mobile telephony so you can read Tweets (Twitter posts) on your mobile phone or other mobile device. Best of all, when you view a Tweet you’re not missing anything.

Twitter is interactive so the conversational format encourages participation. It is great for collaborative projects. It also gives followers and those being followed a chance to interact.

Conversations on Twitter tend to be casual and intimate. People routinely tweet both about what they are having for breakfast and what project they are working on. Twitter’s real-time messaging means someone is almost always on Twitter, ready and willing to respond to any and all Tweets.

Twitter studies:


Since Twitter was founded in May 2007, several studies have been carried out by researchers. Because Twitter is relatively new most of the studies have been carried out in 2008.
Daniel Riveong, an Internet Marketer working at e-Storm International in San Francisco, California carried out a Twitter case study on Social media relations; http://www.emergence-media.com/2008/04/twitter-a-case-study-on-social-media-relations/. The study was published in April 2008.


According to Daniel Riveong, Twitter - the mobile-based microblogging service - has become the new darling among social media marketers and internet geeks since the SXSWi conference in 2007. His study showed that there were two reasons to twitter; firstly, just by utilizing twitter, brands through experimentation are learning and understanding more about social media and their customers. Learning how to do it on twitter is a skillset that can be applied to feature social media mediums.


Secondly, keeping track of the “Linkerati” (the highly vocal and connected influencers). Current Twitter members, due to their Linkerati demographic, may have a higher than average say on influencing your brand.


Dave Chaffey is another researcher into the use of Twitter.




Dave found that Twitter’s small team and budget is able to deliver adequate services that have been employed by reputable companies like the BBC, Woot.com and CISCO. The Instant and multiple messaging or mobile to keep in touch enables the media to cover breaking news and other companies to provide service information via RSS feeds.


Kate Brodock on September 4, 2008 wrote that as Hurricane Gustav threatened the New Orleans area at the end of August 2008, Twitter users from the region mobilized themselves to offer a way of quickly disseminating the information via tweets. http://www.digiactive.org/topic/twitter/


CNN reporter Rick Sanchez even referred to Twitter during his airtime and mentioned that he had used it to gather information for his report.


Beyond the great benefits of using just Twitter to inform people of real-time events happening in New Orleans, the use of hashtags proved even more effective. A Hashtags are a way to send your Twitter updates to a centralized location on the web so people can go online to get comprehensive and immediate updates during an event.


Hashtags were first used heavily on Twitter during the 2007 San Diego forest fires, and have subsequently been introduced into various industries as a way of grouping Twitter messages. Uses include crisis information, event updates, and conference notes.


Rae’s case study is about a BlackBerry related website called BBGeeks . BBGeeks has had a Twitter account for around eight months now and has grown from zero to over 500 followers in that time. For a web site targeting a very niche market, this is pretty impressive. http://social-media-optimization.com/2008/08/twitter-case-study/


By concentrating on solving problems and building trust within the Twitter BlackBerry community, the members would be more responsive to a Twitter sales message rather being hit by sales posts every day. So a small company BBGeeks successfully used Twitter to promote and grow their business.


Hend S. Al-Khalifa an assistant professor in the Information Technology Department, CCIS, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia researched on twitter the popular "micro-blogging" communications platform is used in Saudi Arabia mostly by the young to exchange news and follow peers' activities. She tested the effectiveness of Twitter as a tool for keeping my students connected to the blog for her "Introduction to Operating Systems" course.



Even as infrastructure in Saudi Arabia presented some unique challenges to this trial, Twitter seemed to her a good alternative for situations where students cannot access the Internet but may want to receive timely updates to their mobile phones. To that end, the course blog was connected to a third-party service called Twitterfeed, which converted the blog RSS feeds into Twitter tweets. The service checks for updates on an hourly basis.


Though the Twitter experiment was rife with problems there were advantages including timeliness of announcements without need for reliable Internet service, better connection with students, all of whom have mobile phones and time saving. Feedback from the students was very positive as most of them preferred that to visiting their blogs for updates.
Unfortunately, as of August 2008, twitter
stopped delivering international text messages, which means the service, can no longer be used in Saudi Arabia.


Micro blogging


Twitter launched in 2006 is the most popular Micro-blogging service. Micro blogging is a form of blogging that allows users to write brief text updates and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, MP3 or the web. Twitter won the Web Award in the blog category at the 2007 South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas.


Examples of micro blogging include twitter, Spoink, Plurk and Rakawa. Spoink released a multimedia micro-blogging service that integrates blogging, podcasting, telephony and SMS texting and supports all major mobile audio, video and picture formats. Plurk utilizes a rich interface and horizontal time-line to add a spatial dimension to micro blogging. Rakawa.net documents and informs about daily accomplishments of the users based on the question "What have you achieved today?"


The popular social networking websites Facebook, MySpace, Xing and LinkedIn also have a micro-blogging feature, called "status update". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro-blogging


Recently, we have seen the impact of distributed content sharing (Wikipedia, Blogger), social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter. With the integration of mobile telephony, there has been a bigger impact with this convergence of ideas. The inputs can be visualized in different dimensions, such as space and time. When plugged into the Internet, the collaborative inputs from phones may enable a high resolution view of the world. The Micro-Blog is a new kind of application-driven challenges identified and addressed in the context of this system. Micro-Blogs can be deployable tools for sharing, browsing, and querying global information.


Disadvantages


The biggest disadvantage of micro blogging is the limitation of the text. It is usually very short (Twitter is 140 words). Thus outside breaking news, it cannot be used for news distribution. Complex ideas can therefore not be communicated.

Currently, there is no way to insert images such as photos or graphics directly into your tweets. This also means no video or audio either.


Micro blogging is also prone to getting off topic quite easily.






Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Social Networking Sites, “To Be or Not To Be?”

Ali Balunywa

The famous phrase "to be, or not to be" comes from William shakespeare's Hamlet prince of Denmark (written about 1600), act three, scene one. It is one of the most famous quotations in world literature.

“ To be or not to be, that is the question;
whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer…..”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_be,_or_not_to_be

Like Hamlet, I don’t know whether to praise or condemn the social networking sites. I was introduced to them recently because of the New Media course I am following. A few years ago, I used to Skype and MSN. However, I abandoned them because they were time killers. I had many invitations from the Social networks, but I had ignored them. I thought it was all a waste of precious time.

Danah Boyd defines social networks sites as web based services that allow individuals to:

(1) Construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,
(2) Articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and
(3) View and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.

The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html

According to danah boyd young people use social network sites to connect with their friends and present themselves online. Boyd compares social networks like MySpace to immersive environments like second life.

Social networking sites have not been around for a long time. Therefore not many big studies have been done on them. Consequently the field is still expanding. Danah Boyd is probably the most high profile academic in the world focused on the emerging web and its social consequences.

Danah Boyd hit the international spotlight when she wrote about the shift from myspace to Face book. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley and a Fellow at the Harvard University Law School Berkman Centre for Internet and Society. Previously she worked as a researcher at Yahoo! and did a year long internship at Google studying the ethnography of blogging at Blogger.

My experience

I proceeded to accept the invitations which were pending at: Face Book, Tagged and LinkedIn. I also registered at Twitter and Hyves and let the games begin. I uploaded a sketchy profile where I did not indicate that I was searching a soul mate or love. I also uploaded an odd photo when I was in Africa with my excited old aunt. However, this did not deter love seekers to try their luck!

After a few days, I received the following mail from Tagged:

Hello
My name is grace, I saw your profile today in and became interested in you, I will also like to know you the more, and I want you to send an email to my email address at
graceandrew33@yahoo.com so that I can give you my picture for you to know whom I am. I believe we can move from here!I am waiting to hear from you. (Remember the distance or colour does not matter but love matters a lot in life)

Thanks
yours in love,
grace
graceandrew33@yahoo.com


Then shortly after, I received another unsolicited mail from Face Book as follows:

Heya sexy! I've been in a relationship for the past three years; it ended unexpectedly a couple of months back. I feel relieved and thrilled to start the dating process again. I'd like to meet a great, easy-going guy. After seeing your ad page, I thought we'd probably click. I also think we live close to each other, but I'm not sure because I'm staying at a friend's house for a while and don't know the area. A little about me: I'm cute and have a couple of discretely placed tattoos. My height and weight are proportional but I'd like to be more toned. I have a beaming smile, nice hair and a firm butt. I hope you'll be interested in chatting some more. Don't be shy. FYI, I'm using my friend's account, so don't respond directly to this message.

Please send your reply to my regular e-mail address: e_mary_soms at yahoo.com.

Have a great say and thank you!

What I realised was that millions of young people are using these sites for email, meeting new friends and sharing experiences, photos and videos. These sites have changed life online. They allow users to send messages and leave comments. My misgivings about these sites have however not changed.

They are addictive, impersonal and time consuming. You can not be sure who gets hold of your private information and there is a risk of identity theft. When I navigated through Face Book and Tagged, I realised I did not get any value added. I saw users with thousands of online friends and wondered what they do with all of them.

Nevertheless, I was impressed with Hyves and LinkedIn. There is plenty of added value for the user. For example Hyves has interesting blogs. One can also look for a job or house on this network. LinkedIn is a professionals’ site. Upcoming events and tutorials are an added advantage. What I found cumbersome was the long questionnaire one has to fill in before accessing any information.

I found Twitter to be a service for friends, family, and co–workers for communication and staying connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing? With all due respects to users, I found it quite silly!

I was brought up in a society that respects human links. In a culture where the extended family is the basic family unit where growing up to adulthood does not necessarily mean severing bonds between oneself and one's parents or even grandparents. When the child grows up, he or she moves into the larger and more real world of adulthood, yet he or she doesn't, under normal circumstances, establish an identity separate from that of the community....

Workload is equally shared among the members. The women are often housewives and cook for the entire family. The patriarch of the family (often the oldest male member) lays down the rules, works (if not retired) and arbitrates disputes assisted by his peers. The members of the household also look after each other in case a member is ill. They are also responsible in teaching the younger children their mother tongue, manners and etiquette. There is therefore plenty of interaction among people. What the extended family system is doing for the developing world, Social networking sites are doing for the west.

Last summer, I visited Africa after an absence of a number of years. What captured my attention was the smiles lighting up people’s faces. Most people are poor and needy and at times don’t have enough to eat, but they still reserve a smile for everyone including total strangers. There is a big contrast with Europe or for that matter the western world. On entering a bus or train, you find most faces drawn out, angry, stressed or/and unhappy! Smiles are a rare commodity. Everyone is for him/herself! Individualism is promoted.

However, what is amusing is that you will find these very people seated behind a computer smiling, sometimes laughing. They usually belong to a number of social networking networks with thousands of virtual friends. They chat, make fun, date and do all sorts of stuff with strangers online. They do things that they cannot do in real life. They are no longer capable of physically asking a woman/man out. They do this online. They even get betrothed online!

The greatest loss to humanity is the loss of personal contact among people. Social networks have replaced personal contact and people to people interaction. Instead, individualism is promoted. In the near future laughter might soon be a leading tourist attraction in the developing world!

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