Getting to know Fairphone

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Showing copper

Showing Copper after cleaning

For the past few months I have been watching online and listening to conversations offline about the initiative by a group of people here in Amsterdam which looks at how mobile phones are made and how their production effects people and the environment around the world.  It is one of those difficult to address issues, because we are talking about a device that is so essential and so present in everyone’s life in almost every corner of the planet. And while we can be critical, perhaps, of the companies that produce them, we still need the device so sometimes the questions aren’t asked and the practices aren’t closely scrutinized.

 

Until now.

The concerned group of people involved in Fairphone have decided to build the world’s first ethically produced phone, as they explain it:

Our aim of fairness is simple: to not harm man or nature in creating our phone. Not in transporting or producing it. And not in acquiring the raw materials for it.

As their first step in researching and beginning on the production process of the phone, they recently went to Congo (DRC) to meet with artisanal miners and learn about their working conditions, as well as what they would want in terms of fair treatment and payment as the source of the raw materials that eventually make the devices function.  In the process they also purchased raw cobalt and brought it back to the Netherlands to be used in their first prototype phones.  Thus completing the very basic but very little known step one of building our mobile phones, the mining of raw materials.

After having learned all about their initial efforts to both build a phone and shed light on an issue with global impact, I decided to get involved as a journalist and a concerned citizen/phone user. My aim is to follow this process and pass on information to the public, to stimulate conversations that could help on the road to more ethical production of the devices we love and use so much.

More information and reporting to come. This was only my own journalistic step 1 towards getting to know fairphone and an industry that could use a good kick in the pants.

Moving Closer to Ethical Mobile Phones

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photo courtesy of Fairphone.org

In the summer of 2011 we learned of the fairphone mission; to make the world’s first ethically responsible mobile phone. We spoke about the challenges, the steps, the people and places in the world that would be involved. Now, many months later, we revisit fairphone to get an update and hear about the interesting developments and ongoing initiatives. My guest and guide on this podcast is Bas van Abel of the Waag Society, who has been part of the fairphone initiative since the early days.

We get into:

  • Battery
  • Miners
  • Congo
  • Open Design
  • Urban Mining

My Talk on Mobile Phone Minerals at CCC2011

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Me on stage at CCC2011

At this year’s Chaos Communication Camp I decided to talk about what i’ve learned regarding how the minerals in our mobile devices are mined.  The infamous process including all the middle players and related groups is increasingly being looked at as people around the world wake up to the reality of what this thing is that we carry with us everywhere everyday.  In waking up, more and more people are demanding transparency and a real standard of ethics when it comes to how phones are made. One such group of people here in the Netherlands came together under the name Fairphone. In my talk I get into the activities and discoveries made by fairphone in the past year during a fact finding mission in Congo (DRC).

(full credit to the documentation team and everyone who made it possible to have this video and share it online)

ctrp387 Connecting Electronics and Conflict Minerals

by bicyclemark 1 Comment
Mine

An artisanal mine in Katanga

There is a direct connection between armed conflict in Congo and the minerals we use in our phones and computers. Bibi Bleekemolen has been investigating that connection, in an effort to understand how it works, who is involved, and what can be done about it.  Her focus is the role that electronics companies have in the raging conflicts in eastern Congo.

Earlier this year she went along as part of the fairphone fact finding mission to Katanga.  In this podcast we discuss the aftermath of that journey as well as Bibi’s extensive research into the topic.

Recommended Links about Conflict Minerals and Congo:

SOMO

 

NIZA