The new global magazine Creative Sparks now has a new name: Southern Innovator. It is off to the printer and shall be released very soon. Keep an eye here for more details as the magazine launches and rolls out across the globe. It is a complex endeavour to pull together a global magazine to a tight budget and this is only the beginning. A small but talented and experienced team have been working on the project and have received cooperation and assistance from many people spanning many countries. It is hoped the magazine will play a helpful role in the push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals as 2015 approaches.
Just back from a trip to Canada and am headlong into the production of a new magazine. The magazine is being made in collaboration with Icelandic graphic designer and illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir. As the magazine progresses, I shall post more on the blog about its creative journey and details about its launch.
With summer break now behind us, and the autumn gradually unfolding (the pace seems slower with the economic uncertainties all around), my new public website is being assembled. Icelandic graphic designer Solveig Rolfsdottir is working on the project and I hope this is the beginning of many more collaborations.
The rise of social networking websites (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites) during the past few years has swept across the internet. The popular Facebook (www.facebook.com) site alone has over 350 million users worldwide. In Africa, there are more than 67 million people with access to the internet – just over 6 percent of the population (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm). And this phenomenon has even begun to penetrate and influence life in poor places with weak internet infrastructure. A farmer in Kenya, Zack Matere, has boosted his potato crop by turning to Facebook for help.
On his farm in Seregeya near Eldoret, Kenya, Matere used the internet to find a cure for his ailing potato crop.
“I cycled 10 kilometres to the local cyber café, Googled (www.google.com) ‘potato disease,’ he told the BBC, “and discovered that ants were eating the potato stems.
“I checked again and found that one of the solutions was to sprinkle wood ash on the crop.”
Matere also used the internet to find a buyer for his rescued crop, and has been able to triple the price he gets for tree seedlings he sells.
Zack believes he is a bit of pioneer: “I think I am the only farmer in the area who uses the internet.”
He uses his mobile phone to access the internet and it costs him about US 0.66cents a day to do it.
This is a lot of money for small-scale farmers so Zack has a plan to tackle the cost. He will share the information he uncovers on the internet with other farmers in the community by posting it on local community notice boards.
He has noticed some important realities about how people he knows interact with the mobile web. He has found most people do much more with the Net than surfing the mobile web alone at home.
“The internet is quite an individual pursuit. But a notice board is more of a group thing.
“So if I post an item on a notice board on potato disease, for example, the community can read it, talk together and come to a decision.”
One example of the kind of intelligence Matere is able to glean from the internet is reports of cartels deceiving farmers by buying potatoes in over-large 130 kg bags instead of 110 kg bags. Matere takes this information and translates it into Swahili and posts it on community notice boards.
Matere also has to fend off other people looking to use his community’s water supply, which he has done by photographing interlopers with his mobile phone and then posting the photographs on Facebook.
“When they came before, I took photos of what they were doing, posted them on my Facebook page and was able to get assistance,” he said.
“I got in touch with Forest Action Network (http://www.fankenya.org/) and they came back to me quickly saying they would help me protect the catchment area.”
He has also discovered there are more profitable ways to make money for farmers.
“There is a lot of money in tree seedlings or bee hives. So if we can get these young people to use the land in an environmentally (friendly) way, they can get even more money than through farming.”
“I have 400 Facebook friends and I think some of them can buy the honey.”
Matere is philosophical about the future: “I am now seeing the practicality of the internet here in rural Kenya. The problem is I am the only one. That is why the notice board is important. All we need is a bit of relevant information to help us.”
“Once it is made simpler and is more in the local language with more local content, people are going to access the internet here,” he predicts.
Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.
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