Connecting Hacker Camp with the World

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Connecting Hacker Camp with the World

Hacker Camp, which takes place every two years in Europe, is an event where creative, quirky, and passionate minds from around the world gather to form a temporary physical community where ideas are exchanged. The areas of interest vary greatly, as do the personal stories of those who participate.  One area of interest that has long been present at camp is that of conflict resolution, quality of life, and development projects.  Making use of tools or knowledge in and from different parts of the world in a effort to improve quality of life for those who desire change and access to technological solutions.

OHM at NightThis podcast began as a small conversation on the last day of OHM 2013 among individuals doing projects in South America, the Middle East, Asia and West Africa. As we recorded, the number of participants increased as friends, acquaintances, and curious strangers joined our circle to listen or speak about their project and their impressions of this camp in relation to what is happening in the rest of the world.

My goal with this recording, to make the connections from this temporary microworld that we built, to the rest of the world and the challenges people face everyday.  If you enjoy hearing from dedicated, kind hearted, and fum people, listen to this podcast.

Projects and People Included in this recording:

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

Our Gadgets, Our Planet

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Photo

Photo by David in China

This week I will meet up with David Kousemaker of TechTravels to interview him about his work on the issue of where our old gadgets end up. More specifically we will delve into a topic that the mainstream world only occasionally alludes to when they mention how “somewhere in China” our old computers and phones are painstakingly recycled in the most horrendous of conditions.  Amazingly such an alarming statement is taken as almost cliché when you look at how rarely media outlets get deeper into this issue.

 

But over the past few years, David Kousemaker has done just that. In fact, he has gone beyond what most any other newspaper or reporter has ever uncovered in places like China, Indonesia, and Brazil, delving into not only what gets recycled but who does the recycling, how they live, where different phases of the process take place and so on.  His findings have been documented in text and photos on his website, Techtravels.

The idea behind meeting David, besides learning first hand details about these people, places, and activities, is to also get a better picture of the global game of electronics disposal. With all the devices we have gone through and will go through as we upgrade, replace, and go for the next thing, what happens to all these gadgets? What impact are we who buy these devices and later get rid of them, having on society and the planet?  This week, we get more answers to these and other questions…

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.