Friday, February 26, 2010

Year of the Tiger: Meow

My dedication to the Year of the Tiger comes from Uganda TigerFM - a great shot of the volunteer DJs at this multi-purpose community centre just outside of Kampala.   Happy belated Chinese new year!

Other interesting works that I came upon today particularly pertaining to Access to Knowledge: 

*African Journal of Information and Communication:  Issue No 10 edited by Luci Abrahams and Eve Gray

 *Presentation by Arthur Attwell:  Quick, easy licences, and why they matter - reviewing the possibilities of alternative business models for publishing in areas like Africa.

*Report by Harley et al (Jan 2010) at the University of California called, Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An Exploration of Faculty Values and Needs in Seven Disciplines

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big ICT strides in Southern Africa: News

Southern African leaders are making some public strides this week in regards to information and communication technology policy.  Today and tomorrow, the South African department of communications  (DoC) host a multi-stakeholder forum in Midrand for their Presidential National Commission initiative, the Information Society and Development (ISAD). Representatives Nyanda and Phiri utilize an approach which hopes to engage the different players in South Africa and has potential to improve planning and implementation of ICTs particularly for five areas:  ICT for Rural Development, SMME Development, Formation Ethics, e-Government Services, and e-Skills Development.  
One highlight is the e-Skills development commission which hope to create a national implementation plan for ICT skills development across the country and within its various programs and services.   In a recent Research ICT Africa study on e-skills (pdf), the research found that “In 16 out of the 17 countries, the strongest positive and significant effect on probability of higher e-skills can be attributed to having completed tertiary education”.  In order for the South African DoC to make a significant change within their country, not only does the government need to improve affordable access to the internet for all, they must also coordinate long-term education policies which strive for more university graduates. 
Another most relevant commission which the ISAD is looking for is an information ethics commission.  The whole concept of global security, human security, privacy and transparency is growing in research and importance.  With the Italian courts siding against Google for posting a video of a bullied boy with Down’s Syndrome for violating privacy law, South Africa has a responsibility to develop concrete resolutions which concern this area of information ethics.  Such a measure also falls in line with the conclusions of a recent African Union special discussion on ICTs (pdf) in which “Africa must harmonize its policies and projects at national, regional andcontinental levels taking into account the cyber security space” (particular recommendation by Senegal’s M. Cisse – page 14).

Across the border, Zimbabwe announces its 2010 – 2014 National Information Communication strategic plan.  ICT Minister Nelson Chamisa also hopes to cover cyber security and e-government just as proposed by South Africa.   The ICT Bill is on its way to Cabinet for approval.  Given Zimbabwe’s high rank in education (actually I’m not sure how it is doing these days), the group needs a solid plan for infrastructure and affordable access in order to meet a significant move towards the networked society. 

Gendered Access to Knowledge and Africa


Here is a photo which reminds me of my ongoing pursuit to understand gender research in the realm of information and communication technology (ICTs) for development in Africa.  This is a group shot was taken back in Johannesburg in 2008 with researcher partners and IDRC staff who are trying to interrogate the socio-economic effects of ICTs and whether there are advantages or disadvantages applied differently on men versus women.  Since then, I have been trying to write out some thoughts on the gender research being pursued around me here in Africa.  Here is what I hope is just the start: 

I recently published an article for  Reaction to the Gender Findings from Africa’s Access to Knowledge Research:

" writer and a Research Officer at Canada`s International Development Research Centre, Kathleen Diga tracks the journey of the African Copyright & Access to Knowledge (ACA2K)research network to better understand the nature of African national copyright environments and their impact on equal opportunities for all citizens to access information, particularly in the realm of education. The author argues that the ultimate development goal of copyright law is to afford equal access to educational learning materials regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, disability or age. The law must be flexible in order to recognize existing or potential discrimination against vulnerable groups. For example income constraints are likely to discriminate against women more than men in efforts to access educational materials.

It is a follow up to a previous article, University women struggle for knowledge access in Africa:

"The future female leaders of Africa are up against major barriers to knowledge access, which could mean lost opportunities in university learning and teaching the state-of-the-art research most necessary for academic success. Online academic journals, and university textbooks are a few of the important resources that are part of this access to knowledge, which is pertinent particularly at the university level. Not only do students need to pass their courses, they are also encouraged to develop innovative and novel ideas informed and possibly inspired by past research work. Kathleen Diga questions whether such access of learning materials to all students and teachers at universities in Africa are fair to both women and men."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The creativity that I call South Africa

It’s taken a few years, but I am now starting to inch to the edges of the creativity explosion that I call South Africa. Since arriving here a few years ago, I’ve always been stoked on the conventional handicrafts of wired animals, patterned cloth and beaded jewelry of Africa. I’ve seen even fewer concerts and wandered into a few gallery and fashion shows in my day.  But recently, I’ve started to learn more about the ingenious film, music, blogs, art and writing collective that rates high for me in terms of South African originality and quirk. And why wouldn’t it be here? The country is immersed in an environment of inspiration whether it be the breathtaking landscape and ocean, or the intense history of the people coupled with the diversity of endemic species of animal, plants and race. So given this new found creative space and revelation of awesomeness, I hope to reveal on this blog some great places, adventures and living artifacts that come my way in South Africa. Some of great stuff that I’ve seen lately include: White Wedding, Bunny Chow, Jerusalema, (all these films can be seen on long haul flights with South African airlines) Die AntwoordSouth African Vice writers, Mahala, go Magazine, Visi Mag, skinny laminx and Bruce MacKay (I love his Dee Tee).

All kinds of great stuff coming up like Design Indaba in Cape Town (26-28 Feb 2010) and 2010 Afrika Burns (22-27 April 2010) in the Tankwa Karoo.

Look forward to a year of creative vibrations.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Free Nelson Mandela - 20 years later

Today is a great day to be in South Africa. February 11, 2010 marks the 20 year anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. For 27 years Nelson Mandela was in prison. There are some great article pieces coming from the South African news. The one supplement piece in the Star newspaper brings in many perspectives which reflect on the dawning of the new democracy in South Africa. The audioslide show by BBC is fantastic – brought a tear to my eye. Read more here...

This day also makes me reflect on my recent visits to the Apartheid Museum, Soweto, Nelson Mandela’s house and the Hector Pieterson Memorial. I had the chance to move around to these historical places of South Africa with a seasoned activist from Canada. She was part of the Canadian network which rallied for the freedom of Nelson Mandela and pressured the Canadian government to lay international pressure on the apartheid government for a non-racial, non-sexist democratic state. It was eye opening to be more aware of the reach that this political prisoner had around the world.

I recently had to look through some of IDRC’s past accomplishments in South Africa and one of the most outstanding pieces which I speak with pride is the organization’s help in building research and recommendations in economics, urban and environmental policy which would be implemented in a new South Africa which is inclusive to all citizens of the country. Many of the researchers funded continue to be part of South Africa’s political network.

They were worthy contributions in South Africa and in Canada and I respect those who have dedicated their lives to a more fair society in this African state. Unfortunately, I live here in South Africa now and I see how the struggle continues for its people. Activism remains strong as citizens still fight for the right a more equal education system, and improved services for all (housing, electricity, water). My final reflection is if this was still an apartheid state, what would I be doing today – do I remain aware of the struggles of the people yet be complacent as the rate of poverty rises, or do I rally forward with the movement as would have been done by the Canadian activist more than 20-30 years ago? Could history repeat itself but in another form if we don’t stay active in the new struggle?

The photo of the coloured glass Mandela is found at the Regina Mundi Cathedral in Soweto.