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Kenya’s ‘Digital Villages’

Farmers in Kenya / Photo: Marc Steinlin, flickr

Farmers in Kenya / Photo: Marc Steinlin, flickr

If it comes to fruition, Kenya will be at the forefront of easing the governmental paperwork logjam. According the Daily Nation, the East African country is in the process of planning “digital villages” where citizens can visit to download applications and documents such as birth certificates and file their tax returns online.

The website quotes Information and Communication Minister Samuel Poghisio as stating that by 2012, “every district will have a digital village, and all that people will have to do is to download such forms from the internet.”

According to Capital Business, some of the villages will be set up in post offices, with a focus on rural areas.

But there’s more to the plan than just providing access: According to CB, the Kenyan postal service has suffered an 80 percent drop in revenue due to customers turning to the internet.

“[Postmaster General Retired Major General Mohammed Hussein] Ali said such initiatives would enable them to compensate for the loss that the corporation has suffered due to a drop in revenues collected from sending postal mail,” the report states. Ali is also quoted as saying that the post does not receive financial support from the government.

I’d be interested in knowing how much the post plans to charge.

Our Holiday Breather

Our Christmas socks

Our Christmas socks

It’s the midst of holiday time, a time when those of us partaking of the festivities enjoy the fruits of the holiday season. It’s also the time when we, hopefully, consider the ripple effects of our consumption.

ISN Security Watch examines the effects of scarcity and abundance with three articles. In Reaping What Children Sow Julianne Geiger and Jen Alic research the path that your new outfit may have taken to reach your closet. Vivian Fritschi reviews reports suggesting that global actors will move in on dwindling resources in Rattling the Resource Chain, and Emilie Boillat says that because of gains made in technology, too much information may actually be a good thing, in A Feast of Abundance.

Please note that we are on a publishing break until 5 January.

We wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season.

Religion and Politics in Israel

Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall, courtesy of Premsagar/flickr

Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall, courtesy of Premsagar/flickr

Recently, Israel has experienced several inner conflicts. But this time, Palestinians have nothing to do with them. It is a series of conflicts and tensions between the two faces of the Israeli population: Orthodox Jews and secular Jews. As a report by the Institute for National Security Studies of Tel Aviv mentions, “a different but no less serious challenge to Israel is the deep ideological divisions among the Jews themselves.”

Examples of this division can be observed almost daily in the local media. From the settlement policy to the future of Palestine, the ideological difference is clear. Part of the Orthodox minority, most of them are settlers, is determined to occupy, if not conquer, the land they believe God gave them. As a short example of their determination, the government needed 40,000 troops and policemen and months of preparation to remove fewer than 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip over a period of a few months.

Until recently, this minority had little to say in terms of national policy. But the last election that saw Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gathering a right-wing coalition changed the presence of the orthodox group on the political stage. The coalition government now includes several members of the Shas party and even one member of The Jewish Home. Theses religious parties are strong advocates of the presence of the Halakha, the Jewish law, in Israeli law. This once-stable coalition is now starting to fall apart: » More

A Seasonal Reading List

Candle light, photo: Alesa Dam/flickr

Candle light, photo: Alesa Dam/flickr

In light of our weekly theme – religion and international affairs – we thought we’d link to an excellent reading list compiled by Foreign Affairs on this very timely and often ignored topic.

Whether seen as a civilizational clash; a clash between modernity and traditionalism; secularism and religion, the nature of conflict in the international realm makes it clear that powerful forces are at play and tend to evolve, more than ever, around religious identities and clashing interpretations thereof.

As Foreign Affairs notes, the relevance and effectiveness of US and indeed western foreign policy depends on acknowledging the place religion occupies in global politics and engaging in candid conversations that include both secular and religious voices.

Instead of allowing religiously couched fear-mongering to take root in our minds and in our policy, and effectively allowing Huntington’s ‘clash’ to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, we need to engage openly with religion in the political realm, while keeping in mind that religious rhetoric often masks deep socio-political malaise and distinctly non-spiritual problems.

ISN Weekly Theme: Religion Resurrected?

Photo: James Quinn/flickr

Photo: James Quinn/flickr

From DC to Tel Aviv to Riyhad and all points in between, religion is increasingly taking center stage in the political world…or is it?

As the holiday season approaches, this question is our weekly theme.

Dr Jonathan Fox of Bar Ilan University asks in this week’s Special Report whether there is a resurgence of religion on the world scene or whether religion was always present but ignored. Dr Lisa Watanabe of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy complements this article commenting on the interplay between security and religion at the state level, with a specific focus on Islam and IR.

  • Over in the Links Library, we’re highlighting Think Again: God. In the article, Karen Armstrong reviews aspects of religions such as its relation to politics, democracy and violence, its effect on women and its compatibility with science.
  • The Abraham Fund Initiatives foments dialogue between Israel’s Jews and Arabs. Find out more in the IR Directory.
  • Also in the Directory, the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank that focuses on a revival of Western Islam.

And feel free to browse all of our religion-religion related content by keyword.

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