Mapping incidences via SMS has been in the news lately. From the swine flu to requests for assistance to election data, visualization of data submitted and collected with mobile phones and via other channels is a hot topic. We asked our special contributor, Melissa Loudon to compare two platforms: Ushahidi and Managing News. While different, both offer powerful capabilities for mapping reports, news of incidences, and SMS-submitted data.

bookmark, language

boingboing: You can use language courses developed for U.S. diplomats for free. The courses, which usually feature PDF texts and MP3 audio—plus tests—were created before 1989 and are now in the public domain. Currently, you can't download anything, because the site's servers got swamped after a mention on Lifehacker. But I thought y'all might want to bookmark for future use, once things get up and running again.

bookmark, dotcom

Wired claims that this is the tenth anniversary of the dotcom boom, and in honor of that auspicious overheated bubble, they've put together a long, Web 0.96b layout depicting the most hubristicly hubristic predictions and hype of that golden age.

Ethan Zuckerman's new piece on Worldchanging, "Internet Freedom: Beyond Circumvention," looks at the technical and social limitations of circumvention of censoring firewalls that we love so much as a tool for helping people in repressive regimes liberate themselves. It's an excellent and thought-provoking piece that raises more questions than it answers, but it points to some very meaty research problems that people who care about technology and freedom need to attend to.

The Regional Dialogue on the Information Society (DIRSI) has conducted periodic surveys of mobile telephone tariffs in the principle markets of Latin America and the Caribbean since 2007, using the method of mobile services baskets developed by the OECD. The objective is to follow the evolution of tariffs as markets mature, and to estimate affordability of mobile services for low-income sectors. This estimate is fundamental to the design of universal access strategies, since the level of affordability determines the borders of market efficiency. In other words, without an empirical analysis of the levels of affordability of services, it is not possible to determine which markets are commercially viable without the need for subsidies. DIRSI's surveys, therefore, seek to suport the design of policies that expand the market's borders while at the same time minimising public subsidies.

Design for the First World: The Rest Saving the West: a design competition that challenges residents of the poor and developing world to produce designs to save the rich first world from itself: "Dx1W has pro claimed 2010 Inter­na tional Year of the First World in Need, and has defined four main areas to address: Food Production and Eat­ing Disorders, Aging Population and Low Birth rate, Immigration and Integra tion to Society, Sustain ability and Over consumption." (via Beyond the Beyond)

The "Wellington Declaration" says that the world copyright treaties shouldn't be conducted behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms, but rather in the full light of public participation at the United Nations, where copyright treaties are customarily made. The UN admits non-governmental organizations, journalists, and representatives from poor countries, while ACTA is only open to rich countries and lobbyists from powerful corporations.

A sad but true FAQ, but I think it's officially too late, even for the 1.5. I've long argued that OLPC should sell the XO (2009: , 2008: , ).

The fact is, the market it created has passed it by for many potential buyers who could have supported the XO ecosystem financially, if not through bug reporting and hacking.

From Bill Easterly: Last week we posted some cool maps showing the spread of cell phones especially in Africa over the last decade. We called this “a triumph of bottom-up entrepreneurial success,” but you weren’t convinced. You thought it was foreign direct investment (FDI). Provide more evidence that entrepreneurs are part of this picture, you said. Aid Watch never declines a challenge

The cost of electricity is a huge barrier to ICT adoption in the developing world. Rolling blackouts are common in cities, while in peri-urban and rural areas, there's no grid electricity infrastructure - its all solar or generator power. Yet petrol or diesel generators are hard to maintain and solar power is expensive - $10+ per Watt.

What is ICT4D (ICT for Development)? It’s usually defined as the application of technology in third world countries, not as technology. In other words, a technology platform or tool is not ICT4D, though it is used by ICT4D practitioners to do their work.

From the early days of computerized publisher, Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden explains the mystical thing they did with the rock: "For years, Tor had one computer: an IBM PC AT with an amber monitor. Towards the end of its life, in the late 1980s, it could only be rebooted by smartly hitting its CPU on the side with a particular rock. Several people shared the computer and each person had his or her own style of rock banging, and over time, the side of the CPU gradually bowed in due to repeated impacts. Claire Eddy still has the rock, kept in a high place of honor in her office."

Colin Jackson, a commenter on a blog, on the miserable state of international law: "What a pity international governments don't seem to be able to make an agreement to ration finite resources like tuna, atmospheric carbon or fossil fuels, but instead devote their time to making an international agreement enforcing controls over something that costs no resources to copy."


Outdated gender roles + a technology still trying to find its market = hilarity

Professor Karrie Karahalios is a current Berkman fellow, joining us from UIUC where she teaches computer science. Her talk at Berkman today is titled “Text and Tie Strength”, and begins with a reminder that “What attracts people most is other people”, a quote from sociologist William Whyte. Whyte pointed out that people flock to spaces where they can hang out – places with seats. As we design online spaces, we need to consider building spaces with seats.

""Here in Afghanistan, a self-instructional sign language application running on the OLPC or other hardware is envisioned that will support parents, children and teachers to learn to communicate with each other." This is a great idea Mike. I heard a similar proposal for Nicaragua from the group from Harvard that went down with to a deaf school in Jan. I know Kevin who works in Gauladette's IT is also interested. Maybe there is a way to pool resources to create an infrastructure that could be localized."