KONY2012 Roundup – an overview and evaluation

Oxfam must be salivating at the marketing success that the Invisible Children (IC) organisation has created with its KONY2012 video. Ironically, there has been an unprecedented backlash over the KONY2012 video, the likes of which has not been experienced by equally manipulative charities. One has to wonder why. There is probably too much Internet opinion already. An overnight library of detailed material on the video and IC has been written. Some of it is substantive, some of it is mudslinging, and some of it is factual pedantry. I wanted to try to extract and isolate some of the more salient arguments going around in an attempt to evaluate the actual impact of the campaign. I’ve “scored” the evaluation by simply multiplying the probability of an argument being correct with the impact it would have, were it to be correct. The numbers and ratings are my own guesstimate and open for discussion. Not all arguments fit this model well, but I’m running with it. In addition, I’ve linked, where possible, to sites with further detail. As disclosure, I have had a strongly negative reaction to the video, and I’m unsure I know why. I’ve spent some time analysing my reaction, and separating the emotional response from the rational, conscious of my own bias. This is what I’ve come up with. If you’ve heard this all before (very probable), skip to the end, where I provide my own opinion of what all the fuss is really about. Please suggest additional (reasonable) arguments if you think I have missed some.   Arguments in favour of KONY2012 I knew 0 before, but now I know 1 Argument: Tens of millions of people who did not know about Kony before now know about Kony. They will be put more pressure on international organisations and government to do something. Evidence: Number of views Probability of Impact: High Impact: Low, Positive Score: 5 / 25 Evaluation: It is true – many people now know who Joseph Kony is and what horrible...

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Best Shore: Johannesburg

Aug 22, 11 Best Shore: Johannesburg

Posted by in Economics

When last were you, when addressing a problem with your printer or shiny new Apple junk-Mac, patched through to a call-centre in Alexandra? Numerous of those dreaded service-related calls have resulted in me being patched through to scripted Indians, incomprehensible Filipinos, and angry Glaswegians, but never to a cheerful Durbanite or chatty Bloemfonteinian. While outsourcing services to remote, low-wage economies has become industry standard for many large companies, South Africa, despite appearing to be an ideal offshoring location, has lagged behind other developing nations in raking in foreign capital. The Indian model has been held up as an offshore example for over a decade. Booming in the late 90s, the IT sector in India has risen, to date, from below 1% to over 5% of GDP, in a country where only 7% of the population have access to the internet. The industry, which has created thousands of new jobs and drawn millions in foreign investment, contributes substantially to the sustained growth of this emerging market. Of the $30+ billion dollars of revenue generated by the services industry, about 75% is comprised of service “exports” to western-based multi-nationals. Both government and the private sector have made large investment in colleges, which take some of the brightest students from a mediocre schooling system and turn them into professionals who are able to communicate effectively in English, follow well-defined processes and convert designs into deliverables. Though not necessarily delivering a full spectrum of business services, these centres excel in delivering the core bulk of IT requirements, from maintenance to development. This allows large technology companies to pay below-the-market prices for human resources and provide cheaper IT solutions to newly budget-conscious foreign institutions. Part of the revenue generated from the vast amount of work offshored to India is ploughed back into the education system and used to strengthen infrastructure – investment which supports business and benefits the economy as a whole. South Africa, largely, has missed the wagon and hardly heard the band. While South Africa has established...

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Complicity in corruption

While driving along a busy road an advert sponsored by LeadSA caught my attention. It read “Do the right thing, Don’t bribe a police officer” or some such. LeadSA is an obscure initiative by Primedia and Independent Newspapers which apparently supports good deeds done by South Africans – in a sort of lead by example sense. The website is incoherent and the message is confused, but they implicitly make a very good argument. Let me try to make it explicit. Arriving home after a few years abroad two sorts of conversation caught my attention. The first is an old standard – that corruption at all levels in the public sector is hampering development of the country and increasing the wealth gap. This starts at well-publicised scandals of large projects which fail because some incompetent company received the tender due to bribery or nepotism, and ends at the anecdotal rumours about corruption of traffic officials preying on unsuspecting only-breaking-petty-law citizens. There is a worrying hypocrisy present in those who both complain about the state of the nation and happily engage in easier-than-punishment bribery. The second conversation was something I had never heard before: the discussion of technique for bribing officers and the boast of how little bribe was necessary to escape punishment for this or that offence. While part of me wanted to congratulate South Africans for embracing the ‘African Way’, another part of me raised a single eyebrow in judgement. Famously, Plato describes how Socrates refused to escape from prison, for, although his imprisonment and death sentence was unjust, he did not wish to violate his principle of not responding to an injustice with a second wrong-doing. Socrates argued that disobeying single instances of injustice of an otherwise good government undermined the system as a whole and made it difficult for the government to continue to rule effectively. This position – and it is just one perspective on the matter – does not rule out the use of civil protest, but requires that it...

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Transparency isn’t achieved like this, Assange

Let us assume, as many do, that freedom of information is good for its own sake. We have a right to know about information related to public governance. Pragmatically, we could argue that transparency in government reduces corruption, ensures fair and just distribution of government budget and makes public figures accountable for dubious and illegal action. That said, I would be grateful if anybody could point me towards an academic article providing empirical evidence of some causal relationship between these factors. Wikileaks does not provide transparency, it forces it. Like many challenges, the means of achieving a goal are as important as the end result. In this case, it is true that Wikileaks has succeeded in providing a pseudo-transparency: if the government is unwilling to release information then we shall take it. Transparency provides the means for a two way dialogue between citizens and their government. Wikileaks has merely achieved a conversation between the media and its audience, bypassing a now-resentful government and shutting down useful lines of dialogue. Many of the documents contain information which should make us consider the legitimacy of actions of the Pentagon, diplomats and even soldiers. Many of the documents contain information that could cause direct physical harm to people crucial to a number of peacekeeping and journalistic endeavours worldwide. But the contents of the documents are only of specific interest. What is crucial to realise is that Wikileaks has not achieved a real transparency. A real public transparency occurs when a government willingly divulges its own information. Government complicity in information release is important because it shows their commitment to the process, including holding diplomats and army officials accountable for misbehaviour and willingness to prosecute individuals found guilty of corruption. At an idealistic level, it illustrates that a government places high value in public freedoms and accountability. Transparency provides the means for a two way dialogue between citizens and their government. Wikileaks has merely achieved a conversation between the media and its audience, bypassing a now-resentful government and...

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Cliff Notes – The Art of Being Spoonfed Your Thoughts

Gareth Cliff has taken it upon himself to lead the new white intellectual revolution. I am unsure of whether this is because he is the most (perhaps only) articulate person on popular radio, or merely because he sommer rates himself. Regardless, this is a problem. It is not a problem that somebody with very little to say attempts to offer profound opinions on important issues – we at African Scene are perhaps guilty of the same arrogance, although we make some effort to back up claims with rational argument and evidence. But it’s a problem that he is given an audience willing to accept his every utterance at face value. My rant was sparked off by the poster boy’s ostentatious ‘Open Letter to The Government’. Predicting the eventual end of the ANC government doesn’t make you a prophet, but betting on any imminent change is a sure way of losing your beer money. In this letter Cliff mentions six classic problems with the current government: corruption, media infringement, education policy, BEE, infighting (and owning BMWs) and finally, just in case the 4×4 crowd got lost with those big words, the renaming of streets and cities. There are at least three problems with his letter: 1) the tone is accusatory, inflammatory and contains more rhetoric than evidence, 2) it is fraught with inaccuracy and hyperbole, and 3) the tirade is devoid of any positive suggestion of how things can be improved. I, not unreasonably, believe that any discourse which is to be taken seriously needs to present an argument from a rational, balanced perspective, limit the use of loaded language and should be able to back up claims with good evidence, not mere anecdotes about nepotism. This, at least, provides a good starting point for further analysis. Gareth, thanks for pointing out that the country needs clever people. If you think the Education Department was broken under the current government, could you please tell me when last it was fixed? Predicting the eventual end of...

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