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High-tech tools versus basic needs

High-tech tools versus basic needs

Education in developing countries is often a subject of controversy. But it can also be an example of absurdity.

Let’s take the example of technological development in Namibia.

Namibia, with 2 million inhabitants and a $5,000 a year per capita GDP, is one of the richest countries in Africa. It has also been politically stable since it gained independence from South Africa in the 1990s. Natural resources, uranium and diamonds among them, as well as tourism guarantee the country a comfortable income.

But the country is also benefiting from international aid.

The Polytechnic of Namibia, the leading technical university of the country, benefits from aid it gains from international foundations. Recently they received 30 spectrophotometers, for example. This tool is used to study the electromagnetic spectra of an object. A foundation answered to a request by the Polytechnic that wanted these tools to compete technologically with the best universities in the world. With one spectrophotometer costing approximately $5,000,  the donation amounted to $150,000.

This is a lot for a university where some professors don’t earn as much as one spectrophotometer costs during one year. And the ‘funny’ part of the story is that these tools are not used more than a few times a year.

While every chemistry students of the Polytechnic now has his or her own spectrometer, the university still lacks some basic supplies. It doesn’t have soap, for example, which is crucial when analyzing bacteria or working with chemistry products. It should be used daily in a laboratory. Last month, one international professor that was working there, had to ask the kitchen if she could borrow the soap to show the students how to clean their hands before analyzing bacteria with a microscope.

But what does this example tell us? » More

ISN Quiz: Closing the Gender Gap

This week’s Special Report addresses the prevailing gender gap and the different paths to empowerment that women across the world have taken. Where does your knowledge of the issue stand?

[QUIZZIN 33]

Afghan Price Tags

100 Afghanis banknote

100 Afghanis banknote, courtesy of Wikipedia

Nearly one year after the devastating Kunduz airstrike the German military has decided to pay $5,000 to each of the families of the 100 civilian victims. This is the latest move in an affair that forced the German public to face the reality of the country’s military involvement in Afghanistan.

Overall the Bundeswehr transferred $430,000, stressing that the payment is only a voluntary, humanitarian measure. This was preceded by demands by the families’ attorneys, who demanded up to 28,000 euro per family. Compared to the amount actually paid, the attorneys did not get very far.

The price tag of $5,000 appears even lower if one considers earlier reports that Germany had paid $20,000 to the family of an Afghan woman who was shot at a checkpoint, and $33,000 for a dead Afghan boy.

The German compensation policy appears ‘generous’ compared to other nations militarily engaged in Afghanistan. One report mentions a sum of $40,000 for 15 people killed, breaking down to roughly $2,700 per person, paid by US commanders. Other sources state that US military commanders are authorized to pay between $1,500 and $2,500 to a family that has lost a child or an adult. The loss of a limb or other injury is ‘worth’ between $600 and $1,500; a damaged or destroyed vehicle, $500 to $2,500; damage to a farmer’s fields is valued between $50 and $250. » More

From Cybercrime to Cyberwarfare: The Dimensions of Cybersecurity

New weapon of mass destruction? Photo courtesy of ktvyeow/flickr

Defence IQ has published a very interesting podcast on cybersecurity with Dr Nigel Inkster. He is the Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

The talk clarifies some important dimensions about the spectrum of activities from cybercrime to full blown cyberwarfare. The context of two major cybersecurity events, a cyber-attack in Georgia during the 2008 South Ossetia war and a 2009 attack in the UK on MI5 are considered.

The talk addresses the potential dimensions and impact of cyberwarfare (on military vs. civilian targets) For the most extreme forms of cyberwarfare, Dr Inkster notes, “…none of these attacks are going to be confined to the military domain, all of them are going to have a significant impact on civilian populations.” He further outlines areas of potential vulnerabilities to infrastructure.

The podcast ends with a consideration of the efforts that governments are making to develop defensive and offensive capabilities.

Defense IQ is a cyber security forum that provides military personnel and the defence community throughout the world with information regarding current military and defence issues. It offers focused content such as podcasts and presentations, and hosts webinars, conferences and summits on defense issues.

Please also check out our Special Report on cyberwarfare.

Closing the Gender Gap

Watch out for the still pervasive gender gap, photo: The Lab/flickr

This week the ISN assesses the status of women from the US to the United Arab Emirates. While sweeping progress has been made in recent decades, resistance to gender equality remains in all corners of the globe.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Gail Harris, the first woman in US Navy history to be successfully assigned to a combat unit, on the challenges facing women in the military – then and now.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations about the rise of Islamic feminism.
  • Security Watch articles about crimes against women from Burma to the DRC – and about female legislative empowerment from Kuwait to India.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including the Overseas Development Institute’s look at gender and the MGDs and the Kiel Institute’s assessment of women’s suffrage.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of Hillary Clinton’s famous 1995 speech, ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights’, to the 4th UN World Conference on Women in Beijing.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as The New York Times 2010 series, ‘The Female Factor’, which explores the most recent shifts in women’s power, prominence and impact on societies.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the UN Division for the Advancement of Women.
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