Why I won’t support Creative Commons or Wikipedia this year

It’s that time of the year again. Creative Commons and Wikipedia are working towards their fundraising goals for the coming year and asking users to donate to support the cause.

I spent the last five years working on building a global perspective on the commons and will probably spend the next working out what I did wrong. I worked directly with both organisations during this time, so it’s really sad for me to say this (and probably not very politically astute) but I feel like the only way we’re ever going to attack the problem of a lack of global agenda and global solidarity is by the funding issue. Here are my reasons in brief:

– Creative Commons (despite pressure from its international volunteers) still has a mostly male, mostly white, almost all American leadership. If CC is really committed to an international agenda, then they must at least attempt to involve a more diverse leadership in planning for the future.

– I know it’s a fundraising campaign but statements like this by Hal Abelson: ‘By supporting Creative Commons, you are helping to realize the promise of the Internet to uplift all of humanity’ leave me speechless. Until we have an international *common* agenda, until ‘all of humanity’ or at least major parts of it have ownership of this agenda (South Africa is the only African country in the CC International stable), we should feel ashamed to make statements like this.

Wikipedia plans to spend $9.4 million in the 2009-10 financial year (up 53% from last year) and has, at last, a plan for spreading the wealth with a $295,000 new grantmaking program (that’s only 3% of spending that goes to chapters but it’s better than almost 0). Problem is that this money seems to only be going to existing chapters (there are no chapters in Africa). This means that, if you wanted money to go specifically to outreach on the African continent, you couldn’t do it since you can only donate to Wikipedia or to existing Wikipedia chapters.

I think that one of the worst things that organisations who have global goals can do is to stop people from countries who are left out of the agenda from donating money. Even if it’s just a small amount, CC and Wikipedia are perpetuating the myth that we don’t care about these issues in Africa.

My small contribution has, instead, gone to Global Voices. They spread the small amount of money that they receive pretty widely and their leadership team reaches each region at least.

Edit Wikipedia for Mandela!

A young Mandela. Public domain image.
A young Mandela. Public domain image from Wikipedia.

I’m a geek who loves words, so what better way to contribute on Mandela Day than by contributing to Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is written almost entirely by volunteers from around the world. It is one of the most popular sites in South Africa – offered free and without advertising to anyone with an Internet connection. Whatever you think about the credibility of the resource, you have to appreciate that Wikipedia has taught us the value of people working together for no monetary gain to create something of major public value.

Wikipedia is mostly valuable when it’s written by people like you and me. The Afrikaans Wikipedia has a dedicated community in South Africa working together to build a rich indigenous language resource. The isiZulu and isiXhosa Wikipedias are smaller but also slowly growing due to the contributions of volunteers. By contributing to these resources, we are able to write our own history, our own view of the world – what could be more valuable?

If you’re interested in editing Wikipedia with others on Saturday from 11.30-12.37 in Jozi, please email me.

Digital Open seeks a few more international stewards

From now until and August 15, 2009, Institute for the Future, Sun Microsystems, and Boing Boing invite young people from around the world, age 17 and under, to join us as we explore the frontiers of free and open innovation.

The Digital Open: An Innovation Expo for Global Youth seeks projects in a variety of areas ranging from the environment, art and music to the more traditional open source domains of software and hardware. We’re looking for new and fresh ideas that could make a real difference, whether to simplify a process or potentially have a huge global impact. In the spirit of collaboration that defines free and open technology movements, we encourage entrants to start from scratch or to improve upon existing innovations across eight broad categories.

We’re seeking Open Innovation Stewards in as many parts of the world as possible to help us make this a success. As a steward, you should be willing and able people to help mobilize, mentor, and inspire young innovators. You will become an integral part of our outreach effort in finding young people who have something to contribute. Our stewards should be experienced users of all major social networking tools, applications, and media and be confident working with a Drupal website. And, of course, you should have a passion for free and open technology innovation.

An Open Innovation Steward’s responsibilities will include:

* Translating our call for submissions, rules, and category descriptions into the local language(s) of your particular geographic area
* Recruit a minimum of 10 projects from young people between the ages 17 and under
* Promote project by:
1) distributing posters & postcards
2) giving talks in local junior high and high schools
3) reaching out to schools around your country/region
4) blogging about the project
5) reaching out to local publications or other prominent area bloggers
* Participation as judges of submissions
* Translating project descriptions as needed
* Verifying that a project chosen as a category winner meets our rules and requirements, and facilitate contact between the winner(s) and Boing Boing Video

Stewards who recruit the requested 10 projects from their regions will receive a cash reward of $500 USD. And as a thank you for helping out, all stewards will receive a schwag package that includes a Vy&Elle recycled billboard backpack or bag, a solar-powered flashlight, a t-shirt, and some other goodies. We’ll also include your bio on the Open Innovation Stewards page of digitalopen.org.

To apply, please visit http://digitalopen.org/apply/index.html.

“I met the walrus”

‘In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview about peace. 38 years later, Jerry has produced a film about it. Using the original interview recording as the soundtrack, director Josh Raskin has woven a visual narrative which tenderly romances Lennon’s every word in a cascading flood of multipronged animation. Raskin marries the terrifyingly genius pen work of James Braithwaite with masterful digital illustration by Alex Kurina, resulting in a spell-binding vessel for Lennon’s boundless wit, and timeless message.’

There’s something so beautiful about this story – a boy who holds these words for years and years as they grow in significance and then remixes it to create something new and extroadinary.

Thanks, Simon dearest, for the link.

“Shopping Mall vs Market”

My dear friend, Rike Sitas: passionate-creative-urban-genius has just sent me some of the raw footage from the documentary that her Durban-based NGO, “dala” (verb to make / create in isiZulu) is producing. The documentary is about the recent decision by the Durban municipality to hand over land on which a fresh produce market has been serving working class people for 99 years to a private developer to build yet another mall. Durbanites, and people throughout the country, are in an uproar about the move. The traders – many of whom have been working in the area for many decades – are livid. They haven’t been consulted about the move and are now unsure of their future.

The worst thing about this is that there are so many options for designing urban spaces in a way that recognises the needs of all stakeholders but that these design solutions have been ignored by the municipality. Instead of being innovative and extroadinary, we’ve once again, decided to be just another cog in the wheel of so-called “progress”.

The date for the removal has been set at 6 April – a week from now. Rike wants dala to make people aware of the different sides to this story so that we can try and do things differently (exceptionally) in the future. Please pass these videos on to others. I’ll add the edited documentary when it’s available.

IEC website now available to non-Microsoft users

Great news from Tectonic about the Independent Electoral Commission’s website now being open to non-IE users. Congrats to everyone who made this happen. The hundreds of emails, blog posts and complaints to the South African Human Rights Commission has done the trick.

I love the comment by Friedel Wolff from translate.org.za below:
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Writing a feature on this for Global Voices.

Two-year old beaten to get his mother to confess in Zimbabwe prison

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A search result from Afrigator for the two-year old yields 3 results. Why aren't we talking about this?

This morning I woke up to a story on Global Voices about two-year old Nigel Mutemagau who was abducted with his parents three months ago and taken to Zimbabwe’s most notorious prison, Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison where he was held in solitary confinement with his mother and beaten to get his mother to confess. I had just signed a petition on Denford Magora’s blog for the release of two-year old when I read in the Zimbabwe Times that he has just been released.

The release of Nigel follows last month’s order by High Court Judge Justice Yunus Omerjee ordering the release of the child, as well as various MDC members and human rights activists who were abducted from various locations over the past three months

They include former newscaster Jestina Mukoko who was abducted from her home in the town of Norton, 40 kilometres west of Harare.

Although Omerjee ruled that Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, and eight MDC members must be released to a private hospital for medical examination after alleged torture, the state has defied the ruling.

According to ‘This is Zimbabwe Blog‘:

As Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Jestina is viewed as the most high-profile person to be abducted by the State to date. Her role as a human rights activist, and her work in documenting the range of human rights violations and atrocities by the Zanu PF regime, made her a threat to a despotic regime intent on holding onto power at all costs.

The site also gives a list of recommended actions from Amnesty International (download PDF version of appeal here) which includes:

  • expressing grave concern over the abduction or arrest of Jestina Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, who was forcibly taken from her home by people believed to be state security agents on 3 December 2008;
  • stating that Amnesty International considers that Jestina Mukoko is solely detained for expressing her views, without advocating violence, and considers her a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty International therefore calls for her immediate and unconditional release;
  • calling on the Zimbabwean authorities to immediately end its practice of enforced disappearances and follow international standards on arrest and detention for persons under criminal investigation;
  • expressing concern about continued harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and political activists by the Zimbabwean security forces;

and a list of fax numbers and contacts to send your appeals to.

I have avoided researching the Zimbabwe situation for too long – it had seemed so hopeless in the past. But stories like this make me realise how important it is to add my voice to this campaign. As an activist myself, I know how tenuous my own situation has been in the past, and how important it is for me to be able to say in the future that I didn’t stand by and let those brave enough to be living in and speaking out in Zimbabwe be tortured and assaulted in this way.

We can’t stay silent any longer.