Film Competition by World Bank – Social Dimensions of Climate Change

Crossposted on Global Voices.

The world bank has a call for submissions of short 2-5 minute documentaries that show the social effects or aspects of climate change. The deadline for the competition is October 24th 2008. They would like submissions from developing countries (particularly from the youth), covering any of the following categories.

Conflict: As climate change results in scarcity of resources and economic and, in many cases, political instability, how may it lead to social unrest and armed conflict?

Migration: Are there any links between climate change and population migration?

Social Policy: How do governments prepare effective social policy to meet climate change challenges?

Drylands: What is the social response in drylands related to climate change?

Urban Space: How do climate change adaptation measures take into account the needs of the poor in the urban environment?

Rural Institutions: How do local level institutions in agrarian societies build capacity to handle risks associated to climate change and deliver solutions?

Indigenous Peoples: How are Indigenous Peoples responding and adapting to the impacts of climate change?

Gender: Are there different implications of climate change for men and women, boys and girls? How or where can instances of this be seen?

Governance: How can social accountability be promoted in climate action?

Forests: What are the threats and opportunities for local communities in efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation?

Human Rights: What are the human rights implications of climate change?
More information about the competition is available here.
Below is the call for submissions video.

Ory’s Video on TED.com

crossposted on the Ushahidi blog

Ory Okolloh is not only a blogger, founder of Mzalendo.com, co-founder of Ushahidi and colleague, she is also an inspiration to all of us. Below is the video of her talk at TEDGlobal 2007 – Arusha Tanzania.

The making of an African Activist

Ory, we are sambazaing this whether you want to hide or not 🙂

Monday Inspiration: Corneille Ewango

The botanist Corneille Ewango talks about his work in the Congo to protect the forest giraffe or ‘Okapi’. He touches on the effect of the war, mentioning the mineral coltan which is used in electronics like your cellphone. Do note that coltan has fueled the war in the Congo for many years.

He also goes over his life story, which personifies courage and endurance in the face of difficult circumstances.
If you are not able to view the video, you can read a summary by EthanZ.

Just-A-Band Interview Part II – Animation

This is the last part of the JAB interview, the first is here. It was fun reading JAB’s responses, and I hope you enjoy this last bit. Before we get to that, here is one more pic of the trio.

Dan,Blinky,Jim.jpg

Iwinyo Piny & Animation in general.

The chicken or the egg question: Which came first? The animation or the music?

BILL(Blinky): The music. We used to jam in campus. And that’s where everything else spun off from.

JIM: The music came first, definitely. As always, it was a random happenstance (our music usually is). Then Dan went, “We could do a cartoon…”, and here we are.

DAN: The music was there first, but I can remember some occasions when the animation influenced the song, especially the lyrics, coz there was supposed to be more words that would have made it clearly a song about a girl, but when we talked about the video concept allowing for a broader interpretation, the lyrics were trashed (after which one station told us they couldn’t play our song coz it didn’t have any lyrics! Haha!).

Progression.jpg

What is your animation history?

DAN: I did this one month crash course in animation right before starting Uni, and when I met Jim and Blinky I talked trash about how we could do these huge animated videos, even though I had never actually done anything… So we started Iwinyo, and I was thoroughly humbled. I guess it came out OK, though. It was a learning experience.

JIM: If there ever was a time that we had internal fights, it was during the Iwinyo phase. I think we’re over that now.

DAN: Or at least we’ve figured out some “Constructive Anger Management Techniques.”

JIM: I have absolutely no idea what he means…

DAN: *blink*

(Does rendering take forever?)

Rendering? That depends on what programs/methods you’re using… As the 2D guy, I lack the patience that the 3D guys develop whilst waiting for the goodies to iva[ripen].

I personally really like animation because of the freedom it allows you in terms of following your ideas. And I like 2D for its much more human feel, 3D can be kinda plastic. I really hate how long it takes to make, though. I see Jimmy dropping live action videos and photography projects like bunnies…

I taught animation and cartooning a bit and I work as a freelance animator to pay them bills, and so I’m all up on Kenyan animation, where it could go, what stories we could tell… but that’s a long story.

JIM: Photography and video are somewhat more immediate, which makes me look hard-working. It’s just that projects get finished real quick.

What kind of software do you use to create the animation? and is uploading videos onto YouTube (from Kenya) as torturous task as I experienced or do you have a secret high speed bunker where we can mooch off of justabandwidth?

JIM: Adobe Flash and Adobe AfterEffects.

DAN: Drawings for the 2D are done on paper, and scanned or redrawn on comp. For the next animated video we’re doing, for the track called FunkyFineBeautiful, we have a new collaborator who kicks butt at 3DS Max. As for the uploading, we mooch off our friends’ high speed connections…

OldManSketch.jpg

Your YouTube tag is justabandwidth which is very cool. Could one presume that you are total geeks?

BILL: We seem to attract an intelligent crowd…I prefer to be on my computer than at a party…

DAN: Haha! Ms Interviewer, it’s like you know us! 😛 Yes, at least two of us are total geeks (the other one is in denial).

JIM: As in?

DAN: As in, whilst some of us spend all day turning pale indoors with computers and pencils as our only companions, others manage to maintain some kind of engagement with the outside world. Game recognize game, by the way, so should we assume that [Ms. Interviewer] is also the “bookish type”?

JIM: So all that nonsense about Bill preferring to be at the computer is a lie. He’s the most outgoing chap. I think it’s strange how it’s never been cool to be a geek (only for a brief moment, when Pharrell and company emerged, then he sold out and became cool)? I mean, everyone else has had their moment in the spotlight; the skaters, the punks, the thugs, the gay boys and girls (heady times, the 80s), the Goths…I feel disenfranchised.

I am a total geek. I did every geek thing a human being can possibly do; the braces, the spectacles, being bad at sports (except swimming, for some strange reason), being good at computers, going to cinemas to actually watch movies instead of making out at the back, actually using my library card, studying IT in college etc. If there are types of geeks, I guess I’m the finally-at-ease-with-it kind of geek.

BLINKY: You should see my primary school pictures… then you wouldn’t talk like that… I only go for parties because…

DAN: Geeks are so cool nowadays. The days of warrior kings and sportsmen politicians are gone! Now it’s like, “Bow Before My Fearsome Intellect!”

I found the use of pictures in the video quite interesting, what is the name of the street at [1:08] of Iwinyo Piny? (I have taken pics of that street but can’t remember the name for the life of me??! What of the one at [1:33] placemark?

JIM: That would be Kenyatta Avenue – one of the cuter streets in town. 1:33 is the street that connects City Market to Koinange Street, I have no idea what it’s called; but it’s very textured.

Have you guys ever been jacked? There is a depiction in your video, of a guy being mugged and his shoes being taken. Was this a form of commentary on the crime problem in Nairobi?

DAN: Not recently. 🙂 As a young person living in Nai, I think you just have to get jacked at some point. We added that bit in the video just for laughs (the video has had a lot of very cool interpretations by people and I’m always scared of telling people what we were thinking as we made it coz it’s so underwhelming… When we’re coming up with images most of the time it’s just like, hey, this would look cool! And then sometimes it comes with its own deeper meaning…)!

JIM: Incidentally, I lost my phone on Friday, and two weeks before I lost my ID and elector’s card. And I also lost my wallet the other day (in a bank!) – I’ve been on a roll. The bank called me the other day to say they’d found my stuff lying around in the banking hall. Thankfully, all those incidents weren’t the mugging kind; they were the pickpocket kind (sigh) – which is slightly more embarrassing because it makes people think you have no sense of self-awareness whatsoever.

In 2004, it was more of a problem than it is now, which is not to say that it doesn’t happen anymore. People actually wear gold chains and earrings and watches on the street these days, because cases of mugging have decreased. Pickpockets still rule, damn them all to Eternal Hell. As for making commentary, I remember Daniel just thought it’d be funny. Does that count?

BLINKY: I used to live in Eastleigh, It was hard to keep your new shoes, coz at one point, I was sneaker jacked, and it wasn’t funny.

I found out about your band through the blog Sukuma Kenya. What are your thoughts on blogging? How do you feel about your own blogs so far?

Old Man Hairy Alternatives.jpg
DAN: I had never heard of that blog before today, but I looked and I thought it was kind of surprising to see Iwinyo right in the middle of a lot of politics! Haha!

I think the Net in general has really helped get the word out, Facebook and YouTube and such. Blogging has really helped add a more personal vibe to everything (especially the band blog, I think the other blogs are more like manifestos of some sort but the band’s blog is just goofing around…). I think it really helps to have an online presence as it allows you to present your stuff the way you would want it done, not in a control freak kind of way, just in the sense that, for example, I doubt that we could find a media house that would indulge our fake bio.

JIM: Except for the very cool people at Kwani Trust who just slapped it onto their site as is. Sukuma Kenya? That’s so cool. I didn’t even know that exists. Say hi to them. Blogging feels a bit self-indulgent sometimes – I use my blog to provide alternative material about the process of making pictures, and the mental stuff that happens before and after. Sometimes people ask me tough questions, and I ask everyone what they think – then I plagiarize the answers I receive and generally look smarter.

We used to run an underground arts-and-culture type web magazine thing a few years ago, it was called LabelRevolution, and the thing we enjoyed the most was the community feel of the site. So we try to be very inclusive about everything we’re doing, because that’s how we make our music. The only reason we’ve come this far (admittedly, not THAT far but…) is because we make people feel like this is something anyone could do. Whether that’s true is another matter entirely.

BLINKY: I blog sparingly of late because I tend to expose myself a lot in my writing, I’m trying to find a method of detaching myself when I do. I don’t want to have the whole world know about me.

I would like to thank JAB for sending me the images from their initial storyboard, as it gives us a glimpse into their lovely animation work. The image on the left is one that shows the progression of sketching the old man’s hair.

Keep an eye on the Just-A-Band Blog, Kenyanimation Blog, and Jim’s blog for more updates. Jim will post another AfriGadget soon. (I wont reveal what it is, but it will definitely be ingenious). Thanks guys!

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Interview with Just-a-Band on Kenyan Animation and Music Part I

I was listless, down out depressed, with chicken, egg and crossing of roads questions weighing on my mind; when my fingers as if they had a series of self-cordinating nanobots, tipitty tapped their way onto a blog called Sukuma Kenya. There, I found a pebble shaped like a play button on a retro CD player encased in a rectangle of sorts with a cryptic ‘You Tube’ logo on the bottom right. I touched the pebble. Holyhaberdashery! I touched it!

My fellow Africans, that is how i came to make an interweb acquaintance with Just-A-Band. JAB is defining Kenyan animation and Kenyan techno music with aplomb, piercing wit and style…what follows is the result of smoke signals encoded with morse code and for some strange reason, un-encrypted. Enjoy it, or the chicken gets it. Wait, the egg gets it! oh what the hell…something will get it.

Just A Band is composed of?
BLINKY: Jim, Dan and Blinky.
Jim, Dan, Blinky.jpg
JIM: There’s also our various alter egos – so that’s 2,303 of us in total.
Is the blog Kenya Animation also part of Just-a-Band?
DAN: Kenyanimation isn’t actually a Just A Band project, but I work as an animator, and I put up my JAB animation projects there. That blog was set up to bring together animators and animation fans who are from/work in Kenya, just to show people that there actually is such a thing as Kenyan animation, and hopefully be a launching point for bigger local projects, which haven’t had a chance so far coz people don’t really know that a scene exists! The other guys on the list (filterene, Bint Ali, Achoko, Majiqmud) are my collaborators on that project.

You band bio is so creative. It reads like a great fantasy graphic novel; have you guys thought of making one? When can we get our hands on it? In the CD liner notes – any fun stuff to look for?
BLINKY: Hmm…it just may happen, really haven’t thought about it. The bio was kinda influenced by (at least I thought) by a George Clinton album cover, it had a really long narrative detailing the bands overindulgence on drugs and stuff till it sounded surreal. We get to introduce the gang that contributed to the album’s final sound in the Scratch To Reveal CD liner notes, very fresh cats if you ask me.
DAN: Actually, the bio came about because we thought that the real story makes for a pretty dull read. I still have the notebook page where we start off, “In 2003, three young men met…”
JIM: Now that you mention it, the fantasy graphic novel does sound cool. I think of our bio as a parallel story that’ll run alongside the much more drab reality – we plan to update it each time we do something new.
The liner notes on Scratch To Reveal are slightly nonstandard. The cool thing about being unsigned is that there are no marketing-types breathing over your shoulder, urging you to standardize your output. It was actually Dan’s idea to do the liner notes in a different way – I’m ashamed to say I was one of the people who asked, “Do WHAT?”, but once we tried it out, it actually felt much more relaxed and true to the way the music was made.
DAN: We’d been talking about expanding on this story from time to time, on certain projects. The liner notes on Scratch To Reveal are just us being overwhelmed by actually making an album, and our collaborators and such. But later this year we’ll probably do another project, maybe an EP (Just A Band meets The Sinister Synthesizer!) that will expand on the Bio story and if it gets printed, as opposed to just going online, you’ll get a bunch of cool liner notes and art and stuff… 🙂
I saw that Daft Punk made a movie! Electroma! (Two if you count the one that went with Discovery – Interstella 5555) and I can sooooo see Just A Band doing some Psychedelic 88-minute Experience (at some point). But first things first, we have an album to push (I think one of the reasons we get so psyched up for JAB stuff is coz it could go so many ways, it’s always exciting to sit and plan out projects…)!

Jim, Dan, Blinky.jpg
The album cover for your CD has an arresting image…is there a story behind it? Did the idea pop into your mind or was it an organic, incremental idea that morphed from something? What is your creative process?
JIM: This is definitely a morph – the original blurry concept was to have angry, cathartic energy of some kind on the cover; and cables. Cables are always cool. The images I have in my head always morph into something else by the time they’re finished. The final image ended up being something rather calm and contained – whilst retaining that arresting vibe you’ve mentioned. Of course, Lenny (the model) helped a lot – I chose him because he’s like visual play-dough and he likes to know what we’re aiming for visually. I explained the general idea to him – and played loud drum and bass and clashy electro during the shoot.
My creative process; I typically see the visual in my head – slightly foggy around the edges, but there nonetheless. Then I work to transform that foggy visual into something real. It feels like I’m cheating, sometimes, because all I’m doing is translating the sketch that’s already in my head. In the process of doing that translation, many things change (somewhat like a multi-branched sequence of little decisions on execution) and the final results usually surprise me just as much as anyone else.

I have only listened to one song from your newest album, is the music on Scratch To Reveal kind of in the vein of Iwinyo Piny or are there more varied sounds?

BLINKY: I’d describe the album as adventurous. We all bring different influences to the Just A Band table plus an unwillingness to stay within proscribed boundaries, I’m influenced by acoustic guitar stuff, funk, jazz, hip-hop and dance stuff, everyone else’s influences are evident all through the album.
DAN: The first single, Fly, is up on YouTube and is pretty different, a bit more aggressive and obviously scifi as opposed to Iwinyo’s flirtation with spacey sounds.
JIM: Somewhere towards the middle, the album reveals a softer core; comes back to earth, if you will. Some people have found this surprising because the overall look of the album says – electronic – so having pianos and strings in the middle could be a bit bewildering for some.

I see Daft Punk is an influence on your music; what are your thoughts on the Gorillaz? Would you work with Damon Albarn if he asked? What other types of music/musicians do you gravitate towards? Graphically speaking… which animators do you like? Cartoons? Which ones??
BLINKY: I know for a fact that [Albarn] did some stuff with Fela Kuti’s band mates on a trip to Nigeria, so we wouldn’t be the first African peeps he’s working with, but I’d be absolutely down for it! I’m currently jazzed by Citizen Cope, Raphael Saadiq, Lupe Fiasco, John Mayer, Jamiroquai, St. Germaine, Van Hunt, Foreign Exchange, Bob Sinclair and Asa. I’m abit out of my waters with the animation vibes, though I like Aaron McGruder of The Boondocks fame.
DAN: DEFINITELY we’d collabo with Albarn (right after we regain consciousness)… Every project he does is SO DIFFERENT, from the Mali Music albums to Blur to Gorillaz…very much the kind of thing that we hope to do, as well.
I have a HUGE crush (creatively, hehe) on Björk. She pushes boundaries both musically and visually, stretches your imagination… We are all influenced by Parliament Funkadelic and their many spinoffs –
JIM: Are we? I just think that George Clinton guy had cool outfits. So, maybe visually.
BLINKY: George Clinton is cool!
DAN: I think they’re our spiritual ancestors in the genre of musical Black scifi! We like old funk bands, Jamiroquai, Basement Jaxx, Jaga Jazzist, acid jazz, French House, Van Hunt and a lot of neo-soul artists, rock dudes like RHCP and Incubus, Madlib, Timbaland and the Neptunes (N*E*R*D was one of those moments of WTF is this??), a lot of stuff. I like comical old ska, garage rock like the White Stripes and The Hives and these new dancey rock bands like Franz Ferdinand. But I think the best music is the stuff you can’t really describe…
Graphically, I’m very much into manga and anime, in terms of the stories, culture, even the shortcuts they take to meet their crazy deadlines! A random list of favourites: Samurai Champloo, Mind Game, Triplets of Belleville, Studio Ghibli films, Satoshi Kon’s work, Genndy Tartakovsky, Jamie Hewlett’s Gorillaz work is really well designed and moves so fluidly, The Boondocks. Ralph Bakshi’s confrontational movies from the 70s are a huge creative inspiration for what I’d like to do in animation in future.
There’s an animation director called Koji Morimoto (he did the Beyond segment in The Animatrix), he makes my eyes water. Also off The Animatrix, the World Record segment was done by another new fave, Takeshi Koike, who is actually a celeb in Japan! How interesting, celebrity animators… I would like to go study at the feet of Moebius, the French comic book artist. And a lot of movies and books (I may be a bit of a junkie). We also keep an eye on the graphic design and motion graphics scene, and that’s always a visual overload.
JIM: Daft Punk’s Discovery was one of those albums that really excited me (and it still does). Frankly, I like the visual detail of the Gorillaz more than their music. In fact, I really don’t think I like their music. But I like the way they work so hard on the supplementary material that helps you form an opinion about a band, the back story, the promos. I like people like Madonna and Björk for putting in extra effort and really being in control of their image and sound, and giving people some fantasy to believe in – however slightly.
When I was a kid, I loved the musicians who went beyond the music and created lush record covers, and placed their music in some kind of fantasy literary context. Or even the people who explored themes other than the usual “love, girls and sex”. I love the way the disco dudes touched the sky and went beyond to other planets. Why confine yourself to dull old Mother Earth?
These days it’s “Hi. I’m X and I have a great body. You want to have sex with me. I also sing.” or the other equally drab approach: “Hi. I’m exceptionally gifted. I will numb you into submission with my technical wizardry. I will now play the Euclidian scale with my teeth.”
I think Europeans are better at it than the Americans (with the exception of people like Madonna, as mentioned above). Americans are very literal about their music – Band X fits into this genre and you shouldn’t ask where they’re from or why they’re doing this. Europeans are very cool about alter egos and costumes and silly things like that.

From your Kenyanimation blog, it appears you are working on another project – Two Countries; will it be a CD & animation type thing? When can we expect to hear of a premiere?
DAN: So, when we started off with Kenyanimation (which is not a Just A Band project, actually) we wanted to actually make something under this new group. The idea for this short animated movie was lying around in someone’s sketchbook, so we decided to make that. It’s kind of like a Gado cartoon come to life, political commentary vibes, but with a bit of Tom and Jerry thrown in, and (hopefully) a Just A Band score (as in, a proper “classical” score, which would be a new thing for the band).
The project has stalled for a bit as people get more involved with their various hustles, but we’ll get it back on track soon, and as it’s just a short, it could be done by year’s end. As for how we’ll put it out, I’m not sure yet but maybe we’ll try some festival screenings and so forth.

Do you perform live shows? If so, where can we catch you guys?
BLINKY: Coming soon to an area near you.
DAN: We’re actually working on the live shows now, figuring out venues and instrumentalists, and all the cool fun stuff like projections, or not. We will be unveiling the whole shebang in August. Details will be on the site/YouTube/Facebook.
JIM: We’re working on making it something interesting – because I am skeptical that Kenyans would be OK with sitting around for several hours watching a bunch of geeks fiddling with guitars. So pom-pom’s, dancing, makeup, lights, psychedelic footage and action – on a shoestring budget, as always.

*To order the CD ‘Scratch To Reveal’ send an email to jab [at] just-a-band[dot]com, they will personally ‘hawk’ it over to you. For us online folks, they will have their music on itunes or calabash soon…
**Part II will be posted as soon as you thaw from the JAB burst of ice cold freshness. It will have more questions about the animated video

‘Iwinyo Piny’.

Video & Short Summary: Chris Anderson on Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose interviewed Chris Anderson of TED on his show…below is the video.

There is another famous Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired Magazine and author of the popular book ‘The long Tail’…so just to make it clear, the Chris Anderson on the video is not the same as the Wired guy, though they are both just brilliant. The wired Chris Anderson spoke at a TED conference; his talk on Technology’s long tail is available on TED.com as are other amazing talks. I recommended his book on this post in 2006, and Erik did an interesting post on The long tail of Banking in Kenya. What is going to be the next big idea in business this year?
On the digital activism front; i cant wait to hear about the ‘Cute Cat Theory’ by Ethan Zuckerman at Etech March 3rd. Ethan will also be live blogging TED2008 Conference in Monterrey from Feb 27th – March 1st. I would bookmark his blog/subscribe to his rss feed for his coverage and other Africa-watching-tech-digital-activism posts.

I am becoming more cognizant of the fact that embedded videos are not easily viewable on mobile phones; and since some of this blog’s readership is in Africa, i will summarize a bit of the interview.
You can read about Chris Anderson’s background on the TEDblog

Chris gives an introduction of what TED is, and mentions its rapid expansion. Just to paraphrase, TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) is about bringing together scientists, architects, artists, leaders – basically a diverse group of people from many fields to talk about their work and how it fits into the bigger global picture.
Charlie says it sounds elitist to him: In response, Chris points out that it is indeed expensive, at $6000 a person to attend, but that the content is available on the internet for free. He touches on some of the speakers that have graced the TED stage including Craig Venter’s interesting research on creating synthetic lifeforms. Craig’s work could solve the energy crisis and global warming -more on that here. Chris also mentioned the Google founder’s talk several years ago, where Sergei Brin and Larry page talked about their company.
Charlie asked about the TED prize, which Chris explained as not just a $100,000 award for the recipient to make his/her wish come true, it is also the commitment and assistance from others in the TED community that makes things happen. They cut to a video showing E.O Wilson’s TED wish for the Encyclopaedia of Life; Chris mention that it would be unveiled in march. Here is a link to the EOL site.
Chris mentions some of the speakers and TED Prize winners lined up for TED2008, Dave Eggers, Neil Turok – A physicist who is setting up an institution for science in Africa…and Karen Armstrong. More info here.

Charlie Wilson brings up JJ Abrams; (creator of popular TV shows Lost and Alias) and they cut to a video of JJ’s talk. Chris explains that JJ’s talk centered around the role of mystery/hiding in cinema, a technique used by the likes of Spielberg (You never saw the shark in the movie ‘Jaws’ till the very end.) They discuss a bit more on the mission of TED being ‘Ideas worth spreading’, and Chris notes that its about seeing ideas take shape, and in the coming years actually see the ideas in practice.
Charlie asks “Why 18 minutes long?” – Because it is long enough not to be trivia, but short enough to hold your attention. This reminded me of Andrew Mwenda at TED Global last year who said; that a TED talk should be like a miniskirt – â??long enough to cover the important parts and short enough to maintain interestâ?. Moving along…

Chris talked about how the lives of the speakers at TED are transformed. Their work; which they have often been doing over many years without much exposure, gets recognized and becomes widely known. The example of Hans Rosling’s talk which has now been watched by more that a million and half people around the world.
Chris also talked about the teaching profession and how the broadband and video revolution is redefining this role. He feels that we shall continue to see an explosion of knowledge that is far reaching.

Charlie asked Chris about 3 people who changed his life, and Chris responded
– His editor when he was a journalist showed him the importance of passion and enthusiasm for good work. Adding emotional richness to experiences is important and that is why they include musicians and artists as part of TED (I am paraphrasing!)
– Jonathan Haidt, the author of ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’
Charlie wraps it up and asks about the dates of TED2008 – Feb 27th – March 1st. Chris mentions some of the big questions anchoring the conference this year…a full list from the TED site include…

Who are we?
What is our place in the universe?
What is life?
Is beauty truth?
Will evil prevail?
How can we change the world?
How do we create?
What’s out there?
What will tomorrow bring?
What stirs us?
How dare we be optimistic?
And the point?

Some notes on the DEMO video (long)

Well, when I started blogging I never thought a video of me talking at a panel was part of the deal, its quite strange watching yourself and getting self conscious about the whole thing. OMG mom! I am on the equivalent of TV! Lame lines aside; Erik has the video, I cant get myself to embed the video on my blog yet. I feel like Mike, that i could have done more. Some of the things I mentioned might seem a bit esoteric, so i will add some links and mention a few things i think i should have included at the panel.

OLPC: This computer has been the subject of discussions with Erik, Steve, JKE, Maitha and others for awhile now, several years actually. Erik’s post in 2005, my post in 2006 and even more recently regarding the keyboard design. It seems like we have lived through the project since it was a concept to its current reality. My thoughts on it have fluctuated, from the posts I wrote in the past, I was really gung ho about the thing. I still am on some level, as I do appreciate that I wouldn’t be where I am, were it not for access to computers (and power actually) during my formative years. This is what i wanted to say…

I was listening to the digital planet podcast (11/26) where they had a correspondent attend the launch of the OLPC in Abuja, Nigeria. You could hear the excitement and enthusiasm in the children’s voices as they spoke of what they would do with the OLPC. It was a great moment. Now to the questions that started popping into my head like Orville Redenbachers microwave popcorn. When Gareth Mitchell was talking to Bill Thompson, they mentioned how they attended the OLPC launch in Tunis and how a child was crying because they’d been given an OLPC to play with for a time, then it was taken away. That was not a good moment, rather sad really, that kid is probably traumatized right now wherever he or she may be. I mean isn’t that just a little cruel? I know i would wail like a banshee if i was in her shoes. The discussion segued into what it would mean for the children to have a laptop that they would call their own. This got me wondering, that perhaps one of the unintended consequences of the OLPC project is that it would enhance the idea of ‘mine’ rather than ‘ours’. In modern Africa do the age old African values of community and sharing still apply? Would the OLPC idea chip away at the ‘utu’, that is a societal benchmark? Is the Ndiyo project a better thought out model for computer literacy, what with the idea of USB thin clients that I am already a fan of?

I should add that I think the Ndiyo model of networked computing could be well suited for school situations. This is because of two reasons.
1. Cost – The class sizes in Kenya increased owing to the free primary schooling offered by the government. Having a networked model enables more students to get basic computer literacy, as they can share the computer lab resources. This is particularly apt i think because the OLPC project was geared towards schools in the developing world.
2. This i already mentioned above…the idea of ‘my laptop’. The OLPC can be shared between students…but if you have a class of 30 children and 28 OLPC’s someone will undoubtedly get disappointed.On the other hand, as Steve mentioned in the post on OLPC Keyboard..i will reiterate his comment here, because i think its very important.

Some thoughts: you ask “Maybe I am looking at this all wrong, Is Negroponte pimping the â??education projectâ?? in pursuit ofâ?¦what?”. Well, maybe the answer is indeed in plain sight. Maybe he just wants to provide technology access to the masses like he keeps telling us he wants to.
And here is another thought for you: if the OLPC team did indeed go to Nigeria to look for inspiration for the design of the product, it is heartening that they are looking to the populations that will actually use these products for design and usability clues instead of sitting in Boston or LA or wherever and saying “hey, thats what the kids/world/users/consumers need”.
I have in the last month or so found myself increasingly frustrated with this attitude to design and product creation when I have to “fix” my computer for my 4 year old who wants to use it but cannot understand why in the world Windows keeps doing stuff and getting in his way.
Find out what your users need and want and give it to them. End of story.

Though i haven’t had a chance to play with the OLPC, I am sure its a fine product. From Steve’s comment i think the OLPC should just be marketed as a low cost computer for those interested to buy for their children/themselves, and not specifically geared towards governments purchasing them for schools. The Give one Get one campaign was nice…but how were the ‘given’ laptops distributed? What rationale? I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I think that at a price like $100 how about seeing some free-market action going on in Africa? That is a whole other AID Vs TRADE debate right there.

On the power to charge OLPC: There is a larger question of power in Africa, which i won’t get into right now (though i will in the coming weeks) For a glimpse of the opportunity, Idris Mohammed mentioned the great opportunity in power generation during last years’ TEDGlobal. More here, and whenever his talk is posted, it will be on the TED site here. Erik did mention that there is a cranking device that can be used to power the OLPC, and browsing the power supply tab on OLPC news shows some novel and innovative approaches to solving the power problem. From a cow dynamo to something i like…the OLPC solar mesh repeater.
olpc-repeater.jpg
OUTSOURCING:
The company i referred to in the video is called Verviant. It is based in Nairobi and helps small to medium sized businesses in the East Coast of US to maximize on limited IT budgets. In speaking with Onesmus Kamau of Verviant, he indicated that the company was able to deploy a video management system that will save their client $500,000. It is but one example of the opportunity in outsourcing web development, database management, and software development in general. This infoworld article (albeit a few months old) mentions the hot spots for this being Ghana, Egypt, South Africa and Rwanda. I would also recommend watching Carol Pineau’s movie ‘Africa Open for Business’ if you haven’t already. The blogger Nii Simmonds, who will be speaking at SXSW writes about business in Africa,including outsourcing. His blog ‘Nubian Cheetah’ is a good resource, as is Emeka Okafor’s Timbuktu Chronicles. The PSD blog is also another good resource…(links to other outsourcing references are quite welcome, do chime in on the comments)

Mobile Phone Tech: I think between Mike, and Erik we covered this o.k. A sim card/chip costs less than a dollar…and the phone with a flashlight that I was referring to in the video looks like this.
Picture 3.png
On cell phone reach, here is one example of celtel’s reach illustrated in a post from a Zambian economist. My little screed last year about the iphone hints at the fact that i totally love the fact that you can choose whichever carrier you like when in Kenya/most parts of Africa. Its just a matter of switching sim cards and not having to worry about whether your phone will work or not. Most if not all the handsets in Kenya are unlocked.

On the parting shot: Customization and allowing for grassroots creativity. I wanted to mention that this idea is illustrated best by Chris Nikolson,in an NYT article, and context was added by one of my favourite bloggers ‘African Uptimist. Please see this post. It has some great examples that show how the idea (a strategic one at that) is implemented in the field. I felt like my brain had some speedbumps and for some reason Chris Nikolson’s name completely disappeared from my head. I think his quote is so important, let me amplify it again here if I may…

The best results are achieved when you move with the natural flow of grassroots creativity. Often, this means abandoning or suppressing preconceived notions, and building on spontaneous and creative adaptations of the new technology by local people to meet their needs.

One more link…Guy Lundy’s ‘Future Fit’ – An African futurist to watch.

“People are suffering”

This is a video i recorded last Thursday before leaving Eldoret. It has been included on the Ushahidi website, and i urge others who have pictures, video or text to please upload them
We converse in Swahili and English, where i asked a few questions and he was kind to oblige. Many thanks to Wilson for his candor and for giving me permission to share his thoughts with you.

We speak email they speak p.o.box

It is 6 days to election day in Kenya. Kenyanpundit has been giving a glimpse of the atmosphere in Nairobi; Read more here, here and here.

I spoke with a young web designer by the name of Amanya about his thoughts on the presidential candidates and their commitment to ICT in Kenya. A few minutes into the conversation i decided to record it, and he was gracious enough to let me. In the video, Amanya points out the disconnect between the leaders and the youth. The fact that the youth have embraced technology and internet, yet the leaders are still talking about polytechnics which provide skills training but not the computer literacy needed to compete in the age of globalization and digital pervasiveness.
You might notice that while i was talking to him he had a cellphone, with which he was checking his email 🙂

Just to give you some context, if you send an email to the Kenyan government, business or otherwise, you will also need to send a certified business letter by dhl or messenger. Even then it takes a very long time for them to get back to you.

Solar Taxi

Via Digg

*Vid is abit grainy but not too bad, there is another one here.
This team is on a mission to showcase solutions to global warming…by driving a solar taxi. They are currently in India, where they spoke with the chairman of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Mr. Rajendra Pachauri. Incase you’ve been living under a rock for the past several months, IPCC were co winners of the Nobel Peace prize with Al Gore. The Solar Taxi team will be making their way to the United Nations conference on Climate Change next month in Bali Dec 3rd – 14th. How about a stop in Africa sometime in the future? They could even attend the Zero Africa Rally 🙂
Cool stuff.