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Archive for June 4th, 2013

“One on One” with Fred Makosir – Chairman Association of Kenyans in Norway

Posted by African Press International on June 4, 2013

Mr Fred Makosir is the Chairman of the Association of Kenyans in Norway. Here, he speaks to API during Kenya’s Self-rule Day (Madaraka Day) celebrations held in Oslo, Norway on the 1st of June 2013.

The party was organised by the Association’s Board members. Many Kenyans and friends of Kenya attended the celebration that went on throughout the night, until the early hours of Sunday morning.

The party was a great success, thanks to the Association’s Board Members who ensured that everything ran smoothly.

 

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“One on One” with Mr Elvis Nwosu, Member of Oslo City Council Parliament representing the Labour Party of Norway

Posted by African Press International on June 4, 2013

Mr Elvis Nwosu is a member of the Oslo City Council Parliament representing the Labour Party which is now in power in Norway led by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

www.africanpress.me/ - Mr Elvis Nwosu (left) together with the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg during the recently concluded Labour Party Annual General Meeting (2013) held in Oslo

http://www.africanpress.me/ – Mr Elvis Nwosu (left) together with the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg during the recently concluded Labour Party Annual General Meeting (2013) held in Oslo

Mr Nwosu who is originally from Nigeria has lived in Norway for 22 years and is actively involved in politics. Recently he was re-elected to Council. He is also the leader of the Labour Party in Søndre Nordstrand region within the Oslo City Council. Nwosu is excelling in politics despite the many challenges immigrant politicians have to face due to culture, and traditions in Norway.

The country is now going to the General elections in September to elect members to the National Parliament. The Labour party has been in power for 8 years now and the Right wing parties have ganged up in this elections with the intention to dislodge them.

The Right wing parties – the Conservative party and the Party of Progress ( a radically right-wing party) are trying to put up a unified front in their effort to take over power.

Elvis speaks to African Press on his plans to change the face of the city of Oslo. He thinks the many beggars that roam Oslo streets mainly during the summer season – persons coming from Eastern European country Romania should not be allowed to engage in begging, but instead should seek normal employment.

He is also for change when it comes to prostitution that is rampant in the city. The laws that forbid prostitution which were passed some years back, according to Elvis, has helped many prostitutes to seek other avenues away from the illegal trade. Some Nigerian women who come into the country from Spain and France to engage in prostitution on a short-term basis now realise that the trade is illegal and punishable by law and this is helping them to seek guidance and help from the Norwegian authorities in their efforts to quit being sex slaves. Some have their lives destroyed because they are forced into the trade by criminals who stand to gain from their prostitution.

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How to manage disaster successfully: Floods, as here in the Philippines, provide enormous challenges for response teams

Posted by African Press International on June 4, 2013

Floods, as here in the Philippines, provide enormous challenges for response teams

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Open source technology lacks troubleshooters
  • Question marks over robustness of OS technology
  • Each technology will take time to find its niche

BANGKOK, 30 May 2013 (IRIN) – For decades, governments and NGOs have relied on private sector solutions to gather and interpret emergency data for crisis response, but a growing number of them have warmed in recent years to much cheaper “open-source” (OS) technology. IRIN spoke to experts around the world about their search for the most appropriate mix of technology to manage disasters.

Proprietary software does everything from providing imagery and geographic information system (GIS) data to centralizing government-generated data on a command centre “dashboard” during crises. It has been around decades but is costly.

Among the most prominent private sector companies working in disaster management is the California-based ESRI (formerly known as Environmental Systems Research Institute), which runs the ArcGIS platform that creates interactive maps based on satellite technology. Founded in 1969 and valued at nearly US$900 million a year, the company controls at least half the market for GIS technology.

But in recent years, especially after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, more cities and NGOs are turning to OS technology, which generally does not charge a license fee to download software, but may have downsides including lack of experts able to troubleshoot, and resistance from governments that favour more established proprietary solutions.

What is FOSS?

Free and open-source software (FOSS) can be downloaded, used, studied, copied and redistributed at little to no cost, with the goal being that users along the way improve the code and pass along a more “robust” piece of software. Stuart Gill, a co-founder of a community of FOSS developers called the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK) compared these “explosions of innovation” (from the design to the development of the code) to evolution where the most robust software code survives.

Hackathon disaster management products
The First Responder web-based application tracks emergency response in real-time by showing responders turn-by-turn routing to destinations, calculating exact distances along roadways to hydrants or drafting sites, providing information about each responder’s mission and those of other nearby “mutual-aid” actors as well as points of interest and potential hazards. The application uses Google services including App Engine, Latitude, Maps, Navigation, Picasa and Voice, and allows the import of icons, photos and other data on top of the Google Maps application programming interface, orAPI, helping responders evaluate staffing levels, monitor personnel deployment real-time and communicate with crisis teams.
InaSAFE is a web-based tool that utilizes a variety of open source projects to help users understand the risk of natural disasters and shape post-disaster decisions. Initially deployed in Jakarta, Indonesia, the tool produces maps of roads that might be blocked, schools and hospitals that would close, and renders accurate spatial representation of the supplies required to support the population during flooding.
Virtual Assembly Point lists the names, locations and physical status of disaster-affected people. Users share their status via text message, which is fed into a web application used by emergency operations centres to coordinate communication with friends, relatives and aid workers. The Kenya Red Cross Society helped customize the platform to handle daily emergencies and large-scale disasters. A large-scale rollout is under way.
Resilience (under development): This web-based application aims to offer “community-based disaster resilience in a box” by helping community members come together, report and resolve non-life threatening issues post-disaster. Developers have implemented the Open311 standard into the application to help governments extract issues reported (a downed tree that could affect rescue operations), and plan to test the application with communities in Australia ahead of the bush fire season at the end of this year.

Since its founding in May 2009, the group – backed by the World Bank, the US government’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and US-headquartered companies Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Hewett Packard – committed first to creating disaster management solutions, then widened its focus to broader humanitarian challenges, through bi-annual “hackathons” where volunteer technologists (hackers as the organization calls them) furiously develop prototypes in an effort to stay ahead of disasters.

Gill estimates that since 2009, of the hundreds of prototypes coded for disaster management at these events, 50 have survived, with 10 of them being “really good”.

Cheap and easy is the mantra of one hackathon product, First Responder.

“Cheap means not having to buy servers, hosting facilities. Cheap means using low-cost devices like smartphones and tablets. Cheap means minimizing training, upkeep, support and other costs. And cheap means, if you are a community organization and have your own technical support personnel, you can get a version of the software for free. Easy means fewer options and clutter. Easy means big buttons and simple layouts. Easy means access from any web browser connected to the Internet,” reads its mission statement.

Such missions “disrupt” how disaster management has been handled in the corporate sector, said John Crowley, a Washington-DC based researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative who specializes in connecting governments with crowdsourced data during disaster response, and authored a 2011 study on information sharing in emergencies.

Proprietary software companies have thus far operated – and profited from – restricting access to software code, earning an annual income stream by maintaining their clients’ software, he explained. “Open-source disrupts that annuity stream and creates an ecosystem of developers.”

Québec, Canada

Almost a decade ago, one of Canada’s provincial governments took note.

Since 2005, Québec has turned to OS technology to provide geospatial information services, or GIS, (then almost non-existent) in its provincial Ministry of Public Safety. Without a culture of using proprietary disaster management software in terms of GIS, there was little opposition to exploring OS options since GIS services were almost new to the ministry at the time, said Nicolas Gignac, a ministerial GIS specialist.

A team of three GIS experts, including himself, started testing the most “mature” OS applications that offered GIS customer service support in Québec. Over the years, the most helpful and effective OS applications, Gignac said, were Mapserver (a “map engine” that points users to content), OpenLayers (embeds a dynamic map on any webpage), OGR-GDAL, or Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (two libraries that allow software programmes to read and write multiple GIS formats), and PostGIS(an extension to a database management system).

But the Public Safety Ministry was – and still is – in the minority of provincial government agencies using OS (about 10 percent Gignac estimated). Only Québec’s National Public Health Institute, Ministry of Culture & Communication and a provincial agriculture agency are using the same GIS OS code – the remainder of the government and local authority opted for proprietary solutions (but some developed in-house hybrid model with OS coding and proprietary software).

Taipei, Republic of China (Taiwan)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in the natural disaster-prone island of Republic of China (Taiwan), ArcGIS is handling almost all the government’s GIS work through the Emergency Information Management System run by the national fire agency.

There have been question marks over the robustness of OS technology to help in crisis response, for example in the Haiti earthquake shown here

The Chinese republic has faced epidemics (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has killed near 40), earthquakes (a 1999 quake killed some 2,400) and annual typhoons.

Its experience with getting ESRI to make changes to the software has been relatively quick, said Wei-sen Li, the deputy executive secretary of the quasi-governmental advisory body, National Science & Technology Centre for Disaster Reduction in the capital, Taipei.

For Taipei, OS solutions did not appear stable or sturdy enough to handle the complexity of the disaster-prone island’s data sets (120 to date). “ArcGIS is powerful enough to do the calculations and to integrate [the data] with satellite imagery, which cannot be achieved with Sahana,” said Li, referring to an OS disaster management software founded in Sri Lanka, one of the hardest hit countries, in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

Due to the limited number of users (100) with rights to access the Arc-GIS licensed software in Taiwan, local governments use their own commercial disaster management software (disaster risk reduction and response are decentralized island-wide), and a number of NGOs and research groups have been trained to run Sahana.

And while Sahana’s capabilities are “impressive” said Li, and include tracking crisis workers and volunteers, managing relief inventories and donations, mapping hotspots, registering disaster victims and reporting missing persons, managing triage cases and tracking aid projects, commercial software solutions have greater corporate support (not as readily available in the OS community), especially during disasters when errors and “unstable data” can be fatal, he said.

“There will be a balance between OS and proprietary solutions with each finding their niche”

ESRI runs a 24-hour toll-free hotline for its clients.

Crowley with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative said the disaster management technology market is still very proprietary (in the US alone, there are almost 40 types of software used to manage the country’s emergency “911” hotline response), with only emergency mapping noting a significant shift to OS platforms like the Humanitarian Team atOpenstreetmap, which creates and distributes no-cost geographical data to support relief efforts worldwide.

“People trust what is familiar and building trust takes time,” even with the unprecedented pace of OS developments in the field of disaster management, said Crowley.

Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC), Bangkok

ADPC chose Sahana to set up a regional portal in 2010 cataloguing disaster risk reduction (DRR) initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region and wanted an affordable software that could pull information from multiple data sources. “Sahana’s a great innovation, it’s cheap, it’s easy to implement,” said Bill Ho, the NGO’s manager of the information, communications and technology unit.

First developed to share information on regional and multi-country DRR projects, the portal is now being expanded to allow for the sharing of national and sub-national DRR projects, including the Myanmar government’s Ministry of Relief and Resettlement information portal.

After a six-month installation period, ADPC now subcontracts to consultants for maintenance. “That has been a challenge,” said Ho. “It’s hard to find people with the right skills and Sahana’s human resource capabilities are low, so we have to rely on consultants. There are none based in Southeast Asia.”

Crowley, the researcher with Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, said varied needs, capabilities and starting points in terms of disaster preparedness and response means “there will be a balance between OS and proprietary solutions with each finding their niche”.

pt/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Over a Third of Euro Journalists’ Union’s Members and Leaders are Women, says IFJ/EFJ Study

Posted by African Press International on June 4, 2013

A study published jointly by the European and the International Federation of Journalists (EFJ and IFJ) has shown that women in Europe make up more than a third (42%) of journalist’s unions membership and leading positions (36%).

The results of the study, which surveyed 21 unions and journalists’ associations in Europe, shows a three per cent decrease in the number of female members and leaders compared to the results in the last EFJ survey in 2006.

“Although the trend for improved representation cannot be considered to be reversed our unions must remain vigilant as the gender equality issue is far from won”, said IFJ General Secretary Beth Costa. “These results will help us launch focused actions supporting women in union membership and their access to leading roles”.

The survey aims to assess progress made in reducing the representation gap between women and men in journalists’ trade unions. It also examines the number of young women with youth membership, as well as freelance and permanent staffers’ membership.

It presents an overview of union gender policies adopted by IFJ/EFJ affiliates in Europe and assesses to what extent the financial crisis has affected women and youth journalists more specifically than men in the profession.

Young women make up 53% of youth membership in journalists’ unions. This mirrors the extensive feminization of our profession”, said Kerstin Klamroth, the IFJ gender council coordinator for Europe. “The fact that very few of them access leading roles is a concern. We should think again about the space, policies and structures we develop for women of all ages so that unions can better address the needs of our profession”.

The EFJ recently elected a woman as its vide-president. The IFJ will hold its congress at the beginning of June and will decide upon its new leadership.

“The up-coming IFJ congress will be a good opportunity to tackle gender equality within our leadership,” said Costa. “We are taking important steps to allow this to happen by adopting a gender mainstreaming approach throughout congress. We hope that this will encourage women to stand for elections and actively participate in congress activities”.
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