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Digital Sketches

digital citizen media, ict with a focus on Central Asia and the Middle East.

Category Archives: cooperation in development

Nederland wil – aldus minister Rosenthal vorige week – dat de internationale gemeenschap Syrische militairen aanmoedigt over te lopen naar de oppositie tegen president Assad. Tevens wenst de minister de Syrische oppositie steunen met communicatie apparatuur.

Een precair standpunt omdat de oppositie in Syrië niet bestaat en het onderscheid tussen humanitaire en militaire steun een strikt theoretisch gegeven gezien de dagelijkse Syrische praktijk. Ten tweede is satelliet apparatuur in de handen van een leek gevaarlijk. Zoals tot slot is de beoogde snelle en grootschalige aanpak – zoals het verstrekken van honderden telefoons – een riskante onderneming die mensenlevens kan kosten.

Laten we zo’n Nederlandse satelliet telefoon eens volgen. Nederland voert de telefoon in vanuit de buurlanden – Turkije, Libanon of Jordanië. Het grensgebied rondom Syrië is uiterst poreus en smokkelaars hebben sinds jaar en dag vrij spel. Smokkeltransporten zijn steeds vaker voorzien van een bewapend escort omdat Syrische beveiligings- en Hezbollah eenheden in het grensgebied jagen op smokkelaars en pogen de waar – van medicijnen, telefoons tot wapens – te onderscheppen.

Het lukt onze telefoon ongeschonden Syrië binnen te komen. Daar gaat hij naar de vreedzame oppositie. Maar wie is dat? Naar ‘iemand’ want officiële organisaties – buiten die aan de staat zijn gelinieerd – zijn er niet in Syrië. De telefoon gaat naar een vertrouwenspersoon. Dat kan een dokter zijn die drie gewonden in een ambulance via een veilige route door de stad naar een als operatiekamer ingerichte huiskamer probeert te loodsen. Een burger die het laatste nieuws uit zijn stad aan een buitenlandse journalist wil doorgeven. Maar de telefoon kan even gemakkelijk belanden bij een soldaat van het Free Syrian Army die zijn maten belt aan de andere kant van de wijk om de overval van een militair konvooi voor te bereiden. De chaotische omstandigheden vergen continue improviseren. Het is onnavolgbaar in wiens handen onze telefoon belandt. De telefoon kan dus zowel een humanitair doel dienen en mensenlevens redden. Maar ze kan net zo eenvoudig worden gebruikt voor het organiseren van gewelddadige acties. Wapens en mobiele communicatie apparatuur, dus ook onze Nederlandse telefoon, zijn onlosmakelijk aan elkaar verbonden. Met het leveren van deze hardware begeeft Nederland zich op een glijdende schaal en sukkelt het zo een oorlog in.

Daarbij is een satelliet telefoon een specialistisch toestel. Om contact te maken moet de gebruiker hoger staan dan zijn omgeving, bijvoorbeeld op het dak. Ook mag de verbinding niet langer dan een paar minuten in de lucht zijn omdat het Syrische leger rondrijdt met detectie apparatuur om deze telefoons op te sporen. Zo is een lijstje op te stellen waaraan de gebruikers zich uiterst gedisciplineerd en consequent behoren te houden omdat de telefoon hun positie kan verraden. De veelal jonge, los georganiseerde activisten hebben deze discipline niet. Er zijn bewijzen dat de satelliet telefoon Marie Colvin – oorlogsveteraan in de journalistiek – het leven heeft gekost. Zonder een korte, effectieve training – inclusief een Arabische handleiding – is het bezit van een satelliet telefoon in Syrië momenteel bloedlink.

Het staat buiten kijf dat de vreedzame oppositie steun nodig heeft. Zij is echter het meest gebaat bij stille diplomatie en op kleine schaal zo veilig mogelijk opereren. Precies het tegenovergestelde van de aanpak van minister Rosenthal. Hij laat weten dat Nederland communicatie apparatuur zal leveren. Zijn ministerie pakt het groots en voortvarend aan en wil honderden satelliet telefoons, modems en notebooks beschikbaar stellen. Dat oogt doortastend en spreekt zeker tot heldhaftige verbeelding. In de rommelige praktijk van een bijna burgeroorlog kan dit vies tegenvallen. Het verlenen van praktische steun in Syrië betekent een lange termijn aanpak, vertrouwen winnen en zorgvuldig werken, gelijk dat van een horlogemaker.

Published on Hivos-Knowledge-Programme (ENG)

Als internet geen keuze is maar enige optie

‘De discussie over de gevolgen van internet voor de democratie is nog niet afgelopen’. Met deze algemene conclusie gaat het opiniestuk ‘Internetsurveillance’ van Evgeny Morozov in NRC(15 January, 2011) uit als een nachtkaars. Zijn betoog keert zich tegen ‘internetapostelen’ die geloven dat van internet uitsluitend een democratiserende werking kan uitgaan en dat ‘internet ons tot hypertolerante wereldburgers’ zou maken. Er zijn echter weinig mensen die de hoogmis van internet en democratie nog zingen.

Overheden – autoritaire èn democratische – willen meer grip op internet. Morozov beschrijft het Russische amusement bombardement, de geavanceerde Iraanse blokkades en filtersystemen en de Amerikaanse inspanningen om Wikileaks het zwijgen op te leggen. Deze donkere kant van internet is één – belangrijke – kant van het verhaal die terdege veel aandacht behoeft. Het is echter te makkelijk om het medium eendimensionaal als bedreigend te beschrijven.

Het is waar; voor het vijfde jaar op rij zijn politieke rechten wereldwijd op hun retour. Freedom House rapporteerde onlangs dat met name China, Egypte, Iran, Rusland en Venezuela repressieve maatregelen uitbreiden zonder enig protest van betekenis van de democratische wereld. (NRC, 13 januari) Het Amerikaanse instituut ontwaart zorgelijke ontwikkelingen op internet in Azië, de voormalige Sovjet republieken en Latijns Amerika. Overheden grijpen in door websites af te sluiten, webloggers op te pakken of door de internetsnelheid opzettelijk laag te houden zoals in Iran.

Met eenzijdig somberen doen we geen recht aan de positieve bijdrage die het relatief jonge medium internet levert aan toegang tot informatie en daardoor ook aan het proces van democratisering. Spreekwoordelijk is de Keniaanse student die artikelen voor zijn scriptie bij elkaar zoekt in de Library of Congress in Washington. Door internet, en vooral de web 2.0 mogelijkheden, kunnen burgers berichten relatief eenvoudig en vooral goedkoop publiceren en verspreiden. Birmese bloggers hebben, niet zonder risico, foto’s on line gezet van het overstromingsdrama in hun land. Een politie inval bij een homo-organisatie in Kyrgystan was binnen een paar uur de wereld rond en Twitter speelt een cruciale communicatierol bij de protesten in Tunesië.

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This summer I was so fortunate as to spend the first two weeks of July at an inspiring summer course in wonderful Budapest. The two days before the start of the summer course I spent cycling up and down the river Danube – crossing most of its eight bridges – and wandering in the 5th and 6th district. The beauty of the city is overwhelming and it can make you feel high by the impressive examples of architecture, the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes’ Square and the Millennium Underground Railway, the second oldest in the world. This sounds like a quote from a travel guide but I can not help it: it’s all true.

On Monday the course ‘Media Development and Democratization: Understanding and Implementing Monitoring and Evaluation Programs’ started. For the schedule and the syllabus, please have a look here. In advance the period of two weeks seemed to be a long time but it proved to be too short. And that is a good sign. In this post I will only give some sound bites and quotes but this does not at all reflect the quality of the presenters and the value of the programme as a whole.

‘We journalists do not want to be monitored. However, the question is how monitoring and evaluations can enable journalists to do their work better.’ Gerry Power, director of Intermedia, talked about the need for M&E to give information that supports media organizations in their decision making process. They need information to act on. When people – readers, listeners, visitors – start talking about a television programme, does that also affect their daily lives? For me Powers presentation came down to:

1. Generic (research) questions will only give generic answers. Therefore: define better and finetune the questions before doing anything else. Use one, broad general question and specify into sub questions. The more precise the questions, the better the results.

2. Only ask questions to which the answers do not already exist. It is phenomenal what is sitting out there on the shelves. So do not reinvent the wheel and do not spend precious time and money on existing data.

Why do we care about M&E was the question with which Gordon Adam started his presentation. For the founder and managing director of Media Support Solutions the bottom line is the increasing importance of media projects and programmes in the past twenty years in developing countries. In theory there is a clear distinction to make between media for development and development of media. In reality they quite often are combined, are cooperating or are at least interrelated. Therefore many donors think media projects are important from a PR perspective. From this perspective these projects can work as showcases to proof the tax payers’ money is well spent.

Adam quoted Einstein: `Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count.’ And he stresses `to keep M&E short and simple’. For example most of the times two or three measurable indicators will do. Adam: `Keep your M&E plans simple, this can increase clarity and accuracy. Also the implementation of complex M&E plans (including panels and other surveys) is a lot of work.

So what needs to be done? According to Adam amongst others 1) academic research on new media to provide tools for quantitative surveys and 2) educate funders and ngo’s; if they have a better understanding of what media can and cannot achieve this can create more meaningful evaluation criteria.

Another media professional who shared his M&E views and experiences in Budapest was Daniel Bruce. The international media development consultant also stressed accuracy especially on the point: what do indicators actually tell us? Define these as exact as possible from the start. Check, double-check and cross check the indicators, the research questions but also the budget, deliverables and reporting. Bruce provided a top 10 of mistakes amongst which vague and/or too general indicators, incorrect use of buzz words (what do you mean with ‘baseline’), general language mistakes and impropriate timelines. It is as somebody put it: get out the grandmothers as participants in the evaluation of an hiv/aidsprogramme.

Susan Haas, doctoral candidate at Annenberg School for Communication, talked about ‘the beauty of focus groups. Her colleague Amalie Arsenault discussed how our organizations define media development. Are media used for development project (strategic use) or do you want to support and strengthen existing and new journalistic media with reporting and investigative journalism as core business? Arsenault presented a nice summary of the history of media development (incl The Golden Age of Media development in the eighties in Eastern Europe). According to Arsenault there is no way to track down how big the total budgets are that developing countries receive for media development.

Antonio Lambino presented – as a member of the CommGAP team – presented a very clear way of looking from a M&E perspective at the logframe. A logframe is a management tool mainly used in the design, monitoring and evaluation of international development projects. He linked activities, outputs, purpose to the goal with the ‘if & then logic’ that underlies the logframe. If the assumptions stay unchanged, the if then thinking will lead to the goal to be achieved in the long-term. It is a step by step process, based on a good framework and a theory of change and finding agreement on the manageable bits. ‘Promising the moon is especially problematic with media development projects because expectations are often too high’

Sofie Jannusch coordinates the knowledge sharing initiative MediaME from within the German development organisation Cameco. ‘Media development professionals are not delivering enough proof. Very few look deeper into the effects of the work that has been done. Therefore we started two years ago with Media ME. It is a collaborative initiative by many organisations and individual experts engaged in media development to offer resources and discussion about best practices in monitoring and evaluation in this area.’ The wiki project still has a half-year to go before the budget runs out. Jannusch was using her time to recruit new, enthusiastic co-workers. She succeeded because at least three people from the course volunteered as participants.

Maureen Taylor from the University Oklahoma stressed the long-term perspective. `Keep in mind the long-term goal of assistance. Do not reinvent the wheel and there is no need to repeat mistakes made earlier. We spent more time collecting data than analyzing them.’ One of her practical suggestions, almost made in a sideline, was to spent at least one full day in the newsroom of your grantee/partner organization.

Sheldon Himelfarb works for the US Institute of Peace, funded and founded by the US Congress. Its goal is to design media interventions for fragile societies. Himelfarb focused on the process as a strict and standardized way of doing things. For this he used the example of aircrafts taking off and landing every minute from boats in a war situation). ‘This aircraft procedure is not a repetition but a well established process, clear and transparent.’ Himelfarb represented the clear cut US methods of approaching development evaluations. His presentation raised many questions mostly because many participants thought aircrafts are incomparable with development projects.

Course director Susan Abbott introduced most of the speakers and provided a kind of summary after the presentations. Like such as: integrate M&E into the media programme and projects when possible from the beginning until the end. Always look for a shared/collaborative approach. Change never is a one-way street. When there is donor coordination – which is the ideal situation – seek common ground for indicators used.

This course once more reinforced my idea that development work has more to do with art than with science; the art of balancing between instinct and a programmatic way of thinking. The presenters were very knowledgeable, open for all kinds of questions and remarks and in that way provided us with sound insights of the M&E field. Just as the multi-cultural diversity of my class and the perfect blend of academic theory with practice added up to the value of the course. Thereby the programme was managed in a very smooth and enjoyable way. This combination made these two weeks into an experience that I will not easily forget. Moreover; my gut feeling tells me there will be a long-term spin off: in lessons learned, experiences shared and the network connections made.

From here I thank again the great team behind the course: Susan Abbott, Eva Bognar, Kate Coyer and Amelia Arsenault. They stood firm but fair, are among the vanguard of M&E with regard to media, know how to keep a group of individuals together and – very important – they know how to party.

Some of the relevant websites mentioned:

Audience Scapes

Freedom on the Net, FreedomHouse

Media Sustainibility Index, IREX

Media Policy, by Marius Dragomir and Mark Thompson from the OSI Media Programme

Makutano Junction (case)

Kitchen Budapest (fieldtrip)

Radio C and Tilos Radio (fieldtrip)

Radio Okapi, DRC (case)

Propublica, investigative journalism in the public intrest

Global Voices Online

Radio Free Europe

Reporters sans Frontiers

Some M&E literature

Evaluating the evaluators, CIMA

Media Development indicators, IPDC

Media map, Internews

Africa Media Development Initiative

Ten steps to a result based monitoring (pdf), Worldbank, Kusek/Rist

The Road to results, Worldbank, Imas/Rist

Real World Evaluation, Bamberger/Rugh/Mabry

Several M&E guides

Evaluation for DFID

Good, but how good, CIMA

Evaluation Manual, CIDA

Outcome Mapping, IDRC

Glossary key terms in evaluation and results, OECD

For more guides and manuals

How do you call someone with a gun? SIR. End every sentence and question with a humble: PLEASE.  This short but clear advice was provided on the first day of the three day Safety and Security course. And I used and reused it a lot during this security training which I attended with my three colleagues who also travel to the Middle East regularly.

The location of the training was a former monastery in the middle of the woods nearby Utrecht, the Netherlands. The first day was filled with all kinds of introductions. We prepared a case; the fictional country Bekuran showed many similarities with the former and current situation in Angola) and the training module ‘Remote Medics’ included recovery position, types of bleeding amongst others how to make a tourniquet in case of an arterial bleeding.

The second day we started with ‘Dealing with aggression’. Distinguish three main sources of aggression: frustration, instrumental and psychological. The theory and the cases the trainer described all seemed quite logical and natural. Much of it comes down to: use your common sense. I can assure you it was different from the moment we had to stand in line and were forbidden to talk or to have eye contact. Somebody approached me from behind. Slowly he came very near and chewed gum close to my ear on the left. He observes me silently. Then he moved to my right side and started whispering humiliating remarks in the my ear. Sure, I know the b-word is a ordinary term these days though I am from a different generation and never ever anybody has called me bitch before.

We promised not to give away too many details. This can take away the effect for others who might want to attend the training. Surely surprise is an important aspect of the whole course. But this I can tell; the whole group will be kidnapped at a certain moment. Especially the blindfolding is really frustrating and completely disorientating. By now I was used to the b-word though not yet prepared for the individual treatment the women can expect (‘I will take this special woman to a special place’). Some of us – and yes, the masked kidnappers again choose me – were taken away for an interrogation. I focused on the impressive tattoos of both arms of the gang leader in an attempt to ignore the bright spotlight and the two guns pointing at me. Calm down, keep on breathing and keep in the back of your head: this is a game. These creeps are damn good actors with whom we will drink a beer in another hour. ‘Who you are, what are you doing in my country, you work for the US. Yes, you are a spy!’ Afterwards at the bar I did ask him if the tattoos were real and told him I focused on these as way to reduce the tension. In the old days only hookers and sailors had tattoos. Now every school teacher and pen-pusher has at least one tattoo. In daily life tattoos are impertinent visual details. They divert attention from something that is most of the times already nothing. Therefore – if you are not being questioned – tattoos have to be ignored as much as possible. Yes, he smiled, they are real.

The third and last day every topic (medics, arms, aggression and intimidation) is practised in war situations on the land surrounding the monastery. Startled passers-by with their dog and joggers were informed it all concerned just exercises. This was very necessary because it all – including shouting, bloody wounds and road blocks – looked pretty realistic.

In essence it comes down to breathing and standing in a balanced and relaxed way. Practice on self control; assess the situation before acting. Even if the situation literally is screaming for action; take your time to assess and develop a short term strategy.

Equally important is the awareness of the organization that sends its people to high risk regions. There should be some kind of a field security plan; it does not have to be too extensive or detailed. This will include a risk assessment, a standard operating procedure and incident reporting. For instance; does somebody know how to act in case of emergency 24/7; especially if colleagues are visiting Iraq? I think this is just as essential as training people. The organization will have to take its responsibility and develop and carry out at least some basic security standards. If not; people can be trained until Christmas and Eastern are celebrated on the same day and still the effectiveness will be limited.

Last week I attended some presentations at re:publica 10, Berlin:

  • Evgeny Morozov has taken up the role of the bad cop in the world of digital activism and always challenges the believers in the Internet as an inherently revolutionary an democratic medium: ‘Do not forget the commercialization of digital activism.’ According to Morozov the financial support for digital activism is ‘big business’ because of the large amounts of money foreign state departments – and private parties like funds and the industry – put into supporting internet activism authoritarian and developing countries. Morozov also stated the costs to start a digital campaign – or even a revolution – might be low but this means the costs for contra revolution – by authoritarian regimes – drop as well. ‘One man’s hacktivism is another man’ s cyberwar.’
  • Jeff Jarvis (What would Google do?) focused on the privacy issue. He stated in a slightly provocative presentation ‘instead of asserting the right to privacy, defend pubic information’ . Why do we want privacy? What is privacy but a very culturally defined concept? His description of the shock of the American woman entering an European sauna – and seeing all those naked people – was entertaining. Jarvis: ‘We want to control our own data, creations and identity. But what is the price we want to pay for privacy? The Internet is a public place, a connection machine. The Internet became big by sharing information and the Internet can only fulfil its promises when the default setting on our Facebook, Flickr and other personal accounts is public.’
  • David Sasaki started his talk with the case of the transparency – or the lack of it – after the archives of the German security service Stasi were opened after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Sasaki of Global Voices Online gave an overview of the programme Technology for Transparency Network. He showed some cases of increased transparency during elections (Sudan, Philippines) and financial accountability (both and American as an Kenyan budget tracking tool)
  • In the session on freedom of expression Bahraini journalist and star blogger Amira Al Husseini gave an update of the situation in the Middle East. The three biggest taboos are sex, politics and religion. To avoid problems do not blog about these topics. She explained some differences between Arab states; Kuwait and Qatar are more open and Jemen and Egypt are famous for their on line rigid regime. The famous Chinese internet activist and journalist Michael Anti told that although Twitter.com was blocked in China many Chinese were still using twitter via other websites offering access (third party). Virtual Private Network (VPN) is popular in China; access to free Internet is possible if you can afford it. Anti pointed out the Internet is the first freedom Chinese people practise. The next step is to expand his freedom to other media and real life on the ground.’
  • Nishant Shah, from the Centre for Internet Society in Bangalore (supported by Hivos) gave an excellent presentation on his research ‘Digital natives with a cause?’ Digital natives are often looked upon as a technologically savvy, young generation, mainly boys, who spend their whole life on line. In contrast Nishant uses a less strict definition for the digital native. He considers his grandmother also a digital native, as she is blogging and uploading photo’s, her live changed significantly by using digital technologies. Here is the video of Nishants presentation.
  • Thou shall not block, not discriminate unfairly and let users use the tools of their choice. These are the essential rules regarding net neutrality, according to Tim Wu from Colombia University. Every medium – radio, television, films – started its history with democratic ideals, promoting equality and openness. The most important private censorship in the USA was the film censorship in the twenties. This moralistic film code ruined the career of Mae West (‘is that your gun or are you just glad to see me’). He predicted the openness of internet will encounter growing pressure in the near future. Nothing new, as history shows. But: 1) support the people (politicians, journalists, activists) who are protesting 2) there should be a distinction between the ownership of those offering the content and those providing access.
  • The winners of the sixth Deutsche Welle Blog Awards were announced. Of the eleven finalists in the Best Weblog category, Ushahidi (English: “Testimony”) was named the winner after a heated round of debate among the jurists. The jury was ultimately won over by Ushahidi’s innovative approach to collecting and compiling information from users and the important role it has already played in crisis situations throughout the world.

(Both Global Voices Online as the research Digital natives with a cause are supported by Hivos)

This year topics on the agenda of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) – in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt – are amongst others managing critical Internet resources, security, openness, privacy, access and diversity. On Sunday in their opening talks both the Egyptian Prime Minister and the Minister of Telecommunication were stressing especially the economic opportunities internet offers. Not one word was referring to the open character of internet, technical- and content wise.  “Egypt’s legitimacy to host such a meeting is questionable as it has repeatedly been guilty of violations of online free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said.

However minister Tarek Kamel of Communication and Information Technology welcomed explicitly the two fathers of the internet – Sir Tim Berners Lee and Bob Kahn – both very much in favour of an open and inclusive internet. Tim Berners Lee gave a summary of the past twenty years of the Internet existence as we know it. There has been lots of debate about the open structure of internet – transparency and openness versus security and safety. Berners Lee: ‘But two webs will not work, it has to be one web. No matter which device you use. Not only a matter of the language and signs you use. This universality implies an international approach. As time went on, standards did not seem enough. The web had to serve humanity to its up most including the disabled, poor and illiterate.’ Berners Lee than officially launched the World Wide Web Foundation. With support from the Knight Foundation the WWW Foundation will not look at connecting computers or counting webpages: ‘we look at humanity and want to empower the people’. He closed with the announcement of a workshop the next day on the precise goals and tasks of the new foundation.

The IGF has had its political incident just a few hours before. The Open Net Initiative – related to the Hivos partner The Berkman Institute – had their banner removed at the start of their workshop. The banner was taken away by security officer removed because it referred to amongst others Tibet and the Great Firewall of China. After their presentation ONI announced to write a letter to officially protest to the UN/IGF organisation against this act of censorship. Robert J. Deibert: ‘ When we refused to remove it, their security guards bundled it up and took it away. If this is a form of internet governance than how can privacy, access and freedom of expression be seriously discussed at this congress?’

Also read the Jac sm  Kee’s post on GenderIT

including the videoclip on of the situation at the APC website

‘Making a wiki is as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich’, is the slogan of the company PBwiki. This week founder David Weekly visited an ICCO meeting as a keynote speaker. The Peanut Butter metaphor will not last much longer because in a few months time this name will be changed. Better integration in the desktop, use of spreadsheets and calender will be included in the new version; formerly known as PBwiki.

The meeting started with a handful development organisations – ICCO, IICD and Euforic – giving a short presentation of the way they use PBwiki in their daily work. Some organisations even integrated PBwiki in their intranet to make individual and collaborative planning, reporting, communicating, documenting and supporting easier. This was a gathering of enthusiastic wiki users. Of course the co workers who are less happy in using on line tools did not attend the meeting.

When does it work? You need:

– to focus on the need —-and deliver

– a simple structure

– manage access levels

– initiators, collaborators and audience

– timely support

We work smarter together; is David Weekly’s philosophy. He chatted about the start of PBwiki – he wrote it in a few hours – about the current situation and future business plans. He shared some wiki tips and emphasized the importance of privacy: all data uploaded is encrypted and saved on servers at three locations. Some of his clients – amongst others the Royal Bank of Scotland, FedEx and the Financial Times – are dealing with highly confidential stuff. You own your data, according to David.

Wiki’s will not do the work for you. One of the speakers talked of the parallel with gardening; a wiki does need attention and maintenance. Only then it will pay of, look nice and make people happy. Just like a garden does.

Watch the videoclip of the PB Wiki meeting