Le Monde has published a new collection of documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, showing that the British spy agency GCHQ targeted the leaders of allied countries in Africa, as well as business executives and employees of telecommunications companies, whose accounts were a means to gaining access to communications infrastructure across the continent.
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German photographer Kevin McElvaney shot portraits of the itinerant pickers who work on Agbogbloshie, the toxic e-waste dump outside of Accra, Ghana.
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Gmoke writes, "Pure Home Water (PHW), the same people who make AfriClay Filters -- a locally-sourced clay pot water filter -- in Taha, Ghana are now building toilet blocks for local schools. In June 2013, PHW built a 6-stall toilet block in 30 days for a school in the village of Taha. They are planning to build the same toilet block for the neighboring village of Gbalahi and are looking for $8,600 over the next two months."
Toilets for Schools - Improving Sanitation in Ghana
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The Smati Turtle 1 is an "African concept car" created by Dutch artist/researcher team Melle Smets and Joost van Onna, who worked with the artisinal car-makers of Suame Magazine, Ghana, to create a killer junker for the African market. Suame Magazine is a neighborhood full of people who take apart scrap cars and rebuild them for local markets, removing the difficult-to-maintain electronics, expanding the cargo areas. The Turtle 1 took three months to create, and had its test-drive inaugurated by the Ashanti king.
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Gmoke sez, "Susan Murcott and her team's factory making clay filters for Pure Home Water in Ghana. Over 100,000 served, so far."
They're shooting for 1,000,000.
Pure Home Water, Ghana: AfriClay Filters
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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.
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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.
This old WFMU clip from 2005 features the beautiful "work-song" of Ghanian postal workers from the University of Ghana cancelling stamps, banging out infectious rhythm and melody.
Work Song From Postal Employees in Ghana (MP3)
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
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Daniel sez, "Global Health resource is a facilitator of medical travel. Presently we are helping Mohammed Issaka of Ghana who only has half a face to receive plastic surgery in India. He has some sponsorship for this, but we would like to make this public as so perhaps solicit more funds to help others."
This is the inspiring story of Mr. Mohammed Issaka from Ghana in West Africa. 2 years ago Mohammed was diagnosed with a tumor behind his left eye. Fortunately for him the mass was benign, but in the process of the surgery his left eye and most of the left side of his face had to be removed. Since then this 28-year-old new husband has been living with a large hole in his face. Due to the extreme condition of his face he is forced to conceal the gaping wound on a daily basis.
A New Face for Mohammed
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Here's a really interesting look from Younghee Jung at the global phenomenon of multi-SIM phones that can talk on multiple networks at once. Some people get these SIMs because they want to take advantage of low-cost calling within an single network (which means that you have to keep track of which network each person in your address book uses!). Others use it to establish priority -- a business man who has a "private number" for his best customers that he always answers. Sometimes, it's just a way to get a bargain, loading up prepaid minutes on different SIMs depending on who's got the best deal. A sketch from a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana depicts an "ideal phone" that holds four SIMs
Many mobile network operators offer cheaper rates for inter-network calls, especially in markets where competition among network operators is high. Highly cost-conscious consumers naturally get multiple numbers for cheaper calls. While it may not take too much effort to acquire the new number itself, this comes at a cost of efforts and skill: Remembering, or identifying who in your social network has the number belonging to a specific network operator. People develop a tactic, such as indicating the network operator in the name stored on the phonebook. This is not an exclusive behavior only for the developing economies, however. When the 3G network was newly introduced in Japan several years ago, many Japanese consumers also owned two numbers, one from 3G for cheaper messaging & data connection, another from existing network for cheaper voice calls. Read the rest
The much-vaunted anti-terror eagles at the TSA have subcontractors whose hard-drives turn up in Ghanain junk-markets in heaps of illegally disposed-of e-waste. The drives are stuffed full of unencrypted, sensitive documents:
A team of journalists investigating the global electronic waste business has unearthed a security problem too. In a Ghana market, they bought a computer hard drive containing sensitive documents belonging to U.S. government contractor Northrop Grumman.
Reporters find Northrop Grumman data in Ghana market
The drive had belonged to a Fairfax, Virginia, employee who still works for the company and contained "hundreds and hundreds of documents about government contracts," said Peter Klein, an associate professor with the University of British Columbia, who led the investigation for the Public Broadcasting Service show Frontline. He would not disclose details of the documents, but he said that they were marked "competitive sensitive" and covered company contracts with the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Transportation Security Agency.
The data was unencrypted, Klein said in an interview. The cost? US$40..."It was a wonderful, ironic twist," Klein said. "Here were these contracts being awarded based on their ability to keep the data safe."
Off-camera, sources in Ghana told the reporters that data thieves routinely scour these hard drives for sensitive information, Klein said.
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A Ghanian entrepreneur makes handsome carrier bags out of recycled disposable plastic bags:
In the Trashy Bags workshop a dozen tailors and seamstresses sit at manual sewing machines stitching together old plastic sachets. In west Africa tap water is not fit to drink so millions of half-litre "pure water" sachets costing only the equivalent of 2p are discarded by thirsty consumers every day. A storage room overflows with more than three million sachets that have been collected and cleaned ready for recycling...
Local people arrive at the Trashy Bags workshop carrying sacks stuffed with thousands of the sachets on their heads. They exchange 1,000 sachets for £2 – good money in a country where the average person earns only £254 a year.
"I collect sachets because I am jobless and this gives me money," said Hadiza Ishmael, a 55-year-old grandmother who had just arrived with 4,000 sachets. "It also makes the place look nicer."
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Here's an ingenious method for making your own headphones out of bottlecaps, foam, and wire. The technique was created by Prince Dzuckey a boy at Takoradi Technical Institute, Takoradi, Ghana.
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Garth sez, "This a flickr photo set of wax-printed fabric that my girlfriend just brought back from Ghana. The Ghanaians that she bought the fabric from tended never to notice the objects that were printed on the fabric--they all served as abstractions. She wasn't able to track down her holy grail--a fabric printed with roasting chickens! You'll have to settle for batteries, umbrellas, lipstick...and a first aid kit."
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Ghana recently updated its copyright law as part of complying with suggestions from the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which recommended that developing nations "nationalize" folklore and charge foreigners for using folk art elements in commercial works. But the Ghanian bill reportedly gets it totally wrong: it could lead to prison sentences for Ghanians who sell art based on folklore, traditional knowledge, dance or song.
He mentioned specifically the clause that imposed a fine, jail or both on any Ghanaians who commercially use, sell or distribute Ghanaian folklore or translations without Government's permit.
The Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana said the Bill would create a terrible situation for the future well being of the country's culture, which required a constant dynamic recycling to stay alive in the Global Village.
Update: Garth sez, "Here's an interesting PDF of a paper by John Collins, who was actually a member of Ghana's copyright board. Interestingly, the whole copyright ball was kicked off by none other than PAUL SIMON! Being a well-meaning human, he paid $16,000 to the Ghanaian government for a song that he lifted for his album 'The Rhythm of the Saints'. This got the Ghanaian government thinking about all of the revenues that they were losing as THEIR OWN citizens plundered Ghana's cultural heritage." Read the rest
Good interview with Ethan Zuckerman, the founder of Geekcorps, on how technology and sustainable development meet each other.
There were two very real reasons for Net connectivity in Ghana. One was communication with the diaspora. So many Ghanaians live in Europe and the U.S. that email is a very effective way of bridging that gap. The other thing was the notion that there could be a market for Ghanian goods and services worldwide, and that market was going to be a lot more reachable online than it would be from any other medium.
But it was a very weird time because you'd find a cyber-cafe and there would be computers and staff but no electrical power, or computers and power but no telephone lines, or everything you needed but no one to plug things in and make them all work together. And across the board I felt you had an abundance of entrepreneurs who were willing to try things but they had a real lack of skill sets. So that was the problem I was interested in: Could we find a way to do skill transfers between people in the IT industries in the U.S. and Ghana?
Obviously, the project expanded from there. While Ghana continues to be a flagship presence for us, we also have a large presence in Mongolia. We have smaller programs in Rwanda and Jordan, and we're doing some work in Armenia and Bulgaria. At this point we work in a dozen nations in total.
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