Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forNovember, 2003 | back to home

30 November 2003

Mark Davies, the founder of BusyInternet, Ghana’s biggest cybercafe, told the BBC World Service’s latest “Go Digital”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsa/n5ctrl/progs/03/go_digital/24nov.ram programme that Yahoo had threatened to block all purchases to “Yahoo-hosted stores”:http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/index.php from Ghanaian or Nigerian addresses because of the widespread fraudulent use of credit cards from his cafe. To try to head off this problem, he simply blocked all shopping. It’s extraordinary that a major portal like Yahoo could consider redlining entire nations, and that the “solution” should be for a cybercafe to block all ecommerce – particularly in a country where cybercafes may represent the only accessible Internet connection with the outside world.

A search turned up an article in “Balancing Act”:http://www.balancingact-africa.com/news/back/balancing-act_158.html from May this year with much more detail. According to the Yahoo security consultant:

The point is, 99.999% of purchases from Ghana are fraud. At least 99% of Yahoo stores don’t ship internationally anyway. Our fraud orders are up literally about 1000 percent over last year, almost all from Ghana. The cost to us in time and effort has reached the breaking point.

While it is certainly understandable why the move was threatened, imagine the furore if Yahoo had unilaterally threatened to block, say, all ecommerce from Portugal. This reveals how much unaccountable power these organizations have.

28 November 2003
Filed under:Current Affairs (World) at10:48 pm

The “World Rich List”:http://www.globalrichlist.com/ site reveals just where you rank relative to global per capita income. As things stand at the moment I don’t even make the top ten percent, apparently, but if you counted capital (and particularly accumulated cultural capital) my ranking would be higher…

Thanks to matt jones | work & thoughts for the link

25 November 2003
Filed under:Current Affairs (UK),London,Personal at8:57 am

Two recent stories about attempts by doctors and MPs to make us all a little healthier (this sort of stuff sticks in my mind because my wife is doing a degree in public health). Doctors recently urged a public smoking ban – something I have supported on this weblog more than once – in “2003”:http://blog.org/archives/000920.html and “2002”:http://blog.org/archives/000474.html. Not only does passive smoking kill 1,000 people a year in the UK but it’s extremely anti-social. And today a select committee “suggested”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3242674.stm an easy-to-interpret code to be put on all food that would tell people how much exercise it would take to burn off the calories contained in it.

24 November 2003

People often use the Internet to try to get a personal glimpse of what things are like across the world. “Webcams”:http://www.comfm.com/webcam/ give you a peek but they can’t talk back, and travel guides written by travellers for travellers like “Wikitravel”:http://www.wikitravel.org/ or “igougo”:http://www.igougo.com/ but if you want a day by day slice of life account of life in a country weblogs can provide one. A very large proportion are “from the US and Europe”:http://www.blogcensus.net/?page=map but I recently heard about two weblog indexes from further afield sinosplice indexes weblogs in English from or about China and “Blog Africa”:http://www.blogafrica.com/ should be reasonably self-explanatory!

22 November 2003
Filed under:Weblogs at1:10 pm

The creator of “Technorati”:http://www.technorati.com/ apologises for some growing pains.

‘Right now, we’re adding 8,000-9,000 new weblogs every day, not counting the 1.2 Million weblogs we already are tracking. That means that on average, a brand new weblog is created every 11 seconds. We’re also seeing about 100,000 weblogs update every day as well, which means that on average, a weblog is updated every 0.86 seconds.’

Of course this is a self-selecting sample – those who know about and choose to register with the site – so actual numbers are even higher.

21 November 2003

Posted on behalf of Dorothea Kleine – please respond to her not to me!

Dear All,
we are PhD students interested in the potential the Internet holds for Development (capacity building, social capital, NGO networks, participation, e-governance, e-commerce, e-learning etc.). We realize this topic is very complex and that therefore from whatever angle you look at it, it helps to exchange ideas with colleagues who are looking at the same thing, but from a different perspective.

We would therefore like to initiate an interdisciplinary and intercollegiate working group on “Internet and Development”.

We are inviting graduate students (and possibly more senior researchers) from subjects as diverse as Development Studies, Media and Communications, Geography, Information Technology, Anthropology and Economics etc. from across colleges and universities in the London area to join.

One idea of a format would be to form a wider virtual network while meeting as a working group at the “Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research”:http://www.stanhopecentre.org/ in London every two weeks or monthly. The Centre is located at Marble Arch, just across the street from Hyde Park. There would be office space available and we can also book meeting rooms and a conference room free of charge.

Our first meeting for all that are interested will be held on *Thursday, December 4th* at the Stanhope Drinks Party, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at Stanhope Centre (Stanhope Place, nearest tube: Marble Arch). There we can get to know each other and discuss the format of our network, possible themes for conferences and ideas for research projects.

If you are planning to come, or interested in joining but not able to come that day, please email. We are very much looking forward to hearing from you!

20 November 2003

“Here”:http://www.sr.se/cgi-bin/p1/src/sing/default.asp?key=w4hXB8a6 is a treat for you (if your computer has speakers). Some genius in “Sveriges Radio”:http://www.sr.se ‘radio for art, culture and ideas’ has dreamed up Let them sing it for you. It’s harder to explain than it is to experience so try it yourself and send the results to a friend!

19 November 2003
Filed under:Academia,Personal at8:31 am

It appears I am truly a Master of Science – I just got the results back from my recent “MSc in New Media, Information and Society”:http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/media@lse/study/mScInNewMediaInformationAndSociety.htm at the “London School of Economics & Political Science”:http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/pressAndInformationOffice/aboutLSE/information.htm and I discovered I have achieved a distinction (an A for my North American readers).

“Then let the throng our joy advance / With laughing song and merry dance…”:http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/mikado/webopera/song24.html

Come on – sing along!

18 November 2003
Filed under:Search Engines,Weblogs at3:30 pm

It has been suggested that because weblogs are highly linked to one another, weblog postings are likely to “dominate Google search results”:http://www.robertkbrown.com/2002/07/16/blogging_killed_the_google_star.html In July “Microdoc News”:http://microdoc-news.info/ decided to test this and found that for a selection of typical searches weblogs seemed to have little effect. What this didn’t test, however, was whether weblogs dominated subject areas webloggers were writing about – after all, the discourse of webloggers tends to be concentrated in certain specific areas. I imagine if you searched for the stuff the most prolific webloggers tend to publish about – US politics, for example, or computing – you might still find a lot of weblog entries. Then again, why shouldn’t you?

17 November 2003

From the BBC World Service. This series – The Giving Game looks critically at how NGOs, business and local governments of developing countries interact. Some of those he interviewed suggested that NGOs – which are generally not formally accountable to anyone, particularly anyone in the developing countries they minister to – are getting to be more powerful than some governments in those countries. It is suggested that this undermines the role of democratically-elected governments (where the governments *are* democratically elected). A lot of the criticism of NGO power comes from “Michael Edwards”:http://www.futurepositive.org/Edwards.html, an ex-manager of Oxfam and Save the Children. “Clare Short”:http://politics.guardian.co.uk/profiles/story/0,9396,-4749,00.html (now no longer Britain’s Secretary
of State for International Development) is also an advocate of trying to build governing capacity in less developed countries rather than doing an ‘end run’ around them by giving money to NGOs.

I can see their points of course, but it’s hard to justify giving money to a corrupt or just ineffective government when you could give it to an unaccountable but dedicated NGO in a country.

Another of the interesting points that comes out of the series is just how small the amount of money is that NGOs have to spend compared even to the inadequate amount of government-directed aid. It does suggest that they might be more useful in trying to guide aid policy than actually doing work on the ground themselves (though they argue that it is only by being ‘on the ground’ that they can understand the needs of the people they claim to be speaking for).

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