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CASE STUDY 7: UNOSSC + UNDP | 2007 – 2016

Expertise: Innovation, innovators, human development, South-South development, United Nations, policy and policy innovation, South-South cooperation, South-South trade, global trends, strategy, online content, global memes, Internet, mobile phones, information technology, global South, resilience strategies, crisis response. 

Locations: London, UK and New York, U.S.A. 2007 to 2016

Consultant, Editor, Writer: David South

Click here to view images for this case study: CASE STUDY 7: UNOSSC + UNDP | 2007 – 2016 Images

Abstract 

Since the start of 2007, global international development and media consultancy David South Consulting (DSC)/David South International (DSI) has been working with the UNDP-associated United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) (formerly the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation) to raise the profile of South-South cooperation and the global South in global development through its innovators, as well as influencing the switch to an innovation-led approach to how development is delivered at the United Nations and at the country level. Based in London, UK and with a design studio in Reykjavik, Iceland, DSC/DSI did this with two highly influential media: the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, and its sister magazine Southern Innovator. 

About

With the global economic crisis unfolding in 2007, we asked “what would inspire people?” What is going on in the global South that would improve human development under these circumstances and make people more resilient?

In 2007, discussing the global South, or solutions from the South, had a far lower profile in international development, the media and with the general public. Being one of the first sources to regularly chronicle the 21st-century world emerging from the crisis, the two publications (e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions and its sister magazine Southern Innovator) were able to open up a space for greater coverage of the global South, while drawing attention to a new generation of development innovators. 

“Great economic and business reporting! Very helpful for us.” Africa RenewalAfrica Section, Strategic Communications Division, United Nations Department of Public Information

“I just went over your June newsletter. It’s very well done and far reaching. Congratulations!” Violette Ruppanner, Director, 3D -> Trade – Human Rights – Equitable Economy, Geneva, Switzerland

“Just to let you know I enjoyed the newsletter a lot – it was interesting to learn about things going on that I would never otherwise find out about, and also the listing of future conferences and events proved very useful.” IanSanderson, Deloitte, Geneva, Switzerland

“Congratulations on another great newsletter that’s packed with fascinating information! I really enjoy getting it each month.” Whitney Harrelson, Making Cents, Washington D.C.

By adopting a strategy to exploit developments in online and digital media (and the space opened up by the global economic crisis), the reach of the e-newsletter and magazine was far greater than would have been possible just a year prior, back in 2006. This proved useful for reaching the growing number of people in the global South who were being digitally connected either through mobile phones or the Internet, or both. 

The e-newsletter was not only distributed every month to subscribers, it was also simultaneously posted online in many platforms to reach as wide an audience as possible. It was kept simple in its design so as to be easy to access by readers with low bandwidth or high data costs. It exploited new online services to reach an as wide as possible audience.

As an example, the arrival of ‘crowd-powered’ media in 2007 allowed for posting of stories to a global audience to test responses and reactions in real time. An experiment from 2008 to 2010 on the innovative Vancouver, Canada-based NowPublic platform proved very effective in developing the right tone for the stories. Many of these stories have been cited in publications and online (please see below for citations).

With 201 Development Challenges, South-South Solutions stories posted on the NowPublic platform, a total of 336,289 views by 2012 had occurred, according to the NowPublic counter. 

Various websites offering publishing and archiving services (Scribd for example) meant it was easy to access the stories from any place, device or platform, bypassing firewalls and censors – a very serious concern in many countries of the global South. And social media such as Twitter made it easy to spread the word to the right people. 

The two publications proved influential on a number of fronts, being early to draw attention to the following: the rising use of mobile phones and information technology in development, the world becoming an urban place, innovative food solutions including the nascent insect food sector (now a big thing), altering perspectives on what is possible in Africa, the use of data science to innovate development, and tracking the growing number of technology hubs and the fast-growing start-up culture in the global South. The publications were cited for shaping the new strategic direction adopted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (the UN’s leading development organisation) and its first youth strategy, and the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the world’s first global innovator magazine, Southern Innovator’s design had to be appropriate for a diverse audience. It has drawn praise for being both “beautiful” and “inspiring”, while its use of sharp, modern graphic design and infographics inspired others in the UN to up their game when it comes to design. 

Today, there are many sources for sharing stories on solutions from the global South; in fact, it could be called ‘cool’. South-South cooperation and innovation have now become the key methodology for the UN’s delivery of its programmes and projects. In 2015, China pledged US $2 billion to “support South-South cooperation” and called for the international community to “deepen South-South and tripartite cooperation”. In development parlance, they have been “Mainstreaming South-South and Triangular Cooperation” in their plans.

The current policy vogue for innovation in developing and developed countries can trace its roots back to some of the early work done by these two publications (and which was further amplified by the annual Global South-South Development Expo, which often would feature innovators from the two publications, spreading the innovation message around the world). Both publications had set out to inspire and “champion a global 21st century innovator culture”. And they have done this, as can be seen from concrete evidence and anecdotal responses from individuals and organizations alike.

Crucial to success has been integrity. As was disclosed in arrests made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in October 2015, a news service claiming to be associated with the United Nations (South-South News) had not followed either the letter or the spirit of the UN’s Global Compact. It had received substantial funding from a Macau casino owner featured in a 2010 investigation by International Risk Ltd., which found he “is characterized in the media as a ‘Macau Crime Lord’ and a kingpin of the international slave prostitution trade”. To date, a number of his co-conspirators have been found guilty of various charges and sentenced. He was convicted 28 July 2017 on six counts “for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo“. He used the news service as a “conduit for bribery and money laundering” at the United Nations, according to the FBI, something admitted to by the various co-conspirators in court and under oath. Read more on this case here: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-corruption-idUSKCN0XH2DL. And the conviction here: Chairman of a Macau Real Estate Development Company Convicted on All Counts for Role in Scheme to Bribe United Nations Ambassadors to Build a Multi-Billion Dollar Conference Center

The case of South-South News points to the dangers of cutting corners and the importance of approach and methodology; to not just mouth support for the UN Global Compact but to embrace its letter and spirit as well. As can be seen from this particular case, the reputational damage can be severe if the wrong strategy is pursued. Clients need to be very aware of whom they are working with and conduct due diligence for service provider credentials and also investigate the credentials of potential donors and funders. 

Southern Innovator needed to be true to its ethos of championing genuine innovation that improves human development in the global South. It had to be free to pursue its search without interference. 

To avoid censorship and interference, its editorial operations were based in London, UK and its design studio was based in Reykjavik, Iceland (a high-ranking country in the World Press Freedom rankings and a former top place holder in the UNDP Human Development Index). Using a women-led design studio, it developed a design vision that could communicate across borders using clear graphic design and high-quality images. For example, when it launched in 2011, infographics were rare in development publications and at the UN; now they are commonplace. It also tried to be as a ‘green’ as possible. The studio was powered on 100 per cent renewable energy (in particular, geothermal energy); the hard copy of the magazine is printed on paper from renewable forests. 

To date, five issues of Southern Innovator have been published on key themes identified by the United Nations: mobile phones and information technology, youth and entrepreneurship, agribusiness and food security, cities and urbanization and waste and recycling.

All of the issues collate and explain the trends, innovations and innovators for a large, global audience spanning many countries and regions.

Timeline 

2007: David South Consulting begins work on the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation at the United Nations.

2008: Reader response experiment begins with crowd-powered news website NowPublic. Initial proposal for the development of book or magazine on innovation. Awarded grant for Cuba study tour by BSHF. 

2009: Adjust e-newsletter content based on reader responses. Begin posting content on Twitter platform.

2010: Begin development of initial concepts for innovator magazine and assemble creative team with Icelandic graphic designer and illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir and graphic designer Eva Hronn Gudnadottir. 

2011: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Rome, Italy. Launch first issue of Southern Innovator magazine on mobile phones and information technology. It is called “a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space…”. Launch www.southerninnovator.org website and social media including Twitter account @SouthSouth1. 

2012: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Vienna, Austria. Launch issues 2 (youth and entrepreneurship) and 3 (agribusiness and food security) of Southern Innovator magazine. Called a “Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation.”

2013: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Nairobi, Kenya. Launch issue 4 of Southern Innovator magazine (cities and urbanization). Called “fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!” and “Always inspiring.”. 

2014: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Launch issue 5 of Southern Innovator magazine (waste and recycling). The Twitter account @SouthSouth1 called “ one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Final issues of e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions published.  

Testimonials 

“The e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions proved to be a timely and prescient resource on the fast-changing global South, tracking the rise of an innovator culture driven by the rapid adoption of mobile phones and information technology … 

“In 2010, work began on the development of the world’s first magazine dedicated to the 21st-century innovator culture of the global South. My goal was to create a magazine that would reach across countries and cultures, meet the UN’s standards, and inspire action. Southern Innovator was the result. Mr. [David] South played a vital role in the magazine’s development from its early conception, through its various design prototypes, to its final global launch and distribution.  

“Both the e-newsletter and magazine raised the profile of South-South cooperation and have been cited by readers for inspiring innovators, academics, policy makers and development practitioners in the United Nations and beyond.  

“I highly recommend Mr. [David] South as a thoughtful, insightful, analytical, creative and very amicable person who has the unique ability to not only grasp complex problems but also to formulate a vision and strategy that gets things done. … ”  Cosmas Gitta, Former Assistant Director, Policy and United Nations Affairs at United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) in UNDP 

“I think you [David South] and the designer [Solveig Rolfsdottir] do great work and I enjoy Southern Innovator very much!” Ines Tofalo, Programme Specialist, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation

Southern Innovator Issue 5 

“@SouthSouth1 is one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Adam Rogers, Assistant Director, Regional Representative, Europe, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) 

“Btw, I really enjoyed reading them, impressive work & a great resource. Looking forward to Issue 6. My best wishes to you & your team at SI.” 

“… great magazine, nice design.” 

Southern Innovator Issue 4 

“I liked your latest Southern innovator! Always inspiring.” Joana Breidenbach, betterplace.org, Berlin, Germany 

“The magazine looks fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!” 

Southern Innovator Issue 2 

“Thank you David – Your insight into the issues facing us a[s] [a] “global Village” is made real in the detail of your article – 10 out of 10 from the moladi team.” Moladi, South Africa (http://www.moladi.net/index.htm

Southern Innovator Issue 1 

“What a tremendous magazine your team has produced! It’s a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space… Really looking forward to what you produce in issues #2 and #3. This is great, engaging, relevant and topical stuff.” Rose Shuman, Founder & CEO, Open Mind and Question Box 

“Looks great. Congratulations. It’s Brill’s Content for the 21st century!” Conan Tobias, Managing Editor, Canadian Business 

What they are saying about SI on Twitter: From @CapacityPlus Nice job RT @ActevisCGroup: RT @UNDP: Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @UNDP Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @JeannineLemaire Graphically beautiful & informative @UNDP Southern Innovator mag on South-South Innov.  

And on Pinterest:

Peggy Lee • 1 year ago

“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it”

Impact 

Micro 

  • developed content for highly influential UN e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions from 2007 to 2014. The monthly briefing is distributed across the UN and to subscribers
  • developed and launched world’s first global innovator magazine for the United Nations, Southern Innovator
  • contacted and networked with innovators around the world to raise the profile of their work
  • attended global events to champion power of 21st century global innovator culture. Visited United Nations agency headquarters around the world to share the innovator message and distribute the publications
  • cited as a key resource on trends in the global South 

Macro

  • significantly raised profile of global South innovators and 21st century global innovator culture
  • cited as contributor to new strategic plans for UNDP and its switch to an innovation and South-South focus

Citations 

Autonomous Systems in the Intelligence Community: Many Possibilities and Challenges by Jenny R. Holzer, PhD, and Franklin L. Moses, PhD, Studies in Intelligence Vol 59, No. 1 (Extracts, March 2015) 

Beyond Gated Communities edited by Samer Bagaeen and Ola Uduku (Routledge: 2015)

Chile in Transition: Prospects and Challenges for Latin America’s Forerunner of Development by Roland Benedikter and Katja Siepmann (Springer: 2015) 

Decoding the Brand DNA: A Design Methodology Applied to Favela Fashion by Magali Olhats, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina Florianopolis, 2012 

Edible Insects and the Future of Food: A Foresight Scenario Exercise on Entomophagy and Global Food Security by Dominic Glover and Alexandra Sexton, Institute of Development Studies, King’s College London, Evidence Report No 149, September 2015 

High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation Seventeenth Session: Framework of operational guidelines on United Nations support to South-South and triangular cooperation: Note by the Secretary-General22-25 May 2012, New York 

Innovation Africa: Emerging Hubs of Excellence edited by Olugbenga Adesida, Geci Karuri-Sebina and João Resende-Santos (Emerald Group Publishing: 2016) 

New Directions in Children’s and Adolescents’ Information Behavior Research edited by Dania Bilal and Jamshid Beheshti (Emerald Group Publishing: 2014) 

Propagating Gender Struggles Through Nollywood: Towards a Transformative Approach by Nita Byack George Iruobe, Geonita Initiative for Women and Child Development, 17 July 2015

Recasting ‘truisms’ of low carbon technology cooperation through innovation systems: insights from the developing world by Alexandra Mallett, Innovation and Development, 5:2, 297-311, DOI: 10.1080/2157930X.2015.1049851, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2015

A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants by Toni Schofield (Cambridge University Press: 2015)  

Strategic Framework of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, 2014-2017Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, 27 to 31 January 2014, New York

Wearing Your Map on Your Sleeve: Practices of Identification in the Creation and Consumption of Philippine Map T-shirts by Pamela Gloria Cajilig, paper presented at the 6th Global Conference (2014): Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom, 15th to 18th September 2014

Youth Empowered as Catalysts for Sustainable Human Development: UNDP Youth Strategy 2014-2017United Nations Development Programme, Bureau for Development Policy

DSC web address in green_mini (1)

© David South Consulting 2017

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Ger: Mongolia’s First Web Magazine (And A Pioneering Web Project For The United Nations) | 12 January 2016

“The years 1998 and 1999 have been volatile ones for Mongolia, with revolving door governments, the assassination of a minister, emerging corruption, a banking scandal, in-fighting within the ruling Democratic Coalition, frequent paralysis within the Parliament, and disputes over the Constitution. Economically, the period was unstable and rife with controversies.” Mongolia in 1998 and 1999: Past, Present, and Future at the New Millennium by Sheldon R. Severinghaus, Asian Survey, Vol. 40, No. 1, A Survey of Asia in 1999 (Jan. – Feb., 2000). pp. 130-139 (Publisher: University of California)

Ger Magazine was launched on September 9, 1998 (Ger is the Mongolian word for both the traditional tent dwelling and home). The theme of youth in the transition was explored by a combined team of Mongolian and foreign journalists. The Ger Magazine project had basically three goals: first, raise the quality of journalism in the country, secondly, introduce the country to a wider global audience and, thirdly, by being the country’s first online magazine, prove the internet was an effective way to communicate.

Issue 1

Issue 1 of the magazine investigated what life was like for youth during the transition years (post-1989). Stories tackled the struggle to find work in the free market, the booming pop music scene and how it is leading the way in business entrepreneurship, reproductive health, the basics on Mongolian culture, and vox pop views from Mongolian youth.

Issue 2

Issue 2 of the magazine investigated modern life in Mongolia during transition. The team of journalists were hitting their stride by this issue. Stories probed the proliferation of bars and the problem of alcoholism, corrupt banking practices and the loss of savings, how the young were the country’s leading entrepreneurs, Mongolia’s meat and milk diet, “girl power” and the strong role played by women, the burgeoning new media, the rise and rise of Buddhism, and Mongolia’s dynamic fashion designers (this article inspired foreign fashion designers to embrace the Mongolian ‘look’ in the next season’s designs).

Editor-in-Chief: David South, UNDP Communications Coordinator
EditorA. Delgermaa, UB Post newspaper
TranslationA. Delgermaa
Photography: N. Baigalmaa, David South
Design and layout: B. Bayasgalan, UN Homepage Webmaster

“This is the second issue of Ger. We have chosen the theme “Modern Life” to introduce people outside of Mongolia to the complexities of life in today’s Mongolia – the good, the bad and the ugly as a cowboy film once said. Ger is a project that draws upon the best journalists of this country. Under democracy Mongolia enjoys a flourishing free press, with over 800 officially registered newspapers for a population of 2.4 million! Ger has chosen A. Delgermaa of the UB Post newspaper to edit this issue. The UB Post is one of two English language newspapers in Mongolia and is owned by the Mongol News Company, a publisher of five newspapers, including the daily Today newspaper. Ger is a project to improve the quality of journalism in Mongolia, while introducing the people of the world to Mongolian journalists and this wonderful country. We hope you enjoy this issue of Ger. Please send us your comments. 

Ger is not an official UNDP publication but a project to improve the quality of journalism. Opinions expressed in the magazine do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the United Nations Development Programme. Articles may be freely reproduced so long as credit is given and the editors are notified. Ger is published in English and Mongolian. 

Contributors

Ms. A Delgermaa: A reporter with the UB Post English weekly newspaper, which enjoys a good reputation among readers. Delgermaa is a young journalist and started her career in 1997, after graduating from the English Department of the Foreign Service School, Mongolian National University. She is a regular contributor to UN publications and has been published by Inter Press Service. She thinks Mongolia needs more psychologists to give courage to those many who are yearning for a better life. Like many young Mongolians she also wants to study abroad, to learn how journalism is practised in other countries.

Ms. N. Oyunbayar: Also a reporter with the UB Post newspaper, Oyunbayar, is a graduate of Ekaterinburg University in Russia, where she qualified as a Russian language teacher. She left her pupils in Sukhbaatar aimag, where she was born, some years ago and decided to undertake a personal crusade against wrongdoing by becoming a journalist for the UB Post. She is an award-winning journalist and a member of the Mongolian Free Democratic Journalists Association. She loves to cook and enjoys learning about new cuisines. 

Ms. T. Mandala: A historian and journalist, she is a reporter with the “Weekend” weekly newspaper. She has been a journalist for two years, has written several interesting interviews with politicians, including the Mongolian parliamentary speaker R. Gonchigdorj and MPs Da. Ganbold and E. Bat-Uul. She explores issues like life after death and she wants to be a public defender in a court one day. 

She is a successor of her grandfather Khodoogiin Perlee, who is a famous historian in Mongolia. And studies religion, especially Buddhism and Shamanism. 

Mr. D. Dorjjav: A psychologist and a lecturer at the Administrative Management Department of Mongolian National University, he is married and has two girls and a boy. He is currently working on his doctoral thesis. His wish is to help people to open themselves up and discover their abilities. His plan for the future is to contribute to the psychological understanding of life in Mongolia. Dorjjav’s hobby is to talk to people and exchange opinions.

G. Enkhtuya: Born in the year of the pig (there are twelve years in the lunar calendar), a professional in marketing, trading, journalism, she is currently studying law in the Institute of Legal Studies, Mongolian National University. She is also a reporter for Odriin Sonin independent daily newspaper, once the largest state-owned newspaper until the start of 1999. She likes to cook when she is liberated from her official duties.

Jill Lawless: An Honourary Foreign Member of the Mongolian Free Democratic Journalists Association, Jill has been the editor of the UB Post newspaper since 1997. Jill regularly contributes to Agence France-Presse, Far Eastern Economic Review, Deutsche Welle and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She is happiest riding camels in the Gobi desert. 

Michael Kohn: Michael is the editor of the Mongol Messenger and contributed to the first edition of Ger. He is a regular contributor to Associated Press and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Michael is an avid traveler and is an expert on hitchhiking across Mongolia.  

Ms. N. Baigalmaa: Photo journalist for Onoodor (Today) newspaper, the number one independent newspaper for three years. “Photo journalism is always interesting. I really enjoy taking action photos.” She is fed up of taking photos of static photos of people standing or sitting and has devoted her life to photo journalism. One never boring thing for her is her two sons and a girl. Sometimes she loses her sports jacket to her oldest son, now taller than her.”

Impact

The stories have been featured in many books on the country, and the magazine was recommended as a good resource by the Lonely Planet guidebook. 

This was not only the first publication of its kind in the UN, it was also a pioneering online venture and remarkable for a country lacking the advantages of wealthier countries.

An online survey of the state of Mongolia’s media and its history (www.pressreference.com/Ma-No/Mongolia.html), had this to say: “An interesting variation from some of the other publications available is Ger Magazine (published online with guidance from the United Nations Development Program, UNDP), which is concerned with Mongolian youth in cultural transition. The name of the magazine is meant to be ironic because a ger is the Mongolian word for yurt—a yurt being traditional nomadic housing—but the magazine is about urbanization and globalization of Mongolian youth.”

Citations

A Complete Guide on Celebrations, Festivals and Holidays around the World by Sarah Whelan, Asteroid Content, 2015

Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media by Jeff Summer, Gale Group, 2001

Mongol Survey, Issue 8, The Society, 2001

Mongolian Culture and Society in the Age of Globalization by Henry G. Schwarz (editor), Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University, 2006

Nations in Transition: Mongolia by Jennifer L. Hanson, Infobase Publishing, 2003

Teen Life in Asia by Judith J. Slater, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004

World Press Encyclopedia: A Survey of Press Systems Worldwide, Volume 1 by Amanda C. Quick, Gale Group, 2003

Some of the team behind Ger:

Editor-in-Chief: David South

Logo Design: P. Davaa-Ochir

Layout and Online: B. Bayasgalan

Contributors: A. DelgermaaMichael KohnJill LawlessPeter Marsh, and N. Oyuntungalag.

Read the Wikipedia entry here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ger_magazine

Read the full content by searching the www.archive.org wayback machine via the http://www.un-mongolia.mn website: https://web.archive.org/web/19990420090143/http://www.un-mongolia.mn/

Ger Magazine contributor Jill Lawless’ book Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia here: https://wildeasttravelsinthenewmongolia.wordpress.com

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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UN Ukraine Web Development Experience | 2000

In November/December 2000 I worked in Kiev, Ukraine for the United Nations mission on the strategic re-launch of the mission website as a portal, whilst also advising the UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative Douglas Gardner on communications strategy. It was an extraordinary experience on many levels. It was a time when the Internet was fast evolving and required quick thinking and an ability to innovate; it was also a key moment in Ukraine’s history. 

The dangers at the time for communicating on the Internet were starkly clear: on September 16, the Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze was murdered. In 2013 Aleksei Pukach, former head of the surveillance department in the Ministry of Interior, was convicted of the murder. 

But despite those dangers and clear threats from the government of the time, there was a flourishing and inventive Internet and digital economy. The magazine Internet UA (whose editor I enjoyed meeting) gave a great overview of the scene in Ukraine and its creativity. Just as now, the creation of Internet stars who can exploit the medium (in this case sexy videos: a very large online market today) was driving viewers and subscribers. But there was also a vibrant online news media, blogging, commerce and gaming presence as well.

Internet UA magazine: Sex sells and the sex industry has always had pioneers seeking new ways to get eyeballs for their content. The Internet from its early days has been driven by the search for nude pictures and sex videos. In this cover feature, “Internet + TV: Double Impact”. That content mix has become the foundation of websites such as Pornhub etc.

According to ain.ua, the Ukrainian digital economy today is ” … ‘local’ only just figuratively speaking. Ukrainian startups are initially focused on international markets. Product companies are included into international industry ratings. Outsourcing works with clients from all over the world. Global players enter Ukrainian market, opening R&D offices, acquiring and investing into local companies. There are no boundaries.” 

A magazine feature on ‘Natasha’s’ Internet content offering.

It is easy to take digital freedoms for granted now but there was great resistance at the time and, unlike today, many governments were openly hostile to digital technology, online communications and e-commerce.

50 websites to bookmark in 2000.

The UN itself was evolving and embracing the communications and design revolution being driven by digital change. This was the first “dot.com” boom, which had begun in 1997. I had played a key role in pioneering online content for Mongolia (1997-1999) and could bring this experience to Ukraine. In particular, I launched an award-winning web portal for the UN Mongolia mission in 1997 (www.un-mongolia.mn) and also the country’s first web magazine, Ger

The UN Ukraine brief involved creating content that was accessible to users with low bandwidth, dial-up connections (few had mobile phones in 2000). I had been building new media experience throughout the 1990s, tracking the cable and satellite TV and mobile/Internet revolutions for the Financial Times as a journalist, as well as launching websites for various media clients. 

The Terms of Reference for the UN/UNDP Ukraine assignment.
The assignment business card.
The UN/UNDP Ukraine website before launch as a portal.
The first iteration of the new UN Ukraine portal.

Key content created and launched on the UN Ukraine portal included critical information on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ukraine, UN Ukraine’s first online magazine to explore perceptions of volunteering and NGOs in the post-communist period, and content preparing for the visit of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, by showing how Ukraine was engaging with global development priorities, for example the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and bringing together UN agencies and entities into a cohesive web and “One UN” experience.

The first UN Ukraine online magazine.
Bringing together UN agencies and entities into a cohesive web and “One UN” experience.

One highlight of this assignment was working with the “UN Chornobyl Programme” to develop its web content. This included visiting Pripyat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pripyat),an abandoned city because of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986. I have visited many abandoned and “secret” cities and towns in the course of working with the United Nations but this particular visit had the added dimension of an environmental and human health disaster hanging over it (and as a former healthcare worker at Canada’s top cancer hospital and research institute, I couldn’t forget the impact of high radiation levels on the body).  

UN Chornobyl Programme website in development, 2000.
UN agencies in Ukraine.
UNDP in Ukraine.

The power of the Internet and the digital economy to engage people, especially the young, despite living in a country with significant political repression of free speech and even physical intimidation and murder, stuck with me. This work also contributed to laying the foundations for Ukraine’s growing freedoms and greater engagement with Europe. 

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052

© David South Consulting 2021 

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New Weapon Against Crime in the South

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Crime in the South’s fast-growing cities has a negative affect on economic development and social and community harmony. In Africa, with one fifth of the world’s population, for example, data is very poor on crime and its victims. The absence of good data means prevention and detection of crime is poor, and resources to fight it can’t be allocated effectively.

Over 900 million people – almost a sixth of the world’s population – now live in urban slums (UN) – high-tension places that offer a fertile environment for crime to flourish. In developing countries 43 per cent of urban dwellers live in slums – and in the least-developed countries the figure is 78 per cent. Keeping these areas safe is a serious challenge, especially when trust in police and local authorities is low. People are often afraid of how police will react to reporting of crime. Many rightly believe they will be asked for a bribe, or that reporting a crime somehow singles them out as a troublemaker.

Harnessing the power of people organizing together offers one way of fighting back against crime, and combating the paralysis of feeling there is nothing that can be done. An initiative in Brazil is turning to the powerful collaborative potential of Web 2.0 to track crime and help to solve it. And for the first time in history, Brazilians can now see in more or less real time what crime there is and where it is happening in their country.

Wikicrimes, the brainchild of Professor Vasco Furtado of the University of Fortaleza’s Knowledge Engineering Research Group, is inspired by the very popular user-contributed encyclopaedia Wikipedia, and germinated in his mind while on an academic sabbatical at Stanford University in California in 2006.

Victims of crime can simply map and report crimes using the website, which uses brightly coloured drawing pins to indicate where a cluster of crimes has taken place. Site users answer a series of questions on suspects and witnesses. Anyone planning a journey can then easily zoom in on the places where they will go, and see the crime profile of that area – and perhaps be more cautious and aware to avoid becoming victims themselves.

Brazil’s crime problem is huge: Films like City of God – where gangs fight deadly battles in the slums or favelas – shows how vicious it is.

Wikicrimes, whose motto is “Share crime information, Keep safe!”, began development in April 2006, and went ‘live’ with a launch at the end of 2007. Starting with just two employees, it has now grown to a team of 10.

Furtado was frustrated with police hoarding crime statistics in Brazil, and not letting people know where crimes were taking place: he also believes the police, as in many other countries, manipulate statistics for various political purposes. “The traditional mechanism of data-gathering for which police are responsible ends up giving them a monopoly over the handling of information on criminal occurrences,” Furtado said. And that “is not always in keeping with the precept of transparency and public availability of information required by a democratic system.”

Furtado believes transparent crime statistics are vital to a well-functioning democracy.

“We are still facing very big challenges,” he said. “Cultural change is one of them. We don’t have in Brazil the culture of sharing information for benefiting others. People need to realize that when they register a crime they are helping others, and that should be the reason others will act in the same fashion.”

He tried to get the police involved in the project, by contributing data, but with no luck. Brazil’s police argue their monopoly over crime statistics exists for some very serious reasons. “We are very worried about revealing police data which may restrict the work of the police,” Antenor Martins of Rio’s Civil Police Department told the BBC. “Also we don’t want a feeling of insecurity for the people – they don’t deserve that here or anywhere else in the world.”

Many also worry about a crime profile of an area dragging that area down, scaring people away. The police also worry about inaccurate information. “When people walk into a police station, you sign an incident report. If you give information which isn’t true, you have to respond to charges of giving false evidence,” said Martins.

But Furtado believes trust between citizens and the police is so low, it is hurting the fight against crime.

“The police suffer a lack of credibility among the populace which, in turn, contributes toward the low rate of reporting such occurrences: the so-called underreporting effect,” he said. “Research conducted with victims of crime in several Brazilian states has shown that underreporting may, in densely-populated areas, reach up to 50 per cent for certain types of crimes.”

Furtado believes a better picture of crime will lead to better public policies and policing: “The result of this can be disastrous in terms of formulation of public policies and especially in the planning of police actions, in view of the fact that the official criminal mapping may reflect a trend that is quite unlike what is actually occurring in real life.

“WikiCrimes intends to change the traditional logic of handling information on crimes that have already occurred, and considers that such a change is up to the citizens themselves. It is based on the principle that with adequate support, citizens will be capable of deciding how and when historical information on criminal occurrences can be publicized as well as for what purpose.”

Sao-Paulo-based NGO Sou de Paz works to reduce violence in Brazil, and is a big supporter of Wikicrimes. “If we develop Wikicrimes, we can look at things like domestic violence or information on drug trafficking – things that affect communities but that people don’t report either because of shame or fear,” the group’s Denis Mizne told the BBC. “If you can get access to this information or publicise it together with Wikicrimes, it could help in areas that suffer most from violent crime.”

Wisely, Wikicrimes is acting to address police concerns over accurate reporting of crimes.

“Technically the big challenge is to define mechanisms to identify false registering,” Furtado said. “We are creating fields in WikiCrimes for the user to provide further information that brings more reliability to the crime information registered — links to newspapers, for instance. We are also defining algorithms to compute the reputation of the informants.”

And Wikicrimes is not just for Brazil: they want people from around the world to add to the site and help build up the crime profile of all countries.

Furtado said responses from the general public have largely been positive. “The best I could ever hope,” he said. “The project is for the citizen and I feel that they realize this. Every day, I receive messages from people offering support and giving congratulations.”

“I had no idea of similar projects before doing Wikicrimes, but, recently, I have received some messages of similar initiatives even though with a local scope in Brazil, Argentina and USA,” he added.

“In terms of crime it would be nice if this would show that it’s necessary to publish the crime data that we have in law authorities and institutions,” he said. “If this is a success, I am sure that all the crime data will be available for people, because they will realize there is no way that the authorities can keep it all to themselves.”

Furtado keeps a rolling report on progress with Wikicrimes on his blog.

Resources

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: May 2008

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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Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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