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Tag: Mali

The Strange Death of Europe

Monday, 24 July, 2017 1 Comment

The Strange Death of Europe Background: More than 90,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from Libya so far this year and the country is now riven by deep political and civil divisions because of the strains the influx is putting on the country’s infrastructure. Meanwhile, it is thought that at least 300,000 Africans from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Chad and Sudan are en route to Libya in hopes of getting across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Long-term demographic trends mean millions of Africans could be driven to Europe by hunger, poverty and repression. How many millions? No one knows for sure but Niger, a huge, mostly desert country to the north of Nigeria, offers some indicators. According to Reuters, “With an average of 7.6 children born to each woman, its population is projected to more than triple to 72 million by 2050, from about 20 million now, according to the latest U.N. figures. By then, Africa will have more than doubled its population to 2.4 billion, the United Nations says.”

As the poet wrote, the centre cannot hold.

How very timely, then, that The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam has arrived on the bookshelves. According to the blurb, this is Douglas Murray’s “highly personal account of a continent and culture caught in the act of suicide. Declining birth rates, mass immigration, and cultivated self-distrust and self-hatred have come together to make Europeans unable to argue for themselves and incapable of resisting their own comprehensive alteration as a society and an eventual end.”

The Strange Death of Europe is our reading here this week.


The digital dividends and divides of 2016

Friday, 15 January, 2016 0 Comments

The internet. What’s it good for? Lots. It can help boost trade, improve economies, distribute knowledge and create jobs for the marginalized. Who says? The World Bank says. That’s why it called the document it released yesterday “World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends.” The key word there is “dividends”. But we don’t live in a perfect world so the report notes that “better educated, well connected, and more capable have received most of the benefits — circumscribing the gains from the digital revolution.” Not everyone has collected those digital dividends, in other words.

Still, it’s quite a leap to portray the the report as an indictment of the internet, but that’s exactly what the Guardian did in a story hilariously titled “Silicon Valley tech firms exacerbating income inequality, World Bank warns.” This is so comical that one can imagine Evgeny Morozov writing it. Instead, Danny Yadron “in San Francisco” is responsible. Anyway, back to the World Bank report. It presents a picture of a divided world in which 60 percent of people are still offline, four billion don’t have internet access, some two billion do not use a mobile phone and and almost half a billion live outside areas with a mobile signal. And what happens when the internet impacts?

“Many advanced economies face increasingly polarized labor markets and rising inequality — in part because technology augments higher skills while replacing routine jobs, forcing many workers to compete for low-paying jobs. Public sector investments in digital technologies, in the absence of accountable institutions, amplify the voice of elites, which can result in policy capture and greater state control. And because the economics of the internet favor natural monopolies, the absence of a competitive business environment can result in more concentrated markets, benefiting incumbent firms.”

To counter this, the World Bank recommends that governments lower barriers to internet adoption with rules that encourage competition and innovation, and investing in “analog complements,” such as basic education. Quote: “Many poor lack the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed to use the internet. In Mali and Uganda, about three-quarters of third-grade children cannot read. In Afghanistan and Niger, 7 of 10 adults are illiterate.” Those divides need to be closed before those dividends become real.

Note: Those tech companies castigated by the Guardian are committed to bringing internet access to the four corners of the world. Google’s Project Loon is set to float over Indonesia and Facebook’s Internet.org will offer mobile web access to people in India and Egypt. And both are experimenting with providing internet access using solar-powered, high-altitude drones. Yes, we need to ensure that these companies don’t become synonymous with the internet, but neither should we resort to paranoia about their innovations. Those digital dividends depend on closing those divides.


The sound of lesser conflicts

Saturday, 7 February, 2015 0 Comments

High-stakes talks last night between Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and François Hollande failed to produce an agreement to end the fighting in Ukraine. Attention turns now the annual Munich Security Conference in the hope that some kind of deal can be hammered out over the weekend. Meanwhile, the fighting in Mali continues.

At least 10 people have died so far this week in the country’s Tabankort region during skirmishes between the separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and the rival Tuareg Self-Defense Group. And in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains, French troops killed a dozen Islamic terrorists. This is the world from which Tamikrest has emerged. The Tuareg band, led by Ousmane Ag Mossa, sings in Tamashek as it mixes traditional Malian music with Western blues and rock influences. The sound offers a glimmer of hope in a region wracked by violence and plagued by despair.


Google bails out France

Wednesday, 6 February, 2013 0 Comments

There they were, François Hollande, the president of France, and Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, doing what the leaders of middle-ranking powers do so well: holding a joint press conference, shaking hands while posing for the camera signing important-looking documents. And what was it all about? In short, a €60 million bailout. Cheap […]

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“We too want to learn Internet” under a mango tree

Thursday, 12 July, 2012

In mid-May, Boukary Konaté from Mali, who writes the excellent Fasokan blog in Bambara and French, visited the village of Sékoro, where he conducted an “introduction to the Internet” course for local schoolchildren under a mango tree. Google Translate: “This two-hour session was an opportunity for young students to a computer running, plug the USB 3G internet, and go turn a page on Google and do searches.”

The internet on a bike

Language note: The Bambara language is spoken in Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal by some six million people. Given the colonial history of the region, Bambara uses many French loan words. For example, the Bambara term for snow is niegei, based on the French word for snow neige. As there has never been snow in Mali, the Bambara language has no unique word in to describe it.