Wimax? Why not?

Andy Mack and Jeremy Goldberg posted an article on Andy's Global View about the role of emerging technology in post-conflict northern Uganda (from which I stole the title of this post):

Happily, more and more each day it seems that technology is available to help previously left behind regions get on the grid quickly — new products and services that can be deployed in a fraction of the time it would take to rebuild traditional infrastructure. In recent years a whole host of technologies have been developed that could help war-recovering Africa "skip steps" in re-development, in much the same way that the cellphone revolution has brought personal communications to Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya and yes, southern Uganda.


Three years from now (or even less) I could be in a transformed Gulu, where international and local investors work together seamlessly to get work done. I could be managing my investment from a distance, speaking with my staff from a Skype phone, or perhaps working with a young entrepreneur who learned how to surf the Internet on a $100 laptop.

Mack and Goldberg mention, among other things, Wimax, which can increase wireless internet access in areas without cable or telephone networks. Infocom started installing a Wimax network in Kampala last June, and Celtel has plans to expand Wimax throughout East Africa, but no mention was made of moving this to northern Uganda. Here's to hoping....

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the importance of blogging in Uganda

Earlier this week, White African featured an interview with Neville Newey, creator of the Reddit-esque African social bookmarking site Muti. I think Newey, in addition to having an awesome name, is doing great things, and I agreed with every point he made in his interview until he answered the last question: What are your thoughts on the impact of blogging in Africa?

Newey claims blogging in Africa isn't as influential as blogging in North America because news here is less frequently corporately owned, and therefore more independent, than it is there. I would argue that media in Africa is heavily censored — if not by corporations, then definitely by governments.* In Uganda, the New Vision is clearly Museveni's plaything, and Blake Lambert (a Canadian journalist who was expelled from Uganda last year) has an excellent piece up at the Sub-Saharan African Roundtable about the numerous instances of media repression by African governments over the past year.

Blogs in Africa give their authors an opportunity to express views that aren't being covered in the regular media. Sokari Ekine at Pambazuka News agrees: "African blogs have been able to challenge governments on issues such as corruption, human rights, economic policy and social justice in their respective countries (often anonymously) in ways that could not have been possible without risking arrest or harassment in the past."

My thoughts on the impact of blogging in Africa? Many of the blogs that do exist are shaping the way people think and contributing to major debates in their countries — just look at Sub-Saharan African Roundtable or Weichegud. In 2006 the number of blogs on the continent doubled, and the number of blogs written by women quadrupled. The reason blogging isn't as popular as it is in North America is simple — in a country where fewer than 2% of the population has access to internet and only 70% is literate, creating and sustaining a thriving blogosphere is difficult. Still, I'm happy with the rate at which the African blogging community is growing, and I believe that as technology becomes more widely available, we'll see bloggers influencing their societies just as much as their North American counterparts are.

*Paranoia (and the urge to mention his name) compels me to restate that the Daily Monitor and East African, the other two major English-language newspapers in Uganda, both belong to Aga Khan.

EDIT: Speaking of emerging blogging technology, I just found this post by Revence at Communist Socks and Boots. He blogged from the January UBHH using his cell phone. Way cool.

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First Annual Uganda Best of Blogs

At last week's Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour, I may at one point have been so overcome with spirited enthusiasm that I declared an upcoming blogging competition without real regard to who would organize, sponsor or regulate such a competition.


Not one to disappoint, I've decided to take on this (joyful, weightless) burden. It's time to recognize the talented writing, creative design and spirited community that is the Ugandan blogosphere.

The first annual Uganda Best of Blogs competition is now open for nominations in the following categories:
  • Ugandan blog of the year — open to any blog written by a Ugandan or focusing on Uganda
  • Best post — The single best piece in the Ugandan blogosphere
  • Best blog in Uganda — Written by anyone living in Uganda in 2006
  • Best overseas Ugandan blog — Any Uganda-focused or Ugandan-authored blog written in a foreign country
  • Best writing — Intelligent, witty, feisty, eloquent or just plain funny
  • Best design — Best overall design and layout
  • Best photography — Best photo taken by a Ugandan blogger and posted on his or her blog

To be considered for the 2006 Uganda BOB awards, blogs must fulfill the following criteria:
  • Have dated entries
  • Have existed at some point during 2006
  • Be written by a Ugandan, by a non-Ugandan living in Uganda, or be focused on Uganda

Nominations are open from now until Thursday, February 15 at 11:59 PM. You can e-mail your nominations to me at jack.fruity [at] yahoo [dot] com or bring them to the February Happy Hour. Anyone, blogger or non-blogger, Ugandan or non-Ugandan, can nominate blogs.

In the nomination phase,
  • URLs are required for all nominated blogs
  • The maximum number of blogs you may nominate for a category is two (2) for most categories and three (3) for Ugandan blog of the year
  • You must nominate at least three (3) different blogs total — no flogging of one blog for numerous categories
  • You may nominate your own blog, but the nominations for your own blog must be less than one third of your total (legitimate) nominations
  • There is no limit to the number of categories for which a blog may be nominated
  • Nominees have to fit the category they are placed in

Once the nominations are in, they will be counted, and the three blogs in each category (and five blogs in the Ugandan blog of the year) with the most nominations will be voted on. Voting will take place here between February 19 and March 9, and awards will be announced at the Happy Hour on Thursday, March 15.

Ready, set, go....

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secret heart, part two

Josh: If I go to Nepal, I could be the Robert Kaplan of Nepal.

Me: Of all the places he's been, he's never been to Nepal. You still have a shot.

Josh: Wait. We should stop saying that.

Me: You're right. You should be the Tom Bissell of Nepal.

Josh: I should be the Tom Bissell of Nepal.

Me: I feel like Tom Bissell should know about this conversation. It would make him happy.

Josh: Especially because Tom Bissell is the reason we don't like Kaplan anymore.

Me: "He's an incompetent thinker and a miserable writer."

Josh: I've never had my respect for an author so completely decimated as I had when Bissell decapitated Kaplan.

Me: I love Tom Bissell.


I didn't think you were white

Check out more Happy Hour pictures on the Jackfruity Flickr site

The topics of conversation at Thursday night's Inaugural Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour ranged from cell phones to Alice Lakwena to the transvestitical possibilities of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Jabberwocky was recited, blogging addictions were confessed, heaven was declared to be just like North Korea, and the Ugandan blogosphere gained a fanboy. Also, we unanimously agreed that Inktus is hot.

We came together to discuss the issues circulating among our blogs and throughout the country, to put faces with names, and to enjoy a few drinks with our fellow geeks. I'd like to think we all got something special from our exchange — I came home with multiple offers of free jackfruit and the shocked insistence of many of my co-bloggers that I couldn't be Jackfruity because I'm too white. No fewer than three of my blogging compatriots were convinced, based on this blog, that I was black — "too black," according to one.

Does someone want to explain this to me? I write about being a white woman in Kampala and complain about being called a mzungu. Do I need some sort of disclaimer that heads every page? Caution: you are reading the blog of a pale Caucasian female from Kansas.

All told, the happy hour was an immense success. In the words of Josh, who gave a rousing speech to commemorate the first of what I hope will be many blogfests: The goal is to increase the level of debate in this country, but at least now we can all make fun of each other and hang out.

Inaugural Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour Guestlist
Colin (still waiting for his first post...)
Dennis Matanda
Ivan (200 Coin has Fish)
Jared (it's not a blog, it's an "online journal")
Josh (In an African Minute)
Rebekah (Jackfruity)
Revence (Dying Communist)

Non-bloggers in attendance

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2007: Jackfruity predictions

George Bush will out Aga Khan as a terrorist mastermind and commence war against Pakistan and Tajikistan. Turkmenistan will be thrown in for good measure. Shortly thereafter, the Washington Post will reveal that what were thought to be terrorist training camps in northern Pakistan were actually just schools for poor shepherds, and CNN will begin featuring "Stangate" on the nightly news. Fox News will insist wool from the sheep in question contained suspicious traces of plutonium, thereby justifying the attack. Ronald Gates will resign, and in an unprecedented violation of the Constitution, Dick Cheney will take over his role. American voters, disturbed by the thought of radioactive sheep, will be too busy lobbying against imported lamb to notice.

Yoweri Museveni will die of gout. Obote's wife will take over under the title Obote III, followed within two months by a military coup led by Salim Saleh in collaboration with Aga Khan (who, in sly retaliation for the Stangate debacle, will force Saleh to charge Americans double the nightly rate at the Kampala Serena Hotel — all under the pretense of development work, naturally).

The Red Pepper will discover Salim Saleh's previously well-hidden penchant for American hip-hop after a house servant chances upon his closet shrine to Jay-Z. To shield himself from embarrassment, the new leader of Uganda will invite the eminent artist to the country and crown him Kabaka of the Buganda. The former Kabaka's body will be packed in concrete and sealed into the Bujugali Dam, the building of which will proceed expediently due to the Saleh-Khan partnership. Jay-Z's next album will feature a remix of "Oh My God," in which he changes the line "got crowned king down in Africa" to "just became the new Kabaka." Fans will urge him to retire; "For real this time" will be the headline of Slate's disgusted review.

In November, sources close to Aga Khan will reveal that he actually is a terrorist, and that he's been funneling foreign aid to Uganda and revenue from the Serena network into nuclear projects in the Federated States of Micronesia. Jackfruity will be awarded the 2007 Best of Blogs award for her hard-hitting, tireless reporting on the so-called philanthropist. She will then be taken in by the CIA for questioning as to the exact nature of her interest in the latest Greatest Threat to National Security. This site will languish forlornly in the blogosphere until one of Aga Khan's aids discovers it. Selections will be compiled into a Mein-Kampf-esque Life of the Aga Khan IV, and Jackfruity will become a bestselling author. Unfortunately, she will be unavailable for a booksigning tour, as she will be locked in Guantanamo Bay.

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all quiet in the house of jackfruity

It's been a quiet week while I've been cavorting around the country with Josh, helping to lead a conference on the role of youth in post-conflict northern Uganda. The cavorting has ceased (we've landed permanently in Kampala for the rest of the trip), and I've gotten a chance to look through the file of random article ideas I keep for this blog.

Yes, a file of random article ideas.

Yes, I am a huge nerd.

Anyway, the list goes a little something like this:
  • Acholi land accusations
  • cholera
  • data report 2006
  • Gulu university
  • legalizing abortion
  • lessons to be learned
  • prostitution
  • Slate article (why Darfur?)
  • Robert Gates
  • Somalia
  • Ted Poe (bastard)
  • trial justice
  • what's with Aga Khan and Dushanbe?

Just a little insight into the way my mind works.

Public Service Announcement

It has come to my attention, dear readers, that among you there may be some confusion regarding the identity of Chairman Mao. Fear not. The goal of Jackfruity has always been and will continue to be the eradication of misunderstanding and the betterment of the general population — hence my many treatises on eminent public figure Jay-Z.

Chairman Mao is many things, almost all of which can be divided into two categories: Zedong and Norbert.

Lest these categories seems indistinct, let me assist you with several examples of their differences:
  1. Zedong: loved to swim.
    Norbert: honorary citizen of the state of Oklahoma
  2. Zedong: former assistant librarian
    Norbert: former lawyer
  3. Zedong: Down with Soviet imperialism!
    Norbert: The country needs a leader who is no warlord!

Also, there's something about Chairman of the Communist Party in China and MP assisting in the Juba Peace Talks, but I don't think that's really all that important.

top five blog posts of 2006

The year has come and gone, and everyone seems to be making top five lists — the top five X-Box games, the top five nanotech breakthroughs, and (my favorite) the top five most pretentious looks of 2006. I'm hopping on the bandwagon with my top five blog posts of 2006 — these are the blogs I've read regularly since I came to Uganda, so I may be excluding amazing content pre-September or so, but here goes:

The Jackfruity-Sanctioned Top Five Blog Posts of (Mid- to Late) 2006:

5. Romance in K'la City by yours truly.
Norwegian loggers and pit bulls and boda drivers who publicly declare their love for you: yeah, that pretty much sums up my Kampala experience.

4. Not to be confused with by venerable journalist Ernest Bazanye. Here Baz exposes his deep-rooted altruism as well as his concern for the education of the general public. A wonderful man, he.

3. An Evening Chapati Snack by Josh at In an African Minute.
I read this post about life in Kansanga just a few months before I came back to Uganda in September. At the time, I was wavering between coming here and giving it all up to pursue my field of study (which has nothing to do with Uganda) in another country. Josh's description of a late-night walk through his neighborhood reminded me how intricately beautiful this country can be (randomly placed garbage heaps and all) and renewed my desire to spend at least a year in Kampala.

2. Anna Phillips Blog by Anna Phillips, writing for The Katalyst Blog.
Anna and I met in an airport in New Jersey a year ago, both on our first trip to Uganda. Her account of her experience leading a group of Acholi football players to the Homeless World Cup in South Africa in October is touchingly, eloquently honest. The fact that Anna — one of the most brilliantly outgoing, feistily active, fearlessly brazen (that's a compliment) people I've ever met — would hate the fact that I just called her touching and eloquent makes it all the better.

1. How to Satisfy an African Taste by Pernille at I've Left Copenhagen for Uganda.
Pernille talks about beer, and this is my all-time favorite blog post of 2006. I especially like how she calls Bell "metrosexual" and how she admits to picking beer and CDs based on the graphic design of the label. Glad to know I'm not the only one.

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