Monday, May 22, 2017

Learning by doing - C'est Congolestic!

In this century, social, economic and political life has undergone an unprecedented upheaval: the emergence of a new economy emerging from the new information and communication technologies is undoubtedly a predominant feature of the period in which we live .

The originality of the Internet and the new information and communication technologies (ICT) lies in the fact that it affects all fields, all sectors and more generally everyone. The scope of use of these new technologies is as wide as any other technology can measure.

The rise of information and communication technologies (ICTs) signals and accompanies a profound transformation of societies and therefore plays a major role in development in the 21st century.

However, The use of ICTs in Africa and particularly in the DRC currently remains sporadic and STEM education has only now starting to take baby’s steps with little clear guidance for their positive development and impact on sustainable development.

More, my personal experience of interacting at and in regional and international ICT gatherings is that of a lack of representation or contribution thereof of DRC stakeholders' positions either on policy or draft declaration. Worst, the Congo appears only in 1/4 research studies' index published on the continent.

Taking these into consideration, I founded in 2015 what I called: CONGOLESTIC (LES CONGOLAIS ET LES TECHNOLOGIES DE L’INFORMATION ET DE LA COMMUNICATION) to bring people together from various stakeholder groups as equals to discuss public policy issues related to ICTs and STEM education in the DRC. It aims to inform and inspire the youth via robotics workshops and those with policymaking power, and facilitates a common understanding of how to maximize ICT opportunities and address risks and challenges that arise from new technologies in the DRC.

Logo: I came up with a French neologism:) C'est "Congolestic"! Adjectif enunciates Authentic Congolese exchange between primitive communication the "lokole" and that of modern data the "download". I won't be surprised to see Africa following with: i.e: Togolestic, Rwandalestic, Mauritiuslestic, Burundilestic ...:) 

ONGOLESTIC’s mission is to raise awareness, provide information, discussions and training on new technologies of communication and robotics in the DRC.

We organize courses and hands-on workshops on robotics, cybersecurity, internet of things and the right to Internet access. Also, we have set an incubator and work with groups of engineers and students on projects and ideas related to innovation within the STEM.

Do you know of DR Congolese with expertise in technologies of information, based in Congo or abroad? We will be grateful to connect to him. Drop us an email to or DM us on social platforms. This is our website:

Feel free to contribute to our discussions. Your inputs are welcome.

Monday, November 7, 2016

8 Personalities to Look for When Assembling a Content Team

Not having enough of the right people on your content team is a problem for many of today’s marketers. In fact, 38% of B2B marketers say HR and staffing issues are responsible for delayed success in content marketing, and 22% blame a lack of training and education.

Developing, executing, and measuring a content marketing plan can be difficult under the best of circumstances. But when you’re not adequately staffed, even the most well-conceived content marketing plan can struggle. That’s why it’s so crucial to have the right roles outlined and fulfilled by the people who can execute them the best. We’ve identified eight personalities that can strengthen your team. As you learn more about them, you might notice that many possess the same qualifications -- things like an ability to meet deadlines, good interpersonal skills, and task-specific marketing knowledge. Check out more about these personalities below -- they’ll help bring your content strategy to fruition. 

1) The Taskmaster

This person is your project manager -- the one responsible for the successful execution of your projects and campaigns. While creative, the taskmaster should also be proactive and action-oriented. After all, this person is your closer, or as we like to say around here, the overseer of getting stuff done.

The importance of well-executed project management is especially clear when comparing high-performing companies to low-performing ones. According to the Project Management Institute, in a workplace culture that emphasizes project management, 71% of projects actually meet their original goals. Compare that to the 51% of projects in non-project-management cultures, and it’s clear -- companies that prioritize project management do better -- period.

The taskmaster has a lot on his or her plate -- things like budgets and being able to identify and prevent possible issues. But there’s technology out there that can benefit the taskmasters of the world, like the Projects app in your HubSpot software.

2) The Wordsmith

Not only does this person write well, but he or she is agile enough to do so in different voices and tones, based on your content topics and personas. In other words, the wordsmith brings your ideas to life through language. Plus, this person is able to create compelling work quickly -- like the rest of the team, he or she should be deadline-driven enough to keep deliverables on track.

To state the obvious,  you can’t create content without a content creator. And it’s not just about writing -- it’s about being able to do it well. These days, that’s a rare asset -- American businesses spend up to $3.1 billion on training employees for basic writing skills.

The wordsmith should be well-versed in the goals and audience of the content -- that’s what’s going to help him or her make it engaging. In many ways, this person is a translator who’s able to convert abstract ideas into tangible composition. And being able to work independently, as well as part of a team, is essential here, as the wordsmith must understand the ideas being communicated by his or her colleagues, and work with it autonomously.

3) The Grammar Geek

While the wordsmith gives the content life, the grammar geek is an editor makes your brand look smart. He or she holds brand values high and serves as the champion for consistency and quality across all channels.

Here’s why your grammar geek is so vital. If you publish content that contains errors, you risk losing sales. For some businesses, in fact, a single typo was speculated to result in an 80% drop in sales.

The grammar geek has a passion for language -- preferably, the one in which your content is being published. But he or she also understands how to write specifically for the format of what you’re producing. Digital content, for example, sometimes takes on a different voice than print, so make sure this person is fluent in both.

And make sure this person works well with your wordsmith -- chances are, they’ll have to share a back-and-forth to get a polished finished result.

4) The Artist

The strongest content teams have someone who can turns ideas and data into beautiful visuals. The artist supports your content marketing efforts by designing images, infographics, logos, and collateral -- online and print -- that adhere to brand style guidelines.

Compelling visuals are imperative in today’s landscape -- articles with one image for every 75-100 words get twice as many social shares than articles with fewer images. You’ll need someone who can create them in a way that aligns with your brand, and is proficient in the technology used to create them. An innate sense for color, text style and layout wouldn’t hurt, either.

Make sure this person will thrive in a client-facing role, too -- he or she will likely have to communicate with multiple parties and be able to understand their respective visions.

5) The Growth Hacker

Of course, it’s always good to have a master of numbers and data on your team. How else can you accurately measure and analyze the ROI of your content marketing? This person love metrics, A/B testing, and proving that ROI. In fact, it's possible your growth hacker has a t-shirt with Peter Drucker’s famous management quote, "What gets measured, gets managed.”
The growth hacker should be more than just a data hound, though. This person truly understands what Peter Drucker meant when he wrote, “Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results.”
Your growth hacker helps reveal what's effective. That, in turn, shows the team how to funnel its time and talents into the right actions to produce the right results. That requires an ability to develop, execute and report on a comprehensive content strategy -- on that both attracts potential customers and retains existing ones. Plus, this person should be able to collaborate with sales and operations, because you’ll need their help to meet objectives.

6) The Social Butterfly

Your social butterfly is in charge of content distribution, promotion, and amplification. They have an affinity for social media and branding and enjoy interacting with people online.

Why is this team member important? You can thank the rules of good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing. After all, After all, content consumption on Twitter has increased by 25% in the past two years alone -- and 76% of its users are likely to recommend a brand after a positive social media interaction with it.     

Like the rest of your content team, the social butterfly must understand the goals of the project and the audience -- that’s necessary in order to effectively communicate on social media. This person should be generally skilled in content distribution and promotion, and know how to engage influencers to drive interest around the brand and build customer loyalty. And it doesn’t hurt if this person knows how to manage paid promotions and campaigns on such social networks as Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and Snapchat.

7) The Risk-Taker

Every content team needs someone who challenges colleagues to try something new. Your group needs this dreamer to come up with the occasional crazy idea — because it might just work after all -- and, you won’t know if you don’t try.

This individual's unique perspective keeps your content approach from getting stale, or lost in any project chaos. And while the risk-taker role is a scary one for some teams to embrace, there’s evidence that taking risks can be beneficial -- when done with caution.
But maybe that fear comes from a desire to emulate other brand leaders; if the big guys are doing it "this way," we should, too. Or, a team may be afraid of looking dumb or silly. If you find yourself a little uncertain about the risk-taker role, ask yourself, “What content have I seen that's really stood out to me lately? Was it the same-old-same-old, or was it something different, edgy or new?”

Obviously, your risk-taker should have a big-picture mindset, and a sense of adventure. This person shouldn’t be too preoccupied with what other people think, either. But remember: He or she must know how to take a calculated risk.

8) The Rule-Follower

To keep the risk-taker (and everyone else) in check, make sure you fill the role of rule-player. This person ensures that your content follows industry best practices. If you’re in a regulated industry, this role becomes even more important -- violate any codes of conduct, and your content marketing efforts might get your company into hot water.

This rule-following team member is someone who executes on the finer, more mundane parts of the strategy. Though unsexy to some, the details are important, and they need to be thoroughly ironed out before your content goes live.

To that end, the rule-follower has a meticulous and methodical personality, with the ability to ask critical questions. And believe it or not, there are some who find joy in the execution, so to speak, and not just the strategizing -- this person should have that quality.

Make It a Combo

So what happens if you can’t have a team this large? Not every company has the capacity for an eight-person content team. That’s okay -- combinations are possible, and some are more important than others.

Make sure you have one risk-taker and one rule-follower. The risk-taker can come up with all the outta-this-world ideas, and the rule-follower can reel them back to earth. One becomes the yin to the other’s yang.

However, your taskmaster and growth hacker can be combined. Both are usually super-organized and meticulous; they like numbers, project management tools, and spreadsheets, and it’s fairly easy to find these traits in the same person.

You cannot combine your wordsmith and your grammar geek. Everybody needs an editor, right? Or as Ann Handley wrote, “Editors are not optional. Period.” And while wordsmiths can make great editors, it’s always challenging to review your own work -- that’s why they call it a “second set of eyes.”

But, you can combine your social butterfly with your wordsmith. Creative types have a natural affinity for promotion, and your wordsmith should be able to compose the right kind of copy for your social networks.

Most content marketers are familiar with the pain of trying to do too much with too few resources. The usual result? We end up doing little to none of it well. Having these personalities on your team will help you produce better, more consistent content that your audience will want to click, read, and share.

This great article was written by Anita Malik and published on the Hubspot website. For the past years, I have experience how diversity and multifaceted skills make a powerful communications team. It is a grace that Anita was so able to write down and explain so clearly. The time of the solo "communications" rangers is over.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What is your Leadership Philosophy? Here is mine

I have been facing this question lately that I thought once for all to write up a short blog and share it with you. My hope is that as you read through you can think and refine yours and why not share with me what you think should really matter when defining ones’ leadership style.

I understand leadership philosophy as a set of personal rules that guide me in my career and social life. These are principles I work to consistently live out.

Prior to considering any job title, or social etiquette, I have come to the realisation that I am at first a creation of God before being a leader. So, the backdrop of my philosophy to leading others is inspired by my faith in God and purpose of life as walking with Christ Jesus.

Having said that, above all I strive to seek peace and love either at my work place or in my household. I have been a witness to how love can bring the best out of people and how it does drive to go extra mile. Relax! I'm not preaching:)…my working principles are as follow:
  1. Fairness and respect - I treat others the way I want to be treated
  2. Hardworking - I set the example and I expect others to do the same
  3. Development - I commit to help others grow, develop and realise their potential
  4. Accountability - I expect others to do what they say.  They can count on me to do the same
  5. Team Player - I do not know everything -  I will listen to others and work together for a greater outcome
  6. Excellence—I will pursue excellence (not perfection). I expect others to do their very best
  7. Discipline - Every action has a consequence – I will forgive but discipline must take its course 
  8. Positive Attitude—I will bring a positive attitude and I expect others to do the same
  9. Communication - I will provide regular feedback that is direct and constructive relative to our needs.  I expect my partner and co-worker to do the same for me
  10. Fun – I enjoy what I sign for. I expect others to do the same or resign

It is fact that there are many types or styles of leadership. Yet, the objective is to define the rules that guides you in delivering the best for everyone, yourself and the entreprise you are undertaking.

Leadership is not a privilege but a responsibility. Maturity is a privilege that makes you accept your responsibilities, and fun allows you to fulfil them with ease – says me:)

Looking forward to reading about your leadership style

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Internet, the Right to Not be Connected and Forgotten

The Internet having become a human right should be coupled with the fundamental rights of choosing not to be connected and be disengaged with no data trail.

In September 2009, Bell Labs set a data transmission speed record at 100 petabits per second, equivalent to 100 billion megabits per second able to transmit 400 DVDs worth of data per second.

According to estimates by the international research firm, Gartner, “By 2020, there will be 25 billion of smart devices, transmitting tiny amounts of data to us, to the cloud and to each other.”

The Internet has grown out of independent networks into a global entity. It now serves as a platform for communication, business, entertainment, education and for many other means as data production, transmission and retention is increasing tremendously globally.

The Internet is just a few decades old, but in a short span of time it has experienced significant changes and presents us with exciting possibilities and questions.

How about the ‘Governance of the Internet’?

The more modern society depends on the Internet, the more crucial the issue of governance of the Internet becomes. The Internet has become a complex socio-technical system that has vested economic and political interests. Nation-states and societies are competing for the establishment of legal frameworks and public policy practices that preserve or expand national interests and social value systems.

Thus the governance of the Internet is no longer the only concern for government and corporates but for all those who use or do not use. Internet governance matters to all of us whether we are among the two billion who are using it or the next billion awaiting to be connected.

I had the opportunity to attend several Internet policy forums at regional and International level to realise that Internet Governance (IG) as a policy discussion and technical coordination of issues related to the exchange of information over the internet is moving increasingly into the public eye.
It is important to state that IG fora produce non-binding discourse as they do not lead to traditional policy outcomes in the form of treaties - which constitutes their main weakness. Nevertheless, the emphasis on open participation and the involvement of non-state actors in local, regional and global Internet policy debates may constitute its strength.

Internet governance for a enables the voices of the marginalised to be heard and conflicting corporates and humanitarian interests can find a compromise.

Attending these fora, among others, the protection of privacy and human rights has been one of my focal points and that of many civil society activists. From Africa to Latin America, human rights activists view Internet governance from the perspective of freedom of expression, privacy and other basic human rights.

This has made me realised that nowadays living in a modern connected society, influencing political and technical infrastructure of the Internet is influencing the civil liberties that are impacted or enacted by this technology.

 How about the ‘Right to be Connected’?

It is important that principles of human rights and processes of Internet are equally balanced. A permanent dialogue between technical needs and rights of communities they impact on should be guaranteed in order to defend both human rights and a free and open Internet.

A United Nations report in 2011 has concluded that disconnecting people from the Internet is a human rights violation.

In its preamble, the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms emphasises that the Internet is an enabling space and resource for the realisation of all human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, the right of access to information, the right of freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of opinion, thought and belief, the right to be free from discrimination in all forms, the right to education, the right to culture and language, and the right of access to socio-economic services.

Access to the web is now a human right.

While I recognise how important the Internet is for the development of Africa, Africans and societies worldwide, I do think that we are sometimes moving too fast in overstating its relevancy or stature in people’s lives.

It is important to note that Internet access cannot be equally considered as a necessity in the day-to-day lives of all habitants of the planet earth and does not even come close to be considered a basic human right by some Americans.

For the vast majority of people living in the United States, Internet use is a given, an expectation, a norm. A Pew Research study reports that there is still a considerable portion of Americans who do not turn to the Internet at all, stating they have no interest in it, did not think it is relevant to their lives or it is too difficult to use.

This year, overall 15 percent of Americans exclude themselves from the Internet. Senior citizens made up a hefty portion of those who do not use the Internet. Thirty-nine percent of those 65 and older say they do not go online, compared with three percent of those ages 18 through 29, according to new data from Pew Research.

Based on location, culture or ethnicity factors: people in rural areas in the United States are around twice as likely as those in urban or suburban locales to never go online. In its latest research based on a series of three polls conducted this year, Pew found that around 20 percent of African Americans and 18 percent of Hispanics say they do not use the Internet, compared with 14 percent of whites and five percent of English-speaking Asian Americans.

Elsewhere, different circumstances still lead to the same realisation. In dense tropical forests in Central Africa and Amazon and in many remote areas, there are people who for generations have preserved their cultures and societies in balanced interaction with highly complex yet now vulnerable ecosystems. For centuries, these people have been marginalised on all fronts either on economic policy, global environmental policies or regional agreements. These communities have been victims to industrialisation, urbanisation and climate change. Now thinking that our modern value system is the best, there is a danger to using the Internet as a new tool of colonisation.

Despite the hype over new technologies, it is important that we come to the realisation that people can and do live without Internet access, and many lead very successful lives. That is a fundamental right to be respected.

 Human rights are described as standards of behaviour that are inherent in every human being. They are the core principles underpinning human interaction in society. These include liberty, justice, freedom of religious beliefs and choice.

To me considering the Internet as a human right should also imply that people’s choice ‘Not-Be-Connected’ should be respected. Consequently, forcing them on the network or to use a given technology would overstep their right to culture and that to be free from discrimination at certain extent. In this case, legal recognition of cultural rights of forest-based peoples and remote communities is crucial to the fulfilment of their human rights.

Agree with me that you can live without the Internet. You just won't be part of today's society if you do. It seems to me that these individuals and ‘primitive’ societies still never wanted to be part of it.

How about the 'Right to be Forgotten'?

As the network evolves, Internet governance plays out as cultural politics in a debate about what values and core principles should be preserved.

Corporates in telecommunications and web firms are researching and deploying innovative technologies to provide wide Internet access via balloons and satellites. In a short while, those who could not afford broadband costs will be connected at no cost. Yet, free access does not always come with the freedom to disengage or the ability to erase data trail.

In 2014, a European court sided with a Spanish man attempting to have links to a negative story about him removed from the online search engine Google. Invoking a version of what is known as the ‘right to be forgotten’, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that citizens have the right to ask that links be removed if they contain information that is "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant."

However, critics contend that such a sweeping new right is sure to have unintended consequences - for starters, by potentially depriving the public of useful information. There are also questions as to whether enforcing a right to be forgotten is even practical.

Few days ago, Google said no to French demand to expand right to be forgotten worldwide.

In conclusion, many major web firms are struggling to deal with the fall-outs of applying the same rights across a number of different nations. This clearly shows how the Internet is never been equal and will never be if all stakeholders are not forced to comply, in the ‘right to be forgotten’ case is the private sector whose argument of protecting public useful information hides purely financial strategies that clearly favour corporations needs over individuals or users fundamental rights.

Technological inventions and Internet processes have outgrown national legislations. Having said that, on one hand governments need to play their primary role of enforcing regulations as well as providing infrastructure for economic growth and welfare of its citizens. On the other hand, civil society should lobby and participate in global policy making to uphold rights of citizen over the ever growing influence of the Internet economy in society and multinational corporations. Coordination, strong action and engagement are needed from all stakeholders to ensure that the Internet as a human right is more than just a declaration, and sustainable development needs are in line with the respect of fundamental rights.

Tell me if you disagree. Leave me a comment or a DM on Twitter: @Adam_McKendi

My article was published on the NGO Pulse portal -

Monday, March 9, 2015

Advocacy Forecast for Africa

Wind, cloud and technological disruptions are ahead of NPOs - change is needed for an impactful advocacy approach in order to survive

In 1995 the answer was nine when asked how many planets our solar system contained. Twenty years later, we have a different answer. Similarly, 10 years ago we were told that the client is king. Today, I guess you hear that the content is.

Operating and living in the same space, the context and knowledge have tremendously changed. The art to communicate, plead for or against a cause, as well as support or recommend a position has been taking in different techniques and canvas.

New buzzwords such as networking and multi-stakeholder are telling us that advocacy is no longer a one man show. Knowledge alone no longer makes an effective advocacy, but rather, collective action from many individuals, communities and organisations that may work both inside and outside the organisation does. This can only create and maintain a collaborative relationship and impactful campaign that is truly inclusive.

Subsequently, as you may have realised, the days of sensational fundraising with malnourished African children are over. With the impact of the increase in Internet access and digitisation of information, a new social consciousness that favours multi-channelling has become not only the object of advocacy but the subject in that it dictates and opposes irresistibly rooted practices, values and marketing strategies.

Also, it is clear that the monopoly of traditional media for advocacy is over. The future looks more like screens and storytelling than just radio and television.

Today’s challenge with campaigns is about delivering the right content to people where and when they want it and to ensure that the content stays on top.

In Africa and all over the world this has become a major challenge threatening nonprofit organisations’ (NPOs) income and traditional business growth prospects.
A growing number of international and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are finding their existence under threat as they are challenged to capitalise on changes in technology, audience behaviour, and the availability of data to create innovative and relevant messaging.

Change is difficult for those with a life-long legacy, routine advocacy and work ethic scattered all over the world.

Nonetheless, many NGOs and for-profit businesses are learning and the rise of positions such as Chief Digital Officers and Digital Advocacy tells us just that. The need to redefine their offerings, harness digital technology, and improve stakeholders experience has become imperative.

It is with the above in mind that I presume that a forecast of an impactful advocacy approach in Africa requires considering the following elements:

The Technological Landscape

Mobile Internet: Research firm, Frost & Sullivan predict that by 2016, sub-Saharan Africa will experience the fastest growth in mobile technology at 160 million mobile broadband connections. Mobile and self-service apps are already transforming service delivery and content marketing all over the continent. The fast increase in mobile payment in Africa also tells us about possibilities with NGO donation and crowdfunding.

Data analysis: The increase in connection consequently in data generation offers a brighter prospect. Organisations need to master the use of digital intelligence to track and draw insights from produced content, untapped sources, statistical trends and other criteria to redefine their online advocacy to specific audiences.

Multichannel distribution:  Nowadays what trends online makes radio and TV headline. It is predicted that online media will grow at 20 percent this year. Nevertheless, though digital marketing is considered the future of marketing, traditional media such as print, radio and television still have a role to play. Maximum benefit for advocacy lies on linking these outlets and interconnection between new and traditional media.

Stakeholders expectations: Beneficiaries and donors want immediate results. Funding has declined and traditional proposal obsolete. Innovation seen in one organisation is now expected in the other. Founders are increasingly looking for new ideas that can bring better, cheaper and faster results.

The Wind of Nationalism

Worldwide economic insecurity and nationalist ideologies are on the rise. Africa is not an exception. The identity crisis has led xenophobia and racist attack in many African countries. As resources are becoming scarce, some communities have fallen into narratives of the insider and outsider. As a matter of fact, it seems many organisations have been taking this into account. For example, the change in ‘faces’ of some international campaigns in Africa talks somehow to the present need and belief to have African causes advocated for and by Africans.

The Cloud

The increase in bandwidth capacities resulting from the landing of undersea cables around the continent is a solid platform that steadily allows many organisations to embrace technological benefits, enabling them to outsource and manage their Information technology (IT) needs instantly. Applications which were previously not available due to a lack of internal skills or budget have become readily available to campaigners over the network through cloud computing.

The Fallouts of Ad-vocacy

Years of challenging work and campaigning in the continent have provided many NPOs with a huge membership and readership. The opportunity with the growth in digital media intake in Africa comes with an idea of social entrepreneurship, an expectation that these organisations could translate their online traffic into an income revenue by allowing selective advertising on their platforms rather than just relying on funding and donations.

The Snowden effect

The snowden effect is a pressing need to become conscience about the Surveillance State and what that implies with regard to cyber scrutiny. This talks to safety measures that need to be taken by human rights, environmental and any given organisations lobbying and advocating against State policies or interests.

If you can forget all the above, I would like you to remember the following quote by Campbell Williams:         

“You can’t be in marketing if you don’t understand digital. And you can’t understand digital if you don’t understand technology.”

Either you deal with a product, service or a cause - marketing is the heart of any advocacy effort that attempts to communicate.

Many have written about blurred lines between traditional IT and marketing department on the face of a fast growing online world. The creation of hybrid ‘digital’ positions within organisations speaks of an urgent need to grasp at once communication, technology and socioeconomic trends, threats and opportunities while reaching out.

The change is here and NGOs have to quickly embrace it or die.

Adam Mukendi Ntala is the Digital Media Manager at SANGONeT (Twitter: @adam_McKendi), published on the NGO Pulse website.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Internet Security – Privacy Is the Exception

"Just because you are not paranoid it does not mean they are not out to get you" - Jacob Appelbaum.

Mobile phones and the Internet allow us to communicate instantly, stay abreast of current events and search for and find information on nearly anything. Telecommunication tools have made us social animals to an extent that we have become insensitive to privacy and carelessly exposed.

The Internet has become indispensable. The question is how should we use it?

I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Jacob Appelbaum, an independent computer security researcher and hacker. Jacob has worked with Wikileaks and many other avant-guardists IT projects. Jacob’s Wiki is one of the few with a category titled: ‘Investigation and detainment’. I was fascinated to hear that he knows, he’s a ‘suspect’ and permanently under surveillance by security services because of his choice to protect his privacy and that of other human right activists.

Listening to questions during the presentation made me think that some human rights and social activists in Africa may be today in jail because they ignored threats to their privacy and to those involved in their projects. Therefore, it is important civil society members working or training on citizen journalism, social media or human rights advocacy take in consideration security of their members and provide them with alternative tools.

Long story short - allow be to present you some facts before sharing with you a number of tools that we can use to protect our self and those we are communicating with:
  • We all leave a data trail every time we log into the Internet
  • State run telecommunication monopoly provides State with possibility to intercept communication (Waffle Interception which still passive in many African countries)
  • Powerhouse telecommunication companies do sell interceptive devices to oppressive regimes. These Support Contracts must be considered as human right violation
  • Any document you send via e-mail is lost, out of your control
  • Wireless connections in public places or hotels are just as insecure as tablets and smartphone 
  • Whoever owns and carries a mobile phone has become a traceable object. The smarter the phone the more data we give away. The truth is iPhone and tablets’ users are more vulnerable understood that these devices can store data about the user without his consent or knowledge
  • Privacy include your location, relations, hobbies and communications
  • We all have something to hide. Today Internet is saying we must share everything. Privacy has become suspicious.
  • Whoever abstains to use a mobile phone or to create a Facebook profile is a ‘suspect’. Privacy is longer the norm but the exception
  • New surveillance by government and commercial entities is a threat to society
Things we should not take for granted
  • ‘Behaviour profiling’ by Google and Amazon can be consider as breach of privacy. How they can read your mind? As we have become dependent of technology – breach of privacy has become moral because it cannot be avoided
  • Facebook had complied to US federal law and has provided the US government with data on millions of its users. Now Facebook to data ‘Chat’. Some researches prove a relation between the increase in arrest warrant by police in the USA and provision of users personal data to US intelligence by social media platforms and telecommunication companies
What can we do – SAFETY PLAN

<>If we remove the ability to be identify, we remove the ability to be a target
<>We cannot hide completely but we can use tools that buy us and others time 

1. ToR browser is a traffic analysis privacy with secure backup use by human rights activist worldwide
When you use a Tor client, your Internet traffic is routed through Tor’s network. The traffic travels through several randomly selected relays (run by volunteers), before exiting the Tor network and arriving at your destination. This prevents your Internet service provider and people monitoring your local network from viewing the websites you access. It also prevents the websites themselves from knowing your physical location or IP address – they’ll see the IP address and location of the exit node instead. Even the relays don’t know who requested the traffic they’re passing along. All traffic within the Tor network is encrypted.

Tor strength is on using it to download Martus and then, use them together for greater protection.

2. Martus is an open-source technology tool that assists nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) collect information on human rights abuses. Martus cannot recover your data should you lose you log in. Martus and Tor are the most use tools but activists worldwide to protect their messages, browsing, location and identity. Tor and Martus are runned by volunteers. 

3. Off The Record (OTR) OTR messaging allows you to have private conversations over instant messaging by providing: Encryption (No one else can read your instant messages); Authentication (You are assured the correspondent is who you think it is); Deniability (The messages you send do not have digital signatures that are checkable by a third party. The messages are authentic and unmodified); Perfect forward secrecy (If you lose control of your private keys, no previous conversation is compromised)

4. Red Phone provides end-to-end encryption for your calls, securing your conversations so that nobody can listen in. - Easy to use available for Google and iPhone.

5. Private GSM provides end-to-end encryption for your message/chat. Available on iPhone.

6. Ostel promotes the use of free, open protocols, standards and software, to power end-to-end secure voice communications on mobile devices, as well as with desktop computers.

7. Gibberbot is a secure chat client capable of firewall and filter circumvention, surveillance blocking and end-to-end encryption. Available for Android phones.

8. Text Secure is a security enhanced text messaging application that serves as a full replacement for the default text messaging application. Available for android phones.

9. Crabgrass is software libre web application designed for social networking, group collaboration and network organizing.

Always remember the followings:
  • We are not told the whole truth about platform and social media applications we are using.
  • There is privacy by policy and privacy by design. Most telecommunication and Internet platforms show what their policy/T&Cs say but not what their design do. Never trust privacy by policy – if you can, verify their codes to see if they don’t do more than what they say
  • Any device/app that can help you access/recover your data when you have lost your password  - has total access to your data. Dropbox has become very popular. The fact that it can help you recover your data means it is not 100% secured.
The world is dark, immoral and disturbia. As democratic and repressive regimes worldwide are upping surveillance of their citizens, it is important that self-consciously everyone of us takes action to protect what we still can - our privacy.

"Internet insecurity is like HIV – none of us is immune. We all need to use ‘Active’ protection" says Jacob Appelbaum.

Please let us know - should you have used any of the above tools.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Citizen Journalism Project – Ups and Downs

For the past two years, I have been responding to questions and e-mails concerning my experience with the citizen participation project that I thought to write few paragraphs about challenges we faced, our approach, achievements as well as our failures. Here we go - I hope it helps…

The Citizen Journalism in Africa (CJA) Project was a partnership project between SANGONeT and Hivos aimed at building capacity of civil society organisations to use online and offline citizen journalism as a mean of publication, lobby, networking and knowledge sharing with their constituencies.

Participating organisations were selected on the basis of their previous involvement with Hivos. Eighty organisations in six African countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique have been trained.

How well participants performed

a. Member satisfaction, including initiative, coordination among developing country partners and satisfactory correction of problems. 

The fact that some organisations were based in remote rural areas was a challenge. However, Country Focal Points (CFPs) - organisations trained to train other organisations, were able to take the programme/training materials and train at rural level in Africa languages that the audience could easily understand.  As a result, online newsletters and rural forum groups have been created. Some of our member organisations became very active using in some cases community radio to encompass the lack of internet coverage in some areas.

b.   Effectiveness of key personnel including:  effectiveness and appropriateness of personnel for the job; and prompt and satisfactory action when problems with members where identified.

The CJA project aimed at providing participating organisations with an alternative platform (website) for online expression. But more importantly, the project strived to transfer skills that would allow stakeholders organisation improve their work and advocacy.

Among other capacity building tools, the project offered an online module: e-learning digital telling and writing course. To help the project users to improve their writing skills. The project had acquired the services of a consultant, professional journalist (Brett Davidson) who role was to proofread stakeholders' e-learning course submissions, blogs and articles and re-sent the edited version with track changes to them for approval before publishing on the CJA website.

The project had 80 participating organisation based in six countries. In 2009 the CJA website was translated in Portuguese in 2010 to allow stakeholders in Mozambique directly download translated content in Portuguese for use offline since telephone communication was very poor between South Africa and Mozambique.

c. Timeliness of performance and efficient operation of tasks. 

One of the characteristic of the CJA project was the use of intermediate organisations. These CFPs included two selected representatives from organisations in each participating country. CFPs were trained to train others CSOs and community media organisations as to achieve better coordination and participation within the project. CFPs acted as the local learning and networking hub to implement peer-to-peer training activities. The Project Manager budgeted for CFPs’ training and operation tasks cost.

d. Control cost and forecast costs

The use of CFPs aimed at reducing the cost of traveling and to also overcome language barrier (translation cost) as to ensure efficient participation of all stakeholder organisations.

Instances of good or poor performance, especially in the most critical areas

It was critical for SANGONeT and HIVOS that the CJA project gave special attention to the development of sound and ethical journalistic skills to protect the project’s stakeholder organisations/participants from repressive legislations. Therefore, the CJA’s toolkit manual had a compilation of media regulatory acts of each stakeholder respective country as well as a course on ethic journalism.

Nevertheless, the project faced poor performance and had to manage few crises.
It is a fact that ethics challenge citizen journalists since they think they have the right to say what is in their minds and express themselves freely. At the same time, bloggers are at very nature partial, unaccountable and subjective. As a consequence, in respect of Internet policies, in more than one occasion we had to contact users and inform them that they had no right to share content which was not creative commons licensed and should not publish facts that could not be checked or proven.

List significant achievements and/or problems.

One of biggest challenge in implementing such a project is the problem of diversity and skills. Half of stakeholder organisations in the project did not have the ‘technical-know-how’. That caused some participants to not participate freely in discussions while others felt uncomfortable blogging.

However, through perseverance, the CJA project was able to create a sense of belonging, a safe bridge across backgrounds using tools such as social media especially Facebook and Twitter feed. As result, stakeholder organisations could identify each other social life beyond their professional engagement and built trust which led to increasing their participation.

Overcoming broadband and high cost of Internet connectivity was a major challenge in most participating countries. Access to broadband is indispensable for online activism or participation. Stakeholder organisations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique could not afford Internet cost. When they could, the connectivity was very poor. This has negatively impacted on their participation in the project.

We have been challenged by the so-called ‘brain drain’. Many NGOs have lost skilled personnel since they could not afford their services due to lack of funding.The instability in human resources within our member organisations had a negative impact on the project.  

Both mobile and social network have shown potential in activism and community building. It is unfortunate that the CJA project was unable to take create/upgrade the CJA website to a mobile friendly site as planned. Faced with unpredicted funding situation within key stakeholder organisations, the project focused on getting the basics right and keep on training their new members.

Among achievements; in 2009, an article on the need for fast Internet connection in Uganda posted on the CJA website has been republished by one of Uganda’s main news website. An another article from CJA titled “The Boda boda battle”, a story about motorcycle taxis in Kampala was published in the Mobility Magazine. SANGONeT’s NGO Pulse e-newsletter also republished a number of articles from the CJA website.

Last but not least, some of our trained members have become Africa’s most admired young ICT advocates and have been speaking in conferences and interviewed by mainstream media such as BBC and Al Jazeera. At date, many CJA stakeholder organisations have become vibrant users of ICT tools and human rights activists.