Coming Up

Again next week I pick up sticks and journey a bit before settling back down in Brighton. Here’s what’s coming up..

Femmes de Nder pay off their Kiva loan!

Six months ago I made a loan to the Femmes de Nder, through Kiva. Today I learned they paid off the microloan. Congrats to them!

I was excited about Kiva, because of such high innovation applied to social development. Particularly the opportunity to connect individuals donors to the recipients, which is a point more development projects should focus on .. bypassing the mainstream media, which don’t provide adequate focus on these situations, humanizing people from far off places, and getting people directly, conciously involved.. I choose Femmes de Nder because I felt that assisting women to organize could particularly drive new sorts of social relations and improvments in these male dominated societies.

Overall I am happy, and will probably reloan the money to another group. However, I do wish that the weblog entries came more directly from the recipients, in their own voices, but understand the language and technological barriers. And I’d like more information on the specifics .. are they substantially better off than before? Will there be follow up on how the group is doing in another six month’s time? Has there been any ripple effects? Generally microfinance has been much lauded, but there’s also increasing criticism. Has microfinance generally been as beneficial as hoped? I know these can all be difficult to surmise, especially so soon .. but this will be another challenge for Kiva as time goes on.

Who Needs Sleep?

My friend Tamara Maloney has produced and edited Who Needs Sleep, a documentary by Haskell Wexler, examines the intense working hours film industry professionals are subjected to (15 hours, 6/7 days a week), and lobbies for more sane working conditions. The film has been well received touring festivals this year, including Sundance, and is now premiering theatrically this Friday.

We don’t want you to forget that, “Who Needs Sleep?”
Will open August 11th at Laemmle’s Santa Monica 4 plex.
Details below.

Please come out and support this important film which explores the facts about sleep deprivation and working long hours. Good attendance on the opening weekend will help ensure that the film receives longer bookings in other theaters.
If you know someone who might be interested please forward the info.

Don’t miss this film!!

Maps that Matter

A couple weeks ago, Harry at the excellent Geospatial Semantic Web Blog posted on GeoRSS and Geonames for Philanthropy. His suggestion to use Geonames to produce GeoRSS for Kiva was a good one. And a simple one. Chained together with mapufacture, this was a one minute job to produce a map of Kiva loans, an approach generally useful for the Semantic Web. From such an easy demonstration, Kiva is now thinking about how to integrate mapping more directly in their site.

A while back, I did a similar chain for Global Voices, the excellent group blog highlighting interesting global blogging. Global Voices Mapped. If anyone is connected with Global Voices, it would be great to get an intro to them to look at deeper mapping integration.

These two worked extremely well for automatic geocoding, since both sites RSS feeds contain unambiguous, prominant place names. Though ultimately, I think we want GeoRSS generated with some human input, so to precisely set the location and insure correctness, automated geocoding is a great way to jump start the wider adoption of GeoRSS. We’re looking into better integration of geocoding vanilla RSS feeds for mapufacture.

Tropical Depression Chris

tropical depression chris

Toprical Depression Chris visited Santo Domingo this morning. Within 15 minutes the drains were overwhelmed, and many streets transformed to swift streams. It was easy to see a good hour or two of the torrent could lead to some serious flooding. But he left.

Dominican Republic is in a perfect spot to intercept hurricanes. The word hurricane comes from the Taíno, the indigenous and long gone people of Hispanola. Georges in 1998 was the last big one to come through.

With the poverty and daily chaos of the DR, its hard to imagine the true chaos of a hurricane disaster, the challenge of mounting a relief operation. And at the same time, it both makes feeble (you really just need resources on the ground) and strengthens my belief (it will help coordination and organization) in mapping and GeoRSS for humanitarian response.
Early Warning System

The DR Government does not sit idly by. Every small village, of a dozen or so families, has a concrete hurricane shelter, which can also serve as a focus point for relief efforts. Most of the times these buildings double as schools. The slightly large villages (several dozen families) have early warning systems installed — these solar power satellite phones pictured above. The phone is maintained and operated by Verizon, and most of the time is simply a pay phone (and this is important here, as the mountains and economics make leapfrogging with mobile phones impractical).

We need a GeoRSS feed of all the hurricane shelter sites. Would be incredbily useful to coordinate relief after the inevitable future hurricane. And it could double during the off season for more Creative projects.

Electricity para Republica Dominicana

charles de gaulle terminal 1

Its thundering heavy right now. Though this is only sometimes the source of power failures here in Dominican Republic. Its unpaid bills.

There’s more than enough potential power capacity in this country, but with pretty much no one paying their bills, including the government, the power companies can’t operate, and simply stop producing electricity for several hours a day. The situation is compounded by a series of privatizations and renationalization of various components of the electrical generation-distribution-billing system, leaving the responsibilities in disarray. Plus government legislated, but unfunded, universal right to electricity .. which seems great idea, if someone was paying.

electricity in santo domingo

People tap into the system on their own initiative. Throughout the country, dozens of wires hang in big drooping bundles, organically flourishing, with several loose ends dripping down to head level .. and who knows whether they carry live current, I haven’t checked. Once a month, the bill collector comes around, and if the bill is refused, the line is cut to the house. An hour later, the bill collector is heading back to headquarters and the locals are heading up to reconnect their wires for another month. And so on.

Few pay their bills. The mentality is .. why should it be paid?! — it can be gotten with just a little effort, and blackouts can be handled. And my neighbor isn’t paying, so why should I. Hurt your credit?! It’s like a prisoners dillemma national nightmare, and every once in a while the night light is on.

The power outage in our neighborhood here is pretty regular .. 4 hours every morning, 4am – 8am (it’s much worse in the outer barrios and rural areas which can be without power for 18 hours). Our place has a backup battery and a generator, most places that can afford it do .. but the aircon is on a circuit that’s only powered by the mains. So sleepily every morning I switch on the floor fan we acquired soon after discovering the blackout schedule — its just too hot for us weak foreigners to sleep without some air flow. Around 7:30 the battery goes out, and Abuelo (sweet Spanish old man here, the caretaker of the place) has to go and manually start the generator; as with just about everything, he doesn’t move too fast, so there’s a gap of five minutes. Usually this happens right during a shower, or while toasting toast.

We have UPSs and all here at INSTRAW, but they aren’t always so reliable. Same at home. So if you see me bouncing on and off IRC or IM, you have the story. However it looks like MINUSTAH has all the goods for a smooth running UN office over in Haiti.

The electricity woes follow us. Last week travelling back to Sweden, our connection in Newark was hit by lightning, causing a three hour delay. Coming back, staying in Philadelphia, power was lost after another big electrical storm, causing general household chaos (“Shower in the dark?! Where to get coffee?!”) .. but by this point I’m pretty comfortable without power .. for a while. Something we should all start thinking about.ringtones brown prideringtones buy with credit cardtracfone c155 ringtonescall ringtone cat whistleringtone cell karaoke ipod phonecell motorola phone ringtonescode geass ringtonescentral carlos mencia ringtones comedy Map

Consultant Position for WaterWiki! Get Paid to Wiki…

Last summer we worked on a great Volunteer project for the UNDP .. WaterWiki .. likely the first Wiki in use within the United Nations. I’ve written about it here. Today it’s up to 700 articles, and has been used in a number of activities, like collaboratively drafting the UNDP’s Regional Water Strategy. Now WaterWiki has grown into a full time job.
I’ve received word that the UNDP is looking for a six month contractor for Applied Knowledge Management for Water Governance in Europe and CIS. The majority of the responsibility is working on WaterWiki .. organizing and gardening Wiki content, writing articles on WaterWiki, and coordinating contributors. This is great that the WaterWiki has taken on such importance within the UNDP that it requires a full time paid position.
If you have experience with Wikis and/or knowledge of Water Management issues, you’re encouraged to apply!

Santo Domingo in an Alternate Reality

Santo Domingo is a different city. We returned last night after a week away. While we were gone, the government has banned all alcohol sales after midnight during the week, 2am on the weekend. And deployed 6000 troops across the country to enforce the ban.
This is effectively a curfew, there’s not much other reason for ever-party-loving Dominicans or toursits to be out on the streets at night. The party action usually doesn’t really start until after midnight. Coming from the airport last night, no blaring Merengue music, no people hanging out in shop fronts or doorways .. just empty streets and gun toting soldiers at intersections. There may be no more effective means of control here in DR than going after alcohol. Things are safe and calm .. too calm.
Seems to be an extreme response to a perceived, and not entirely actual, rise in crime. Is this actually a newly elected government expressing its power, to a country with dictatorship not so far in its past? This does nothing for the real heavy crime here, drug and people trafficking .. but perhaps there’s a vested interest in not going after that income source.

Follow the local expat discussion of the ban on DR1 forums.