web 2.0 for development

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FSCA-PISA web platform is online

The new FSCA-PISA collaboration platform is online!

It has been launched during an interesting online ceremony which gathered almost 40 people in front of the screen.

For this occasion, all the seven West African countries which are taking part to the programme were involved in the event. FSCA – Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture is the Italian Special Contribution to the Global Trust Fund for Food Security and Food Safety established by FAO. The Programme adopts a relevant communication component to support its activities.

As you can see in the image below, each national office (National Project Directors and Coordinators, their Assistants, the National Consultants, the Inter Country Coordinator and his Team, and all the experts from the FAO headquarters) gathered in front of the webcam for a multilateral audio conference through Skype in occasion of the launch.

Our objectives were to:

  • show everyone the website,
  • reinforce the common perspective,
  • talk about the actual needs in terms of digital communication, and
  • show how online interaction is possible among us.

Spending an hour in front of the video with six connections almost always on, having rounds of intros, comments and exchanges, gathering almost 40 people around West Africa was in my opinion a great success for the FSCA-PISA communication strategy. We want the platform to become the “place” where our team can freely collaborate to reach better results. Now we come to the most difficult part of this effort: spreading this culture of interaction, collaboration and exchange among actors and beneficiaries of the programme.

More details as soon as activities will move ahead.

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Internet: everybody’s new Media

Internet is the future of communication. I’m deeply convinced that this is the innovation which will characterize the next decades if not the next century. I’m also convinced that, even if the word “Internet” is on everybody’s mouth, just a bunch of people understood its real nature, meaning and perspective*.

My feeling is based on many different inputs but something happened this year which made me reflect more than ever before. Two events hit my imagination: the protests after the Iranian Elections, in June 2009, and the No Berlusconi Day, last November. Both of them were political manifestations. Both were born among the Net citizens. Both were very dramatic. Both were strictly connected with online communication. They were so connected that probably they would have never happened without the Net, at least not with the same dimensions.

I can testify what I perceived taking part to the No Berlusconi Day. Obviously I’m not referring to the political aspects, which are subjective, but only to the communication ones. Taking part to something like that, I realised that:

  • I joined the manifestation mainly because it was organized by Web-citizens (5 italian bloggers),
  • I took my decision to join it only two hours in advance as I was able to gain information about it in a minute, thanks to facebook,
  • This was the first time I met a vast majority of young boys and girls on the roads to express their difficulties.

This was possible because the Web offers a new line of communication: the bottom-to-bottom channel. The organizers were not “well-known” persons. They were just someone of my same social level, and they were able to communicate with me without difficulties, barriers, filters, obstacles, prejudices. I think this is astonishing. It is almost unbelievable if, just to say one, we think that only 20 years ago there was no chance to know what was happening behind the Berlin Wall.

So, the communication revolution is really at our disposal. We can now communicate with the rest of the world and whenever our message is powerful, the receivers won’t miss it. They won’t let it go without adding their part. Virtually, everyone can communicate with everyone else. From Gutemberg’s press to the Internet, the circle is now closed. What a big revolution!

While reflecting on this, I’m reading Wired which proposes Internet for Nobel Prize. Rebus sic stantibus, I think this the idea to be quite stimulating. Director Riccardo Luna, in his introduction, talks about the Web as “the arm of massive building“, he says that using the Internet we can “build bridges and not walls” and concludes urging “Give Peace a Web”. Evocative sentences with their precise meanings if read in the Web perspective.

So let’s conclude this difficult year with a good note and an expression of optimism, being sure that if these are positive assumptions, 2010 can’t be anything less of what we just lived!

Happy New year everyone!

*Luckily I have the pleasure to know and have been working with two of them! 🙂


Internet and the new way of thinking

It’s a long time I have the impression that my mind is changing the way it “works”.

In other words, I feel like the tools I use to do my job, and Internet in particular, are modifying the way my mind process information and manage knowledge. So, reading, writing and, consequently, working approaches have been reshaped. Here are the main differences I perceived between today and the past:

  • Reading, that is one of my passions, has been transforming, both in type and quality. Since I was in the high school, I considered myself a good reader because of the large amount and variety of books I read. Today, I see a tendency to focus mainly on a certain kind of readings: shorter, lighter, faster. This attitude is probably due to a specific moment of my life: I spend much time in my office, reading documents and absorbing a lot of information. As a result, in the rest of my life of reader I may need something very different. This explanation I gave to myself is true for sure but maybe not exhaustive. In fact, I perceive that also some other factors influence my choice.


  • The way I approach writing is also changed. I remember when writing essays at school. Few minutes to make up my mind on the topic and some hours to squeeze the brain to get everything on paper: funny and exhausting at the same time! Today, I spend more time on the preparation of a document rather than on its production. And this process sees a different level of mental concentration: it seems like my brain is working HORIZONTALLY (more than an issue at the time, all of them in parallel) rather than VERTICALLY (one issue at a time, one after the other). Experience and different needs influence the process but they are not alone.
  • As a consequence, also my working approach has been changing during the years. Since 1996, when I was entering data for a website of ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment), I got the impression that many things changed in the way my mind is managing information. The process my neurons follow to approach, manage and store bits evolved. Today it resembles the combination of a puzzle, linking together bits and pieces of information, most of which are already existing inside or outside my brain. It seems to me that I’m more involved in the “connection” rather than the “production” of pieces of knowledge.

Trying to visualize these processes, I see the PATH of my mind, that once was linear, becoming more fragmented, like a game of connecting pieces of information that are not necessarily distributed one after the other.

So what?

I’m using my personal experiences to introduce the point highlighted in an interesting article called Is Google making us stupid?. The question Nicholas Carr is rising is: “are our metal habits changing?“.

I tried to give my personal  answer to this question putting together different consideration like:

– the title of the article can be misleading (the focus is on the Internet and NOT on Google),
– someone, like Stowe Boyd and Kevin Kelly, do not agree with Nick’s ideas,
– some else, like Scott Karp or Bruce Friedman had similar experiences to those described in Carr’s article,
– there are many points of contact with what we discussed at the KM4DEV meeting in 2008, and
complexity is becoming one of the key of my everyday job (have a look at the image with the list of groups connected or related to the KM4DEV group),

At the end, I agree with most of the thesis proposed in the article.

After this reading, I consider the reflection OPEN and the topic far from being cleared. First of all, I don’t even know if we have to talk about a PROBLEM or just a CHANGE, a CULTURAL change. For sure, we have to consider the long list of dichotomies emerging from this new approach (faster but lighter, larger but less in details, etc.) and see if, at the end, PROs are bigger then COUNTs or not.

Secondly, how deeply the “age” can influence mental processes? When I was young, I completely focused on “creation” of knowledge, without external points of reference whom to look at for help. Today, after more than ten years working, I can both create and “manage” knowledge, having better results in terms of global experience.

The analysis is just started and time will say if this change was deep and real or just an adjustment to the need of the moment.

p.s.: I found great comfort in realizing that OUR brains are changing, and not only mine!

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The ability of creating linkages through the Internet

I recently found this article and I think it’s worth reading it. Written by Seth Godin, it’s called “How to make money using the Internet“. As you can understand from the title, the article is meant for a business audience and not directly for people involved in development projects.

Image by kugel on flickr

Image by kugel on flickr

Nonetheless, I see interesting prods about how we can use the Internet to stimulate interaction, collaboration and knowledge sharing among people/organizations/networks/institutions interested in development activities. In all the quoted examples, the authors highlighted the ability to connect a certain kind of demand with a certain kind of offer, matching and satisfying the two counterparts: using the Web makes find the two faces of the same coin easier.

Matching” was one of the keyword for us, at FAO, during the Meeting on Rural radio last April. Participants were invited to prepare two lists, one of  demands and one of offers, and the meeting focused on putting them together. We considered, as a prerequisite for an effective action, an accurate definition of the target group and a correct identification of their needs. I’m really convinced following this approach is the key to have good results.

In the same perspectiva, talking about tools, it seems interesting to adopt an appropriate selection and a balanced mix of them to stimulate every audience through the most effective levarege. So doing, we go back again to the concept of convergence of: Intenet, rural and community radio and mobile phones.