Categories
Government Technology Internet

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.

Categories
Intelligence Technology Internet

Caution To the Wind: Engaging Terrorists Online

Photo: Jiva/flickr
Photo: Jiva/flickr

There has been a bit of a buzz in the counter-terrorism (CT) blogshere during the past month due to two notable exchanges between bloggers and prominent members of violent non-state groups that utilize terrorism and other means of political violence.

In one example, John Robb, author of the Brave New War and the Global Guerillas blog was recently contacted by Henry Okah, an arms dealer who has supplied arms to militants in the Niger Delta and assumed various leadership roles in the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a group based in the Niger Delta that has, since 2006, launched sustained attacks aimed at the energy sector.

Robb, who has written about Okah on numerous occasions and identifies him as a guerrilla entrepreneur, did not go into detail about the exchange with Okah except to say that he asked to meet with Robb in person. One can assume that more info will follow as the exchange develops.

In another instance, Australian Leah Farrall, currently an academic and author of the All Things Counter Terrorism blog, was also contacted by a well-known figure – Abu Walid al Masri, a senior Arab Afghan adviser to al-Qaida and the Taliban and author of numerous books in Arabic relating to Afghanistan and al-Qaida.

Categories
Uncategorized Technology

New Keyword: Nanotechnology

Carbon nanotubes by St Stev (flickr)
Carbon nanotubes by St Stev (flickr)

We just added a new keyword to our content classification system: Nanotechnology. Now how is this relevant to the International Relations community, you may ask.

Chatham House, the venerable British IR institution, has just published three papers about the topic. They address the risks posed by this technology and examine transatlantic regulation efforts. You can download all three papers and more here.

But there is more to nanotechnology than its public policy aspect. In the coming years, I expect to see more papers on applications in the defense, energy, information and health sectors. To give you a taste, Security Watch published an article on Japan’s plans for a elevator into space based on nanotechnology a year ago.

Categories
Government Security Technology Education

210 Million Euros for Europe’s Security

Remarkable interest in the ISN at the 4th European Security Research Conference
Remarkable interest in the ISN at the 4th European Security Research Conference

Europe aims to be the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy. To this end, the EU set up different framework programs (FPs) to fund research in almost all scientific fields. The budget of the current program (FP7) amounts to the remarkable sum of EUR 1.4 billion – a bunch of golden pots attracting researchers and practitioners from all over Europe.

Those working on the ‘security research‘ theme are currently in Stockholm at the SR Conference hosted by the Swedish EU Presidency. The objective of the security theme is to develop technologies and knowledge to protect citizens from threats such as terrorism, natural disasters and crime while respecting their privacy and fundamental rights. In his opening speech Vice-President of the European Commission Günter Verheugen reminded the representatives of the industries such as Boeing, Saab, Thales or EADS as well as civil servants and academics that technology alone cannot do the job pointing to the political and ethical dimension of security research. “Our security must be based on our values,” he stated.

The annual conference is the meeting place for security stakeholders to debate Europe’s research agenda. EU representatives outline the Union’s priorities and expectations to those interested in conducting the research and implementing the results. They then take the opportunity to coordinate their efforts, fine tune their proposals and find new partners to work with.

As a long-standing network for IR professionals offering information on a wide range of security related issues, the ISN is of great interest to the conference attendees. Some require to learn about a specific topic such as energy security, others are interested in joining our partner network, want to write for us or simply learn more about our activities such as e-Learning.

There are also those who know us already. Their compliments are very reassuring of the work we do and motivating to keep up our high standards. “I learnt about you at last year’s conference and am now a big fan of your Security Watch service, ” one of the visitors said.

Categories
Government Security Technology

We Care for the Security of European Citizens

Photo: Council of Europe/flickr
Photo: Council of Europe/flickr

It’s Sweden’s turn to organize the annual European Security Research Conference under its Presidency of the EU. The conference will be held in Stockholm 29-30 September 2009 bringing together around 800 representatives from research, industry, European institutions, public authorities and the security sector. This is the event of the year if you’re going to influence the shaping of policies and research options for Europe’s future.

As the world’s leading open access information service for international relations and security professionals, the ISN naturally attends this event. A series of promising European research projects will be discussed in Stockholm and we look forward to contributing our expertise and reach out to an ever wider audience. More news will follow.