Bringing Internet to Afghanistan

by bicyclemark 3 Comments
Bringing Internet to Afghanistan

Juan Rodriguez

Since the beginning of 2011 Juan Rodriguez has been working in Afghanistan with the mission to help this country communicate.  This has meant bringing internet connectivity to schools, mobile phones for farmers, and an array of crowdsource projects for health, security, and agriculture.  On one beautiful and relaxed Friday afternoon in Jalalabad, Juan and I sat in the garden of the wonderful Taj to record this program and tell this story.

International Synergy Group

Juan’s Photostream 

The Costs of Cups

by bicyclemark 2 Comments

Aveiro Stadium, Photo by flickr member moacirpdsp

It is surely an unpopular topic when so much national pride seems to be placed on large international soccer tournaments, but while everyone is high-fiving each other or fuming about their team being eliminated, there is a tremendous cost for all this fanfare.  Who bares this cost? How much is it? Why is it so expensive?

Few are brave enough to ask these questions, to question such a loved and long-running tradition is surely a risky dinner conversation.  In an era where sustainability is so vital to the future of our existence on this planet, fans don’t seem to care if this applies in the context of the sports. But what if they knew the truth about their beautiful game?

In a future post I will get into South Africa and Germany, the current and most recent host of the World Cup. But since I have a personal connection to the Portuguese republic, I’d like to take you back their massive soccer tournament Euro2004.  In this case, not to go back to the highlights of what player did what unbelievable thing, but to go back to what was built, invested, loaned, and promised then as compared to how things are now.

Let’s do it by the numbers:

  • 6 cities, 6 new stadiums
  • Total cost of 6 projects – 445 million euros.
  • Total cost of these stadiums to these cities annually 19.9 million euros.
  • City of Leiria pays 5 million per year in interest alone
  • Aveiro, a city with around 73,600 inhabitants, has a new stadium with a capacity of 30,000.
  • Mayor of Aveiro once suggested blowing up their stadium, which costs 4 million per year in loans and maintenance.
  • Algarve’s stadium, capacity 30,000+ costing over 3.1 million annually, does not have a team in the 1st division of Portugal’s national soccer league.
  • Cities of Leiria, Aveiro, and Faro are all hoping to sell their stadiums.
  • The city of Braga is now expanding their previously expanded stadium in hopes of qualifying for a Spain-Portugal World Cup Bid.  They pay 6 million euros in loans annually

Ok so that wasn’t just by the numbers.  Because beyond the numbers, both the lack of use of these massive structures, and the tremendous cost burden for municipalities who openly want to rid themselves of these problems, indicates that when all is said and done the beautiful game has a financially crippling effect.

Yet the big name sponsors and FIFA would like you to ignore the man behind the curtain. Ignore the elephant in the room. Relax and enjoy the game, everything is fine.

Next up: Germany 2006, perhaps a better case?

I Can Offer You a Job

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I Can Offer You a Job

“I can offer you a job, you should stay longer; for many foreigners Mongolia is very interesting right now.”

I tried hard to keep chewing my food, but in my head I was already calculating what life in UlaanBaatar would be like working for some government official.  I quickly regained my focus, “Thank you, but I’m not seeking a job, I’ll return home tomorrow” I tell him, thanking him a few more times and trying to get back to the interview.

Bekhbat, grandson of P. Genden, the former Mongolian Prime Minister famous for having been the only man to slap Stalin, has a lot to tell me about Mongolia as we sit down for lunch at the Grand Khaan Irish pub. An extremely well spoken and modest gentleman, on his suit jacket lapel he wears a tiny pin that is familiar to me, rotary club. Among his many civil activities, he is an active member of the rotary club working hard to raise money for segments of the Mongolian population that fall through the cracks; the poor, the deaf, etc. It becomes clear that like his grandfather, Bekhbat is a man people know and trust. Even during the course of one lunch, there was rarely a 10 minute gap where someone (Mongolian or foreign) didn’t come up to him to shake his hand with a big smile.

“Mongolia will become a country the benefits from its extensive mineral wealth, like Venezuela or Russia, there will be a great influx of money and things here will improve.”

He goes on to talk about Copper, not only with Mongolia as a great source for Copper, but also that the nation would become a place where that Copper is processed as well. Uranium, with a great need in many nations for nuclear energy production, they will turn to Mongolia which has a great amount of it.

“My interest is public-private partnerships, to find the best way to improve Mongolia’s infrastructure.”

Indeed infrastructure is crying out for help in a nation where tap water is undrinkable and more than half the capital city, never mind the country, does not have running water or indoor plumbing. Where once you get outside the city limits of UlaanBaatar, you find roads almost non existent or un-drivable without the help of a very special 4 wheel drive vehicle. Say nothing of the nation’s primary energy source, coal, the exhaust from which creates a thick layer of pea-soup-like air that in the early winter morning if you open your mouth you almost choke on it.


Yes it was hard not to love Mongolia, where everyday I was there, with every passing hour, more adventures arose out of nowhere.  Had I stayed another few days, there is no telling where I would ended up or who I would have found myself sitting with.  Ready to come home? No, I was not.

Stay tuned for the podcasts…

ctrp303 Blogging, Development, and Africa

by bicyclemark 4 Comments

In all the excitement of my trip to Istanbul last month, I failed to post 2 podcasts I recording during my time at the Re:publica conference in Berlin.
So at long last I’m starting with this first interview with my friend Geraldine who has worked in a development corporation for the past 5 years. Since last year she has been involved with open source and digital culture project in subsaharan Africa.
Together we get into blogs and the role they play in Africa. Different and unorthodox ways content is diffused throughout the continent, broadband penetration and the building of new deep sea broadband links for the continent, the OLPC, and much much more.

Links Geraldine recommends:


  • Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Bloodless Coup
  • Steve Earl – Someday