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.

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The Renaisance, Apple Mac Apps & News – favourite podcasts!

Escaping into a reality you never were aware of! … ok, so that is over the top, however I must confess I have become a podcast addict since leaving Afghanistan recently and rediscovering the delights of broadband, (sorry again guys!), all downloadable from i-Tunes at no cost.

1. History 5: European Civilisation from the Renaisance to the present. University of Berkley.

French Revolution… Top marks to University of Berkley posting many of its lectures at last count 59 Audio podcasts and through the web site many as Video casts. The quality is very dependent on the lectururer however Professor Thomas Laqueur brings it to life, openness about his German Jewish roots adds to the value, full marks for a fascinating, insightful and entertaining account. This series illustrates what is missing or rather could be achieved with high resolution enhanced podcasts!

2. Jointly goes to Neat Little Mac Apps and ScreencastsOnline!

… sadly not for the Windows majority out there. Apple is renowned for having a broad supportive community of users and amazingly useful add on apps and widgets, I was surprised to find it really exists and they are incredibly helpful! NLMA presents enhanced podcasts on free or very cheap apps that are not only extremely useful but are a pleasure to use and often fun! Screencastsonline provides high quality full screen video tutorials on how to use Apple software with extra content available on subscription. But windows folk should not despair, with the advent of VISTA (replacing Windows XP) Microsoft has adopted a far more sophisticated front end and not a few Apple approaches so it should become a pleasure to use, your widgets are called Gadgets :-).

3. BBC Newsnight (video podcast feed)
… this was a tough call, but they just squeezed in! with excellent content on a variety of topics (sure a UK bias) not available on BBC World, recently they started releasing short format news casts more regularly, with a weekly show as usual… short and focused… like home from home. Of course the BBC seem to publish as many audio (ripped from radio) podcasts as they can, I find most of it uninteresting, but I imagine they are working on the longtail principle.

In truth podcasts are not that popular with surveys implying that pick up is not increasing dramatically. However niche markets such as humanitarian and development users such as MSF and Christian Aid are seeing sharp increases in usage because they have specialist application.

Of course I have access to broadband in Brazil… no doubt a trusty developer could easily configure content delivery software and package it with an i-Tunes like content aggregator to ensure that broadband doesn’t continue to be the bugbear it is for the populace of less developed countries and their frustrated humanitarian techies.

MSF & Christian Aid blaze podcast trail!

Is it our role to advocate for change, communicate needs on the ground, promote intellectual debate and ensure education and awareness of different communites of the challenges faced by others?

Fortunately there are trail blazers out there testing new media to and its effectiveness for the rest of us. Podcasts that can be accessed on i-tunes, or downloaded from websites, dramatically further communication and information sharing. MSF

MSF has demonstrated three prominent approaches. MSF Voice podcasts in the build up to the XVI Aids Conference in August 2006 along with daily discussions on key topics and demonstration of how MSF drives advocacy at such conferences. Regular advocacy and discussion of field activities and focus of programmes in different countries. Finally, MSF Frontline is a monthly podcast enabling individuals to catch up with MSF operations. programmes, facts, figures and personal testaments. MSF Voice and MSF Frontline are seamlessly integrated into the web site for ease of access.

CAChristian Aid after using podcasts for internal reporting opened their podcasts up to the public, as reported by humanitarian.info and Full Circle. Some examples include fascinating mini series on different campaigns, such as the Beat goes on a march against the policies of IMF, WB and the North in controlling the South and a demand for friendly and inclusive policies. Daily podcasts for a field visit to Haiti truly set a standard for everyone to match! It reflects the naevity of foreigners, gives a detailed awareness of challenges faced in the country and yet the character of people and their cultural legacy comes through. Finally like MSF, Christian Aid uses this medium to present interviews, debate and discussion on critical issues.

In a former piece I argued that podcasts should be taken into the office, Christian Aid and MSF have illustrated that staff with basic training can use podcasting instead of paper reports, perfect for disseminating information in an accessible form to staff, they also provide the perfect advocacy platform. Advocacy organisations take note!

Internal communication, information sharing and advocacy are critical elements of management in all humanitarian and development work. MSF and Christian Aid provide different exceptional examples of how podcasts can be applied in both settings… the race is on!

03/12/06 Editors note:

Apologies to UNICEF who have been operating podcasts since February 2006 with a mixture of UNICEF news and programme reports now in video and audio!

The UN also started a twice daily news podcast in November (sorry can’t find any show link), and but worry yee not this phenomena is catching on, UNESCO has put out bids for video podcast proposals!

Ubuntu … user friendly Linux software suite is taking off!

How much do we all object to paying the exorbitant costs of using microsoft windows? Not just the licence fee but all the additionaly costs for support, updates, maintenance and of course Virus checkers, firewalls …..

Linux has oft been touted as the solution… open source software that those with the ability can adapt themselves, sadly it has never been too user friendly, so whilst it dominates the server market it has tended to be marginal for common PC users like the rest of us. – – – No longer!

MS Windows licence fees are exorbitant in countries where labour is cheap. The cost of a PC put together by skilled labour may be less than the cost of purchasing MS software! As a result in some middle income countries where there are huge disparities in income but a demanding, increasingly vocal and ever growing middle class Linux has taken off, for example supporting 7% to 10% of small business and home PCs in Brazil.

In South Africa it has literally become the mother of invention. Ubuntu is a free linux based operating system providing a complete suite of software like MS Office. Unlike MS it is easy to install, use and maintain as witnessed by monkey.blog and digg, the software is intuitive and ‘tinker’ friendly. This is no pipe dream, it is operating in at least 6 countries and take up is spreading to Europe. Ubuntu, perfectly attuned to the needs of special interest groups with specific cultural or language needs, has been adopted by minorities in Germany, Spain as well as larger groups in Brazil and of course South Africa.

The BBC’s Digital Planet discussed Ubuntu with its brain child, Mark Shuttleworth (famously the first space tourist), made his fortune as an entrepreneur using linux whilst isolated in South Africa, he wishes to it unleash possibilities for others also.

Edubuntu a popular package, will in South Africa be complimented by a complete online educational curricula developed and evolving through teacher, parent, student collaboration… in effect an educatoinal Wiki.

Ubuntu may well become a huge success since it maximises the one oft available resource, enthusiastic capable youth, (if you can put a computer together then you can install and operate Ubuntu). It negates needs for external expertise and money, breaks the cycle of dependency on feature heavy software with unneeded functionality and ever increasing demand on computer power, memory and upgrades, but most importantly it places the opportunity to develop digital competency where it should always have been, in the hands of communities, their youth and their future.

It seems likely that Ubuntu will genuinely take great strides to tackling the digital divide by starting where it matters most, in the minds and understanding of people without sophisticated education, reliable access to the internet or more than minimal access to cash.