The Royal seal… 2007 year of the podcast!

It seems that podcasting has come of age far sooner than one might imagine… when the British government adopt practice it is common, when the Royal family adopts a practice it is positively Byzantine!

The traditional “Queen’s Christmas Speech” that is the British Queen Elizabeth II of Windsor is available as a podcast from Westminster Digital, along side her 80th Birthday speech, RSS feeds of course available!

Why is this of interest, well I guess its not, except that when new format media become adopted so soon after their release into the broader market (this speech is of course always broadcast by the BBC on Christmas day), it is a sign of either a fad bubble, or that as in the case of mere podcasting, a technology that genuinely meets the needs of a significant market audience…

Feliz Ano Novo, I hereby give the Global Nomad101 official seal of approval on 2007 year of the podcast!

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World Changing… creative ideas to curl up with!

world changing bookWorld Changing is a stimulating book with numerous creative and fascinating ideas or soutions on multiple different subjects from politics and housing to design, technology and business. Check out Regine’s blog we make art not money for an interesting review.

World changing… i don’t think so and there are only fleeting comments on much hyped humanitarian or shelter issues sadly they didn’t call on Tom Corsellis at Shelter Centre or Paul Currion at Humanitarian.info for advice… mores the pity… but take some time out you shouldn’t read about work all the time.

Seriously though it is a stimulating read, and as Stanford Ovhinsky likes to say “invention comes to the prepared mind” (The Edison of our age?, The Economist); this is a gentle way to keep the creativity flowing. It is unusual for me to recommend a book on leisure, but we do have the holidays (and for some) long winter nights ahead of us! Enjoy.

A first (non) UN Humanitarian Coordinator… Uganda

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Uganda is to be, well non-UN!For the 99.99% of people working in humanitarian work I should explain. In each country the UN is headed by a Resident Coordinator (RC), this person is always a very senior UN Representative in country (more often than not the head of UNDP). Although they do not have line management responsibility for other agencies they ‘coordinate’ the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) and links with government and play a major role in ensuring joined up support to host countries.In an emergency or humanitarian scenario the RC may not be the most suited or have the time to also humanitarian response, hence a Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) may be appointed by through the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), to-date this person has always been a UN insider. In the case of Uganda due to the localised nature of the humanitarian crisis in the north a separate HC was appointed, however it is a first to put a non UN staff member in this post.HC UgandaThe HC until recently Representative of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Geneva, Ms. Elisabeth Rasmusson, has extensive field experience especially with refugees and intenally displaced persons (IDPs). Though not a complete outsider, she formerly worked for the UN, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) , Ms. Rasmusson is certainly no insider.This is excellent news. The UN is often given unpleasant and unreasonable labels sometimes, but rarely, fairly. Humanitarian reforms have been driven hard and furiously over the last 12 to 18 months, engineered hand-in-hand between senior UN executives and key donors, noteably DfiD.The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was beefed up by adding a $450m grant facility to an existing $50m revolving fund. To firstly, promote early action and response to save lives (release funds within 72 hours). Secondly, enhance response to time-crucial requirements based on demonstrable needs, and thirdly strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in under-funded crisis. Launched in March 2006, by and September 2006 it had raised $175m.The Humanitarian Coordinator system, designed to ensure focus and leadership during life saving response periods was initiated and many including Ms Rasmusson trained for the role.The Inter-Agency Steering Committee (IASC) structure was launched in 1992 to ensure that UN and NGO’s worked more effectively. However it has been reinvigorated with the application of technical clusters (initiated in the Pakistan earthquake with mixed success) and the spur of the humanitarian reform process.Thus it is welcome that the UN is now looking to finding the best and most suited people from across the range of humanitarian institutions to coordinate humanitarian response. At the very least it should lead to a great cross fertilisation of ideas and creativity, a greater acceptance of different institutional approaches and improved collaboration. On the downside… well I personally don’t see one! Read the rest of this entry »

Aid effectiveness wiki… by UNDP!

UNDP LogoYou may not be surprised to learn that UNDP has developed an excellent resource on Aid Effectiveness, tho’ you might be surprised that it is a wiki! Though not launched, and appears to have sneaked up by the back door it is certainly worth a second and third look.

Designed by a hardened field practioner the Aid Effectiveness Wiki has been developed by Aidan Cox at the Regional Centre in Bangkok following his development of the Donor Assistance Database (DAD) in Afghanistan and coordination support to Angola, India, Iraq, Maldives and Sri Lanka. DAD spun off from AIMS Humanitarian Information Centre where a very early stage incarnation the Appeal Tracking Information Management System (ATIMS) developed. Yes this history is of primarily nostalgic value.

Now UNDP has complimented its comprehensive corporate DevAid site with the wiki they can truly act as the access point to some of the best information on this topic, of course they are by no means on their own, ODI, The World Bank, OECD just to name three all conduct critical work in this area. However genuinely opening up to contributions for the broader community of expertise may well ensure that on this topic UNDP can at least ensure accessibility from one location to critical information and comment, if not develop thought leadership.

Lets sing praises where it is due. Following recent critical comments about the slow adoption of modern approaches to information management by security specialists in the humanitarian and development sphere, What do Aid workers and spies have in common? and Open Source Spying and NGO’s by the NGO Security blog. It is refreshing that in a critical area such as Aid Effectiveness advanced transparent approaches to information sharing and management are being advanced.

No doubt some find it hard to swallow that UNDP is leading the charge! However take another look, UNICEF openly publishes its RSS, podcast and vodcast at the bottom of every page on its website. Despite the excellent podcasts being produced by Christian Aid they are still hard to find on their site. Maybe traditional fears of change stressed by NGO Security are on the mark.

Wiki’s are a key information management tool, the more focused the interest the more powerful and valuable they become. Given the critical nature of humanitarian and development work we would be doing a disservice to our end clients and ourselves if we do not adopt such technology sooner rather than later.

Mapping connectivity & the digital divide!

The old maxim “if you can’t measure it then you can’t manage it” is as true today as ever… however increasingly as many people reach information overload one could argue it should read “if you can’t present information you can’t get others to act on it”.

A classic challenge is presented by internet connectivity. We are all aware that many of the Southern countries where we have worked have terrible connectivity how is this linked to the economy, production, trade, education levels, health services?

i-isp-ss.gifThis map from the Internet Mapping Project Map Gallery shows the major ISPs indicating volume of traffic (colour density) and extent (distance). A variety of maps indicate other internet measures including distance from host, network address, top level domains or ISPs/ cities and many more. Including more detailed maps and raw data!

Other internet map sources include: Rocketfuel, The Opte Project, Cybergeography who publish a fascinating Cyberatlas and Caida.

Internet Map USA

This second image from Infosthetics March ’06

“is an extremely detailed map of the North American Internet backbone including 134,855 routers. the colors represent who each router is registered to: red is Verizon, blue AT&T, yellow Qwest, green is major backbone players like Level 3 & Sprint Nextel, black is the entire cable industry put together, & gray is everyone else, from small telecommunications companies to large international players who only have a small presence in the U.S. This map demonstrates that although AT&T & Verizon own a lot of Internet pipes, they currently do not dominate the Internet infrastructure (yet).”

IP map2

I love this third image again lifted from Infosthetics Dec. ’06, whilst it presents IP address space as a map it provides a clear impression of ‘internet face’ dedicated to continents, clearly if this were broken out in more detail, particularly with breakdown for “Asia” it would become ever more useful. See original source xkcd and comments from the artist.

a chart of the IP address space “on a plane”, using fractal mapping which preserves grouping (any string of IPs will translate to a single compact region on the map). each of the 256 numbered blocks represents one 8th subnet (containing all IPs that start with that number).

When preparing my dissertation on the privatisation of telecoms in Brazil in 1999 a communications star “map” clearly illustrated how minimal traffic was making the hops to and from Africa or Latin America. Different presentation tools using different internet usage “measures” consistently confirm this picture. Though we may not be able to lift detailed quantified facts from such maps they clearly provide tools to reflect trends and bias.

Second Life, the UN and living like a refugee

Second Life enters the humanitarian and development workers sphere of interest!


“The Stand Up Awareness Campaign” is being supported by the UN on Second Life. The Stand Up For Awareness Campaign is part of the larger Millenium Campaign to remind governments of their commitment to the eight Millenium Development Goals (MDG) that they agreed to in 2000, each of the eight 2015 targets are critical to reduce global poverty. This is a far from Bureaucratic excercise, if we can’t measure we can’t manage… by catalysing development organisations, donor governments and recipient governments the MDG indicators and targets, truly provide measures of success or failure that will have to be explained away if they are not met… keeping up the pressure world-wide is important.

DarfurThere is also a simulated Darfur refugee camp on Second Life, “Living Like a Refugee” was built to inform and educate … “An awareness and action camp spotlighting today’s genocide” and even patrolled by hooded avatars. Behind this seemlingly ‘geeky’ awareness approach, after all how many people really use Second Life, is a larger possibility of bringing the complexity, intricacies and daily catastrophe of humanitarian disasters to a increasinly well networked and socially aware next generation.

second lifeTeens Second Life is an interesting development by Linden Labs, visited by BBC’s Digital Planet, yes you guessed it Second Life for teens, governed by community rules, no parents or adults allowed, only screened adults from Linden Labs. Special institutions such as schools can feature on the game but are restricted to the island they create where the teens can choose to visit.

Clearly only the privileged (bandwidth, computers, high quality of life) are using Second Life, currently it acts as an interesting advocacy medium for the humanitarian and development world. But perhaps we should be more creative… why not a self concious training medium for students around the world, an advocacy platform. At the very least it offers an interesting way to capture the interest of youth and techie’s to increasingly support real life humanitarian needs, if only by applying their technology interests and genius to global advocacy and bridging communication gaps with the elite in southern countries.

France 24… ‘new media’ News broadcasting?

France 24Global news is really taking off, much to my surprise we now have a second non-anglo centric view of the world… within one month, France 24 (en anglias) rumoured to be a reactive idea by President Jacque Chirac following the Anglo intervention in Iraq, was launched on 6th December!

To quote President Chirac, France “must be at the forefront of the global battle of images, that’s why I am resolved that our country should have an international news channel” BBC

Published in French, English and Arabic it will hopefully prove to be yet another voice, view and analysis of world events, along with Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN. Available across Europe, Middle East, Africa and North America some of us are unfortunately unable to view the channel. Early suggestions implied that France 24 would operate its broadcast News channel over the internet. Sadly this is not yet the case, the online version appears to be focused on enabling access to broadcast content, but of course does not yet have the back up of a comprehensive depth of audio, video and text data. The unofficial weblog appears to be a great location for information and comment.

Lets hope the unconventional site structure is a hint of things to come… the tag cloud, journalists blogs… just imagine a conventional broadcaster establishing a News wiki including audio and video. It is already far ahead of Al Jazeera which hasn’t organised downloads yet! It may not be so far fetched after all France 24 would gain from developing a radically different media model. As a rarity the government appointed Chariman is a self made communications and advertising man, Alain de Poulzilhac , no énarque here … “Vive la France Libre”.

Perhaps I shouldn’t get too carried away, a ‘new media’ approach by staid old broadcasting, not yet. Also the énarque appear to have generally lost their shine as Chirac hands the batton to Nicholas Sarkozy. However I am an optimist, Richard Porter of the BBC reports Iran’s interest in an English 24 hour News channel called The Press.

Just perhaps France 24 will bring a fresh approach together with its competition for our valuable time and attention? If not maybe we can look to the Iranians or one of the Anglo channels to take the next step and bring participatory new media, encompassing the views of millions, to us where, when and as we want it, whether by cell, broadband, cable or satellite… “plus ca change!”