Has the war on terror increased terrorism?

This simple yet fascinating graphic published on Point by Fascinating Point implies tackling terrorism with brute force and young soldiers (with all their weaknesses) may be accelerating the very cause celebre it seeks to quash. May not be a surprise but evidence is worth a thousand thoughts and statements.

Global Terrorism

Wais … loveable rogue of Kabul – RIP

Wais KabulCollected off the floor of a shower, bleeding from the head, trousers round my ankles… my first real introduction to Wais…

Like so many Wais “found room” at the Mustafa as I arrived in Kabul. Initially I had a luxury room with terrifying read velvet drapes, huge ornate wooden chairs and cushions to match, soon after moved to the standard glass walled (& whitewashed) cubicle. Dehydrated I had collapsed, and left a blood trail from the bathroom to my room as Wais manhandled me over the twenty feet!

The ultimate loveable rogue, Wais helped people through their first nights in Kabul, provided a macabre jigsaw of human flotsam then ensured that BBQ’s, bar sessions and assorted shared experiences wove them together… His genuine concern and care for people seemed a juxtaposition to the guns, uncomfortable rooms and temporary stays, but you had to be there, it made sense.

It is a shock to think of Kabul without Wais and it is difficult to believe he died in his sleep on night of 26th December after knocking his head badly in a shower?, he would love the suspicion that lingers. We all have a mix of printable and censored stories to relay, no doubt many are posted at Kabul Guide. His partial/ occasional paralysis purportedly from a poisoning attempt brought us close together, though he never imported a Concept II or took up the excercise routine we discussed.

The phrase “larger than life” fits him to a tee, always engaging at a personal level as he balanced pressures of Afghan family fealty with his own abundance of ideas and thirst for life, Kabul has lost another re-founding son.

We should take away a determination to live to the full, push to the limit, care for each other and above all despite the frustrations and hell it puts one through, continue to nuture forward Afghanistan despite itself.

I miss you Wais!

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.

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!”

Airline Security: biometrics, security ratings… any rights?

biometric scanningCongratulations! You have a personal security rating by the US government, the EU is sharing all data about passengers, the governments are introducing biometric passports, and the UK has now introduced biometric scanning of passengers.

I hope you feel safer!

Passengers at Heathrow airport are being invited to sign up for a trial of the most advanced passenger screening equipment in the world.
Travellers will be able to bypass long queues if they have their fingerprints biometrically scanned, while face and eye scans will be introduced soon.

Those trying the miSense system have the scans at the same time as their passport is scanned at check-in.

BBC

The British Aiport Authority suggests that such electronic keys will enable customers to pass through airport process smoothly. Though it is difficult to imagine Heathrow or JFK as smooth as Dubai’s e-gate card system, which requires one fingerprint and a full face photograph, but thereafter a one gate check in!. The British version will require 13 identifying scans of fingerprints, irises and face!Italian biometric passport

Whilst the UK, USA, Canada, Singapore, Norway, Italy to name but a few, have adopted biometric passports, though the Dutch system has already been cracked!

Biometric scanning is not new, but as we take is and the news from the US in conjunction it is clear that governments around the world will all be able to access to our most personal details… is this a step in the cause of liberty or are these restrictions (innevitably though they may be) playing into the hands of the terrorists, have the terrorists won by derailing our lives?

Global Nomads will innevitably have to manage these challenges and no doubt like me you have been pulled aside (especially in the US) for more detailed checking following their discovery of visas in your passport from wierd and wonderful terrorist havens.

I for one have an uncomfortable feeling that increased paranoia concerning people of different cultures, their ways and means will increase as the fear frenzy escalates,  allowing ever more defenses to be thrown up in the name of “security” concerns… when will this stop?

We witness this in many cities around the world as the rich, then middle class willingly segregate themselves from poorer, increasingly percieved as, crime ridden neighbourhoods. Extrapolating such a social problem to an international scale may potentially lead to greater isolation and marginalisation of whole swathes of nations and possibly countries, religions, cultures or races. Will we still be arguing that we are winning the war of terrorism then?