Boing Boing 

African sf anthology

Liam sez, "On the tail of the CC-licensed Muslim SF Anthology: there's a recently-released collection of African SF stories, called Afro SF. It's a collection of stuff written by folks in and around the African continent, so there's a fairly wide spread of content and focus. It's pretty new, and pretty neat, although it isn't CC and it is, at present, only available as a slightly-pricey e-book. Still, SF, some of it quite good (writers like Sarah Lotz, Biram Mboob) marginal voices, and all." (Thanks, Liam!)

Hip Deep Angola radio series, part 3: A Spiritual Journey to Mbanza-Kongo

ANTONIO MADIATA, player of the lungoyi-ngoyi, the 2-stringed Kongo viola.

Ned Sublette writes, "This summer I had the tremendous experience of going to Mbanza-Kongo, in the north of Angola, where I recorded material for an episode of Afropop Worldwide Hip Deep and a still unfinished piece of writing."

You can hear it on Soundcloud, and it has also been broadcast on PRI affiliate stations around the US.

"Meanwhile, it's being broadcast against a background of turmoil in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo," Ned adds. "See this and this."

I've written about the earlier installments in the series, and encourage you to listen and enjoy. More about this chapter, below.

Read the rest

Self-taught 15-y-o from Sierra Leone is a king-hell maker

This short documentary about a teenager from Sierra Leone who taught himself electronics and got a residence at MIT is inspiring and humbling -- what a kid!

15-Year-Old Kelvin Doe is an engineering whiz living in Sierra Leone who scours the trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators and transmitters. Completely self-taught, Kelvin has created his own radio station where he broadcasts news and plays music under the moniker, DJ Focus.

Kelvin became the youngest person in history to be invited to the "Visiting Practitioner's Program" at MIT. THNKR had exclusive access to Kelvin and his life-changing journey - experiencing the US for the first time, exploring incredible opportunities, contending with homesickness, and mapping out his future.

Self-taught African Teen Wows M.I.T.

Africa for Norway: raising money in Africa to help poor Norwegians struggle through the frozen winter

Ntwiga wries, Who says Africa can't contribute: Radi-Aid has Africans singing and working together to send radiators to our cold brethren in Norway in this their time of Christmas need. Choice tidbit: 'It's kind of just as bad as poverty if you ask me... Frostbite kills too.'"

Africa For Norway - New charity single out now! Official christmas video

Improvised footballs from Africa


Photographer Jessica Hilltout travelled Africa documenting homemade footballs/soccer balls improvised across the continent. Shown above, a ball from Mozambique, made by Domingo. Left, a Ghanian ball from the Anokye Stars.

Balls (via Kottke)

Illiterate kids given sealed boxes with tablets figure out how to use, master, and hack them

Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child presentation at the MIT Tech Review EmTech conference recounted an inspiring experiment in which illiterate Ethiopian village-kids were given solar-charging laptops in sealed boxes, and quickly taught themselves how to operate, then master, then hack, these devices, acquiring basic literacy and technological literacy at the same time.

MIT Technology Review's David Talbot reports in a piece reprinted on Mashable.com:

The experiment is being done in two isolated rural villages with about 20 first-grade-aged children each, about 50 miles from Addis Ababa. One village is called Wonchi, on the rim of a volcanic crater at 11,000 feet; the other is called Wolonchete, in the Rift Valley. Children there had never previously seen printed materials, road signs, or even packaging that had words on them, Negroponte said.

Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

Elaborating later on Negroponte’s hacking comment, Ed McNierney, OLPC’s chief technology officer, said that the kids had gotten around OLPC’s effort to freeze desktop settings. “The kids had completely customized the desktop—so every kids’ tablet looked different. We had installed software to prevent them from doing that,” McNierney said. “And the fact they worked around it was clearly the kind of creativity, the kind of inquiry, the kind of discovery that we think is essential to learning.”

“If they can learn to read, then they can read to learn.”

In an interview after his talk, Negroponte said that while the early results are promising, reaching conclusions about whether children could learn to read this way would require more time. “If it gets funded, it would need to continue for another a year and a half to two years to come to a conclusion that the scientific community would accept,” Negroponte said. “We’d have to start with a new village and make a clean start.”

Given Tablets But No Teachers, Ethiopian Kids Teach Themselves (via Reddit)

UK government spent millions arming and training Congolese and Sudanese soldiers

The UK government has spent £2.4m on training and arming the military forces in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- two places where soldiers are known for atrocities, gang-rape, torture, electoral fraud and vote suppression, and gross human rights abuses. The Guardian's Diane Taylor and David Smith report:

The Enough Project, which works with the American actor George Clooney to expose human rights abuses in both Sudan and Congo, says the two countries are the scene of some of the world's most serious mass atrocities.

In information revealed in a freedom of information response from the Ministry of Defence a total of £75,406 has been spent on providing 44-week courses at the elite Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for Sudanese and Congolese forces. Other support includes military logistics, advanced command and staff courses, strategic intelligence and evaluating challenges to state sovereignty.

A total of £952,301 was spent on international peace support, which includes border security and stabilisation.

As the Sudanese opposition leader Dr Gebreil Fediel said from London, "If it was and is the intention of the UK authorities to teach Sudan's police and security officers how to conduct these matters in a democratic manner, it has failed. The brutality and genocidal activities of government of Sudan state organs against its own citizens is widely documented."

UK spent millions training police from oppressive regimes

Chinese-built ghost town in Angola - the first of many to come?


The BBC's Louise Redvers reports on the ghost town of Kilamba, Angola, a horrendously expensive high-rise enclave built by Chinese companies on a line of credit secured with Angolan oil, which has only seen 220 apartments out of 2800 sold. Kilamba is the most ambitious of several new towns being built outside of existing Angoloan cities by Chinese firms.

It's like a bizarro-world version of the Keynsian idea of getting the economy going by paying one group of laborers to dig holes and another to fill them in. But in this case, one group of workers are paid to pump oil, which is offshored to China. In exchange, a group of Chinese workers is paid to build a gate-guarded enclave for a non-existent pool of mega-rich locals that no one can afford to live in, and which gradually turns into a massive liability. Profit!

The place is eerily quiet, voices bouncing off all the fresh concrete and wide-open tarred roads.

There are hardly any cars and even fewer people, just dozens of repetitive rows of multi-coloured apartment buildings, their shutters sealed and their balconies empty.

Only a handful of the commercial units are occupied, mostly by utility companies, but there are no actual shops on site, and so - with the exception of a new hypermarket located at one entrance - there is nowhere to buy food.

After driving around for nearly 15 minutes and seeing no-one apart from Chinese labourers, many of whom appear to live in containers next to the site, I came across a tiny pocket of life at a school.

It opened six months ago, bussing in its pupils in from outlying areas because there are no children living on site to attend.

Angola's Chinese-built ghost town (via Super Punch)

Science fiction in Africa


Here's a 23-minute BBC World Service documentary about science fiction in Africa, hosted by Zoo City author Lauren Beukes, who speaks to various luminaries, writers and commentators, including District 9 creator Neill Blomkamp.

Beukes hears from film-makers Neill Blomkamp (South Africa - director of the international hit District 9), Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya), blogger Jonathan Dotse (Ghana), writer Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/USA) and others on how their particular experiences have influenced their work.

Science fiction often explores the interaction between people and technology. In Africa that theme plays out in surprising ways, from making an appointment with a traditional healer over email, to women in remote villages collecting water while chatting on their mobiles.

It’s this mix of magic and technology, challenge and innovation that shapes the science fiction coming out of the continent.

Leaving behind the traditional visions of a high-tech Tokyo, futuristic LA or dystopian New York, and challenging clichéd views of the entire African continent, this is a science fiction being told by the people who live there.

Is Science Fiction Coming to Africa? (via Afrocyberpunk)

African bootleg MP3 street-market


3bute's comic has adapted Chris Kirkley's blog post about an MP3 street-market in Nouakchott, Mauritania. It's a fascinating look at the intersection of traditional developing-world counterfeit/bootleg markets and the digital world:

The market itself is a labyrinthine of stalls, glass display cases filled with “fake” Nokia/Samsung cellphones, sporting two or three SIM cards, cameras, mp3 players, and speakers. Deeper into the market, past the fancier shops, the stalls are simpler. In concrete boxes plastered with glossy hip hop posters and homemade montages, young men lounge behind computers, blasting music from pairs of speakers directed outwards, in an arms race of sonic amplitude. This is Nouakchott’s mp3 market.

This is no amateur operation. Every computer trails a variety inputs: USB multipliers, memory card receivers, and microSD adapters. A virus scan is initiated on each new connection. Each PC is running some version of a copy utility to facilitate the process. The price is a standard 40 ougiya per song, about $0.14; like every market, discounts are available for bulk purchases. The music on the computers is dictated by the owners. Hassaniya music is most often carried by young Maurs, Senegalese Mbalax and folk by Pulaar and Wolof kids. While I’m searching for Hausa film music, I’m directed to the sole Hausa man in the market, a vendor from Niamey. I sit with the vendors, scrolling through the songs on VLC, selecting with a nod or a pass, the files copied to a folder, tallied, and transferred to my USB.

The original post included an MP3 of the street-sounds in the market, which makes for good listening (I've proxied that link through CoralCache to avoid nuking the server).

#5: Down and Out in the MP3 Market (via AfroCyberPunk)

Associate editor of Elsevier's Genomics resigns, vows to devote energies to open access

Winston Hide, is an associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He was also -- until recently -- the associate editor of the prestigious (and expensive!) Elsevier journal Genomics. In a column in The Guardian, he explains why he resigned from Genomics: people are dying because scientists in poor companies can't afford proprietary journals. He will devote his efforts to open access alternatives to Genomics from now on.

My work on biomedical research in developing countries has shown me that lack of access to current publications has a severe impact.

The vast majority of biomedical scientists in Africa attempt to perform globally competitive research without up-to-date access to the wealth of biomedical literature taken for granted at western institutions. In Africa, your university may have subscriptions to only a handful of scientific journals.

In reality, the modus operandi is "please can you send me a pdf". Alternatively some researchers spend part of their research grant to buy a subscription to the journal they need.

The majority of the science in Elsevier's journals is conducted at public expense, or with a large public subsidy. The peer reviewing process is also undertaken by publicly subsidized scientists whom Elsevier does not pay. The institutions that these scientists work for have to pay very large amounts of money in order to receive the journals their work contributes to.

I can no longer work for a system that puts profit over access to research (via Copyfight)

Raising money to free classic volume on Africa's oral literature

A campaign on Unglue.it is seeking to raise $7,500 to pay for a Creative Commons Attribution-only licensed edition of Oral Literature in Africa, an out-of-print classic on the subject that is widely sought by African libraries. Once the money is raised, they will produce the new edition and make it widely available.

First published in 1970 by Oxford University Press, this classic study has been hailed as "the single most authoritative work on oral literature”. It traces the history of story-telling in Africa, and brings to life the diverse forms of creativity across the African continent. Author Ruth Finnegan is thought to have “almost single-handedly created the field of ethnography of language” with this book, and it continues to be a go-to text for anyone studying African culture.

However, despite its enormous scope and popularity, Finnegan’s book is now out of print. It is particularly hard to find in Africa, where its original retail price was beyond the budget of most university libraries. The non-profit organization Open Book Publishers is endeavoring to make this definitive book freely available to African students and scholars — and indeed to any interested readers around the world. The Unglued Ebook will be particularly friendly to people in places with slow Internet connections: once a copy is downloaded, the book can be read offline.

This edition, developed in conjunction with Cambridge University’s World Oral Literature Project, will include a new introduction and extra digital material. When Finnegan’s book was first published forty years ago, the technology did not exist to include audio clips. Part of this Unglue campaign will involve the creation of a free online repository of Finnegan’s audio recordings of African story-telling, carefully collected during her fieldwork in the late 1960s. These clips, together with original photographs taken during her research, will become available for the first time to researchers everywhere — an invaluable resource to scholars of African literature and culture.

Oral Literature in Africa (via Copyfight)

Bones of Turkana: Meave and Richard Leakey on human ancestors and the Leakey legacy

The Leakey family is like the Kennedys, but for paleoanthropology instead of politics. Think about any hominin fossil or artifact you can name.

Read the rest

South African 3D printing conference

Chris sez, "I'm helping to arrange a conference on 3D printing/additive manufacturing in South Africa. We have some world-renowned professors on the subject coming and its being held in a game reserve so it should be fun!"

Rapid Prototyping remains a key technology in the Rapid Product Development suite of technologies. However, over the past decade we have experienced growing acceptance of this powerful technology in the manufacturing industry, not only as prototyping tool, but increasingly as niche manufacturing technology. The inherent ability of the technology to accommodate part complexity and customization, coupled with an ever-increasing range of materials, has provided industry with unprecedented flexibility in design and production. Resulting from this, Additive Manufacturing has replaced Rapid Prototyping as internationally accepted terminology for this technology. Also in South Africa the uptake of Additive Manufacturing by industry has been breathtaking.

In the calm and pristine environment of the South African Bushveld, the conference programme will offer a variety of opportunities for participants from industry, R&D institutions, academia and government to listen to presentations, engage in discussions, visit exhibitions and just interact informally during the three days of the event.

Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa (Thanks, Chris!)

African Men, Hollywood Stereotypes (video)

[Video Link] A new video for Mama Hope, by Joe Sabia and crew.

Read the rest

On Tweetbombing and the Ethics of Attention

Something weird happened on Twitter yesterday. It was annoying and upsetting at the time, but now it's meaty fodder for behavioral analysis discussions. Ethan Zuckerman wrote a blog post about it that extracts some of the more interesting questions raised about social media and activism.

* Postscript: I've since traded tweets with the two guys behind the stunt, and we're cool.

Blogger scoops news of Malawi President's death, is detained and harassed by police

Marilyn Terrell of National Geographic tells Boing Boing,

My pal Andrew Evans who blogs for National Geographic Traveler just happened to be in the capital of Malawi yesterday when the president was rushed to the hospital. The local media insisted he was in stable condition but people were saying he had died, so Andrew stopped by the hospital to see what he could find out. The hospital was oddly quiet, although it had been buzzing with police earlier. Andrew figured something was fishy and starting taking photos of the unprotected hospital until some plainclothes police noticed. They made him delete his photos and demanded that he hand over his iPhone but he refused and kept tweeting, and tweeted the first report of Bingu wa Mutharika's death, which wasn't officially admitted until 24 hours later.

Read Andrew's account, and view his photos, here.

(PHOTO: Andrew Evans. "At Lilongwe airport, Malawians listen to news of their president's death.")

Teju Cole on "The White Savior Industrial Complex"

In The Atlantic today, a must-read piece by Teju Cole on some of the cultural issues raised by Kony 2012, and reactions to it in the media-blog-Twitter-opinion-sphere.

I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than "making a difference." There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.

Read "The White Savior Industrial Complex" at the Atlantic.

Revealed! Kony 2012's sinister Musical Comedy roots

From the first time I watched "Kony 2012," I always sensed a link with the storyline of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's Book of Mormon musical. But sweet fancy Moses, I did not know how closely linked the two truly were.

Aaron Stewart-Ahn tells us about the video above (which has been taken down by Invisible Children, but mirrored elsewhere):

Here's where the money has been going to: Invisible Children founder Jason Russell's vanity dance musical numbers which start off with exploitative footage of suffering children. How did no one else catch this? It makes the Kony 2012 video look subtle and sane. He's basically using this to fund his desire to make Glee.

This is where the millions are being spent: vanity musicals. Did Trey Parker write this??!! Russell has mentioned repeatedly how his ambitions were to make musicals. He intimated that he was going to make the musical popular again á la Glee, but this didn't work out—so he ended up in advocacy. It was that chat at the evangelical conference. So, here's a direct youtube link to 9m 10secs in the video where he talks about making musicals, and casually talks about his dream of documenting genocide.

That bit with the t-shirt with the African child on it is just... I'm speechless. Wonder why they've removed it from their YouTube channel, since it looks so damn expensive? It's insane, isn't it? I mean, seriously: it makes Scientology videos look charmingly naive.

UK funnyman Charlie Brooker has a bit of fun with Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 viral phenomenon, in the video embedded below.

Bonus round, below. Brooker asks, "Can ANYONE explain how this EPIC visual embarrassment helps Africa? OH GOD THERE'S MORE. Also: how much did this cost, did donations fund it, and what the TWIRLING FUCK does it mean?"

Read the rest

Kony 2012 screening in Uganda results in anger, rocks thrown at screen

[Video Link to Al Jazeera report]

Invisible Children's "Kony 2012" video has been viewed by millions online around the world. By view counts alone, it is now the most viral video in history. It is now the first ever YouTube hit publicly screened in the northern Ugandan town of Lira—and it didn't go so well.

The screening was hosted by African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET), an NGO founded by Victor Ochen (LRA abductee turned peacekeeper) mentioned in this previous Boing Boing post. Ochen and AYINET thought Ugandans who had been personally affected by the LRA and Kony deserved an opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.

Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire attended the AYINET screening of Kony 2012 last night, and tweeted that local radio stations heavily publicized the event in advance. "There were 5000+ people at the screening," she says, "Many rode bicycles from villages to see the #kony2012 video in Lira."

Malcolm Webb attended the event in the Mayor’s Gardens in the city center, and he reports for Al Jazeera:

Having heard so many great things about the film, the crowd’s expectations were high. People I spoke to anticipated seeing a video that showed the world the terrible atrocities that they had suffered during the conflict, and the ongoing struggles they still face trying to rebuild their lives after two lost decades.

The audience was at first puzzled to see the narrative lead by an American man – Jason Russell – and his young son. Towards the end of the film, the mood turned more to anger at what many people saw as a foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialised their suffering, as the film promotes Kony bracelets and other fundraising merchandise, with the aim of making Kony infamous.

One woman I spoke to made the comparison of selling Osama Bin Laden paraphernalia post 9/11 – likely to be highly offensive to many Americans, however well intentioned the campaign behind it. The event ended with the angrier members of the audience throwing rocks and shouting abusive criticism, as the rest fled for safety, leaving an abandoned projector, with organisers and the press running for cover until the dust settled.

Kagumire adds this morning that AYINET has suspended further screenings, "not to further harm victims or provoke any violent response."

AYINET has published a statement on the screening here.

Invisible Children's bracelets and t-shirts aren't likely to receive a warm welcome in Uganda, either. Kagumire says "The Northern Ugandan people want the government to stop Kony 2012 tshirts from entering the country; the video sparked heated talks on 5 radio stations in Lira... one caller said #kony2012 t-shirts cannot cross Karuma. It would be too provocative."

Read more of Al Jazeera's report here, and follow Al Jazeera's reporting on the Kony 2012 phenomenon here.

(via @somebadideas)

Medical aid worker on Kony 2012: "The aid industry has just been Biebered."


(Photo: Joseph Kony, via Reuters)

On his personal blog, Marc DuBois of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) writes about the impact of the viral Kony 2012 campaign on the work of long-established humanitarian efforts in Africa.

"Most madmen love the idea of fame, so Joseph Kony’s wet dream just came true," writes DuBois.

Many aid workers are simultaneously offended by the project and jealous of its unprecedented reach. At the time of this blog post, the promotional video for Invisible Children's fundraising/"awareness" campaign about the fugitive African rebel leader has exceeded 70 million views, making it the fastest-growing viral video in internet history.

Snip from DuBois' blog post:

So why, really, are we aid insiders so bothered? It’s the big green monster. Is there another charity whose message has captivated so many so fast? About six months ago, my niece “Lisa” in Chicago excitedly asked me to contribute to Invisible Children. At the time, I’d never heard of it. I poked around. I can’t say I was taken by the cause, but I couldn’t help feeling envious of IC’s having so effectively reached Lisa, usually more interested in dance and boys. These young upstarts at IC are the next big thing. And we aren’t.

Why? Well, for one, they have a simple message that people grasp. For another, good looks. More importantly, Invisible Children has discovered what the entertainment industry figured out a decade ago. It’s not about us old timers. It’s not people who read the Philip Roth or contribute conscientiously to their pension fund. It’s about the under 25s, maybe even the under 15s. It’s about the kids. That’s why there are a couple dozen TV shows about teenage vampires. That’s why we have Jedward.

The aid industry has just been Biebered. IC’s hundreds of thousands of donor / activist – they were invisible to us. Kids. That’s the target and that’s the message. If you think the aid world depends on gray haired HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals, aka rich folk), wait and see what IC does with its pubescent legions. My advice to the aid industry? First, get over it. Then, get on the boat.

Read the rest here.

DuBois isn't speaking for MSF, but I spoke to another MSFer via Twitter today: Avril Benoît, the group's Director of Communications, who pointed me to DuBois' blog post. I asked her if MSF had released an official statement in reaction to the Kony campaign: No. But, she said, "MSF teams in LRA-affected regions of DR Congo, Central African Republic & South Sudan are likely wary of retaliation risks."

Read the rest

African voices respond to hyper-popular Kony 2012 viral campaign

(Updated with additions, March 10, 2012. Here's a Twitter list, so you can follow all of the African writers mentioned in this post who are on Twitter.)


The internets are all a-flutter with reactions to Kony 2012, a high-velocity viral fundraising campaign created by the "rebel soul dream evangelists" at Invisible Children to "raise awareness" about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and child soldiers. As noted in my previous post here on Boing Boing, the project has many critics. There is a drinking game, there are epic lolpictorials, and a chorus of idiots on Facebook.

There are indications the project may be about stealth-evangelizing Christianity. The Invisible Children filmmakers have responded to some of the criticism. Media personalities and celebrities are duking it out as the campaign (and now, backlash) spreads.

But in that flood of attention, one set of voices has gone largely ignored: Africans themselves. Writers, journalists, activists; people of African descent who live and work and think about life on the continent. In this post, we'll round up some of their replies to #Kony2012.

Above, a video by Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan multimedia journalist who works on "media, women, peace and conflict issues." She writes, "This is me talking about the danger of portraying people with one single story and using old footage to cause hysteria when it could have been possible to get to DRC and other affected countries get a fresh perspective and also include other actors."

Ethiopian writer and activist Solome Lemma writes that she is disturbed by the "dis-empowering and reductive narrative" evidenced in Invisible Children's promotional videos: "[It] paints the people as victims, lacking agency, voice, will, or power. It calls upon an external cadre of American students to liberate them by removing the bad guy who is causing their suffering. Well, this is a misrepresentation of the reality on the ground. Fortunately, there are plenty of examples of child and youth advocates who have been fighting to address the very issues at the heart of IC’s work." Update: Here's another from Lemma on "Seven steps for critical reflection." She urges those concerned about human rights in Africa to "think before you give."

Musa Okwonga, a " football writer, poet and musician of Ugandan descent," writes in an Independent op-ed: “I understand the anger and resentment at Invisible Children’s approach, which with its paternalism has unpleasant echoes of colonialism. I will admit to being perturbed by its apparent top-down prescriptiveness, when so much diligent work is already being done at Northern Uganda’s grassroots... Watching the video, though, I was concerned at the simplicity of the approach that Invisible Children seemed to have taken."

Read the rest

Kony 2012: a viral mess


(Photo: The Kony 2012/Invisible Children guys posing with SPLA soldiers on the Sudan-Congo border in April 2008. Photograph by Glenna Gordon.)


UPDATE: African voices respond.


Mark Kersten at Justice in Conflict writes about the Kony 2012/Invisible Children video everyone's going crazy over today:

It is hard to respect any documentary on northern Uganda where a five year-old white boy features more prominently than any northern Ugandan victim or survivor.

Harder still when the documentary Godwins itself just minutes in with a Hitler namecheck. There's another good post at Foreign Policy which attempts to parse why this dubious fundraising/attention-getting campaign has spread so wide so quickly, and the many things it seems to get wrong:

[L]et's get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn't been for 6 years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.

Read the rest

Afrocyberpunk: the future and science fiction in Africa

Here's an interesting, short memoir about science fiction in Africa, written by Jonathan Dotse, a science fiction writer in Accra, Ghana. Dotse describes how his early exposure to science fiction changed his outlook on life, and how he sees the field relating to the future of Africa.

Imagine a young African boy staring wide-eyed at the grainy images of an old television set tuned to a VHF channel; a child discovering for the first time the sights and sounds of a wonderfully weird world beyond city limits. This is one of my earliest memories; growing up during the mid-nineties in a tranquil compound house in Maamobi; an enclave of the Nima suburb, one of the most notorious slums in Accra. Besides the government-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, only two other television stations operated in the country at the time, and satellite television was way beyond my family’s means. Nevertheless, all kinds of interesting programming from around the world occasionally found its way onto those public broadcasts. This was how I first met science fiction; not from the tomes of great authors, but from distilled approximations of their grand visions.

This was at a time when cyberpunk was arguably at its peak, and concepts like robotics, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence were rife in mainstream media. Not only were these programs incredibly fun to watch, the ideas that they propagated left a lasting impression on my young mind for years to come. This early exposure to high technology sent me scavenging through piles of discarded mechanical parts in our backyard; searching for the most intriguing sculptures of steel from which I would dream up schematics for contraptions that would change the world as we knew it. With the television set for inspiration and the junkyard for experimentation, I spent my early childhood immersed in a discordant reality where dreams caked with rust and choked with weeds came alive in a not-so-distant future; my young mind well aware of the process of transformation occurring in the world around me; a world I was only just beginning to understand.

Developing World: Beyond the Frontiers of Science Fiction (Thanks, Richard!)

Over 100 NGOs ask WIPO to postpone secretive South Africa meeting

Over 100 NGOs have asked the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization to postpone a summit in South Africa on the grounds that notice of the meeting was not published, the agenda has been set without any transparency, and the speakers all favor a single, narrow view on copyright and patents.

In a letter to the WIPO director general Francis Gurry, more than 100 international NGOs expressed their concern over co-organising the summit in partnership with US, France and Japan which are known for advocating TRIPS plus agendas in developing countries in the interests of their own industries and priorities. For instance these countries are proponents of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a plurilateral treaty that is widely criticized for its secret negotiating process and the detrimental impact on public interest issues such as access to medicines, freedom of expression over the internet and access to knowledge.

To make matters worse the Summit is being sponsored by the private sector in particular the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Company etc., that clearly have a strong stake in a pro-IP protection and enforcement agenda. The involvement of the private sector also raises issues of conflict of interests.

Besides, the NGOs said, the summit lacks a development and public interest dimension. The summit concept paper suggests a programme that undermines the spirit of Development Agenda. It is premised on the notion that heightened IP protection and enforcement will deliver development and protect public interest. This distorted approach has no historical or empirical basis and has been clearly rejected by the Development Agenda process. Important development issues such as the different levels of development, the importance of flexibilities (e.g. LDC transition periods, exceptions and limitations e.g. parallel importation, compulsory licensing,) in meeting developmental objectives, examining and addressing the impact of IP on critical public interests issues such as access to affordable medicines, and access to knowledge, appear to be disregarded.

Over 100 international NGOs ask WIPO to postpone forthcoming IP Summit in South Africa

Google: We're "mortified" a team working on Google project "misrepresented" relationship with Mocality

A followup to this morning's post, The Google-Kenya Ripoff. Nelson Mattos, Google's Vice-President for Product and Engineering, Europe and Emerging Markets, writes:

We were mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented our relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites. We’ve already unreservedly apologised to Mocality. We’re still investigating exactly how this happened, and as soon as we have all the facts, we’ll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved.

The Google-Kenya ripoff

Mocality is an African startup that has a Kenya-wide business directory. There is no Kenyan yellow pages, so the directory was crowdsourced, paying thousands of Kenyans to help create and validate its database.

Read the rest

Call Me Hope

[Video Link]

Genius work from Joe Sabia, for the nonprofit Mama Hope.

This is the second video in Mama Hope's "Stop the Pity. Unlock the Potential" campaign. This video campaign is about telling the story of connection instead of contrast and potential instead of poverty. Directed by Joe Sabia and Bryce Yukio Adolphson. Shot and Edited by Bryce Yukio Adolphson. Sound Mix by Matt McCorkle. Produced by Nyla Rodgers.

The video is something of an homage and re-singing of Paul Simon's "Call Me Al," off the album Graceland.

Frequent fliers on Virgin America who watch our in-flight Boing Boing television channel on the airline, and regular readers of this blog, will also recall another great video Joe Sabia did with Mama Hope: "Alex Teaches Commando." If you missed it before, you need to watch it now.

Survivor of LRA atrocities replies to Rush Limbaugh: "My Heart Breaks"

Following up on yesterday's BB post: here's a Video Link to a testimony by 22-year-old Evelyn Apoko. A post with more on her story at Media Matters. Here is her statement. From the website for Ms. Apoko's group, which works to help other survivors:

When she was just a little girl, Evelyn Apoko was abducted in the middle of the night by a brutal rebel group in Uganda that calls themselves The Lord's Resistance Army. Left unchecked by the world community for decades, the group - which is also known as the LRA - has abducted thousands of children to serve as soldiers, porters or sex slaves. After years in captivity, Evelyn was badly wounded and faced the terrible choice of attempting a near-impossible escape or certain death at the hands of the rebels who were repelled by her horrific injuries. Miraculously, Evelyn escaped and made it to a rehab center and hospital, where she came to the attention of Strongheart.

Here is an article in Hill Times with background on her personal story.

(thanks @owillis)

Shell funded warring militias in the Niger Delta -- report


In Counting the Cost: corporations and human rights abuses in the Niger Delta, Platform and a coalition of NGOs accuse Shell Oil of funding vicious conflicts between rival gangs in the Niger Delta, bribing local militias to gain access to oil, and contributing to terrible human rights abuses in the region, including devastation in the town of Rumuekpe and the slaughter of 60 people there.

The gang became locked in competition witha rival group over access to oil money, with payments to one faction provoking a violent reaction from the other. "The [rival gang] will come and fight, some will die, just to enable them to also get [a] share. So the place now becomes a contest ground for warring factions. Who takes over the community has the attention of the company."

Platform alleges that it was highly likely that Shell knew that thousands of dollars paid per month to militants in the town of Rumuekpe was used to sustain a bitter conflict. "Armed gangs waged pitched battles over access to oil money, which Shell distributed to whichever gang controlled access to its infrastructure."

Rumuekpe is "the main artery of Shell's eastern operations in Rivers state", with aroundabout 100,000 barrels of oil flowing per day, approximately10% of Shell's daily production in the country. Shell distributed "community development" funds and contracts via Friday Edu, a youth leader and Shell community liaison officer, the report said, an exclusive arrangement that magnified the risk of communal tension and conflict.