[governance] Fundamentally broken design of society

David Goldstein goldstein_david at yahoo.com.au
Sat Aug 11 19:25:29 EDT 2007

Hi Dan,

Your example of a paternalistic funder, such as the USA, is only one example. Europe appears to be moving forwards and being much better in its ability to fund the developing world. But, still it's not perfect. But then, it's probable it will never be perfect.

And where does the first world give its money? Does it give to targetted programmes, or to governments. The latter has been an abject failure in most cases. The Economist <http://economist.com/world/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9440765> recently had an interesting article. It gave examples of successful funding of water filtration plants. Funding for AIDS prevention and medicines for those with AIDS, and malaria, have been very successful.

The article gives an example of a success story in Africa - Mali. Mali is a success story, making agriculture and infrastructure a priority. And of course, telecommunications can be included in infrastructure. But if there's no roads it's difficult to provide telecommunications, even wireless. Nigeria on the other hand is riddled with corruption. Its leaders appear to have only a passing interest in their people. Nigeria has the potential to be one of the world's richest countries, but its wealth is squandered. So Mali has funders flocking to give it money. And from what I can tell, Mali is one of the few shining lights in Africa.

When funders have the choice of funding the projects I have mentioned, I've no doubt most will not choose telecommunications. I imagine most will see their role in other projects. But again, engaging with foundations, or even people such as Jeffrey Sachs, on how to get telecommunications on the agenda could only be a step forward. Going off funding/supporting projects willy nilly is a sure way to failure. By the way, it has to be a trade-off. There is only so much money to go around, so there has to be choices made all along.

There's also a good article by Jeffrey Sachs in The Economist available at http://economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_TQDPVQQ. It's for subscribers only, but there are probably other articles available if people search online. The articles is from 2002, and begins:
"IF GEORGE BUSH spent more time and money on mobilising Weapons of Mass Salvation (WMS) in addition to combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), we might actually get somewhere in making this planet a safer and more hospitable home. WMD can kill millions and their spread to dangerous hands needs to be opposed resolutely. WMS,
in contrast, are the arsenal of life-saving vaccines, medicines and
health interventions, emergency food aid and farming technologies that
could avert literally millions of deaths each year in the wars against
epidemic disease, drought and famine. Yet while the Bush administration
is prepared to spend $100 billion to rid Iraq of WMD, it has been unwilling to spend more than 0.2% of that sum ($200m) this year on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria."

This debate reminds me of the debate around climate change with Bjorn Lomborg. Simplistically he advocates climate change is over-rated as a problem and money should be better spent on other programmes in the developing world. But, climate change is likely to make any money spent on other programmes pointless if everyone is dead as a result of climate change. If everyone in the developing world dies of malaria and other diseases, funding of telecommunications will have been useless.


----- Original Message ----
From: Dan Krimm <dan at musicunbound.com>
To: governance at lists.cpsr.org
Sent: Saturday, 11 August, 2007 5:23:33 AM
Subject: Re: [governance] Fundamentally broken design of society


It could just be that the Millennium Development Goals have a blind spot in
the area of Media and the Fourth Estate.  How does one expect all of these
goals to be accomplished without a robust and nondiscriminatory
communication platform for collective discourse?

Is it just a paternalistic responsibility of developed nations to help out
their "crippled cousins" in the developing world, or is the responsibility
to help those developing nations become systematically more
self-sufficient?  Unilateral paternalism only goes so far, and it is this
unfortunate tendency in the current U.S. administration that bothers *many*
U.S. citizens, for example.  I know it bothers a lot of other people around
the world as well.

I would argue that provision of empowering communication platforms is an
absolutely critical issue underlying *all* other substantive issues,
because collective communication drives and enables substantive action on
all other fronts.

If you make it a trade-off, then in the long run the developing country
loses anyway.  That may in fact be a false dichotomy.  Who says that
investing in communications will not pay off in empowering efforts in all
the other areas listed?  Knowledge is Power, and Access to Knowledge is

ICT provision is not an isolated silver bullet by any means, but I think it
must be an ineliminable component of any development package.  It is the
glue that holds all the rest together, in the end.


At 9:58 PM -0700 8/9/07, David Goldstein wrote:
>Hi Norbert et al,
>I agree with the views expressed here, in short, on making technology
>accessible to all regardless of location, income and ability or
>disability. However there are many constraints in achieving this. In the
>developing world, what does a funder or government spend money on -
>malaria nets or internet access? To name just one issue. Safe drinking
>water, child poverty, sanitation, disease, infrastructure such as roads,
>railways, airports?
>This is reflected in the UN's 8 Millennium Development Goals. These are:
>Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty
>Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
>Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
>Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
>Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
>Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
>Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
>Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development.
>See  <http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/>http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/
>You could argue technology fits within goal 8, but it's a low priority.
>Even Bill Gates has seen that the issues raised in the 8 goals above is
>more important than technology. So a business alliance, while laudable, is
>going to be difficult to get to work when the essentials are in other
>Do we support the development of technology in the developing world, but
>people die who, if the money was spent on the above goals might have
>lived? Of course, we make all sorts of decisions and they all have costs
>in other areas. The chocolate bar, the flight to visit my parents, the
>coffee... the money purchasing all these things, it can be argued could go
>to better use.
>I don't have an answer. There are many views and maybe there are many
>right ones. Maybe talking to an organisation such as The Gates and/or Ford
>Foundations or others working towards the above goals could give guidance
>on how support can be given in the area of technology. Who knows, they may
>like the project and give money!
>----- Original Message ----
>From: Norbert Bollow <nb at bollow.ch>
>To: governance at lists.cpsr.org; ldmisekfalkoff at gmail.com
>Cc: allies at QuitBabylon.com; IDC-ICT-Taskforce at yahoogroups.com;
>AdHoc_IDC at yahoogroups.com
>Sent: Thursday, 9 August, 2007 11:38:29 PM
>Subject: Re: [governance] Fundamentally broken design of society
>Linda Misek-Falkoff <ldmisekfalkoff at gmail.com> wrote:
>> hope I read correctly that the concept of a broken system holds forth the
>> hope and vision that either it was once whole, or can be brought into being
>> [more] whole.
>Yes, precisely:  As long as I thought about the matter as "a social
>problem" I had little if any confidence of actually being able to do
>anything about it.  But when I read that word "broken", that was
>helpful, to me at least, to inspire me towards more contructive lines
>of thought.  If something is broken, it can usually be fixed or
>Now, while the thought "fix it or replace it" cannot be applied to
>society in any reasonably way, it can be applied to rules of conduct,
>legal rules, and computer software, all of which have significant
>influence on how society evolves.  For example, when a company that
>creates and popularizes a new technology has neglected to get that
>technology evaluated with regard to its effects on people with
>disabilities, certainly justice would demand that there should be a
>legal liability connected to any resulting "disabling" or
>marginalizing effect on people with disabilities.
>Unfortunately this kind of legal change is difficult to achieve in
>any country, and even harder to achieve internationally, and on top of
>that, probably quite a few such changes would be needed in order to
>really fix what I see as overall brokenness in the system of legal
>rules and how they are applied.
>However there is another path, which seems much more promising to me:
>Namely, to try creating a subsystem of the overall economy, by means
>of designing an attractive and fair set of rules by means of which
>the subsystem of the economy would function.  My inspiration for this
>idea is to a large extent the "social hack" approach of Richard
>Stallman's founding of the Free Software movement, which was
>successful precisely because it was sufficient for success to get
>support from a significant number of people who were willing and
>interested in doing the right thing, it was not necessary to get
>consent or acceptance from anyone else.
>The fundamental idea that I want to pursue is to focus on empowerment:
>--> What does it take to fully empower those people who are currently
>    restricted from fully benefiting from ICT because of some kind of
>    digital divide?
>I expect that discussing this question will lead to collecting some
>set of principles (or sets of principles) that will be supportive of
>empowerment, and that will help prevent those kinds of disempowerment
>that are possible to prevent.
>Then we can discuss how to form some kind of alliance (I'm thinking
>of something like a business alliance, but not restricted to
>businesses only) to support each other while pursuing this set of
>goals.  This alliance would be the "social hack" / "movement" that
>can perhaps somehow follow the example of the Free Software movement.
>I have set up a discussion mailing list for these matters at
>and I would like to invite everyone who is interested in this set of
>topics to join me there.
>Norbert Bollow
><nb at bollow.ch>                    <http://Norbert.ch>http://Norbert.ch
>President of the Swiss Internet User Group
>SIUG  <http://SIUG.ch>http://SIUG.ch
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