Tag Archives: Kenya

Another Somewhat Quieter Internet Sensation in Africa

A  story about an ex-Ugandan warlord and an American NGO’s quest to have him brought to justice has been making a lot of headlines lately. Impressive as the social media effort is, interestingly enough it doesn’t seem to be engaging a lot of Africans. That might be because they’re too busy doing something else….

Countries in Africa have long been on the outskirts of the internet revolutions. No longer. Deep-sea fiber optic cables are making their way to the farthest shores of the continent. And cell phone towers are springing up all over the place which has prompted a exponential growth in cell phone sales and connectivity.

This is also bringing unprecedented opportunities to small businesses, and particularly in rural areas. A terrific example of this is taking place in Ivory Coast where these pictures (from the BBC) tell the story best of what can happen when people get hold of technology and more importantly, gain the opportunity to get fair prices on their goods.

And this is just one story of thousands that are quietly taking place across the continent (and yes, worldwide too) as poor farmers are able, with the help of 21st century tech, to monitor and negotiate fair prices for the goods they so painstakingly produce.

The international organization behind this idea, RONGEAD, works with a local organization to promote development rather than just aid. So, while many Westerners have suddenly learned about the evils of an ex-Ugandan warlord through social media and are busy being appalled, at the same time Africans are taking their own future into their hands with the same technology and moving forward into a more prosperous, peaceful and safe future.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

Internet Access and the “Arab Spring”

I’ve now updated my “Internet Access” data and was happy (but not surprised) to see the number of people able to access the internet globally increase by quite  a bit. The numbers, however, are still from 2010 and I suspect that in 2011, they will have really started climbing. (I’m looking for reliable data on this but haven’t stumbled across any yet — can’t wait till I do!)

Though most of the countries increased by just a few percentage points, there were some standouts; Bosnia (around 15% increase), Chile (11%), Croatia (10%), the Dominican Republic (almost 14%), Israel (15%), Panama (15%) and Qatar (almost 40%!).

(There were also some inexplicable declines especially in Europe which I can only assume were earlier corrections of data, i.e., Iceland decreased from 98% to 95.8%. The Ukraine also declined from 33% to 22.8%. Not sure at all what this means but overall global numbers went up which makes more sense. Maybe problems with cost started to become an issue in some of the European countries where this seemed to be happening most.)

One country that stands out particularly in the rapid transition to an internet-connected population, is Kenya, which went from 10% to 25.9% of their population having access to their internet by the end of 2010. And this ties in to one very interesting aspect of internet connection which is the degree to which it has allowed for the coordination of political opposition. (I’m pretty sure the numbers of internet-connected citizens in the “Arab Spring” countries will have gone up by quite a lot during 2011.) Kenyans used the internet extremely effectively to spread the word about politically motivated brutal attacks in post-election violence in 2007-2008.

Could the increase in internet access across Africa signal an “African Spring,” and the overthrow of some of the seemingly-unmovable “dictators for life”? As the African continent connects to the rest of the world with impressive alacrity, not only will we find out, we’ll see every moment.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

Good Governance

This is the last of my indicators and also one of the ones which, happily, seems to be getting an increasing amount of attention. It’s again not an easy one to quantify but I do think there is a pretty strong correlation between the fairness and quality of a country’s government, and the level of corruption. (An interesting although admittedly rough correlation can be drawn between two countries, Chile and Haiti, and the different courses recovery after a large earthquake has taken. Chile, rated the less corrupt of the two, was better prepared and recovered far more quickly than Haiti, which is still in the process of recovery.)

This is one indicator that I’m also pretty confident of in terms of the numbers which I am getting from Transparency International. I’m sure many countries have many and various problems with TI, their methodology, as well as their habit of bringing to light things that others would prefer not be exposed.

But, on balance, the world seems to be discovering that more transparency equals more social justice, and most people think that that is a pretty good idea and the direction they would like their leaders and governments to go, willingly or not.

Aiding in this global drive towards shining bright lights into dark places is the explosion of handheld technologies, including smart phones and their ability to transmit live feeds of government action, inaction, or just plain idiocy. (Sometimes, this seems to backfire rather badly for instance when Taliban clerics dispense “justice” in the badlands of Afghanistan, these instance are occasionally filmed to demonstrate their virtuousness. Most of the viewers, however, don’t quite get the same message.)

Other great examples of technology in action must include mention of the Ushahidi project which brought unprecedented transparency to post-election violence in Kenya. (Ushahidi was also one of the first to effectively implement crowd-sourcing technology.) Another of my favorite recent efforts is the very aptly named and bluntly effective, Indian website, I PAID A BRIBE. (I love the fact that the creators put the name in all-caps — literally screaming for attention! I’m guessing that was deliberate but either way, nice touch.) I would be remiss also, if I didn’t mention that both of these websites are home-grown affairs, an encouraging thought, and indicative that these worldwide movements are not being driven by Western governments (although this is a consistent accusation from many corruption governments to try to distract attention from their own failings) but by the citizens themselves.

I’ve just updated the numbers for corruption so you can check out the shift here. It’s encouraging that my Number went up by almost a full percent to 59.1610856162698 (up from 58.569457499862) and some of this is definitely due to increased transparency. (Lots of countries went up in their ratings this year.) However, I have to be clear , I’ve added in data to countries which didn’t have it before (TI added a few more countries this year.) so that has probably driven the number up as well. Still, nice to see it go up!

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC