Friday, January 30, 2015

To be or not to be: Charlie, Chimamanda-Achebe, CEO



2015 is here. Happy New Year.  The year is kicking off with issues that I consider  “fundamental” for African development. The first is human rights, the second is governance and the third is elections.   I am still reflecting, thinking out loud.

Charlie
Depending on where one is coming from, the #CharlieHebdo debate is rife. Some are taking it from the religious angle: analyzing the tendency for violent individuals to hide behind a religion.  Some are looking at it from the “anti” perspective: seeking to see who is for, pitching those who are for against those who are against.  Whichever way one looks at it, that over 2 million took part in the #ParisMarch and that more millions gathered across the world around #JeSuisCharlie” is a fact. Millions standing up  for freedom of expression.

The Charlie question for me, is still a question of rights. What rights do people have? Which ones do we want to respect and uphold? Do media have the right to provocation?   If yes, does that hold sway  in Africa?  If no, how do you prosecute/chastise  media that provokes?  I was not the only one wondering (the reaction is actually stronger than the word) why so many African Presidents and governments were quick to become Charlie. Presidents who jail  journalists and bloggers for ”insults”. Governments that cannot even tolerate “Freedom of Information” bills in their own countries. Countries where “The President is sick” earns a journalist a prison term. How can an Africa that stifles free speech be Charlie? How can Africa where certain states/governments have declared themselves by religions be Charlie? How can Africa where the African Union has voted to give immunity to all seating presidents, with Robert Mugabe at its Chair, be Charlie?

Chimamanda-Achebe

I  read three very important books in 2014. I will recommend these to you.  I started with Chimamanda Adichie’s  “Half of a Yellow Sun”, then Chinua Achebe’s “There was a Country” , and Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”.  Adichie’s book tells the story of the Nigerian civil war. Achebe’s book tells the story of Nigeria before,  during and after the Nigerian civil war. Mandela’s in his autobiography, tells the story of his fight against apartheid.  One  development issue runs across these  trio: governance. These recount the greed for power of our leaders, their fear of loss of power, and  all the evil that is unleashed  so that a group can maintain another in an oppressive grip in order to keep power.  The other thing that runs across these narrative is the madness with which those in power crack down on any attempts to challenge the status-quo. Anyone trying to ask questions,  call for reasoning or request for more transparency  is vigorously shut up.  How long are we going to keep quiet over this?  How  can we call for freedom of expression for journalists in France, those who are not afraid to expose their leaders, and in Africa we behave as if “let the sleeping dog lie”  is the best attitude. 

CEO: Chief Electoral Officer

Elections times are the times for much talk and incursions into the evaluation of governance.  Zambia’s one is done and dusted. President Edgar Lungu has taken office.  Nigeria will enter the game on Valentine’s Day, to be followed by others.  There are also those who are getting ready… constitutionally ready. Burkina Faso’s ousting of I-will-die-in-Power  ex-President, Blaise Compaoré sent ripples that are still being felt in 2015.  This is a call, therefore, to all African CEOs to  RSVP: Register, Vote, Safeguard and Protect  the electoral process.  The CEOs are not the electoral officers, but the voters. Ultimately, the power lies in your vote. If you sell your vote, a part of your future is gone with it. If you vote on sectarian (ethnic, regional, religious affiliation) bases,  in the stead of competence and merit, you are establishing/reinforcing mediocrity.  If you refuse to sanction corruption and bad governance, you are rewarding them.

The time is here to stand up for the right: for human rights, for transparency, and for good governance. The 2015 coin  has two side: standing up for what is right, and standing up against what is wrong!

The Long Walk… continues

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Before the kickoff: of balls, broadband and Brazil


In a few days, it will be the kickoff of the FIFA Soccer World Cup in Brazil. Across all football-loving countries, the fever is mounting. Fan frenzy is getting crazy, way before the kickoff.
Are we ready?
We ask that question right until the opening ceremony. Anything can go wrong. We inspect infrastructure: stadia, hotel capacity, roads, airports, etc. We double-check lists: team lists, team staff lists, stadium staff lists, list of officials, etc. We check prices: tickets for matches, flight tickets, hotel costs, local transport, etc. We check for security, return on investment, fan satisfaction, tourism gains. We monitor..
Unknown to many soccer fans, Brazil hosted a 2-day Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance in April.. Don’t bother making up the acronym from the initial letters. The country decided to align the meeting to the “prevailing mood” and named it “Net Mundial”. In other words the Internet equivalent of the “Mundial”. In hosting NetMundial, Brazil was contributing to the global Net game. Making it faster and better.
Sold out
If you were planning to be part of the FIFA World Cup and are yet to get a ticket by the time this post is published, then it might be too late. Tickets are all almost sold out. World Cup match tickets are not “there for the asking”. There is a limited number of them. In the world of the Internet, they are called “Critical Resources”. These are resources that everyone needs and wants to have, but only a few possess. Access to the Internet at an affordable rate is one of those! Two-third’s of the world population are still dreaming of affordable access to the Internet.
Balls and broadband
There will be great Brazil 2014 memorabilia. Some may want to get a shot at the jerseys of famous players. Others may want a photo opportunity with a star. Brazuca, the official ball, will certainly be in high demand. Whichever way, Internet connection will be in higher demand than all of these. Internet service providers in Brazil are already rolling out “World Cup” packages. These tend to give unlimited Internet Connection for less than 1$ per day. Can the offers hold through the games? Will they continue after the games?
The World Cup and the World Wide Web
Did you know? It will almost be impossible for anybody to get a ticket to any of the World Cup matches without logging on to the FIFA website. Almost all tickets are applied for and sold online. Collection is the only thing you do offline. Without necessarily blowing its trumpets, FIFA may well become the largest organization that uses the Internet and inspires its use. Without doubt, the World Cup will be more enjoyable to those who have broadband Internet connection. In these days of:
Live tweeting;
Instagram;
Selfies;
Parallel online World Cup Matches for fans;
Match streaming on mobiles:
Balls must meet broadband. Brazil must raise the game. FIFA must pay attention to affordable Internet and fans must claim their rights as web citizens!

Game on!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Quand Le Congo expulse les congolais, les africains doivent s'en indigner


Il est le matin de dimanche 11 mai. Je suis le débat “africain” sur Radio France Internationale. Un plateau des frères congolais de deux rives – Brazzaville et Kinshasa. Le sujet: l'expulsion des milliers des congolais (RDC) du Congo.

Le Chef de la Police du Congo-Brazza reconnait que ses hommes n'ont pas respecté les consignes. Ils ont carrément dépouillé les Kinois - téléphones portables, bijoux, argent. On polémique sur le nombre des expulsés. Le Congo-Brazza parle des quelques 3000 qui comprenaient aussi d'autres nationalités, mais reconnait que plus de 57000 sont partis. Les autorités de la RDC elles, parlent de plus de 72000.

Tout cela se passe en Afrique, entre deux pays frères. Deux pays qui partagent un même nom, qui parlent la même langue.

D'après une autorité de la RDC, pendant trois jours, il n'y a pas eu des barques pour faire traverser la foule. Trois jours pendant lesquels il pleuvait. Des milliers des congolais massés au bord la fleuve, sous la belle étoile.. sous la pluie. Des familles tout-entières, les mamans avec les bébés en main... incroyable mais vrai!!

Pourquoi? Quelle est la raison de cette expulsion? L'insécurité. C'est la raison officielle donnée par Le Congo-Brazza. Oui, oui. En avril 2014, un gouvernement africain décide d'expulser des milliers des personnes  pour garder sa “sécurité”. C'est à dire, pour qu'un pays maintient sa sécurité, le seul moyen qu'il trouve, c'est l'EXPULSION des étrangers vivant su son territoire.. Et cela se passe en Afrique..

Je m'en indigne. Je condamne. Mobiliser 1500 policiers pour expulser 3000 étrangers pour un mois? Moi je dis que là, il y a un objectif affiché de terroriser des familles. Et cela explique bien pourquoi plus des 20 fois le nombre officiel des expulsés ont décidé de plier bagages par eux-mêmes, et de partir.

C'est une honte. C'est une honte pour chaque africain. C'est un honte pour chaque africain vivant dans un pays qui n'est pas le sien. C'est une humiliation pour chaque être humain avec la peau noire.

S'il suffit seulement pour un pays d'évoquer “l'insécurité” pour lancer une opération d'expulsion de masse tel que Le Congo l'a fait.. alors nous sommes mal barrés.

Le Congo l'a fait. Demain ce sera un pays Schengen...


Monday, March 31, 2014

5 Minutes or 5 hours: the Internet connection will decide.

Image from Adventurous-soul.com

I had a clear plan of what I wanted to achieve in 5 minutes when I got to the bank. I have done this before and I knew how long it takes.

Step 1: Check latest status of local account
Step 2: Flip out a Visa card that is linked to an international account
Step 3: Withdraw a given amount from the international account to feed into the local account
Step 4: Send cash via a money transfer service to someone in an un-banked rural area
Step 5: Send the transaction details of the money transfer to the receiver by SMS
Step 6: Go home.


But this very day, things just did not work out the way they should. There has been a general Internet connectivity low in the city and I did not take that into consideration when I was doing my 5-minutes calculations. As always, I walk into the bank and the first uncomfortable thing was the sight of the many people on the queue. I sensed a problem.

“Madam, we have a problem with the Internet connection. Our systems are slow.”

I told myself, I could use the time that the queue lasts to do one or two things. I keep my place on the queue, and walk over to the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) outside. Step 1 was to find out the status of the local account.

“This service cannot be completed at the moment” the ATM said.

Fine, I told myself. Since I was at the bank, I might as well ask Customer Service to check up on that account.

Madame, even the intra-bank communications are not going”

Step 1 is foiled. I tell myself that I will get to that some time. It is important to proceed to Steps 2 and 3. I get the Visa card out, to be able to pull the cash I needed.

“Your financial Institution is unavailable.”

The message here is that connections between us and other banks are just not working at the moment.

So I am on the queue to send cash that I have not yet withdrawn from an account which is impossible to access! I need a B Plan. The people in the village are waiting for the money. It took me 3 hours to be able to raise the cash needed. And now I realise to what extent my savings and financial life are linked to the Internet!!

It takes another 30 minutes to do the money transfer. “Madam, please be patient, our Internet is slow today”.

Yes. “The Internet is slow today” and I have lost 5 hours of productivity, emotional balance and almost the trust of people who are dear to me.

Affordable, reliable and broadband Internet. Give it to me, and I will gain time, productivity and trust.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

/1Net: What works for me

Paul Wilson of APNIC was the first to take his time to do a blog post on /1Net. He did try to clear what was a kind of spider web in the minds of many. In the few weeks between that post and the end of the year 2013:

  • The call for nominations to /1Net Steering Committee has been taken up by all stakeholder groups and discussions are being fed back into the 1Net main discussion channel
  • The /1Net site has been redesigned to be IPv6 Compliant
  • The original “Coordination” list has gone from closed to open and its name has evolved from coordination to “Discuss.
  • Even in the midst of the different holidays that accompany the last days of every year, discussions are still heavily ongoing in the 1Net discuss list and if any signs, they are certainly going to get more intense when folks “get back from the beach”.

From the onset, I had set myself on “reserve” on the /1Net list, for reasons best known to me. However, I have read almost all the email exchanges, perhaps, except those that are on the IPv6 thread.  After the 1000 or so emails, here is what is rocking for me about /1Net at the moment:

First and foremost, the singular opportunity to have most stakeholders on one platform. In my 11 years of WSIS prepcoms, WSIS 1, WSIS 2, IGFs, ICANN and IG-related engagements, this is the ONLY time I have had one platform where I get an insight to the workings of the IG Business Community.

The second thing is the apparent “ease” with which the Civil Society transcended the nomination process of members to the 1Net steering committee. In so many years, I have come to believe that Civil Society is that stakeholder group that achieves the least consensus among itself. As a Civil Society actor, I have come to accept this “fallacy”, hook, line and sinker. /1Net has given me the opportunity to do a turn-around on that. This time around, the CS organized itself within the deadline, in a more or less efficient manner, whereas other stakeholder groups were needing more time to get things sorted.

The other great thing about /1Net for me is the quality of the issues raised. Most importantly, on transparency of representational networks. I have seen the likes of  BASIS, GIGANET, Best Bits, Diplo and IGC questioned from all angles. To varying levels questions have received their answers, at least, for those who are seeking information, collaboration and progress.

I have also seen pro-active engagement in circles that have not had the Internet Governance question as a centre-point of activity. This is the case of the Community Informatics network and the AFREN group. Individuals have been pivotal in piloting these initiatives and I’m really happy to see such engagement from the research and academia stakeholder group, a group, which I believe, have not had enough  platform allowance to bring its issues to the fore in the IG journey. 

Then there is the Africa representation question. Again? Yes, again! The debate is back. Are folks from Africa participating enough? Are they being represented? Do they volunteer for tasks?  Do they feel/think ably represented by anyone from the “Global South”?  After these initial talks, will Africans take  the issues “home” and take them up from there?  I’m keeping my eyes open.

/1Net’s positioning of itself in Brazil 2014 has been fast and furious. In only 2 months, the “Network” or "Coalition"  has set itself as a major partner in the Brazil International Conference on Global Internet Governance …. And beyond that, even future IG framework. Impressive! It is a space that needs to be watched..

As some still “observe” how things roll out with /1Net, I can only look forward to what 2014 will be from the /1Net lenses. But between now and then… some things already have happened for me..
Happy New Year!
 
PS/
Are the Acronyms and abbreviations  confusing?
1Net is the global coalition on the Internet. 1Net.org has info. APNIC is the Asia-Pacific Network Information Center. IPv6 is Internet Protocol Version 6. WSIS is the World Summit on the Information Society. PrepCom is Preparatory Committee (of the WSIS).  IGF is the Internet Governance Forum. www.intgovforum.org  has all the info. ICANN is the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.  IG is Internet Governance. BASIS is the Business Action to Support the Information Society. GiGANET is the Global Internet Governance Academic Network. Best Bits is a platform for Civil Society actions around Internet issues. www.bestbits.net has info. Diplo is the short form of The Diplo Foundation. www.diplomacy.edu has info. IGC is the Internet Governance Caucus of some civil society and other organisations. AFREN is the Africa Regional Education Network