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Africa: Journalists Blogging From Africa

Fri, 02/20/2009 - 12:26pm

Take at blogs written by journalist blogging from Africa. The list is compiled by Scarlett Lion, “I'd like to make a sort of ongoing list of foreign correspondents in Africa who blog. Feel free to add to the list in the comments section and eventually I'll put out a revised full list, complete with your suggestions.”

Categories: Technology Feed

Africa: E-Learning Still At Infancy

Thu, 02/19/2009 - 12:49pm

Remmy blogs about a survey by the Royal Holloway University of London, which shows that helectronic learning (e-Learning) on the continent of Africa is still at infancy.

Categories: Technology Feed

French Caribbean: Strikers Bloggers

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 3:06pm

Nowadays, no mass movement can ignore the importance of public relations and the social crisis in Martinique and Guadeloupe is no exception, according to Collectif5février [Fr, Martinique] and LKP and Elie Domota [Fr, Guadeloupe].

Categories: Technology Feed

Blogging Gives Kenyan Poetry Larger Meaning And Exposure

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:59am

Njeri Wangari is a Kenyan poet and blogger based in Nairobi, Kenya. I recently interviewed her at Nairobi Java House in downtown Nairobi and later continued the interview via email. In this interview, Njeri discusses how she has been using her blog, Kenya Poet, to promote artists and art scene in Kenya. Through her blog, she says, she has given Kenyan poetry a larger meaning and exposure.

Question: When did you start blogging?

I started in 2006.

Q: Why did you decide to blog?

I had been writing poetry for sometime and had not found a publishing house to publish my work. This was frustrating because I wanted to share my thoughts on various issues of concern with people. I cannot remember how I came to know about blogging, maybe it was through Google. But once I found this amazing tool I started to experiment immediately. Initially, I was not sure what to write or what to put there. The first item was about people who inspired me. I wrote about Maya Angelou [the African American writer and poet] then later I realised that a blog is a tool to share your personal interests. I am interested in art, literature, African, jazz and Neo Soul music and poetry. I started doing features on my blog about writers and poets in Kenya and elsewhere. My first feature was on Okot p'Bitek [the Ugandan poet and writer].

I realized later that I needed to update my blog more often and it was not easy to do that with my full time job. I asked myself why not do reviews of art events that I frequent? So I started art reviews. The reviews drew more traffic to my blog as some would have photos accompanying them. At that time there were no online resources offering information about arts in Kenya. One had to check the weekend newspaper, which only featured major events . I later on decided to post information about upcoming events and also tried to find more information about the artists going to perform and with time, this drew more traffic to my blog than even my poetry as I could not post a piece everyday as I could with other art information. There is, however, an interesting aspect, after my poetry performances I would get enquiries on where my poetry can be found and I simply refer them to my blog. You will therefore find those who visit my blog specifically for news and information on art and music and those who visit just for my poetry.

Q: What is the difference between the reviews that you do and the ones on weekend newspapers?

Newspaper reviews are too formal and most journalists have no or very little knowledge of the subject matter especially when it comes to non mainstream art events like poetry performances and underground hip hop and emerging forms of music. I realized that a lot of reviews that were appearing on mainstream media was mostly criticism of poetry and the quickly growing art scene that is seeing a lot of first time poets coming out to perform. In addition to this, journalists tend to look at poetry in the lenses of written poetry and have no understanding of spoken word and poetry performance. WAPI [Word And Pictures] has received criticism from mainstream media while it gives a space to many upcoming artists and has contributed a lot to the growth of hip hop and other forms of art not just in Kenya but it is now in more than 5 African countries. I also noted that mainstream media reviews lacked the personal style of review that is more detailed, descriptive and does not have to be a certain number of characters.

Q: As a poet what do you think is the role of art blogs?

The role of art blogs is to give a space to creative writers to express themselves, be heard globally and get feedback as well as critique and support. Blogs help to create greater understanding of various forms of art and appreciation.

Q: What value have you added to Kenyan poetry as a blogger?

I have given poetry a larger meaning and exposure. Events such as the ones that take place in various spots e.g Rhythm and Spoken at Dass Restaurant, utenzi at the Wasanii Restaurant and others would never be known were it not for the information that I give on the blog. Poetry lovers would probably not know very promising Kenyan poets like Tim Mwaura, Obaladan, Number 8, Neema Mawiyo and many other great poets. I have inspired many upcoming poets to not only share their work on stage but also to start blogs. The weekly newsletter that I send to subscribers about art events and artists has also helped maintain a fanbase of dedicated followers of art and poetry. I am currently hosting some upcoming poets temporarily as I help them start their own blogs. Their poetry can be found on my blog with brief biographies about them and their contacts.

Q: Do you have poets who come to you to ask about blogging?

Many! Poets complain about not getting published. I tell them why wait for publishers while you can do it on your own? You don't need highly technical skills to start a blog, what you need is to know what you want to do with your blog. There is Neema, for example, who is also a poet and actor and blogger. She blogs at Ngwatilo. I urged and inspired her to start a blog, something she was finding too involving. Bildad Mathenge and Connie Mutua are currently working towards starting their own blogs as I temporarily host their poetry on my blog.

Q: Since poetry is both written and spoken, do you have poets in Kenya podcasting their work?

You can listen to some Kenyan poets on MySpace. I recently registered a MySpace page. Imani is poet who is using MySpace where you can listen to her poetry. Grand Master Masese who is also a poet and a performing artist is also utilizing myspace

Q: What about video?

There are a few videos on YouTube that have been taken during various poetry performances. But nothing substantive so far.

Q: So you would say that blogging has measurable benefits to the local art scene in Kenya?

Yes. It has has made a huge impact. Blogging constantly about poetry has made more people aware of Kenyan poets. It has given exposure to upcoming artists who would rarely get coverage in the mainstream media. Through our blogs, people realise there are many entertainment options and more people get to know more about the Kenya poetry movement. Posting upcoming events and doing a review of the same has also helped quite a lot in disseminating information to art and poetry enthusiasts. It has also helped market upcoming artists who have not yet made their names in the art industry.

Q: What are you views on blogging in general in Kenya?

Blogging here is still in the phase where most people think you have to be in the IT industry (read geek) to blog. A friend of mine, Daudi Were who blogs at Mental Acrobatics made a comment at our recent meeting regarding the upcoming African Bloggers Conference, and I quote him “blogging is the most ‘ungeeky' thing one can do on the net”. I am in the organizing committee for the conference dubbed Kelele ‘09 that aims at bringing African bloggers together for the first time in Kenya later this year.

Q: What about the content on Kenyan blogs?

Well, most of it is about politics, which is sad.

Q: Why sad?

People have allowed politics to be the only topic worthy discussing and blogging about despite the fact that there are many other issues affecting Kenyans every day, which need to be part of public debate. It is not like other things in society are not happening. There is more to life than politics. Again, blogs are about one expressing him/herself freely and I refuse to believe that we can only express ourselves politically.

Q: What other topics would you like to see in the blogosphere?

There are many as everyone is unique and so are their ideas. What I tell people is to write about things you have a passion for. I have a cousin who attended a recent barcamp event held in Nairobi. He is a medicine student in his final year with an interest in IT. He realized that he can write about medicine because there are many issues related to medicine that would be of help to ordinary people. Reading his blog is more refreshing as there are things maybe we are afraid to ask doctors. I'd like to read a blog of a struggling drug/alcohol addict, the memoirs of lawyers, the struggles of a lesbian in Kenya, etc.

Q: What are you best Kenyan blogs?

Bankelele: Simply because i don't like financial news written for financial analysts! I want financial news for ordinary people. I want to know what economic meltdown means. Bankelele breaks things down.

White African: I like IT stuff. He writes stuff that you will not find in newspapers.

Sports Kenya: I am not very much into sports but he writes very well, he puts sports into historical perspectives and gives behind the scene sort of stories to sports news making headlines

Gukira: I like his command of the English language.

Thinker's Room: I think he has been busy lately.

Q: What are your long term plans?

I want to elevate my blog, Kenyan Poet, to a unique online brand that represents all forms of art on Kenya.

Categories: Technology Feed

Vietnam startups encountering difficulties

Mon, 02/16/2009 - 11:57pm

In the past two years, almost 100 web 2.0 startups were launched in Vietnam. Many of these projects are encountering difficulties today.

FaceViet, launched in August 2007 and hailed as Vietnam’s first Facebook clone was reported to be bankrupt already. (FaceViet founder denies this report). There is a rumor that Vietnam Online Network is looking for buyers. Cyvee, Vietnam’s first social network for professionals, is laying off 75 percent of its workforce.

Fresco 2.0 thinks the failure of some of these startups is inevitable but adds that “It is unfair to pin the blame for the misfortune of these start-ups 2.0 on the recession.”

Harry Do is worried about the status of other startups:

“If FaceViet’s bankruptcy rumors are for real, this would be a sad, but predictable chapter of Vietnam’s web 2.0 bubble. It would leave a lot of implications for web 2.0 Vietnam and more than 100 Vietnamese web startups still struggling to establish a sustainable business model in Vietnam, especially in the wake of the current financial crunch.”

He analyzes the failure of FaceViet:

“FaceViet failed to gain enough traction and reach critical mass not because of their vision…Poor execution and a lack of thorough understanding of local insights cannot compensate for a good vision, adequate funding and a passionate management team. If FaceViet could address these issues in the beginning, I thought FaceViet would be very much different from what they are now, and this is a real pity”

Harry and Fresco 2.0 identify some of the startups in Vietnam - Teen social network
Caravat - LinkedIn clone in Vietnam - iLike clone - Teen social network - YouTube clone
Cyvee - LinkedIn clone in Vietnam
Linkhay - Digg clone
PhunuNet - Women social network
Sannhac - Online karaoke community - A hybrid of Facebook and MySpace
TeeVN - Zazzle clone - Yelp clone - A social network for lovers - A combination of Digg and Delicious
Zing - Vietnam’s largest portal for teens
Vietnamworks - Online job service

Clipvn is first web service in Vietnam to reach 1 million users. Sannhac recorded the fastest growth with 200 thousand users in 6 months. Vietnamworks is recognized as among the most successful start-ups to date.

There are only three thousand Twitter users in Vietnam. But Twitter-like platforms have been developed. For example: Ola Me and Loop. Aside from FaceViet, other Facebook clones include and Guongmat

Screenshot of Ola Me, a Vietnam startup

Fresco 2.0 notes that startups in Vietnam should develop better models and services in order to be financially viable:

“Web 2.0 start-ups are surely hot, with a slew of new-comers springing up every now and then. But how will they go about making money? So how would all of these emerging technologies start monetizing their products?

“The key here is: before you start to think about money, think about your service first. I don’t understand why most Vietnamese entrepreneurs get so excited about their products and I don’t get the same kind of excitement when I use them. Am I a bit out of touch?”

Categories: Technology Feed

Russia: Yandex, Anonymity, “Oligarchs”

Mon, 02/16/2009 - 7:10pm

A few updates from IZO: “Yandex (acronym apparently of Yet ANother inDEXer), which is way ahead of Google in Russian search, is opening an office in Silicon Valley”; Ministry of Internal Affairs demands “an end to anonymity on the internet”; Russian organized crime in Israel; and what awaits “most of the nineties' oligarchs” in Russia “in a year or two.”

Categories: Technology Feed

Africa: Mobile-XL releases SMS Browser for Mobiles for Africa

Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:21am

Mobile-XL has released a mobile browser for SMS in selected African markets. The browser has been released in collaboration with Nokia.

Categories: Technology Feed

Hong Kong: Network Mobilization Against Religious Hegemony

Mon, 02/16/2009 - 1:56am

Yesterday (Feb 15), more than 800 people participated in a demonstration against Christian Right Wing in Hong Kong. The rally has no traditional NGO back up and it is mainly mobilized via facebook groups.

Sidekick reported about the rally via twitter during the rally and put the messages together in her blog. Actually she joined the rally because she read my message in twitter:

?????twitter??oiwan ? ?


????? im???????????????????????????????????……

Earlier on, I read oiwan in twitter that:

“Although I have certain doubts about the Feb 15 rally, I will go there for citizen reporting. Moreover, this network mobilization is a big issue regarding the indecent censorship debate!”

The message encouraged me to join.
Last night I asked cek ho via IM to wake me up this morning. Although I didn't sleep well last night, I still managed to join the rally with him…

Below is a video on the gathering before the rally:

And here comes a selection of Sidekick's twitter messages:

# 12:11p.m. ??????????????
# 12:13p.m. ?????????????????????????????????
# 12:16p.m. ?????????????
# 12:18p.m. ???????????cnbloggercon ?rss ?????????
# 12:20p.m. ??????????????????
# 12:25p.m. ??????????????????????????????????????????????
# 12:32p.m. ????????????????@oiwan ????500???
# 12:34p.m. ???????????
# 12:37p.m. ????????????@oiwan ?????
# 12:42p.m. ????????????
# 12:48p.m. ????????????????????????????????@oiwan ??????
# 12:55p.m. ????????????????????????:)
# 01:07p.m. ????????????????
# 01:11p.m. ?????
# 01:18p.m. ???????
# 01:20p.m. ?????????
# 01:23p.m. ????????????????????????
# 01:25p.m. ????????????

# 12:11p.m. The number of rally participants is around 400 now
# 12:13p.m. Organizers urge us to keep calm and quiet when we reached Yanfook Church. We will stay silence there for 5 minutes.
# 12:16p.m. We tied a blue ribbon in front of Yanfook Church
# 12:18p.m. It is raining now! Well, I have a cap, the rss cap from the cnbloggercon. A standard netizen look.
# 12:20p.m. Fred Lam said, 90% of the participants are new faces, and he is very happy about that.
# 12:25p.m. We leave the Yanfook Church at Cheung Sha Wan and rally towards True Light Society in Prince Edward. We keep shouting slogan along the way and the police blocks two car lines for us.
# 12:32p.m. More and more people joined the rally. @oiwan feels that there are about 500 people now.
# 12:34p.m. New slogan: True Light society eats shit!
# 12:37p.m. In this rally, the proportion of female is ok. @oiwan estimates that it is about 20%.
# 12:42p.m. New slogan: Patrick So, eat banana!
# 12:48p.m. A rally with more than 6-700 people and occupied one fourth of the road, yet there isn't any T.V news doing the report. @oiwan says this is outraging.
# 12:55p.m. We reach West Kowloon center, Fred Lam says the rally is like greedy snake, it gets longer and longer. :)
# 01:07p.m. We almost reach Prince Edward, True Light Society is near!
# 01:11p.m. Can't see the end of the rally line.
# 01:18p.m. Shame on Blind light society!
# 01:23p.m. We have passed True Light Society, but keep on walking, don't know where we are heading to.
# 01:25p.m. Organizer said there are about 800 people joining the rally.

ESWN has translated two Chinese newspapers reports on the rally and Doctor Fat's reflections after the rally:

In the history of religion in Hong Kong, the date Feburary 15, 2009 will be remembered.

On that day, several hundred citizens (mostly netizens) marched in the streets to “support the values of civic society and oppose right-wing religious hegemony.”

As an ordinary citizen and as an ordinary participant, let me first of all sincerely thank the persons who organized the demonstration march as well as the other volunteers. They turned a dream into reality and a call into an action. As I walked along the Cheung Sha Wan Path down to the Flower Market, I was indescribably moved: A group of people with different faiths, different sexual tendencies, different political stances, different education and backgrounds can come together for the same feelings (or perhaps the same anger) in a peaceful, rational and restrained manner.

In fact, all the concerns before the march about any violence were redundant. The marchers may have occasionally yelled out aloud but it did not bother me. Overall, the demonstrators were very disciplined and self-restrained. In front of Yanfook Church, everybody chose to hold a silent protest and to tie blue ribbons on the barriers outside the church. Dr. Chen's reading of “Ask less for love from others, but give all your love out instead” from St. Francis' Prayers was supported and approved.

I saw that the Christians were able to read from the Bible as they marched, I saw that the Hong Kong Golden Forum friends could hold up their banners, I saw that gays could hold their hands together without fear, and I saw that students could protest aloud about the fake responses [that their school organized] as well as articulate their vision for education. We came together by respecting each other. We may have argued over the Internet over our views about religion, but once out in the streets, the rationality, restraint and tolerance were admirable and touching.

Before the rally, there are some discussions on internet mobilization. Cek Ho argued that internet mobilization is based on reaction against someone or something:

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????215 ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Facebook ??????? 200 ????????????? group ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????

Such mobilization tendency in “attacking other” has changed social movement structurally. We cannot just mobilize based on our belief but have to wait until someone has done something, or someone becomes a subject for attack in order for the mobilization to be effective. The organizers for the 215 rally position themselves in the civil society, however, the civil society has been there, how do we explain its sudden emerges? Why it can grow so quickly in the facebook, with the speed like more than 200 members per day? Mainly because this group is called “Anti” conservative Christian hegemony. Conservative Christian is related with the extreme Christian sect in the Control of Obscene and Indecent Article Ordinance and the Domestic Violence Ordinance, their speeches and behaviors have made many people angry. Time gives rise to hero, but Stupid bear creates time.

However, because of this, it is rather difficult to manage such movement. When hatred is the driving force for the movement, when it is cool down, it will be difficult to be mobilized again — as no idiot will give in himself to fuel people's anger. When hatred is absent, the mobilization would be disintegrated.

I have replied Cek Ho with another post at


?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????able to join hand????????????????????

Cek Ho is not totally right. It is right that network communication are usually “instant” and “reactionary”, when you have strong emotion, you reproduce and disseminate it and it generates a sentiment circulating in the network. However, it is more important to transform the sentiment into reason and social transformation mobilization force. In order to do so, we have to articulate the problem and consolidate the network. We are all learning in the process.

Back to this anti-conservative Christian hegemony mobilization, the reactionary sentiment comes from the Holy war launched by the Christian right concerning the Domestic Violence and Obscene article ordinance, another sources is those politicians who try to manipulate moral issue as a means of social and political control. Although the rally is titled as an “Anti” Conservative Christian Hegemony campaign, organizers have stressed solidarity within the network and have been amending their agenda in the process.

After the rally, I have identified a number of mobilization core from the participants:

??????????? facebook ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? blogger??????????????????????????????????????????????????

?????????????? banner ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Apart from some individuals aggregated via the facebook, I can identify a number of mobilization core from my observations both from the internet and on the scene: 1. Organizer core (including the Hong Kong Youth Federation); 2. Golden forum, Ohmygod and complain against pnoyo (some overlapping in the three); 3. LGBT groups; 4. League of Social democrats; 5. Progressive Christian; 6. Inmediahk, independent media groups and media workers. Should have mobilized but with weak presence groups are: bloggers, wikipedians, artists, traditional student organization (there were some student groups, such as social workers from hku, but the Federation of University Student Unions were not actively involved).

The whole mobilization was not based on mainstream media, nor banner in the street. There wan't any political stars (LSD's leaders avoided their presence). The mobilization was based on all these core groups, one linking up to another. That's why most of the participants have good knowledge of the issue. You can pick up a participant randomly and s/he can give you a dozen reasons why s/he participated in this rally. This is not based on sentiment nor habit, and the 800 participants have strong potentials in future mobilization.

In the facebook, many members explained why their decided to join the rally, rationally and with positive values:

Don't Fok: ??????????,???????????d??????la!!!
fuck the ?????everyday!!!

Don't Fok: If we don't speak up this time, no one else will speak up for us. fuck the hegemonist everyday!!!

Michael Luk: I promise I'll be in my best behavior on Sunday, but it's really hard to keep cool: These evangelical frenetics have been around abusing our mind and suppressing our civil rights through terror and censorship for too long. These “Christians” disseminate hate and suffocate free thoughts in the society. It's about time to kick them out from schools and the streets, and let them traumatize each other in their own churches.

Paul Chan: ??????????, ??????????, ?????????, ???????????, ??????????.

??????????????????, ?????????, ????. ^^

Paul Chan: This is not a Christian society, this is not a Catholic society, this is not a buddhist society, this is not an atheist society.

This is a society that is not marked by religious belief not race, so please be respectful and be tolerant.

Kin Chan: ??????????????????????

Kin Chan: A minority of Christian cannot represent all Hong Kong people's value, a sub-sect of Christianity cannot impost its value on to others.

Fan Hin Hung: ???????????????????ge???

Fan Hin Hung: Why do we have to take away the opportunity for our youth to learn about right and wrong?
Why do we need to create a “pure” world and exploit other's freedom?
Why don't we let young people to know more about this world, the other side of the society?
Why are we over protecting our next generation?
Why are we indoctrinating the adult's “absolutely correct idea” to our next generation?

ChurmanNg: No matter how Pastor So presented his view, it is not the main point that i am criticizing, it is his freedom to give his own speech.The main idea for my opinion is that we should not analyze this issue from the perspective of ethical value, but the priciple of law, which is protecting everyone in the society,should be written based on respecting differnet kinds of value in the society. Note that even Christian is not the god, we can not force the others to accept the value we believe in.To make the others understand that the value of Holy Bible is absolute truth, we should preach by love,and our good examples.

Eleanor Cheung: sorry, i won't be able to attend (have to work).
hope people in our society, whether christian or not, have more understanding for each other lah. wouldn't it be nice if one day we can transcend this dualistic discourses and struggles between conservative vs liberals; pro gays vs anti gays; god vs devil etc.
i'd like to send loving kindness (metta) to those who are religious right (??????); may be what they lack is a bit of love. according to christianity, god loves unconditionally, i hope they can feel god's love for them as well as for all beings unconditionally, no matter they are christians or non christians, gay or not gay, israelis or palestinians etc.

HK Akaraon: I am a christian myself but I don't really like those who are on the far end of the line - (the conservative Christian) (??????). I rather stay somewhere between heaven and earth and anywhere else except hell rather than meeting them in person or even talk to them. I know some people like that but trust me they won't believe in any other people's concept except their own until you prove them wrong or when they suffer from their own self made consequences. (Those HARDCORED RIGHT - WINGED EXTREMISTS!!!) If you think that the the stuffs on TV will make your child turn bad (DONT WATCH IT THEN). If you think that magazines will make them turn bad too (DONT LET YOUR CHILD GET THEIR HANDS ON IT THEN) DONT THROW YOUR BLOODY RESPONSIBILITIES AS A PARENT TO THE GOVERNMENT AND THE WORLD. YOU ARE A FAILURE AS A PARENT AND GOD GAVE YOU FREEWILL SO…. STOP BEING SO STUCK-UP!!!!!!!!

Categories: Technology Feed

Kuwait: More about car keys

Sun, 02/15/2009 - 8:57pm

Kuwaiti blogger Frankom has a story to share about his car key. Click here to find out more.

Categories: Technology Feed

Nigeria: NaijaPulse: Nigerian Microblogging Service

Sun, 02/15/2009 - 10:14am

Loy's analysis of NaijaPulse, a new Nigerian microblogging service: “Unlike Twitter, the site allows you to create groups, features users and has a link for popular posts. If you favour a post, it will be featured as a POPULAR on the right sidebar. You can also tag a word by preceding it with the hashtag (#).”

Categories: Technology Feed

East Timor: Suai Media Space Challenges the Digital Divide

Sun, 02/15/2009 - 6:42am

Nine years after East Timor was connected to the Internet for the first time, the country still faces a deep digital divide. Physical access to technology, resources and tools is difficult; one hour surfing the Internet is as expensive as the basic daily salary, and digital citizen participation or e-commerce is virtually non-existent. In the smallest communities, such as Suai, in the south of East Timor, connectivity through the Internet remains a dream.

Among those fighting to minimize this digital divide is Australian documentary-maker Jen Hughes, the founder of Suai Media Space - a social media project connecting the people of Suai with the world community. Putting culture and creativity at the centre of friendship, the project's main aim is “for the voices of the youth of Suai to be heard all over the world”.

Q: How did you get involved with East Timor?

A: I began following the story of friendship between Port Phillip (my neighbourhood) and Suai in December 1999. The friendship was begun to help Suai recover. I was interested in what role this kind of cross-border cross-cultural friendship would play in the recovery of the Timorese people from trauma and devastation, and what the Timorese would be doing to recover themselves.

The result is the Suai Media Space website where there is content written and made by youth and others from Suai as well as myself and a documentary in the form of a series of video Letters to Suai and Port Phillip (that I will be uploading this year). I shot the footage over nine years as I followed and participated in the friendship between people from these two extremely different places. Viewed together the ‘letters' reveal a rich and beautiful Timorese traditional culture that serves the Timorese well in their healing process.

They also reveal a culture in transition to modernity, indeed to post-modernity and the digital age, as the young are keen to embrace digital tools and the Internet to express their music and their stories.

Photo: Friends of Suai Rock

Q: Which are the communities you work with?

A: There are two communities I work with. Port Phillip in Melbourne and Suai a rural town in Southwest East Timor. Getting them involved actually on the website is difficult and it is still emerging. From 1999 to now my ‘project’ has evolved in response to what the Friends of Suai has been doing, what is going on in Port Phillip and East Timor, particularly Suai, my resources and technological changes. I began by collecting stories and forming relationships in Port Phillip and Suai as well as Dili and Darwin the bridging cities. Within those places the people who relate to my project are mostly Australians, Timorese and Timorese Australians living in Timor and Australia.

Q: How does the community get involved with the project?

A: There are so many ways the community can get involved it is really up to their imagination. But just becoming a friend of Suai by viewing and reading the stories, commenting, linking through your blogs or websites or joining the friendship through the various avenues is a great start. Another very important contribution is translation of course. The more languages we have the more diverse our community can become.

It may be, that community involvement on the website grows this year, it may not come in the ten year period I have committed to the project or at all. At present people from both communities can request to become an author, in which case they can do everything themselves because the website is built with blog software to enable this. Anyone can join the Facebook group, subscribe to our YouTube page and link to it, send a story and photos or a short video by email, CD, DVD, and I'll upload them on their behalf.

I have created a Ning social network site too. I haven't promoted the social network sites yet. I'm waiting for Broadband to arrive in Suai and for them to have some more workshops. Then they can show each other the site and teach each other. If people wish to help me or just talk to me because they have particular skills they would like to offer, they can contact me and start the conversation.

There have been many activities with various people in the Community in Suai which has led to the development of content. This year a young man by the name of Chamot from Kamenassa Suai, heard about Suai Media Space through a mutual friend, and sent me his poems by email requesting that I upload them to Suai Media Space. I have invited people who visit the site to translate those. We are looking for an English and a Portuguese translator for these if anyone would like to volunteer?

Q: How do people access the Internet from East Timor, and particularly from Suai?

A: The Internet did not come to the Suai community until about 2004. In 1999 in Port Phillip we had dial-up access in our homes businesses and libraries. In East Timor all communication infrastructure was destroyed by Indonesian backed militia as they left the country after the vote. By the time I went to Suai in July 2000 Telstra Australia was providing expensive mobile telephone communication that was unreliable in the districts and landline connections in Dili. I think the connection was going from Timor via Darwin and back into Timor. I heard calls were billed at international rates.

In the emergency phase the UN had a satellite in Suai which some of the NGO's could use but in the main we relied on mobiles. Occasionally when a friend from the UN helped we could use their email access. The UN took the satellite with them when they pulled out! At this time access for Timorese was extremely difficult. UN people and UN police often didn't know who were militia and who were not and so often foreigners could get access to special privileges like access to the Internet and helicopters to Dili, that locals could not.

The Timor Telecom Internet access in Suai is a dial-up connection. The office provides one computer terminal for the whole Covalima area, plus one can plug in a laptop simultaneously. So for the few who have a laptop they can usually jump on quite quickly while others are using the Timor Telecom computer. The cost is exorbitant for the majority of people at $US2 per hour. The Timorese people I know who used the Internet were waged with jobs in NGO's.

I was giving story writing for the Internet workshops which were accompanied by photographs that had been reduced in size to under 30 KB in Photoshop. We were able upload the text but we were unable to upload the photographs or send them by email to Australia for uploading whilst using the Timor Telecom terminal and an Apple McIntosh laptop. Several times we tried to get help over the counter locally and to contact Timor Telecom in Dili to get help with this but in the end gave up in disgust. I am a very experienced Internet user and my colleague, who is also Australian, but who has worked and lived in East Timor and Indonesia for several years, is very experienced user of email and Timor Telecom. She speaks Tetun but not Portuguese. Together we were unable to get help. The local terminal gives frequent warnings about viruses, but when we asked local office staff how to respond to it we were advised to ignore it.

When free broadband access is available in Suai the social network software linked to the site should make the connection between the two communities and the rest of the world more real on a broader front. Then all we will have left as an inhibitor will be the language barrier! To overcome this we will need some volunteer translators and some good community cultural development concepts to grease the wheels of the relationships. Then we shall see if we can truly have a friendship between two communities that helps the people of Suai rebuild.

Q: How did the YoMaTre, the Youth Media Centre start? How has the project developed?

A: I began working directly with the coordinator of the Covalima youth Centre, Ergilio Vicente in 2006, when I partnered with the Friends of Suai. I met Ergilio before that, in 2000 when we first discussed the project and I also knew Josh Trinidade who set up the youth centre in 2000. The rest of that story is on the website.

My first ‘community involvement’ was in the form of an attempt at a friendship with Sergio da Costa, who is a Suai artist. He was about 18 when we started, now he is 27. Sergio and I began exchanging things such as art materials, tape recorders, tapes, CD’s letters and paintings, by asking people to carry them for us. And this is how most of our content in the form of movies, letters and photographs have exchanged hands over the first eight or nine years. Sergio’s work and other artistic works from Suai can be seen here.

My first ‘community involvement’ was in the form of an attempt at a friendship with Sergio da Costa, who is a Suai artist.

Photo: Self-Portrait by Sergio da Costa. Pencil on Paper 2000.

Initially Sergio gave me and sent me a lot of his drawings. Some of them were intensely sad self-portraits. So in 2003 I returned to Suai with them and Sergio and I made a video about his work with him providing the narrative for it. I edited it and checked it with him when I returned in 2006. That video is still to be uploaded this year. He has a copy of it on DVD and I have some more material to add to it. All of the films I make are sent to Suai or I take them and they are screened there in a variety of contexts - public and private. The Circle of Stones is the most popular.

In 2006 we delivered media tools funded by the Friends of Suai in Port Phillip, and I ran the first video production workshops. Since then YoMaTre a youth media training organisation has been formed and a range of Internet and video production workshops have been held.

In June last year we held workshops to teach the YoMaTre members how to write for the Internet, take digital photographs and how to manipulate and downsize them for the web and we made some imovies. As well as this we showed them how to upload the stories in to Suai Media Space. Their stories can be read in Tetun (the local language) and English. Here you will also see stories and photographs written by YoMaTre members about their Peace activities late last year.

I stay with the Timorese market people and sleep on the floor in Suai. I shop in the local market, and I have been doing this for nine years. As I drove past the market in June 2008 I heard a voice yell out “Jen Hughes” – that was a bright moment for me.

Photo: Ergilio Grassi. Lin and others unpack video equipment February, 2006

Q: Despite difficulties in access to the Internet, the Port Phillip and Suai communities seem to love interacting between themselves. Can you tell us about the Exchanging Rock Messages project?

A: In 2001 I made a film calling for justice that was based on footage shot on the occasion of the first anniversary of the massacre in Suai. It was called the Circle of Stones.

At that first Anniversary the people of Suai had placed a rock or a simply inscribed rock in a circle outside the Church where the massacre took place.

Photo: Circle of Stones, Suai, First Anniversary, Suai Church Massacre, September 6, 2000.

The following year I initiated a screening of the Circle of Stones and a remembrance event in Port Phillip at the St Kilda Town Hall. Since hi-tech solutions for connection and involvement were not available I thought it would be great to use the communication medium used by the people of Suai to remember their loved ones. So we invited the people of Port Phillip to bring a rock inscribed with a message to the people of Suai and form a circle of stones to remember those who died on the Second Anniversary of the Suai Church Massacre, September 9, 2001.

About 200 people attended that, viewed the film, listened to music and stories and placed a rock and flowers in a circle outside the Town Hall. These rocks and the circles of stones now link the two communities and before the 10th Anniversary in September all those rocks will be on Suai Media Space in a special place. In September this year also, we hope this story will be projected at the 10th Anniversary of the Massacre in Suai.

Circle of Stones, a 2001 Video

Q: And what about the self-portrait exchange?

A: A youth worker in Port Phillip initiated a self-portrait exhibition for youth in Port Phillip and asked the Friends of Suai to invite some artists from Suai to send some paintings to include in it. Sergio’s prolific portrait painting practice means he knows all the other artists in Suai, so Sergio was called upon to introduce them to the Friends of Suai.

One was a very talented young man in a wheel chair from Suai Loro named Atoy…

… the others were young boys whose work could be seen all over the walls of Suai.

First fhoto: Portrait of a Boy by Atoy; second photo: Art on Walls of Suai by Almeida (Both in June 2008)

They were paid and given art materials to produce self-portraits for the portrait exhibition in Port Phillip. This in turn led to the broadening of an exchange of self-portraits between schools. The schools haven’t given permission for uploading these yet but it is expected we will do this in the coming months.

Q: What are the main challenges you have found during the last 10 years?

A: One of the major challenges of the project has been getting people to understand it. That has been a learning curve for all of us, including me as technology kept changing over time (and still is). Practical people often said food in the mouths was more important. My answer to that was that not everybody could work in the same field and the young people were unemployed and bored. This never convinced anyone. I was just lucky that the two co-ordinators of the Friends of Suai in Port Phillip who held office the longest both appreciate the power and importance of media and could see my point about the media arts and their role in the future of young people in Suai. One of the challenges was I had to learn about community development processes. One important thing was that the request for assistance for particular projects had to come from Suai. Their priorities were different from mine naturally, and Ergilio didn’t request the media tools until he saw their usefulness for educational videos in his community, after Oxfam held a media workshop within their HIV program and it was this request that led to the media project I had envisioned getting funding.

I didn’t realise until last year (2008), that Ergilio hadn’t really understood the project we initially discussed in 2000. (I don’t think I exactly knew what it was then either!) I was warned many times in 2000 not to make promises I couldn’t keep, so I took his instruction to “go away and get started” seriously. The irony is, that discussion with Ergilio in 2000 led to me dedicating the next ten years to working to keeping my promise! There is a line in an Australian Paul Kelly song that says “be careful what you dream of, you just might get it!” Well I did get it! ] Over the past nine years, I’ve found the project has reached goals in very different ways than I had originally envisaged, and at very different times. It was Ergilio’s request in 2005 that eventually led to the setting up of the media group in Suai and it is their needs in concert with the actions of the Friends of Suai and others, that are really shaping the media group. Now the International Journalists Federation are involved too, so that is adding another dimension to their skills training. The website and the media project we have now fit my original vision on some levels, but not all. The fact of their existence and their positive impacts, are very satisfying.

The challenges have been enormous, both personally and professionally. Some of them come through the stories above about community involvement. Personally, I have needed tremendous patience and grit that has armed me with the determination to keep going and keep on learning about community development processes and the technical skills as technology kept changing and just keep on going as the project was never predictable. I often recall Australian activist Lee Kirk introducing me to the mantra “neineik neineik” or “slowly slowly step by step” when she was working in Suai. I learned to listen carefully to Ergilio and to stay flexible letting it evolve and not giving into the expectations of others.

Until recently we didn’t even have regular dial-up Internet contact. Many times sms was the best way to communicate. Just today Ergilio has requested my Skype name! The whole thing would have been impossible without the personal patience and tolerance of Ergilio Vicente and Simao Barretto in Suai. Not to mention the work of the Friends of Suai in both places.

Q: It is the dream of Suai Media Space for their voices to be heard all over the world. How can people get involved and help this dream come true?

A: I know the young people of Suai would be very happy when people actually respond to them in the comments or email them. It may sound too simple but by giving them an audience you are providing them with a great gift. That's the first thing. The second is for the audience to tell them who they are and what they are interested in.

What's also needed are Indonesian or Tetun speaking tutors for training programs. Anything like this needs to be well planned in advance. Any training programs need to meet the needs of the youth in Suai and they usually identify what they want. The Friends of Suai are currently moving through a consultation process to identify a more structured and even program of training and when this is in place a call for trainers can be made. However that group have other demands on their financial resources too and at this point they have not committed funds for training for the next two year period. Covalima Youth Centre is pretty well managed and capable of planning implementing their media training, financial support for that would be wonderful.

Another contribution by community could be translation of menus and handbooks or purchase of Indonesian hand books. Or, I've always thought it would be great to have ‘how to' instructions in Tetun or Indonesian on line for them. There may already be Indonesian sites like this. If there are I'm not aware of them and providing those links would be great.


Also check Suai Media Space on YouTube, and friends of YoMaTre facebook group.

This interview is part of a series of posts to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the arrival of the Internet in East Timor. The first article explained the huge digital divide in the country. In the next post, you will find out more about the difficulties that bloggers from East Timor face when uploading content to the Internet and the “Tele Schools“, a solution that the Government has decided to adopt as a way to provide local education without a need to access the Internet.

Categories: Technology Feed

Blogging Positively: Join the Global Conversation on HIV/AIDS

Sat, 02/14/2009 - 2:40pm

This Valentine's Day (February 14) marks not only the start of a Global Voices campaign asking people to “Teach Someone You Love to Blog or Micro-Blog,” it also kicks off a series of health-related activities focused on HIV/AIDS to encourage more people infected and affected by the disease to blog.

More than 33 million people live with HIV, and at least 2 million have died of AIDS in the past year. Blogs from around the world are putting stories to these statistics, though, sharing insights on living with the disease, caring for someone with HIV/AIDS, and experiences with stigma and discrimination. These blogs have helped provide firsthand accounts of the disease's impact globally.

As part of an ongoing discussion on the issue of blogging to address HIV/AIDS issues, Global Voices and Rising Voices will be hosting a live online “Blogging Positively” chat for bloggers and activists on February 27, 2009. The chat will be facilitated by Kenyan bloggers Serina Kalande and Daudi Were. Everyone is welcome.

Local Times: New York 09:00 | Buenos Aires 12:00 | London 14:00 | Johannesburg, Beirut 16:00 | Nairobi, Moscow 17:00 | New Delhi 19:30 | Hong Kong 22:00 | Tokyo 23:00

Chatroom: Login using your name and then select the room you want to join by clicking enter. Once in the room, select a font color on the left side of the screen and join the chat.

Mapping the Voices
Global Voices also launched an embeddable Google map of HIV-positive bloggers and caretakers, and other citizen media related to HIV/AIDS last December as part of World AIDS Day. The map, which is continuously being updated, highlights the brave people who are already blogging about this disease. One such blogger is Maureen Akinyi in Nakuru, Kenya. She says that blogging anonymously about having HIV/AIDS doesn't help reduce the discrimination around the disease, and that people need to blog positively without fear. In this post she talks about how participating in a beauty contest can help fight the stigma around HIV:

“I was one of the contestants of the Mr. and Miss Red Ribbon 2008 event at Hotel Bontana Nakuru; it was not my first time to contest. I have been contesting since 2006 and have been enjoying every moment of the event because of one thing, effective reduction of stigma and discrimination. Mr. and Miss Red Ribbon brings together both affected and infected to celebrate beauty in a unique way. During the event audience appreciate beauty by seeing models but not the affected or the infected.”

ukguy lives in the United Kingdom and has been living with HIV since the 1980s. He writes about his experiences being a dyslexic, HIV-positive, gay man on his blog The ramblings. In this recent post he talks about how bringing up headaches and a potential eye infection during a doctor's visit made him feel bad.

“As I left the clinic I realized that I was not very happy with the outcome of this consultation. Of course I am very pleased that there is no infection. But I was left feeling that yet again I seemed to be making a fuss over nothing. I often feel that my concerns are not always taken on board, my HIV doctor is very good and I know that he is interested in my health.

Maybe its me, maybe I am the one that needs to get a grip?

I guess the longer you live with HIV, it does not always mean that you worry less.”

Pinoy Poz, who lives in the Philippines, came out about being gay at the age of 21, but nine years later went “back in the closet” after finding out he was HIV positive. Despite that, in this post he reflects on all the ways he feels lucky.

“With the Chinese New Year ushering in the Year of the Ox, everyone’s been talking about luck. And from all the features I’ve watched, 2009 should actually be a lucky year for me, being born in the Year of the Horse. But I believe my good luck started last year, when I found out I was HIV-positive.

You know that I’ve always regarded myself as lucky despite the fact that I’m now HIV-positive. I’m lucky that it isn’t some other more severely debilitating disease that I have. I’m lucky that I found out relatively early on that I had it, and still wasn’t manifesting any symptoms. I’m lucky that I had a pretty decent CD4 count to begin with. I’m lucky that I’ve gotten through the challenges of starting on ARVs [antiretroviral drugs]. I’m lucky that I’ve made the choices to get to where I am now. I’m lucky to have encountered the greatest people along my HIV journey.”

These are just some of the amazing voices featured on the Blogging Positively map. To encourage other people to share their HIV/AIDS stories, Global Voices is creating a “Blogging Positively Guide,” which will provide valuable advice on how to blog about HIV/AIDS issues. We are looking for help to create the Guide and/or to give feedback, so those interested in or already blogging about the pandemic are encouraged to participate, particularly those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Please contact me or Janet Feldman for more information on the Blogging Positively Guide, chat, or map.

Categories: Technology Feed

Brunei: Think Big ICT Business Plan Competition

Fri, 02/13/2009 - 9:44pm

As part of the efforts to nurture new IT companies, Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) recently organised a Think Big business plan competition,

launched in August 2008, offers the largest cash prize awards of its kind in Brunei Darussalam. The main aim is to motivate local entrepreneurs to realise their ideas in the field of information and communications technology (ICT) with the opportunity to develop their business ideas and enhance their creativity; as well as to provide a platform for identifying, nurturing and showcasing entrepreneurial talents in Brunei. This competition also provides the participants access to global resources and the entrepreneurial process through workshops and mentoring programme.

39 ICT enthusiasts including 7 iCentre incubatees with background ranging from online games and shops, online malls and schools, portal, social networking, mobile applications to enterprise solutions. RanoAdidas, one of the well-known local blogger and finalist in the competition, sees

the judges are pretty tough as well and it’s like a simulated pitch to real investors and venture capitalists (VC). This exercise has given me more experience and also the confidence to pitch to potential investors one day. I hope iCentre will continue this competition to encourage more participants and of course, encouraging more entrepreneurs.

As reported by  AnakBrunei, the winners are:

  • Winning the ICT Business Plan category was Brumesh by Rafiqun WDSI with cash prize of $20,000;
  • YouGotSnapped by Expansys Technology in the second place with cash prize of $10,000;
  • Outsource Contact Centre by 24-7 Assist in the third place with cash prize of $5,000.
  • the Special Islamic Merit Award for Islamic Application was given to Mimit e-Technology with a cash prize of $2,000.

Interesting enough, three of the winners have also recently  inked separate deals with Philippine-based Crestar Communications, which will provide the platform for the iCentre firms to tap into the Philippine ICT market, as reported by the Brunei Times.

Antonio Peralta, Crestar chief executive, said the collaboration with the iCentre companies is a defining step towards the realisation of Brunei's goal of becoming a hub for ICT in the Bimp-Eaga region.

Expansys Technologies aims to launch its text or short messaging system gateway technology as the preferred platform in delivering the integrated systems of Mesh, IPTV and GPS technology in the Philippines.

Mimit e-Technology intends to launch its V-track system, a global positioning system tracking system for fleets as well as e-ilmu, an Islamic mobile content application developed for the Muslim communities in the Philippines.

Rafiqun WDSI plans to deliver its Wireless Mesh Device and IPTV to serve the Philippines market.

They will also be bringing in their expertise in wireless design, e-commerce and e-government consultancy services to the country.

Congratulations to those  winning IT companies that are going regional! Hope this will serve an inspiration for other new IT companies or SMEs that are thinking of venturing regionally!

Categories: Technology Feed

Twitter Community in Vietnam

Thu, 02/12/2009 - 11:04pm

There is a growing Twitter community in Vietnam. They even have a Facebook account.

Categories: Technology Feed

Twitter, a failure in Vietnam?

Thu, 02/12/2009 - 11:00pm

Fresco 2.0 writes about Vietnam's failure to embrace Twitter.

Categories: Technology Feed

Africa: Internet Revolution Is Here!

Thu, 02/12/2009 - 8:28am

GlobalAdvances blog looks at the future of the Internet on the African continent noting that, “Bandwith to Africa is expected to grow dramatically as the continent is gaining internet connectivity faster than any other region in the world.”

Categories: Technology Feed

Japan: Tokyo gov't invites Google to discuss Street View

Thu, 02/12/2009 - 1:38am

Blogger Hiromitsu Takagi posts a transcript [ja] of a recent open meeting [ja] organized by the Tokyo metropolitan government about Google's Street View service, introduced in major Japanese cities last summer. Google was invited to the meeting and reportedly told that, in future cases, the company should give advance notification [ja] before photographing neighbourhoods. Renewed demands to outright stop the service altogether have been mounted in recent months by citizen groups, lawyers, professors and journalists.

Categories: Technology Feed

Indonesia: Earthquake report through Twitter

Wed, 02/11/2009 - 5:58pm

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake jolts Indonesia and some parts of the Philippines. Twitter broke the news ahead of mainstream media. Jyamasaki tweets: “I continue to be impressed how twitter is able to report on the Earthquake in Indonesia a few hours before it's reported on major news sites.”

Categories: Technology Feed

India: The IT Outsourcing Competition With China

Wed, 02/11/2009 - 12:03pm

Itonion at Desicritics discusses whether China is really a threat to the Indian IT outsourcing industry as perceived by many and concludes that India and China may end up collaborating in the future.

Categories: Technology Feed

Nigeria: Why is Nigeria's Connectivity Scorecard very low?

Tue, 02/10/2009 - 11:43am

Loy analyses the Connectivity Scorecard 2009, which shows that Nigeria has the lowest ICT penetration, usage, potential and accessiblity out of 50 countries of the world.

Categories: Technology Feed