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May 20 2013


"Moneyball" Giving, Data Philanthropy Review and "Seeing like a State" Data Digest #16

This week  the revolutionary data driven philanthropy of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation is featured and a call for beneficiary inclusion in Markets for Good goes out. Data philanthropy efforts are reviewed and advice for writing about data is offered. The rational for "seeing data as a state" rather than a donor in Africa to help answer policymakers questions is also explained.

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March 30 2012


CNN.com goes magazine for “Slavery’s Last Stronghold”

CNN’s special report Slavery’s Last Stronghold isn’t just unusual because of its topic — the remarkable fact that more than 1 in 10 residents of the west African nation of Mauritania is a slave:

An estimated 10% to 20% of Mauritania’s 3.4 million people are enslaved — in “real slavery,” according to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian. If that’s not unbelievable enough, consider that Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. That happened in 1981, nearly 120 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. It wasn’t until five years ago, in 2007, that Mauritania passed a law that criminalized the act of owning another person. So far, only one case has been successfully prosecuted.

It’s also unusual because of its look. Breaking out of standard CNN.com templates, the story — by John D. Sutter and Edythe McNamee — is laid out more like a magazine piece: big photos, big, full-width text, type treatments, dropcaps, integrated slideshows and video, and a general design depth that indicates this isn’t just another CNN.com story.

“We knew very early on we needed to do something above and beyond our normal templates on the site,” Meredith Artley, the vice president and managing editor of CNN.com, told me. And it apparently has worked: The story’s had more than 2 million pageviews since being posted last week, Artley said.

The layout is a clear departure from most news sites, the text gets a healthy amount of breathing room, which in turn allows photos to run wide, while also incorporating maps and sidebars. For a website it feels like someone pushed the XL button (or maybe that “View in Zen Mode” button in the sidebar) — everything just feels wider, more open, and definitely a little iPad-y.

Indeed, the Apple tablet was one of the inspirations for the layout for the the piece, as were publications on the iPad like Katachi, as well as print magazines, said Marisa Gallagher, the executive creative director for CNN Digital. Gallagher said the team of designers wanted to put the focus squarely on the reading experience. She told me the design “gets rid of the competition in a lot of ways. It literally does, in that you don’t have a right rail competing for your attention.” (Also not competing for your attention: ads, of which there aren’t any on the page.)

One interesting step they took in producing the page was assembling a preliminary layout in Adobe InDesign to get a kind of physical sense of the various components of the story and how they would interact. “Sometimes you want to escape and be immersed in (a story), like a movie type experience, or you are seeking meaning so there is nothing else distracting you,” Gallagher said.

As CNN has pushed into different devices and types of reporting, they’ve tried experimenting with different types of design, Gallagher told me. But for the bulk of what is produced on CNN.com, they stick to standard news templates, ones that, while functional most of the time, don’t work for all types of storytelling. “Our article pages feel a little constricting — it’s like a little tiny world you live in and the rest of your world is full-screen,” she said.

Both Gallagher and Artley say more news sites will embrace the idea of varying design based on story types, especially as publishers play with the how stories are read on different devices.

Since CNN is active in some many places —smartphone apps, tablet apps, web, mobile web, and oh-by-the-way television — they enjoy some freedom to experiment in how they deliver their journalism, Artley said. While video remains one of CNN’s greatest strengths, Artley said series like Slavery’s Last Stronghold show the depth of investigative reporting — not to mention international reporting — at the company. That’s why she’s certain we’ll see continue to see similar projects, and non-traditional designs, in the future. “I will probably have a line of a zillion people who want to use this [template] tomorrow and I’ll have to hold them back,” Artley joked. “But we want to save this for special occasions.”

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January 21 2012


Mobile (not digital) first strategy - Africa: 620 million mobile connections Sep 2011

Mobile Active :: The mobile industry in Africa is booming. With over 620 million mobile connections as of September 2011, Africa has overtaken Latin America to become the second largest mobile market in the world, after Asia. Over the past 10 years, the number of mobile connections in Africa has grown an average of 30% per year and is forecast to reach 735 million by the end of 2012.

Report is available for download.

African Mobile Observatory 2011 - Continue to read www.mobileactive.org

December 27 2011


Ethiopia: Johan Persson, Martin Schibbye, two Swedish journalists receive 11 years in jail

CNN :: Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, two Swedish journalists, who were found guilty in Ethiopia of supporting terrorism were sentenced to 11 years in jail Tuesday, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said. "Our belief was that the court would think they were journalists and they would be released. This is what the prime minister has said before," ministry spokesman Anders Jörle said. "It is not fair that they are sentenced since they are journalists on a journalistic mission."

Detailed background information - Continue to read CNN Wire Staff, edition.cnn.com

December 20 2011


Twitter use by Shabab militant group in Somalia incites U.S.

New York Times :: The United States government is increasingly concerned about the Twitter account of the Shabab militant group of Somalia, with American officials saying Monday that they were “looking closely” at the militants’ use of Twitter and the possible measures to take in response.

American officials would not disclose what action they were considering. But some American officials said the government was exploring legal options to shut down the Shabab’s new Twitter account, potentially opening a debate over the line between free speech and support for terrorism.

Continue to read Jeffrey Gettleman, www.nytimes.com

Tags: Africa Twitter

July 19 2011


Nadia Al-Sakkaf, editor of the Yemen Times: See Yemen through my eyes

TED :: As political turmoil in Yemen continues, the editor of the Yemen Times, Nadia Al-Sakkaf, talks at TEDGlobal with host Pat Mitchell. Al-Sakkaf's independent, English-language paper is vital for sharing news -- and for sharing a new vision of Yemen and of that country's women as equal partners in work and change.

Visit the original site here www.ted.com/talks/nadia_al_sakkaf

July 11 2011


How TileMill Improved Ushahidi Maps to Protect Children in Africa

In May I worked with Plan Benin to improve its Violence Against Children (VAC) reporting system. The system uses FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi to collect and visualize reports of violence against children. Ushahidi develops open-source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. While in Benin, I was frustrated by the lack of local data available through Google Maps, Yahoo, and even OpenStreetMap -- the three mapping applications Ushahidi allows administrators to use without customization.

While these mapping services are great for places rich in geographic data, many places -- like Benin and other countries in the developing world -- are poorly represented by the major mapping services. Making matters worse is the fact that even when good data is available, slow and unreliable Internet access turns geolocating incidents and browsing the map into a frustrating, time-consuming challenge for staff and site visitors in-country.

In an effort to create a custom map with more local data, I tested out TileMill, Development Seed's open-source map design studio, with successful results.

An area of northwest Benin shown with Google Maps (left) and a custom map built with TileMill (right). Note the number of towns and villages that appear in the map at right.

With little hands-on experience with map design or GIS (geographic information systems), I was happy to find TileMill's Carto-based code intuitive and easy to use.

Because of the lack of data on Benin available through the major mapping services, I thought it would be interesting to visualize the VAC Benin data on a custom map using geographic data obtained by Plan Benin through CENATEL, the National Centre of Remote Sensing and Forest Cover Observation in Benin. I exported reports of violence from Ushahidi into a CSV file using Ushahidi's built-in export functionality. From there, I used Quantum GIS -- an open-source GIS tool -- to convert the data into GeoJSON, an open standard for data interchange that works very well with TileMill.

I then used TileMill to create a map that includes only the data relevant to Plan Benin's activities on this particular project, which helps users focus on the information they need. The map includes geographic data for Atacora and Couffo, the two "Program Units" where Plan Benin operates. (These are highlighted in light blue on the map.)

I also included labels for the important cities in both Program Units and, if you zoom in several levels, village names in Atacora. The red dots indicate reports of violence, and if you mouse over or click on a dot, you can see a summary of the incident. The reports were geolocated by hand using information sent via text message. The map also incorporates MapBox's open-source World Bright base-layer map, adding country borders, custom labels, population centers (in light yellow/brown tones), and other information to the map.

The Tip of the Iceberg

This is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of what TileMill can do. It would also be possible to add as many cities and villages as there are in the dataset, include multimedia-rich interactivity, use a choropleth scheme to indicate hotspots of violence, cluster reports, and so on.

With just a few design choices, this custom map dramatically improves the experience of interacting with data collected through Ushahidi. Highlighting the Program Units draws the eye to the important areas; using deep datasets and custom map labels solves the problem of missing local data; and the built-in interactivity means that visitors don't need to browse to multiple pages (a killer in low-bandwidth environments) to view information on individual reports.

Compositing, which was just rolled out on TileStream Hosting, helps the map load quickly, even in low-bandwidth environments (the maps are now faster than Google Maps), and this map can also be used offline via either the MapBox Appliance or the MapBox iPad app. Finally, TileStream Hosting makes it easy to host the map and generates embed code so the map can be widely shared.

Take a look at the map below and feel free to click over to the VAC Benin Ushahidi site to see the difference for yourself.

VAC Benin data collected with Ushahidi and visualized with TileMill:

Paul Goodman is a master's student at the UC-Berkeley School of Information and is spending the summer working with Development Seed.

July 04 2011


Sudan targets and tortures journalists to prevent reporting

Guardian :: The Sudan government is using an array of underhand legal methods to detain journalists and to halt the publication of independent newspapers. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, New York, the Sudanese authorities "aggressively" target individual journalists and publications through "contrived legal proceedings, politicised criminal charges, and confiscations," as in the case of Abu Zir al-Amin, the deputy editor of the suspended opposition daily Rai al-Shaab who was due for release after serving a prison sentence since May 2010. It is alleged that Al-Amin was tortured during his imprisonment. A picture of him showing evidence of torture was leaked and appeared on several online outlets.

Continue to read www.guardian.co.uk

June 02 2011


The Arab Spring: volatile situations in Yemen and Syria, but media coverage decreased 87pc

Journalism.org :: Last week alone, a government crackdown in Yemen reportedly killed more than 100 demonstrators; the European Union imposed new sanctions on Syria as reports surfaced that as many as 1,000 people have been killed in government crackdowns; Egypt decided to charge ex-president Hosni Mubarak in the deaths of protestors; and NATO announced a 90-day military extension in Libya as violence continued to escalate. But despite of the current situation Mideast unrest coverage decreased 87% from February to May 2011.

Continue to read www.journalism.org

February 25 2011


Ushahidi Takes First Steps in Evaluating Kenya Projects

This post was written by Melissa Tully and Jennifer Chan. It is the first in a series of blog posts documenting a 9-month Ushahidi evaluation project in partnership with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and supported by the Knight Foundation. A version of the post below was originally published on the Ushahidi blog

During the first two weeks of January, we traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to begin phase one of a 9-month evaluation of Ushahidi's Kenya projects. Ushahidi is a web application created to map the reported incidents of violence during the post-election crisis in Kenya.

As part of a team, Jennifer and I met with individuals and groups who have incorporated the Ushahidi software into their programming as well as other partners to better understand how organizations have implemented and used the platform to improve their programming and organizational goals.

This evaluation has multiple purposes. In addition to writing case studies of some interesting and dynamic projects that use the Ushahidi platform: Unsung Peace Heroes and Building Bridges, and Uchaguzi in both Kenya and Tanzania; we plan to document our progress through a series of blog posts and to create practical and interactive tools.

Tracking Progress

These resources can help organizations decide if Ushahidi is right for them through a self-assessment and evaluation process. Implementers can use these resources throughout the entire project period to track their progress and strengthen monitoring and evaluation.

We're in the very early stages of development, but based on discussions with people in Kenya who have used Ushahidi and members of the Ushahidi team and community, we think we're developing some very useful stuff. Currently, we're focusing on the "pre-implementation assessment" and "implementation" resources so that we can get feedback from current and future deployments on these key areas.

We're working closely with the Ushahidi team and others involved in developing the Ushahidi Community page to integrate the case studies and tools into this part of the site and to add to the already existing resources for Ushahidi users.

Another goal is to link to guides, case studies, tips, and tricks -- or anything else out there created by the vast Ushahidi community worldwide -- to better serve the entire user community. Let us know in the comments what you think about our service and how we might better improve it.

November 29 2010


Interview With A FACT Challenge Winner: Tobias Eigen from Kabissa Connections

We recently announced the 5 Winners for the FACT Social Justice Challenge and we are thrilled at the caliber and impact of all the Projects. As such, we want to give you a closer look at these collaborative technology Projects and the people behind them. Each Monday in the month of November, we posted an interview from one of the Winning Projects using the fact interviews tag.

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October 28 2010


Youth Empowering Initiative (YEI)

YEI engages communities in discussing effective prevention of and care for HIV/AIDS through
home visits, worksite discussions, anti-stigma campaigns, weekly radio programs
and sensitization debates at schools, colleges
and hospitals.

Programs designed and implemented by our local community members have made it possible for YEI to provide many of the services critical to HIV/AIDS prevention and care for free, including:

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October 23 2010


Kabissa wins the Netsquared FACT Social Justice Challenge!

Thank you everyone who voted for Kabissa Connections on Netsquared to get us into the final 15 and thank you judges who selected us to be among the 5 winning organizations to receive a $5,000 cash prize. I also would like to congratulate the other 4 winners, in particular Agricultural Marketing Information Services in Cameroon and Integrated Electonic Peace Building Project in Kenya which are both very innovative and powerful projects deserving of recognition and support. 

In a nutshell, Kabissa Connections will address trust concerns by providing a platform revealing the connections that organizations have with networks, international organizations, supporters and service providers. We will do this for organizations working in Africa while collaborating with others on open source tools, standards and approaches that can be replicated in other regions.

I am very excited to receive this recognition for an idea that has been brewing for years and which it appears we will now have the opportunity to implement. We will have more news soon over at kabissa.org on next steps and opportunities to get involved, so please be sure to join Kabissa and subscribe to our monthly member newsletter.

In the meantime, please help make it happen by making a donation to Kabissa. Thanks!  

Crossposted from http://kabissa.org/news/kabissa-wins-netsquared-fact-social-justice-challenge

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October 14 2010


Update on Kabissa Connections - Honored By Outpouring of Support and Appeal for your Vote in FACT Social Justice Challenge

I have been following the FACT Social Justice Challenge and have been honored by the outpouring of support for the KABISSA CONNECTIONS project in the comments and fans. It appears the other African projects we support are also doing well which I find tremendously gratifying.

If you have not yet decided on all 5 projects you want to vote for and share our vision for empowering African organizations at the grassroots, please consider adding KABISSA CONNECTIONS to your ballot. Our project will help build their repuation online by revealing the many positive relationships they have with each other and with international organizations, foundations and online networks.  

Here is a selection of comments: 

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August 17 2010


The Daily Beast: A look at Africa’s WikiLeaks

A look at Sahara Reporters – “Africa’s WikiLeaks” – by the Daily Beast in an article last week explained the site’s origins and the threatened existence of its founder Omoyele Sowore:

Its scoops shielded by US libel laws, the site is a phenomenon in Nigeria, a nation that is blessed by huge oil reserves – it is the fifth-largest foreign supplier of oil to the US – and also cursed by the outrageous corruption that petrodollars have created.

The scoops have brought threats against Sowore, who is often publicly denounced by political leaders back in Nigeria as a scandal-mongering criminal. Sowore says he assumes his life is in danger if he travels openly in his homeland anytime soon, a view shared by Western diplomats in Nigeria.

Full story on the Daily Beast at this link…Similar Posts:

August 06 2010


Blog for water and get to Africa

Changents is hosting a contest with P&G Give Health calling for bloggers to share why they are clean water Change Agents. What's in it for bloggers? A few great things:

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June 08 2010


ONI: Fears of internet filtering in Rwanda against independent newspaper Umuvugizi

OpenNet Initiative (ONI) reports that Umuvugizi, one of two independent newspapers currently under a six-month suspension by the Rwandan government, will also have its website blocked by the state’s authorities.

Umuvugizi decided to move online in defiance of the suspension, which would prevent the paper from reporting on the country’s forthcoming elections.

“This would be the first case of internet filtering in Rwanda and only the second recorded incident in eastern Africa,” suggests ONI, a joint initiative from three North American institutions monitoring internet filtering and web surveillance.

Full post at this link…

(via @kigaliwire)

Similar Posts:

June 07 2010


Freedom Fone Adopted by Bulawayo's Pioneering Voices

I had visions of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe being a sleepy little hollow, and perhaps in some ways it is. But last week, after arriving at Radio Dialogue offices in Pioneer House in Bulawayo's central business district, I was very pleasantly surprised. We were in the City of Skies to run a practical two-day workshop with six local organizations on using Freedom Fone. Pioneer House seemed to me to be pioneering the way!

workshop_participants_100527.jpgRadio Dialogue is a community radio station that opened nine years ago and resides on the ninth floor of Pioneer House. Like all community radio stations in Zimbabwe, it has yet to gain a government license to broadcast. Despite this challenge, it manages to successfully give communities in and around Bulawayo a voice on local issues.

The Radio Dialogue office was bustling! The reception area felt like grand central station, with inspired communicators heading off in all directions. One young journalist stopped me outside the elevator to ask for an audio vox pop: "Now that winter is coming, what home remedies do you personally use to ward off flu?" After describing my potent garlic ginger juice concoction, my colleague and I continued on to one of the well-equipped computer labs to prepare for the Freedom Fone workshop the following day.

We were greeted by excited youths between 13 and 19 years old. They were working together in groups to write and read poetry about Mother Africa. This is one of the many regular activities organized by the Youth Press Bureau, headed by the youth coordinator, Rosie Chauke. She was one of the participants in our Freedom Fone workshop.

truth telling_exhibition_100527.jpgChauke later told me about an art exhibition and competition organized by Radio Dialogue, which we later visited at The Bulawayo Club. It was titled TRUTH telling: The TRUTH will set you free and is about the importance of speaking out against the violent atrocities in Zimbabwe, particularly around the Matabeleland massacres, locally known as Gukurahundi, which took place during the 1980s.

Bulawayo Agenda

In the same building as Radio Dialogue and the Youth Press Bureau, is Bulawayo Agenda. It provides a platform for community views through a free printed news bulletin called Weekly Agenda. Bulawayo Agenda recently organized a Transitional Justice Interface meeting to find resolutions to ensure national healing in Zimbabwe, such as including information on Gukurahundi in the education syllabus and identifying the causes of political violence.

Workshop participants from other pioneering organizations included Habakkuk, Zimbabwe Development Democracy Trust and KG6: King George VI School for the Disabled, where the Oscar winning documentary Music by Prudence was set.

freedomfone_workshop_100527.jpgOverall the workshop was not without its technical frustrations, but I left Bulawayo feeling inspired by the dynamism of the participants. Their thoughtfulness during the brainstorming sessions, their determination and resilience during the technical sessions, and their overall eagerness made me hopeful that Freedom Fone would be taken up as a valuable information tool to assist many of these organizations in reaching their noteworthy communication and community-oriented goals.

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May 28 2010


Learn about NetSquared in Cameroon via Satellite TV

Map of Cameroon NetSquared eventsFor the past two years, NetSquared membership has been growing in Cameroon. Today there are 5 groups in Cameroon and this Saturday they are hosting the first ever NetSquared Camp.

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May 21 2010


One Week to Net2 Camp Africa in Douala, Cameroon

Net2 Camps LogoThe first in our series of six NetSquared Camps is next Saturday! This event, hosted in Douala, Cameroon, is free to attend and there is still time for you to register! Take a look at the info below and get involved!

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