Friday, January 02, 2015

Secondary Schools’ Primary Importance (Ahmad + Cohen)

I often maintain, and still do, that one's education only truly starts once one has _successfully_ completed one's final year of high school. Which is not to claim that school should be ignored nor breezed through, for it is undoubtedly vital, yet nevertheless forms merely the starting blocks for life's journey. Moreover, the education of girls, too often ignored or belittled, is paramount. Herewith then, a related article:

Secondary Schools’ Primary Importance
by Kamal Ahmad and Joel E. Cohen

DHAKA – The world has made remarkable progress in providing primary education to children worldwide. In the 1960s, fewer than half of the developing world’s children were enrolled in primary school. Today, more than 90% are. In many regions, a higher proportion of girls than boys enroll in primary school. To be sure, too many children remain out of school in countries like Nigeria and Pakistan, but the real problem lies in what happens after the primary years are over.

Without opportunities for secondary education, children have little chance to improve their livelihoods, and the progress the world has made could be jeopardized. In September, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative, former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recognized that “lack of secondary education holds back the aspirations of so many girls and their families. It undermines prosperity and stability around the world.”

Clinton announced a major initiative in cooperation with more than 30 organizations, including the MasterCard Foundation, Intel, and Microsoft. This group has pledged more than $600 million over five years to enable 14 million girls to “attend and complete primary and secondary school.” It is a wise investment. In addition to the obvious benefits that education can deliver, increased enrollment in secondary schools offers advantages to all levels of society.

For example, requiring girls to continue their education reduces child marriage. In the developing world, one girl in seven is married by the age of 15; nearly half become mothers by the age of 18. Girls attending secondary school, by contrast, are much less likely to marry and bear children before reaching adulthood.

Providing girls with secondary education also reduces family sizes, and, when they do become mothers, it improves their children’s health and chances of survival. One study found that in developing countries where one girl in five received a secondary education, women had, on average, more than five children. Where half of the girls received secondary education, the average was just three children, and child and infant mortality were much lower.

Access to secondary schools can also boost enrollment in primary schools, reducing the likelihood that parents will keep their children at home to work or, as is often the case with girls, to help with domestic chores. If children have no choice but to return from primary school to the farm, why send them to school at all?

Providing secondary education need not cost a fortune. Poor countries can move swiftly to expand opportunities for education at a much lower cost than is commonly imagined. Most village primary schools are used for education only a small fraction of the time. Appropriate modifications could turn these into secondary schools for part of each day, bringing secondary education closer to children’s homes.

For girls, secondary education closer to home would have the added benefit of reducing the risks of sexual abuse and violence. Every year, roughly 60 million girls are sexually assaulted at or on their way to school. Using facilities that are more familiar and more conveniently located could reduce this barrier to attendance.

Likewise police stations, post offices, and other existing public facilities might, with modest adjustments, provide space for secondary schools for at least part of the day. Modular classrooms, which can be built quickly and inexpensively, could provide local employment and supplement existing school facilities.

Programs in the United States like “Teach for America” and “Teach for All” can serve as powerful new models for recruiting the teachers that will be needed for new secondary schools. Life expectancy is rising, but retirement ages often remain in the late 50s, implying that pensioners could be encouraged to become teachers.

Teachers will always remain essential for students’ growth and maturity, but new digital technologies can enhance secondary education. Online resources, such as the Khan Academy, hold great promise for delivering broad, inexpensive results in education.

The world stands at a crossroads. American corporations donate about $7 billion annually to global health, but only $500 million to education in developing countries. Yet young people are the fastest-growing segment of the population in the developing world. Uneducated, they could become an unprecedented burden as their societies age. But if they are provided with secondary education, they will be able to transform their future – and ours – for the better.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dominus illuminatio mea


keble & oxford


universidad carlos III de madrid - máster en derecho


Sunday, August 18, 2013

las campanas / the church bells

Rosalía de Castro (1837 - 1885)

Las campanas

Yo las amo, yo las oigo,
cual oigo el rumor del viento,
el murmurar de la fuente,
o el balido del cordero.

Como los pájaros, ellas,
tan pronto asoma en los cielos
el primer rayo del alba,
le saludan con sus ecos.

Y en sus notas, que van prolongándose
por los llanos y los cerros,
hay algo de candoroso,
de apacible y de halagüeño.

Si por siempre enmudecieran,
¡qué tristeza en el aire y en el cielo!
¡Qué silencio en las iglesias!
¡Qué extrañeza entre los muertos!

--- translated by: jenniferdebeer

The church bells

I love them, I hear them,
as when I hear the whisper of the wind,
the murmur of the fountain,
or the bleating of the lamb.

Like birds, the bells are,
as soon as appears in the sky,
the first ray of dawn
stands greeted by their peals.

And in their notes, that extend themselves
along the plains and hills,
there is something there of the pure,
the calm, the promising.

If forever the bells were to fall silent,
what sadness in the air and in heaven!
What silence in the churches!
What astonishment among the dead!

Poem source: p349, José Bergua (ed). (sin fecha) Las mil mejores poesías de la Lengua Castellana. (Madrid: Ediciones Ibéricas)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I write this as I listen (on Cadena Ser) to the Spain - USA soccer match in the Confederations Cup. The score stands at 2-0 for the EEUU, in the final minutes of the game. Aye, la pobre España. Cómo me duele una derrota. But, as consolation (of a sort), one of their citizens received an honorary doctorate at Oxford today. Well, I guess the two aren´t really related. But since I was at the Encaenia ceremony, and I am surprised and disappointed to hear that the soccer match is going so badly; contrast that with how pleased I felt earlier today when Calatrava was awarded the degree, me inspira poner el texto del evento aquí. First the Latin text (which is read at the Encaenia), and then the English.

Dr Santiago Calatrava Valls

Poeta, dummodo chartam et calamum habeat, versus scribere potest; musico forsitan clavicymbalum vel voces paucorum sufficiant; pictor colores et tabulas non magna impensa emit; at architecto non solum patrono et pecunia opus est sed cum pondere et repulsa vastae molis materiei luctandum. Virum tamen nunc laudo qui et patronos e multi orbis terrarum regionibus allexit et ipsi rerum gravitati resistere videtur; tanta enim arte aedificia construit ut materiem quamvis concretam velut ceram fingi velut aquam fluere prope credamus. Valentiae natus est, cuius civibus monumenta fecit praeclarissima, Valentiae in disciplina ingeniaria est erudutis; quare seu pontem fabricatur seu stationem ferroviariam seu museum, rigorem et phantasiam coniungit. Velut poeta rhythmum, velut musicus concordiam bene intelligit, neque miror eum partem otii in statuis faciendis consumpisse; nam qua facilitate sculptores materiem suam tractare solent, ea item aedifica flecti et curvari coegit. Vergilius in Aeneide de aere spiranti et vultibus vivis e marmore ductis loquitur; simili modo non multum abest quin huius viri opera, licet formam neque hominum neque animalium imitentur, motus capacia esse existimares. Ita museum quod pro Wisconsinensibus fecit nihil quod in natura videmus repraesentat, attamen mentes spectatorum imagione aquilae vel ad altum tendentis vel desuper ruentis saepe capiuntur. Titulus in tumulo Pauli Veronensis pictoris inscriptus aemulum eum naturae orbis miraculum vocat, quae verba ad hunc virum referre possis; nam inventionis audaciam stupet mundus, pulchritudine iuvatur.

Praesento magum Hispanum, qui chabylem cretam saxum potestati suae subiecit, Sanctum-Iacobum Calatrava Valls, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris.

Admission by the Chancellor

Summe architecturae magister, cuius opera utile pulchro miscent, ego auctoritate mea et totius Universitatis admitto te ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris honoris causa.


A poet can write his verses as long as he has pen and paper; a piano and a few voices may be enough for a composer; a painter´s colours and canvases do not cost him much; but an architect not only needs commissions and the funding to go with them but has to struggle with the bulk and the resistance of masses of heavy material. Yet the man whom I now praise has attracted commissions from many parts of the world and seems to defy the law of gravity; such is the skill with which he designs his works that concrete seems to be moulded like wax or flow like water. He was born in Valencia, to which city he has contributed a magnificent group of public buildings, and studied engineering there, acquiring from this experience a mastery that has enabled him to combine logic and imagination, whether he is putting up a bridge, a railway station or a museum. He has a poet´s feeling for rhythm, a musician´s sense of harmony, nor am I surprised that he has devoted soem of his leisure to sculpture, for he makes buildings bend and curve with the kind of command that sculptors have over their own medium. Virgil speaks in the Aeneid of breathing bronze and living faces drawn from marble, and in similar vein one may feel that this man´s works, without actually imitating the forms of living creatures, appear almost capable of motion. Thus the museum which he has designed at Milwaukee does not represent anything found in nature, and yet a good number of those who have seen it have found themselves thinking of an eagle soaring aloft or swooping from on high. The Latin epitaph on the grave of the painter Veronese describes him as the rival of nature and the wonder of the globe, words which one can apply equally to this honorand; for the world marvels at the boldness of his invention and delights in its beauty.

I present a Spanish magician, who has compelled steel and concrete to submit to his will, Santiago Calatrava Valls, to be admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.

Admission by the Chancellor

Superlative architect, in whose works function and beauty are conjoined, I on my authority and that of the whole University admit you to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.


Al final, Spain lost their match against the USA, and are out of the Confederations Cup. What a pity

Sunday, May 24, 2009

African Studies Centre (Leiden) - Africa Thesis Award

The Africa Thesis Award

The Award

Deadline for submission: 16 June 2009!

Are you interested in Sub-Saharan Africa and is your Masters thesis on a related subject? If so, the African Studies Centre (ASC) in Leiden is offering you the chance to win €1000 in its Africa Thesis Award!

The award aims to encourage student research and writing on Sub-Saharan Africa and to promote the study of African cultures and societies. It is presented annually to a student whose Masters thesis has been completed on the basis of research conducted on Africa.

The award consists of a prize of €1000 for the winning thesis. The winning thesis will be published in the ASC African Studies Collection. Submitted theses may be (partially) published on The Broker's

Who can apply

Any final-year student who has completed his/her Masters thesis with distinction (80% or higher or a Dutch rating of at least 8) at a university in Africa or the Netherlands can apply. The thesis has to be based on independent empirical research related to Sub-Saharan Africa in one of the subjects listed in the following section and must have been examined within one year prior to the deadline for submitting manuscripts (see below).
The ASC specifically encourage students from Sub-Saharan Africa to submit their theses for this annual competition.

Subject of the thesis

Any thesis thematically related to socio-geographical, economic, political, juridical or anthropological issues or focusing on the humanities such as history, religion and literature (but with the exception of language and/or semiotic studies) can be submitted. Its geographical focus should be on Sub-Saharan Africa or its migrant communities elsewhere in the world. The thesis must be socially relevant.

Details of the how and where, etc of submission can be found at

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

scissors cut

I´ve always loved this song. It´s "Scissors Cut" written by Jimmy Webb, but here sung by Art Garfunkel (never knew Garfunkel sang it btw - I prefer Jimmy Webb singing it, on his album "Angel Heart" (album´s hard to find; v expensive!...))

It contains the quintessential Cold War declaration of love, when starting:

"If they ever drop the bomb," you said
"I'll find you in the flames"

As for the Garfunkel, it´s still good. I do wonder if that´s possibly Jennifer Warnes or Linda Ronstadt singing the backing vocals.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

milton nascimento & james taylor

yet another stroll down memory lane. first up, "only a dream in Rio" with Milton Nascimento and James Taylor (the song is on Nascimento´s album titled Angelus). then, Milton Nascimento singing/performing "Veracruz". lovely lovely.

Only a Dream in Rio:


clip from movie "the five pennies"

been waltzing down memory lane.
i just love this collaboration between Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

beggar gets 18 months for stealing a loaf of bread

The news of a French beggar who has been handed an 18 month jail term for stealing a loaf of bread in Spain (Badalona), reminded me of a talk by Dr Judith Rowbotham given at a conference titled "Experiencing the Law. From Globalisation to Poverty: the implications of a credit crunch" at the IALS last month (December 2008). [What I am writing here is purely from memory (of her talk), so don´t quote me- or quote with a similar caveat :-) ]

Dr Rowbotham spoke about the criminal justice system in 1800´s England, and quite interestingly, told that petty crime (such as one could consider the crime above) then had been punished with only ever a limited period of jail time (say, 48rs, - though I´d have to check my notes for the specifics, she may have said 72 hrs) since (1) this was considered less disruptive to the community and family life of the person concerned, (2) the reputational damage suffered through incarceration would be contained, (3) the offender could return to work quickly (if they were employed) which would be less disruptive to his/her place of employ, (3) the shock value of incarceration and its consequent impact on the offender was found to occur within the first 48 hours of jail time anyway (so a longer stay did not foster a greater sense of remorse for what had been done).

Returning to the Spanish case, I wonder how it is that this person could not have been sentenced to doing some community service instead(?)

Friday, January 30, 2009

i´m confused: origins, influences, and descriptors

I found the following two wikipedia entries of semiotic etc interest:

Kwame Anthony Appiah (born 1954 in London) is a Ghanaian philosopher, cultural theorist, and novelist whose interests include political and moral theory, the philosophy of language and mind, and African intellectual history.


A. M. (Tony) Honoré (b.1921) is a British lawyer and jurist, known for his work on ownership, causation and Roman law.

Honoré was born in London but was brought up in South Africa.

Question: why is Appiah described as Ghanaian, and Honoré as British?

Kwame Anthony Appiah: born in London, raised in Ghana, educated in Britain.

Tony Honoré: born in London, raised in South Africa, educated in South Africa and Britain.

See: and

I could "speak volumes", but let´s leave it at that, for now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Especial documental Destinos Clandestinos

Here is a documentary, and subsequent interview with the filmmaker and one of the fellow passengers, screened on Spanish television, about the quest of countless Africans to arrive (after risking life and limb on the high seas) on Spanish soil. Dominique Mollard went undercover for a period of years in order to tell and reveal the more human face behind the almost-daily reports of illegal immigration into Spain.
It is well worth watching, even if you don´t understand Spanish.

From the rtve web site:

11-11-2008 Documental único, obra del francés Dominique Mollard, quien, tras 26 meses de trabajo, logró embarcarse en un cayuco para retratar como nunca antes se había hecho -el combate a vida o muerte- al que se enfrentan miles de africanos que buscan una vida mejor más allá de nuestras costas. Pepa Bueno, entrevista al propio Mollard y a una de las pasajeras del cayuco.
And the video.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

voices of africa

I´ve been trying to get a sense of Obamania in South Africa as I sit perched here at a distance in the UK, but scanning the daily SA papers online, the reporting (those that I could gain unpaid access to) always seemed to me rather low-key. I also saw the odd congratulatory facebook status message whizz by (if that´s any useful indication) from a handful of South African friends, but not many. And this seeming lack of enthusiasm (don´t know what else to call it) seemed all the more odd, as in contrast, I´d seen reporting not only on Kenyans taking to the streets celebrating Barack Obama´s win (with even an official day of holiday thrown in for good measure), but also earlier today I´d read an article in the El País reporting on how excited Africa was about the Obama win (not forgetting that the story only profiled, in very brief paragraphs, about six or seven countries in toto, all sub-saharan).

That said, moments ago I´d stumbled across the following series of stories published by the Mail & Guardian in South Africa, titled "Voices of Africa". The series seems to me a splendid idea. Here (below) is how it describes its aims and remit. About half of the current submissions (at the time of writing this post) report on the country-specific responses to Barack Obama.
One criticism: I do think that "Voices of Africa" could include North African voices in their offering too.

The blurb:

About Voices of Africa
Life in Africa: a one-dimensional struggle to survive war, poverty, corruption and disease; an ongoing saga of famine and failure. Recognise the story?

It's the one most often presented to newspaper readers and other media consumers. We know it's not the whole story. We know these are not the only stories.

Voices of Africa is an ambitious new publishing venture by the Mail & Guardian, which aims to show how we live in Africa, not how we die; how we thrive as multifaceted humans, not merely as survivors. It is an ongoing series of lively articles written by Africans about life in "their" Africa -- ordinary people getting on with their own lives, often in the face of adversity.

Where and how we live might partly determine our behaviour and attitudes. But there are universal joys and tribulations that bind us: we fall in love, we have families, we get older, we watch TV, play, gossip, fight with our bosses, laugh with our friends, shop, worry about our health, our children, our budgets … We publish a selection of exclusively commissioned stories that give us glimpses across the fence into the daily lives, loves and frustrations of our neighbours -- beyond the usual headlines. Voices of Africa is a dynamic series-in-progress and today we take our first "baby steps".

In the next months we will continue to scout for fresh, original voices from a growing number of countries, bringing our readers weekly insights into the experiences of the people who call some small corner of this continent home.

As Voices of Africa grows, we will also launch a more complete online version of the series, about which we'll keep readers posted. To capture as rich and diverse a range of voices that truly represents the continent, we will also commission and translate suitable articles written in French.

Though the nature of this exciting series excludes South African contributions, we hope our readers will help us to grow Voices of Africa into a unique and compelling series by spreading the word among their friends and acquaintances in other African countries.

Welcome to our Africa, explored as never before.

Click here for details about how to "audition" for Voices of Africa.

Contact us
Anglophone correspondence to Charlotte Bauer:
Francophone correspondence to Stephanie Wolters:
Tel: +27 11 250 7300

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

republish: 20 july 2002

Between January 2002 and November 2005, I blogged in simple html markup on my homepage. In November 2005 I finally switched to blogger when I thought that their design sense had caught up with their technical sense (I´d always seen a site´s design as integral to its message, and in the early blogging days, the blogging templates were just plain ugly.) Anyway, I´d compiled all those old posts into one document recently, and will, from time to time, republish some of them here I think. In those days (a mere six years ago, but a lifetime ago it feels) my blog postings were ordered by date, and had no titles. The posting below refers largely to Spain, but also makes reference to the then situation in Zimbabwe.
What strikes me about the posting is the sheer absence of hyperlinks (This (dodgy memory aside) I can only ascribe to that there was a time when access to the Spanish newspaper had been gated, so maybe hyperlinking then made no sense.) I´ve added in the links this time.
[Searching the Prisacom archives online (parent company of the El País) there is a surfeit of articles dated 19 July 2002, a number of them published in the El País of that day/date. Below I´ve linked to the article that seems the most likely source I had referred to then.]
The reference to Madrid is of my stay there in 2000.


The Battle for Parsley Island. Spain vs. Morocco. Never knew 'perejil' = 'parsley'. I guess this would indicate that I never needed to order in parsley whilst in Madrid. One piece I read about this 'battle' quoted Jorge Luis Borges, saying that it was like two bald men fighting over a comb. I've read an opinion piece ayer in El Pais which claims that Spain is just as 'in the wrong' as Morocco. Kudos to the Spanish press.

This makes me think of anti-immigration sentiment which is on the rise, more pointedly in Western Europe, but I suppose elsewhere also. For instance, I recall the scare-mongering which took place at about the time when SA finally decided to raise an opinion about the goings-on in Zimbabwe. It was soon after the elections there earlier this year. SA made a dimplomatic about-turn and felt the need to assist. Before it was "we respect their sovereignty and cannot intervene", whilst so many were reportedly being hounded and intimidated, not to mention the violent land appropriations, and the constitution being tampered with by their President. And then finally, to save face it seems, we (as in SA) felt the need to assist, saying that 'the elections were over, we respect the result and to move forward we must assist our neighbour'. After all, food security is an issue for Southern Africa due to drought. Suddenly we must assist since 'if we don't they'll be knocking on our doorstep' (Pallo Jordan's words at an address at the University). Once upon a time it was the 'rooi gevaar'(communist threat), and the 'swart gevaar' (pan-Africanist threat), now it's the 'drought gevaar'...

Ah, lest I forget. Carlos Fuentes wrote a very good opinion piece in the El Pais of 12 July titled 'Migraciones impunes y castigadas' (Punished and unpunished migrations). He makes the point, highlighting various historic events between 1503 and 2002, that many societies have evolved to what they are today due to the mass migration of people. People who travelled without visas and work permits. For instance: Western Europe owes its development due to the exploitation of Latin America. He quotes a contemporary Spanish economist, Alonso de Carranza, who claims that 75% of the treasure brought to Spain in 1629 was re-dispersed in Protestant Europe. Fuentes adds that the exploitation of (Latin) America led to the decadent power of Spain and the rise of capitalism in Europe. All without visas and work permits.

I translate some more:

Massachusetts, 1620. English Puritans without visas nor work permits, establish New England. From there anglosaxon America expands from the Atlantic to the Pacific, wresting land from the Indians, importing African slaves and annexing half the Mexican territory.

Pennsylvania, 1753. The Humanist and scientist Benjamin Franklin, future chief protagonist of US Independence, complains bitterly about the immigration of Germans to Pennsylvania. "They will create..." says Franklin, "...great disorder among us...They will never learn English, which will mean that we will always require interpreters. They will surpass us in number... so much so that we will not be able to preserve our language and even our government will be under threat." Fuentes goes on to mention the colonization of India by Clive in 1757, Algeria in 1830 (Start of colonization of Africa (in earnest) by Europe), New York in 1910 (17 million Europeans immigrated to the USA between 1880 and 1910, among these Irish fleeing the potato famine), Europe in 1963 (700 000 Spanish, mostly male farm labourers, migrate across the Pyrennees. Sending their earnings back to Spain they boost the Spanish economy, preparing it for a modern post-Franco era), California 1994 (California produces 1/3 of the agricultural riches in the USA, and 3/4 of the latter is derived from Mexican migrant labour.), etc. The main points of Fuentes' article being that this mix of cultures occurred without visas and work permits, and that eventually the riches of the developed nations is in large part dependent on migrant labour. Now, in Western Europe it seems there is great fear and loathing due to the migrant workers who run from the Southern hemisphere to the North. But as Fuentes illustrates so well, the mass migration of people has always occurred, with the concomitant fear and loathing, but that this is how cultures evolve, and have evolved.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

el mundo - juan josé millás

Some weeks ago I´d read the novel "El mundo" by Juan José Millás. Without a doubt it is one of the best novels I´ve read in recent years, not only for its simple (uncomplicated) prose, but more so for its absolute honesty. And I mean here the honesty of the narrator who is Millás telling us about his childhood, and about later encounters with one or two of those same childhood friends. For instance, he writes about his childhood notions of a "barrio de los difuntos" - a neighbourhood of the dead. This ghostly lustre of the neighbourhood has more to do with its opulence (so very unlike his own neighbourhood); a neighbourhood that he strays into one day as he makes an improvised tram journey away from home if only to disperse the (now shredded) evidence of the banknote he´d pilfered from his father´s jacket pocket. You´ll have to read the novel to find out why he was taking the money to start with... It is entirely endearing the way he narrates the logic and thinking of his childhood self; those pivotal friendships and moments as one grows up (He tells of being besotted with a girl, only for her to turn to him at some point saying "you´re not interesting to me". And he then toys with the sentence, inserting pauses and punctuation so as to give it a varied meaning, wondering at the same time which of his interpretations were the most accurate.) The moments he narrates are often hilarious and at times so very poignant.

In an interview (see video) he mentions that the novel is being translated into a number of languages, but it seems, unfortunately, English isn´t one of them. Not yet anyway. What a great pity, since it seems so universal, the essence of the story that he tells.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

musings: watching history unfold + voting

For all my previous musings on how history is written and of how one decides in the present on what is or will be historically significant, undoubtedly the electoral triumph of Barack Obama was one of those moments when you knew that history was unfolding before your very eyes. What a proud moment for US citizens, and heartfelt congratulations to them.

Watching them exercise their vote very much served to remind me of how I (and many fellow South Africans who will find themselves abroad when South Africa has its next national elections in 2009) will not be able to do the same since SA makes no provision for overseas voting. Knowing this leaves nothing less than a stabbing pain in my heart (no exaggeration), since I recognise that many men and women have died and suffered, so that I and others who had been deprived of the vote in apartheid SA, could have suffrage.

One of the ways in which SA´s democracy still needs to evolve, is to recognise that these days, it´s not only disaffected South Africans who find themselves abroad, and that the hard-won vote should not be so easily lost/forfeited due to geographical distance.

PS: Re the US elections, I hope Shirley Chisholm is smiling down from some heavenly cloud somewhere.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

internet energy consumption 2

This is a follow-up to my post of 29 October. After having watched the Newsnight programme I can only conclude that matters are still vague if not sketchy with regard to a "green Internet". The key terms (buzzwords / -phrases) are "cloud computing", "virtualisation", and "follow the moon". The first two you´ve probably heard about by now, since they have been bandied about for at least the past 18+ months.
Since I´ve always written my blog with a non-specialist audience in mind, that audience-notion now becomes muddled as I have the postings fed on over to the feed at the OII. But let me explain anyway, in a way that I might have done had I still been teaching undergraduate ICT courses.

  1. Recall the early mainframes-and-dumb-terminals computing model. Now transfer that notion to the Web, where we now have Web services (think Gmail, GoogleDocs, etc). Cloud computing differs from Web services (conceptually) in so far as the number and diversity of services that can be delivered from "the cloud".
  2. Virtualisation can be understood as the maximisation of computing resources (at the level of the platform, processing resources, and/or application) (think here "one box, delivering many and disparate services or functions).
  3. The term "follow the moon" can be understood as a way in which to distribute energy-hungry computer processing to areas of the planet where energy-demand is at its relative lowest e.g. if demand for computer processing is high, say in daytime London, let the energy needs for that processing be met from a spot anywhere on the planet where it is night-time. (Two additional methods not mentioned in the tv programme, were "follow the sun", and "follow the law". See more on this in Kevin Kelly´s post.)
  4. Another option proferred in the programme was the location of server farms on (very) cold spots on the planet e.g. Iceland, which does away with the need to manufacture cooling of these farms.
So can we imagine then a world where all of the above solutions were applied? And if so, would that lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions from the Internet industries and our collective computing activities? That still has to be demonstrated. For now, what is said is that already the CO2 emissions from our computing activities equal that of the car manufacturing industry, and are set to match those of the airline industry in 2020.

As an aside: Cloud computing is not uncontroversial. See, for instance, the piece "Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder Richard Stallman (The Guardian newspaper)"

See also: Guide To Cloud Computing (InformationWeek) ; Virtualization (Wikipedia).

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

internet energy consumption

Two years ago I blogged on the energy consumption needs of the Internet, making the point that if African countries truly wanted to compete, how were they to do so if they (more than others) lacked scarce energy and water resources. My thinking then had been prompted by an article on massive server farms /data stores in the August 28, 2006 issue of Fortune magazine (European edition). Of interest still are the questions I´d posed in my 1-Sept-2006 posting, which rang as follows:

Okay, so, the article "The future of computing (part one)". Some excerpts:

"Most people don´t think of it this way, but the Information Age is being built on an infrastructure as imposing as the factories and mills of yore....To handle this change [of software becoming webified], Internet companies are building their own [data] centers..."

And what data centers need are:

  • ground, acres and acres of it
  • electricity, not only to operate the servers but also to cool all those processors chugging away (e.g. "...for every dollar a company spends to power a typical server, it spends another dollar on a/c [air-conditioning] to keep it cool.")
  • water, for cooling purposes, as increasingly alternative means are being explored to keep server farms cool.
moral of the story?

  1. even in the information age, we come back to the same basic ingredients for the infrastructure needed at base.
  2. seriously, where does this leave Africa in the race to be part of the Info Age?

greater moral of the story?

we are running low on fossil fuels, and water, on the planet (among other things, admittedly). the info age was supposed to signifiy a reduction in the demand for either of the two. instead, demand is only increasing. so, where does that leave us, after all?

It seems that my parting question of the energy-hungry Internet is to be addressed in this evening´s (Wed 29 Oct 2008) edition of Newsnight (a BBC current affairs programme). Susan Watts, the Science correspondent of said programme has blogged on the matter in anticipation of tonight´s episode. Reading the blog, it seems there is no clear answer as yet to how Internet companies expect to "go green", her having consulted IBM, Cisco, and Google. Thát, or maybe she´s saved the full answers for her broadcast... Once I´ve watched the episode on energy-hungry iplayer, I´ll let you know.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reporting illegal net content

A study by the UK´s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reportedly found that 77% of adults do not know how nor where to report illegal content (child abuse images and criminal material) found online. The specific remit of the IWF covers "Child sexual abuse content hosted worldwide and criminally obscene and incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK".

Here follow excerpts from a recent news story:

Three quarters of adults using the internet who have "stumbled across" child pornography do not know how to report it.

Research by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) showed 77% of adults who had seen pictures of child abuse on the web did not know what to do about it.

This was despite 70% of users saying the availability of child sexual abuse images was their top concern when using the internet.

Peter Robbins, chief executive of IWF, said: "Internet consumers should know that if they do stumble across these images then it's vital to report them.

"We have international partnerships in place to get these websites removed."

If you are aware of illegal content on the Web, do make use of the IWF Reporting page. The IWF categories for reporting are as follows:

  • Child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world.
  • Criminally obscene content.
  • Incitement to racial hatred content.
  • Inappropriate chat or behaviour with or towards a child online

Should you be confused by what precisely each category covers, helpful definitions are given on the page, once an option has been clicked.

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