Daily Archives: 27 February 2014

What about Uganda?

The web, radio, and television have been flooded recently with the news about Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill, sentencing homosexuals, or people who commit homosexual acts to anywhere between 5 years and life in prison. Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The specifics of the bill can be seen here to the left, and, as you can imagine, it has been causing international uproar. Today on the web I saw an article with a graphic photo of a supposedly homosexual man being burned alive in front of a group of people which included many children.  That image made me want to write about whats going on in Uganda for my blog this week, and how whats happening there is associated with ICTs.

First of all, its amazing how fast news flies these days; uproar began even before the bill was signed, as early as 2009 when it was first being introduced. Since then foreign diplomats have been pressuring the Ugandan government to not sign the bill but, as we all know, it was to no avail. The World Bank now has said that it will delay a huge loan it had promised the nation because of this bill. Now some of the biggest worries for Ugandans and the international community alike are about the safety of people who may be at risk. Jail is not even the type of risk that is most concerning, but the fact that gays are being beaten, killed, and denied services such as healthcare in their own countries. So what does this all have to do with ICTs? First of all, without the Internet the international community would have much less influence over the happenings in other parts of the world. Amnesty International immediately set up a protest petition, gaining over 200,000 signatures within a few days. The hashtag #uganda has surged suddenly, leading to thousands of tweets about whats going on in that country an opinions on the bill.  Mobile phone users have captured incredible and horrifying images of protests and human rights abuses and are putting them on the web for the whole world to see. ICTs have given us the power to do this, to effect change thousands of miles away, to support protesters, or to watch entire nations collapse.

So what can ICTs do now? Can ICTs be useful in times like this? In places like Uganda? ICTs showed us whats going on, and sparked the discussion on how to change it- but can ICTs really do anything on the ground in real time to help the people whose lives are at risk?  I think so. I wonder if we will see any apps spring up that could help, because there’s an app for everything, as the saying goes. Maybe an app that will locate clinics that will treat open homosexuals? Though to access the app you would have to know a secret password or something so that the possibly life-saving information stays with the people that need it rather than in the hands of the wrong people. So maybe that wouldn’t work too well, but there has to something- what do you think?  How could ICTs be used in this situation?  I’m not sure, I’ll keep brainstorming, but lets get the conversation started.

Real Life ICT Successes with Disaster Management

In class we have been talking a lot about different technologies and different ways that they can help not only in development, but in different aspects of our lives. Last week we also talked about a lot of failures that ICT projects have faced, so I wanted to find some examples of where ICTs made a huge difference in helping, or where ICTs could have helped and made it even better. The ITU released a report in 2008 that outlined the role of Telecommunications and ICTs in disaster management. This report was originally made for a conference in Southern and Eastern Africa to outline the benefits of ICTs in disaster management.

One of the examples highlighted in the report was the importance of ICTs during the reconstruction after the floods in Zambia. After the floods the ITU set up 25 satellite terminals to help restore communication in Zambia after houses, schools, and roads were destroyed. These satellite terminals were integral in the rebuilding and relief efforts because without them communication between different effected areas would have been nearly impossible.

The report also outlines how ICTs can help with different early warning systems for disasters. Two different examples presented in the article are Alertnet and even the importance of online media. The report also discusses how ICTs can be helpful in the mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery phases of disaster preparedness. In all of these different phases ICTs are a vital part of communication and can be integral in saving lives.

Bitcoin Advancement: Appropriate or Inappropriate?

In talking about appropriate technologies, this issue is often put forth in situations where new technology is introduced, but deems to not blend well in or create positive impacts for the community in which the ICT project is implemented. However, appropriateness is also an issue when it comes to the extent to which certain technology is implemented and how far it is advanced. In this day and age when efficiency is a number one priority, advancements can get to a point where a once appropriate technology can overstep social, physical, or political boundaries and revert to creating more problems than fixing them.

A recent example of this is the collapse of Mt. Gox, the world’s largest exchange for trading bitcoins. Bitcoins are the virtual currency that has grown in popularity for buying products and services online, often used on an international scale. They started on somewhat of a smaller scale but quickly grew and are now being used in some of the world’s largest exchanges. The recent collapse resulted in an exchange with Japan where almost 750,000 bitcoins were stolen, which is worth more than $300 million. Clearly, critics see this as a major detriment to virtual currency, despite any past successes. Many investigations have been launched in order to uncover details about the collapse of Mt. Gox, or if it is even a final downfall. Some say that it is only temporary while others dispute that Mt. Gox could very easily not recover.

The Mt. Gox shutdown as it results from a major security breach has started a much a larger discussion about virtual currency as a whole, and whether it is a viable way to be making large international exchanges. In its earlier days, bitcoins were appropriate in that they did not sum up to be extremely large amounts of money, nor did companies solely rely on them for their  exchanges. Yet, just as most technologies do, bit coins transformed into a large scale monetary entity. Mt. Gox was able to use the growing popularity of bitcoins and the trend of technological advancement as tools in creating a multi-national, multi-billion dollar company. Then, events such as this recent theft of almost $300 million takes place, bringing to light the potential inappropriateness of bitcoin advancement and large-scale reliance on this virtual currency. I see this as a clear example of a technology advancing itself from appropriate to inappropriate, even if the goals were progression and efficiency in the new technological age.

Article: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-bitcoin-fallout-20140227,0,436944.story#axzz2uV4D47QV