Phones For Peace

The use and misuse of mobile phones provided a major talking point for this week’s UK-Nigeria meeting. In the aftermath of April’s Post-Election violence, John Dada reported his concerns that rumours and misinformation via mobile phones are still rife. But he assured us that local people are now slowly realising they should not panic or overreact.

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Phone4Peace, a set on Flickr. Kenya 2008

John is exploring the possible role of mobiles in his peace and reconciliation work, so that, as he says “we can also learn and replicate same in Kafanchan in our peace-building efforts”.
Pamela McLean was able to remind us of the role played by phones in the post-election Kenyan violence.
She explained: “Mainly the bad was spreading rumours and inciting violence.The good was peace-building and practical support to people.....There was a big group involved in the peace-building - that saw lots of evidence of collaboration across tribal boundaries and lots of news of challenging elders to get involved and defuse the violence of the youths. There were also online chats between activists, news of outbreaks of violence, news of roads both closed and open, plus a means of establishing local information and misinformation and to help people who had been displaced, etc.”. A good example of the practical use of phones for reconciliation was the Kenyan Phones4Peace project.

John told us that Zittnet is participating in a new DFID proposal to introduce what is called Village Telco, http://villagetelco.org/

He hopes this will bring down the cost of voice communication in rural Nigeria.
John explained: “The privacy and ‘own’ space provided by mobile phones is a major attraction even for rural poor households. This is why its maintenance costs sometimes compete with urgent family needs. If you own a mobile phone, you have more confidentiality than if you have to go to a roadside phone kiosk to make your calls. But because the demand for voice communication far outstrips the supply, the providers’ costs are exploitative and services are poor. Mobiles are useful for sending remittances and we hear mobile fund transfer will soon be operational in Nigeria.” (This was also used with good effect in the Kenyan troubles).

John informed us that Bala is in Nairobi this week to attend the Internet Governance Forum meeting. The theme of the meeting is: 'Internet as a catalyst for change: access, development, freedoms and innovation'.
He explained that Fantsuam Foundation’s US-based bandwidth contract ends in about 10 days and Bala is still negotiating with a local provider. FF hope to have that up and running by the end of next week.

Also discussed at this meeting Water and Sanitation

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