I don’t often link to stuff I’ve had published from here. I should, but there’s a masterplan for redesigning that means… well, I just haven’t got round to it. Quite depressed to see this go live over the weekend though: How Linux is changing lives in Zambia.
It’s a piece I wrote for Linux Format back in December, when all was well with the world in Macha. Since then, however, Elton’s had his equipment and collection nicked, while the Macha staff are basically working for nothing because their main funding has just been pulled.
The problems of long lead times and the fact that LXF stories get published online after the mag’s been on sale is all rather unfortunate
Very happy to see a picture of mine has been chosen by the Guardian for International Women’s Day. I’ve written about Sonia many times in the past – she’s one of the most inspirational people I know. Bright, intelligent and with enough family problems that she could and probably should be doing anything she wanted in one of Zambia’s major cities. Instead she chooses to stay in a poor, remote school and walk 14km a day to try and make the world a slightly better place.
Sonia’s story – as it was two years’ ago – is over here. I cry every time I read it back. No matter how little she has or earns, she always puts other people first. And her partner, who scrimped and saved to help her go to college, is the same.
And there’s no reward for what she does. No karmic payback. Last year, she lost her third child – a baby, under a year old – to measles. A stupid, treatable, eradicable disease that picks on the best and the worst of us indiscriminately.
Last time I spoke to Sonia, she was praying for the chance to go back to college to get the next level of teaching qualifications she needs to continue improving her own career and maybe, one day, start her own school. I can only wish her the best of luck.
(Also, check out the funky new Flickr Slideshow plugin^^, beats the thumbnails that were there a moment ago)
It’s been a long day at City Camp Brighton, and I was late (as ever) for the start. But also enormously productive and interesting. I’ve sat in on discussions about everything from digital inclusion and how to help people facing benefit cuts to save money, to a fascinating idea about using QR codes to make the history of places in the city discoverable to anyone with a smart phone. My favourite pitch so far involves journalism – natch – and creating temporary workspaces for kids to tell their stories and raise their own issues in a magazine-style web TV channel.
Too tired to write it all up right now, and there were some 40-50 ideas discussed over the course of the day which I need to ingest. Suffice to say I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s big pitch day, where there’s real money on the table to try and find answers to some of Brighton’s problems.
Also, if tomorrow goes according to plan, I’ll have a notebook to liveblog from that’s actually charged. Hurrah.
I’m attending the weekend long hackathon that is City Camp Brighton this weekend, which started today with an afternoon at the Sallis Benney Theatre on Grand Parade. It moves to Falmer Stadium tomorrow where 150 people get together to come up with ideas for improving the city.
The concept is straightforward. Coders, community workers, council reps and anyone who wants to do something good spend a day coming up with ideas, then on Sunday work up a prototype they can pitch to try and win up to £10,000 of seed funding to get it off the ground.
Today’s part of the event was a series of speeches from local government, the police, voluntary groups, the NHS and data companies highlighting some of the problems Brighton faces, and what resources might be available to those who want to address them. Last year’s winners, MyUrbanAngel, explained how far they’ve come with their project, an app which can help people who find themselves in dangerous or troubling situations at night.
MyUrbanAngel functions as a sort of panic button if you’re worried someone’s following you, for example, and can automatically message friends if you need help. The idea came from a mother whose daughter was mugged and literally had no idea what to do. One feature I like about MyUrbanAngel which isn’t implemented yet is ‘safe zones’ – directing you to nearby volunteers or places that can be havens if you need them.
MUA offered the best advice of the day: “stay in tune with the needs of the city”. In Brighton, that’s a chronic shortage of good housing, disproportionate drug and alcohol abuse, a high suicide rate (related to the former problem), low secondary education results and – my personal interest – a general feeling of not belonging. The last is almost certainly a result of the large number of incomers to the city, who feel they can’t affect decisions made at local government level.
These problems were all pointed out by Alistair Hill of NHS Sussex, based on some really interesting research they’ve conducted. On the bright side, there’s generally a good level of health and wellbeing.
The day was rounded up by Brighton council Chief Exec John Barradell, who outlined some of the impacts austerity measures are going to have on a city that has a high level of dependency on public services and high youth unemployment. “We don’t have much money, but we do have the ability to help ideas forward”.
It’s quite a long way from the defensive reaction I heard from Adur Council at a recent meeting about the Localism Act a couple of weeks ago.
I’ve heard a few nascent pitches already. Veterans of last year’s Camp reckon tomorrow is the hardest, most intense day. Everyone gets hands on in an ‘unconference’ – a room full of tables which anyone can grab to start a discussion around a subject. The only rule is that if you’re not being proactive, move to another table. And a time limit for each discussion, I think.
Looking forward to it.