Even if I have mostly been a lurker lately, I would like to break my silence and share with you the latest project at http://megafone.net. Throughout this last year, Antoni Abad and I have been working with groups of young women living in the Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria, providing them with the means and motivations to share their views and daily lives on the Internet. By using wifi-enabled mobile phones, these young women are able to send images and sound recordings directly to a web page: http://megafone.net/SAHARA
The participants, who come from different camps, get together periodically and discuss the topics they would like to publish on the net. So far, their interests have concentrated on subjects such as children, women, work, health or education. They are aware of the power of sharing their views on the Internet, and see it as a way of raising awareness about their current situation: even if the pictures do not depict the conflict directly, every image refers to it implicitly.
As you can imagine, sustaining this project is difficult because of many reasons. The Sahrawi refugees in southern Algeria are living under precarious conditions: there is a lack of almost everything. Yet, they have a number of satellite dishes which allow them to connect to the Internet. This is something they value greatly, although the limited bandwidth and the harsh weather conditions make it really hard to surf the Web there. In the camps, we found a great interest in keeping this project alive; however, we also found that access to the Internet is a commons that must be managed. Given the narrow bandwidth (128 Kbits on a good day), one cannot have the luxury of downloading mp3 files or videos without harming other people's connection speeds. People need to be very sensible about each other's rights to use the shared bandwidth.
This project has taught us a lot, and we are determined to keep it going as much as we can. In any case, I would like to invite you to take a look at what these young women are publishing in http://megafone.net/SAHARA. They know that Antoni and I will try to do our best to spread their images and words far and wide. And they hope that this can make a difference, however small it may be.
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