FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Friday:  August 15, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Rwanda (5)

Monday
Nov262012

The International Community Needs a Better Understanding of the Congo Problem - (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video: DR Congo Crisis Creates Refugee Crisis/Al Jazeera)

By Frank Kagabo 

(Goma, 11/26/12) - Within one week of the capture of the Congolese city of Goma by the M23 rebels, many things have happened. Kinshasa now seems to be taking a different route in dealing with the issue. But the process or attack that led to the capture of the eastern DRC city speaks volumes about what is wrong with the DRC.

(MAP: Lerucher.org) Without doubt, something is fundamentally wrong with the geographical entity known as DRC. The current leadership in Kinshasa cannot wash its hands free of any blame. In addition to that, there is something deeply flawed about how the process of nation building, if at all we should call it that, has been undertaken in Congo over the years. Many Sub-Saharan countries are characterized as fragile states in almost all academic studies and publications, especially by western scholars and Africa area experts.

These states are seen as lacking all the basic tenets of a modern legitimate state. For DRC, as of now it is beyond a fragile state. It is on the path to a failed state in whole. Currently, in many places of the DRC, the state is simply absent.

When this is coupled with competing interests, both of local elites and many others serving foreign interests, it all becomes confusion. The centre in Kinshasa should always be able to make decisions that are of strategic value. But with a new beginning; through regional mediation, there is hope for a better outcome.

The best hope for Congo cannot be in the current noises that the 'international community', mainly influenced by interests in the West, are making. The fact that international institutions and Western governments have come to a conclusion that the current insurrection in eastern DRC is a creation of Rwanda, says much about why they should keep away.

Either they know the source of the problem and seek to callously blame a neighboring country, or they simply do not understand the underlying problems of DRC in particular and the wider Great Lakes region in general.

(PHOTO: Flags at the UN office in Geneva/UNOG)Many Western people with passing interest of Africa believe that conflicts in most of Africa are simply a symptom of the nature of the black man. That Africans have not evolved enough to be able to live harmoniously together. That such conflict is just "how they are". No need for further explanation or study!

These are people who never think that there can be just causes worth fighting for by Africans.

The kind of treatment that follows, like the heaping of blame on a neighbor etc, is all about that perception that is reserved for the African. To explain such perceptions, some Africans have bluntly said it is racism. But others fear to speak out lest they be accused of being "angry black people."

On the particular issue of the Congo conflict, it is important that the United Nations and other Western controlled international organizations seek a better understanding of this conflict before coming up with simplistic reports containing allegations that cannot stand.

They should be helped to get a clear understanding of the region. Again, there is also a need to pause and ask why missions by the UN in this region have always failed. Let's leave aside the issue of what their mandate is: The sheer size of their budgets should ideally be a reason for success. The fact that failure is always what follows such deployments or interventions calls for a radical shift in the nature of such UN operations.

(MAP: US State.gov)The best the UN and other Western-dominated international institutions can do is to support regional initiatives to resolve regional problems. And regional efforts should also be a mechanism for supporting internal process in the affected country, not coming in as an alternative foreign force, because that is also most likely to fail.

Also, the simple fact that the DR Congo army has scattered without putting up a meaningful fight is evidence enough that state institutions in Congo require an overhaul because they are largely dysfunctional.

To solve the current crisis in the DRC will require more than dealing with the original grievances of the mutiny that has now become a major rebel movement. Instead of intervening to complicate the situation, focus should only be in providing meaningful and necessary assistance to jumpstart internal mechanisms for a lasting solution to wider problems that afflict the vast DRC.

- This opinion piece first appeared at AllAfrica.com. Frank Kagabo has worked as a print journalist for four years. He currently works for The New Times Daily in Kigali.

Tuesday
Oct092012

Six people confirmed dead, more missing after small boat capsizes off Mayotte (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: A boat carrying asylum seekers & migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. UNHCR/L.Boldrini)(October 9, 2012) - Six people died and 10 are still missing after a small vessel carrying 24 people capsized on Monday morning off the French territory of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported today.

“The capsizing is a reminder of the risks faced by people desperate to escape poverty, conflict and persecution,”  Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

“As in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aden, the seas around Mayotte are the scene of irregular movements of migrants and refugees searching for a better life or protection from persecution and war.”

This is the second such tragedy in a month, bringing to 69 the number of people reported dead or missing after incidents off Mayotte this year.

For decades, people have been using small open vessels known as “kwassa-kwassa” to sail from the Comoros to the more prosperous French territory of Mayotte, according to UNHCR.

(PHOTO: A general view of the island of Mayotte/UNHCR)Most of these movements take place without the requisite documentation and involve considerable risk to those attempting them. Asylum-seekers account for a small proportion of these movements but their numbers have been increasing in the last two years, Mr. Edwards said.

UNHCR said that last year there were some 1,200 applications for asylum in Mayotte, 41 per cent more than in 2010. The largest proportion of applicants – about 90 per cent – came from the Comoros, with citizens from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Rwanda and Burundi, accounting for the rest.

- This report first appeared at the UN News Centre

Welcome to Mayotte

Mayotte:  Is an overseas department and region of France consisting of a main island, Grande-Terre a smaller island, Petite-Terre, and several islets around these two. The archipelago is located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, namely between northwestern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique. Mayotte's area is 374 square kilometers and with its estimated 194,000 people is very densely populated. Its biggest city and prefecture is Mamoudzou. The territory is geographically part of the Comoro Islands, but has been politically separate since a 1974 referendum in which it elected to remain under French rule. The territory is also known as Mahoré, the native name of its main island, especially by advocates of its inclusion in the Union of Comoros. In a 2009 referendum, the population overwhelmingly approved accession to status of department. On March 31, 2011, Mayotte became an overseas department. (By Alex Ohan)

Monday
Jan022012

THE HUM - WORLD HEADLINES - January 3, 2012

Afghanistan 

(PHOTO: Uzbekistan's railway leading from Afghanistan to Mazar-e-Sharif. TOLO News) Afghan traders are to be hit with high extra fee to transport goods to Mazar-e-Sharif via Uzbekistan's railway

Algeria 

Report: Algerian troops kill leader of N. African al-Qaeda offshoot

Algeria sentences Qaeda leader to life

Angola 

First prison for young offenders starts functioning this year 

Argentina 

Pilot Project in Argentina Assists Victims in Reporting Rape

Dakar rider dies on home stage

Daily Dakar Diary | Day 1 - Comeback kid takes first stage

Azerbaijan 

Fairmont hotels goes for expansion to Azerbaijan

(PHOTO: Economist Dambisa Moyo. One of 5 Zambian women to watch in 2012. UKZAMBIANS) Bangladesh

Bangladesh out of piracy-prone nations' list 

Barbados

Barbadians win in Commonwealth short story contest

Legendary Barbados cinema closes

Benin 

Benin Metropolis Requires N200bn To Fix

Bhutan 

Internal audit on teacher nominations

Bolivia

Bolivia Officially Withdrawn from UN Drug Convention

Bosnia-Herzegovinia

Bosnia approves 2011 state budget to avoid collapse

Brunei Darussalam

iPad-wielded waiters will serve you

Burundi

Fish catches from Lake Tanganyika, Burundi going down

Cambodia

Asean Presidency a Chance for Improved Credibility for Cambodia: Analysts

Aquatic action ushers in the new year

Chinese firms eye $500m rice investment

Chile

Four of six wildfires in Chile reported to be under control

(PHOTO: British actor who played Darth Vader in Star Wars, Bob Anderson, dies. GALATIA FILMS)Christmas Island 

Carrot and stick to control refugees (Video)

Cocos Islands

Papers show: king had to go

Colombia 

Colombia, Followed by Mexico Lead in Number of Religious Workers Killed in 2011

Colombian law on victim compensation takes effect

Congo (DRC)

DR Congo beefs up security after deadly jail violence

UN report calls for action to clean up Congo’s minerals trade and end impunity

DRC Senate Chief Hospitalized in Paris After New Years Eve Attack

Croatia 

Croatia to withdraw genocide lawsuit - FM

(PHOTO: Textile makers are in the same turbulent boat as many other local exporters in Vietnam. VIETNAM INVESTMENT REVIEW)Cuba

Cuba, an Inspiration to LatAm, Says Nicaraguan President 

Cyprus

Cyprus Health Ministry to tackle faulty breast implants

Dumped baby shocks Cyprus 

Denmark

Danish monarchy polls as Europe’s most popular

Denmark takes up EU presidency with little sway on crisis

Ecuador

Ecuador vows to push Yasuni jungle protection plan

Egypt

Mubarak trial adjourns 

(PHOTO: World Record Ring set in Ukraine. SHRENUJ & CO.) El Salvador

U.S. Ambassador Leaves El Salvador

Eritrea

Role of Handicraft in Familiarizing Nation's Tourism Resources Stressed

Chinese group to pay $80m-plus for Chalice's Eritrean gold project

AfDB invests $19.2m into Eritrea’s education sector

Estonia

Forests are the key to Estonian growth (Perspective)

Ethiopia

Ethiopia, Japan sign water project agreement

Fiji

PM heeds call for education

France

French women groups protest FIFA decision to endorse hijab 

(PHOTO: Nicaragua Plans to Extend the San Juan River Dredging Operations on border with Costa Rica. DREDGING TODAY)French Polynesia

Progress in eradicating Elephantaisis

Gambia

Government to meeting with citizens in Diaspora

Gaza and West Bank

Prospects for Palestine in 2012 (Perspective)  

Germany

European Supervolcano Showing Signs of Life

Ghana

Ghana Removes Fuel Subsidy

Greece

Greece's recession refugees show it's time for a debate about good breeding (Perspective)

Guam

Guam collision rate twice US average

(PHOTO: Bootleggers in UAE who are supplying liquor to labour camps. SUPPLIED) Guatemala

Sinaloa Cartel Shifting Meth Production to Guatemala

Guinea-Bissau

UN Gen. Sec. Condemns Use of Force in Guinea-Bissau 

Guyana 

Pres. Ramotar makes stirring appeal for "genuine" govt-opposition cooperation

Guyana, Germany ink deal to protect Amazon  

Honduras

Holding Honduras accountable (Perspective)

India

A global university rises in one of India’s most remote corners

Made-in-India coffees are ‘instant' hit abroad

Landfill in Uran wetlands affecting migratory birds

India is the world's spam central

The Dalai Lama begins ten-day Kalachakra teachings

(PHOTO: A nurse at Mulago hospital, Uganda speaks to MPs about the countrys shortage of nurses. UGANDA HEALTH NEWS) Indonesia

New Skills Help Build a Better Life in West Java

Protesters chase parishioners over ‘friendly Islam’ sticker

Indonesian garbage helps save environment

Iran

Drilling 30 oil wells in Turkmenistan earns Iran $300 million 

Iraq

Iraq's Sunni muslim finance minister survives car bombing

Ireland

Internet freedom will be priority of Ireland’s OSCE leadership

Ivory Coast

TV Presenter Freed Conditionally After Being Held for Five Months

Jamaica

Jamaican Women to Watch in 2012

National development challenges facing the incoming government in Jamaica (Perspective)

(PHOTO: The musician Alison Andrews performs in Dubai. ALICE JOHNSON)Jordan

Oil will keep GCC warm if the world freezes over (Perspective)

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan launches environmental initiatives (Video)

Kenya

Ivory poaching on the rise thanks to Asian demand and a legal loophole

Kenya boat capsize near Lamu 'kills six'

Kyrgyzstan

1st VP congratulates Kyrgyz Prime Minister on election win

Macau

Macau assured of safe produce during Spring Festival  

Macedonia

Kiro Gligorov, architect of Macedonian independence, dies at 94

(PHOTO: A rural village in Zambia, struggling with urbanisation. MIRAM ZIMBA, TIMES OF ZAMBIA) Malawi

TransWorld Radio Malawi tagline changes

Malaysia

Malaysia preps for new Pinewood studio

Maldives

Green Muslims have been nominated as some of the most influential Muslim leaders of 2011

Malta

Maltese delegation to visit Saudi Arabia

Mauritania

Over one million Mauritanians could face severe food crisis - IFRC 

Mexico

Same-Sex Marriages Legal in Cancun

Micronesia

Micronesian college names new president

(PHOTO: From the `Light from Life' exhibition opening in the UAE. GULFTODAY) Mongolia

Second Mongolian-language TV Channel Begins Broadcast 

Boxers in Mongolia training

Morocco

Morocco still without cabinet, row over Islamist minister

Mozambique

Malawi to save millions from Mozambique railway line

Nepal

High alert sounded on Indo-Nepal border

UP district in India bans poultry imports from Nepal

Netherlands Antilles

(PHOTO: Rare sea turtles sightings around the island of St. Eustatius are at risk with new oil terminal planned. GOOGLE EARTH) New Worries About Oil Terminal Risks on St. Eustatius Island

Nicaragua

Nicaragua Plans to Extend San Juan Dredging Operations

Nigeria

Protests as fuel prices soar in Nigeria

Northern Mariana Islands

Crossed fingers for 2012 

Oman

Oman daily vows to appeal journalists’ jail terms

Palau

Palau enters race against climate change

Palau gets Solar Powered Airport

Panama

Differing views on repair time for Bridge of the Americas

Tourism boss wants extra $1 million for Carnaval

Panama Prepares Jazz Festival 

(PHOTO: UNICEF Nutrition Officer Dr. Rajia Sharhan holds a young child at a therapeutic feeding centre in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital . UNICEF) UNICEF Yemen 2011 HalldorssonPeru

Peru doubled organic exports over last 4 years

Weak Environmental Impact Studies for Mines

Philippines

Philippines to release funds for infrastructure projects

Tuberculosis in the Philippines: 10 things you should know 

Poland

EU champions Poland's space project

Puerto Rico

Not Yet a State, Puerto Rico Practices Good Governance (Perspective)

Qatar

Environmental Protest in Front of Qatari Embassy

Romania

The healthcare system in Romania is gravely ill

Poll: Romanians watch TV for business news, only 3% read newspapers and magazines

Amazing photos of Ice Hotel in Romania

(PHOTO: Mekong Delta Ports Need Dredging say authorities. DREDGING TODAY) Russia

Moscow to rank among world's ten biggest megalopolises in 2012

Rwanda

Rwandans Welcome HPV Vaccine Program

Saint Kitts & Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis Moves Closer to Wind Energy and Solar Power Goals

Samoa

Bad timing for some Samoans

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia to apply law for women only to sell lingerie

Serbia

Serbian drivers facing problems entering Croatia

Seychelles

The Seychelles Adds Guernsey TIEA

(PHOTO: A man works at a steel factory in Que Vo District, outside Hanoi . THAN NIEN DAILY)Slovakia

President Gašparovič says Slovakia will face difficult times ahead

South Africa

Thousands expected at ANC's 100th bash

South Sudan

UN: Up to 50,000 flee South Sudan tribal turmoil

Spain

Unemployed Spaniards set their sights on South America

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka plans to earn One Billion U.S. Dollars from tourism this year

Suriname

Suriname starts stabilization fund

Sweden

(PHOTO: Swedes choose social media over texting, FLICKR) Swedes choose social media over texting

Swaziland

Coca-Cola accused of propping up notorious Swaziland dictator

Syria

Assad cousin denied entry to Switzerland

Syria sought nuclear know-how from Pakistan's Khan in 1980, 2002

Comedy amidst Syrian tragedy

How is Syria affecting Arab business? (Perspective)

Taiwan

Runway at Taiwan's biggest airport set to re-open after repairs

Nuclear concerns dominate Taiwan environmental poll

Vice presidential candidates exchange fire over ability to govern

Gender equality department launched in Taiwan

Taiwan cuts compulsory military service to 4 months

(PHOTO: Kulwa Saimon (23), an aids patient in Tanzania and sucessful entrepreneur. IPP MEDIA) Lung cancer study makes gain

Taiwan cyclists set world record for mass bike ride

Tanzania

Farmers want compensation for crops affected by oil spill

Growers plan grand mango show in Dar Es Salaam

After admission, Kulwa lives well with HIV-Aids

Thailand

Global Chip Sales Down on Thailand Flooding

Thailand: 165 killed on roads over first three days

Honda scraps 1,000 flood-ravaged cars in Thailand

Mobile world gets ready for breakout year in Thailand

Poll: Corruption a major problem

The Arctic

Arctic mystery: What killed the ozone, and will it strike again?

Tonga

Tonga is worlds fattest country

(PHOTO: At left, ozone in Earth's stratosphere at an altitude of about 20 kilometers in mid-March 2011, near the peak of the Arctic ozone loss. At right, chlorine monoxide — the primary agent of chemical ozone destruction in the cold polar lower stratosphere — for the same day and altitude. NASA) Trinidad and Tobago

TV6 raid 'disappoints' press institute

Transparency body: Top cop must explain show of force at TV6

Tunisia

Tunisian Border Patrol Exchanges Fire with Armed Libyans

560 French PIP Breast Implants Implanted in Tunisian Women

Tunisia Celebrates Its Sense of Humor With Comedy Festival

Tunisia Repossesses Property of Ben Ali’s Son-in-Law in Canada

Turkey

Turkey's first hydrogen boat produced 

Number of Chinese tourists expected to increase in Chinese Culture Year in Turkey

Uganda

Government urged to recruit more nurses

Universities urged to emphasize marketable courses

Govt to develop a special needs education policy

Lower food prices push down inflation

Crime syndicate busted in Western Uganda

(PHOTO: Mysterious disease strikes Uganda. "The major symptom of the disease is the continuous nodding of the head")World Bank mineral development support to Uganda ends

Warid Telecom launches mobile money service (Uganda)

Mysterious disease hits Uganda

Ukraine

Ukraine foreign minister calls for more Saudi investments

Record Number of Diamonds Set in One Ring

United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi residents face threat of severe water shortage

UAE bands are finding their voice

Bootleggers active again in UAE labour camps

Interview: On a mission to conserve the environment

New Porsche Design BlackBerry in UAE

YahLive, Etisalat partner on satellite uplink services

No ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ for UAE movie fans

Plastic industry set to grow rapidly in Gulf countries

Emirates Steel eyes more expansion to reach 6.5 mln tpa

‘Light from life’ exhibition opens 

United Kingdom

UK prime minister tells country 2012 will be tough, promises to tackle financial excess

UK hopes for feel-good Games in austere age

Renewable energy boosts UK economy by £2.5bn

Facebook Blamed In A Third Of UK Divorces

Former Great Britain Olympic fencer and Star Wars actor `Darth Vader’ Anderson dies

UK: East Yorkshire farm benefits from sprouts bonanza

United States

Mosque Attack Stuns US Muslims

Three arrested in U.S. for selling stem cell ‘miracle cures’ for terminal diseases

The FDA Fast Tracks a Vaccine to Fight Pneumonia in Older Adults

Short Sales of Homes Increasing

IT companies feel the pinch as US holds back L-1 visas

Survey Declares Boston As America’s Drunkest City

Tennessee claims title of U.S. prescription drug capital

Americans deserve the deficit facts (Perspective)

New App Predicts Next U.S. President (Press release)

US Virgin Islands

(PHOTO: Remnants of an original sugar mill at the entrance to the Cruzan Rum Distillery. LAINE DOSS)oss Rum Diary: Touring the Cruzan Rum Distillery (Pictures)

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan in 2012, will increase funding for the construction of roads by 60.8%

Child 12 years old in Uzbekistan embarrass soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo (Video)

President of Uzbekistan Provides Tax Preferences to Media

Vanuatu

Vanuatu PM Reiterates Stand Against Corruption

Venezuela

Venezuela in debt no matter higher oil prices

MOVIES: Gustavo Dudamel returns to theaters

Vietnam

Vietnam private sector squeezed by rising costs 

Vietnam garment industry urged to focus on green energy

Exports braced to take hit in 2012

Vietnam: Plenty of good fruit but low prices

Vietnam imposes tariff on petrol imports

Vehicular fires continue in Vietnam, still puzzling

Mekong Delta Ports Need Dredging Program

Journalist arrested on bribery charges in Vietnam metro 

Vietnam levies environment tax on five product groups

The highlights of the Vietnamese games market in 2011 

Charity TV programme raises 6.6 trillion VND for the poor

Central Vietnam boast the most beautiful beaches in the country

Yemen

Eleven Yemeni coastguards drowned

Yemen to take part in GCC health ministers meeting

New island born in Red Sea

Interview: Rajia Sharhan of UNICEF Yemen on malnutrition

Zambia

Zambia releases Czech ‘spies’

5 Zambian Women to watch in 2012

NHA to build affordable houses countrywide

Jealous hubby to hang

Blast at Zambia steel factory injures 11

Support small-scale women miners urge banks for support

'Education key to curbing drug abuse'

Women's movement against death penalty

Freedom of Information law a reality - Lubinda (Perspective)

Challenges of urbanisation in Zambia (Perspective)

Music has transformed politics - Dr Kaseba (Perspective)

Zimbabwe

Media activist Moyse charged with undermining Mugabe

Zimbabwe's Health Ministry Targets Diarrheal Diseases in New Year

Armed Robbers Steal Diamond Ore from Marange Resources

ZRP calls for review of the Criminal Law, consider women as potential rapists

Govt needs to assists farmers to increase yield for wheat and maize: ZFU (Perspective)

Tuesday
Aug032010

“Broadband Liberation” (PERSPECTIVE) 

--- by Shashi Tharoor

NEW DELHI – In July, I was among 30 men and women from around the world – government ministers, bureaucrats, technologists, and strategic thinkers – who gathered at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva to discuss how broadband can transform the world for the better. This “Broadband Commission” met under the Chairmanship of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the Mexican communications mogul Carlos Slim.

The ITU, a United Nations body, established the Commission in partnership with UNESCO, and the joint chairmanship was no accident. The UN recognizes that if the information revolution is to advance further, it will take a public-private effort. As ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré has put it, “In the twenty-first century, affordable, ubiquitous broadband networks will be as critical to social and economic prosperity as networks like transport, water, and power.”

The Swiss writer and playwright Max Frisch once dismissed technology as “the art of arranging the world so that we need not experience it.” Today, however, technology is essential to effective participation in our world. And, although mankind cannot live by technology alone, the information revolution has liberated millions of people.

Information is liberating in the traditional political sense of the term: the spread of information has had a direct impact on the degree of accountability and transparency that governments must deliver if they are to survive.

It is also liberating economically. Information technologies are a cost-effective form of capital. Estonia and Costa Rica are well-known examples of how information-access strategies can help accelerate output growth and raise income levels.

Some of the least developed countries, such as Mali and Bangladesh, have shown how determined leadership and innovative approaches can, with international support, connect remote and rural areas to the Internet and mobile telephony, thereby helping to liberate subsistence farmers who were previously tied to local knowledge and local markets. Likewise, mobile networks are delivering health services to the most remote areas of India.

One successful UNESCO initiative is the creation of multipurpose community telecenters throughout the developing world, providing communication and information facilities – phone, fax, Internet, computers, audio-visual equipment – for a wide range of community uses. India’s Unique Identification Number project, under the capable stewardship of information-technology pioneer Nandan Nilekani, will enable access to government, banking, and insurance services at the grass-roots level.

There is no doubt that the Internet can be a democratizing tool. In some parts of the world – and certainly in most of the West – it already is, since large amounts of information are now accessible to almost anyone. But the stark reality of today’s world is that you can tell the rich from the poor by their Internet connections.

Indeed, economic development nowadays requires more than thinking only of the poverty line; one must also think of the high-speed digital line, the fiber-optic line – indeed, all the lines that exclude those who are not plugged into the possibilities of our world.

But the digital divide is no immutable gap. On the contrary, the technology gap between developed and developing countries, measured by levels of penetration by personal computers and information-technology and communications services, has narrowed markedly over the course of the past decade, with rapid growth in mobile phone and Internet use. The average level of Internet and mobile-phone penetration in the rich world in 1997  – 4.1 Internet users and 10.7 mobile phones per 100 inhabitants – was reached in developing countries only five years later.

By contrast, the average level of fixed-line telecommunication penetration in developing countries is nearly 50 years behind the levels of the West. Not surprisingly, it was in Africa – not Europe or America – where the cell phone first overtook the housebound handset. More Africans have become telecommunications users in the last four years than in the entire twentieth century.

The Indian story is even more remarkable. When I left India in 1975 for graduate studies in the United States, the country had roughly 600 million residents and just two million land-line telephones. Today, India holds the world record for the number of cell phones sold in a month –20 million – and for the most telephone connections made in a single month in any country in the history of telecommunications.

The growth in mobile-telephone technology demonstrates that the digital divide is shifting, and the focus of development efforts must change with it. India, for example, has 525 million mobile phone users and fewer than 150 million people with Internet access, so using mobile-phone technology as a tool of e-governance has become vital. This calls for creative means of effecting information transfer and making and receiving official payments by telephone.

Security is a key area of concern today in e-governance – both physical security, in an age of terrorism, and cyber security. Using technology to deliver security will become even more important in areas such as information sharing, disaster management, and data-privacy standards.

Information and communications technology is a powerful tool to address underdevelopment, isolation, poverty, and the lack of political accountability and political freedom. But people need access first and foremost. High-speed broadband Internet access can improve everything from transport management, environmental protection, and emergency services to health care, distance education, and agricultural productivity. Delivering these benefits to ever more people will require resources, international cooperation, and political will.

--- The author is a former Under Secretary General of the UN and former Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India. An award-winning novelist, he is currently a member of the Lok Sabha, India’s parliament.

Copyright:  Project Syndicate, 2010.  www.project-syndicate.org

For a podcast of this commentary in English, please use this link:  http://media.blubrry.com/ps/media.libsyn.com/media/ps/tharoor22.mp3

Saturday
Jul312010

(PERSPECTIVE) “MY STORY”

---By Gertrude Kitongo

My name is Gertrude Kitongo. I am one of the 10% international students at the CIDA (Community and Individual Development Association) City Campus in Johannesburg. I am Kenyan born and raised, but my father is Ugandan. I first heard about CIDA when I visited my aunt in South Africa.

I finished my high school - or what we call form 6 - in 2006. That year my father had lost his job and my mother became really ill from stress related illnesses. They asked me to drop out of school because there was not enough money to send all of us to school, and when I could go, I was constantly being sent back because of school fee debts.

To help raise cash, I decided to do petty jobs like babysitting. I also studied late at night but prayed even more that I could save up enough to be able to register for the final exam. It was all I lived for at the time. Imagine, as a young person being stuck at home, and seeing everyone else leave to go about their business - leaving you in the house to cater to household chores. It broke my heart and I promised never to put myself - or anyone else - in that situation ever again.

Around this time I lost all sense of self confidence: I gave up on myself and left my hair in a mess, and just didn’t care about how I looked. After all, I was now a perfect description of a house girl. Aunty Winnie heard about how miserable I was and she invited me to come visit her for a month. She got a free ticket to come back to Uganda for the holidays but instead sent it to me to visit her.

She so desperately wanted to send me to school or help out in any way - but the financial demon always awoke when I needed to pay for registration. Irregardless of my good grades, there was no way I could be admitted to any place without paying the horrific large amounts of registration fees.

One day, on our way back home, we passed the CIDA CITY CAMPUS (CCC). My aunt asked me to walk in and make some inquiries. I did and luckily enough, the security guard took us in to the 5th floor and we got application forms. We knew this was honestly our last resort.

Two weeks later, a Mr. Gitonga - the campus registrar - called to inform me that I'd been admitted to the campus but I had to do the pre-university work. I did not care about that. All I knew is that I had been given a chance to something I would never have dreamt of. This was and will always be the happiest day of my life because it meant that I had a chance to make something of myself.

CIDA is an amazing place to be. All of us are from previously disadvantaged families and this makes it very easy for us to relate with each other. The spirit of UBUNTU here is so real and even though I haven’t been back home since December 2007 I often forget the pain because of the love and unity shown here. This place is more than I ever bargained for, awesome people, awesome country, and an awesome campus. I intend to graduate in majoring in Marketing and Human resources. My long term vision is to start CIDA East Africa and likewise help people who are academically deserving but their situations do not allow them access to further their education.

CIDA City Campus (CIDA), based in Johannesburg, is the first virtually free higher education institution in South Africa, offering holistic education to historically disadvantaged youth who would not otherwise be able to access higher education. With the cost of higher education in South Africa spiraling out of control, CIDA has emerged as the abiding hope for underprivileged students who have a desire to pursue a university level education. The university is driven to develop the infinite potential of every student regardless of his or her background. Oprah Winfrey and Sir Richard Branson are both major funding supporters of CIDA through the CIDA Foundation and the university has been visited and praised by many luminaries including entrepreneur Russell Simmons, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela.

Please follow the developments at CIDA on their website at: http://www.cida.co.za/

--the author is a student at CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg, South Africa writing for HUMNEWS.

SCHOOL FEES IN AFRICA: Many African children cannot attend school due to onerous fees (PHOTO: HN, 2010, Michael Bociurkiw)

The elimination of school fees is a perquisite for education systems to become inclusive, equitable and sustainable. However policies across Africa range widely - from zero fees in Lesotho to heavy fees in Swaziland.

“School fees are keeping children out of the classroom, and many of these are the most vulnerable children in our societies,” said Dr. Cream Wright, UNICEF Education Chief. “Fees consume nearly a quarter of a poor family’s income in Sub-Saharan Africa, paying not only for tuition, but also indirect fees such as PTA and community contributions, textbook fees, compulsory uniforms and other charges. The increasing numbers of orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS or trapped in domestic labour, makes it imperative to abolish fees.”

UNICEF says eliminating fees leads to a surge in enrollment: In Tanzania in 2001, primary school enrollment grew by 50%, from 4.4 million in 2002 to 6.6 million in 2003. In Kenya in 2003, enrollment grew from 6 million to 7.2 million in a matter of weeks.

Survey of School Fee Policies in Selected African Countries

Lesotho

The Government of Lesotho introduced Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2000. This policy has been implemented progressively by removing fees in phases from Grade 1 in 2000 to Grade 7 in 2006

Nigeria

Under the National Policy on Education, free basic education - including six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary school education - is compulsory.

Rwanda

The Government has implemented a policy of free primary education in which school fees have been abolished and replaced by a capitation grant, which increased to 2,500FRw (USD 4.50) in 2006. Shortfalls in financing at the school level nevertheless persist, with parents typically being asked to contribute to finance this gap. Non-fee barriers remain, such as school uniforms and learning materials, and these affect access to education. Rwanda also provides three years of free post-primary education, where students undertake a common-core syllabus, according to the Ministry of Education.

Swaziland

Universal Primary Education (UPE) is a priority of the Swaziland National Education Policy. Free primary education was to have been instituted last year. In Swaziland 16 percent of children are not receiving an education, according to UNICEF.  School fees range from E2000 a year to E10,000 and often much more (the average daily income in Swaziland is about E6)