Zimbabwe Elections


I started off, over the weekend, writing about the use of SMS as a tool and the many uses and of course I barely scratched the surface, but the whole Zimbabwe election issue is a concern, even from a technological perspective. ITC (information technology and communication) has provided new media including the mobile phone and Internet as a means of sharing information despite the efforts of political rulers. I.e. it is getting harder and harder for people in power to censor information anywhere in the world. Many countries have tried and failed to stop information travelling out of their geography.

Despite the intentions of the Mugabe regime, there is a continuous flow of information leaving Zimbabwe that is telling the rest of the world what is going on. I suspect that it will be impossible for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF to hoodwink the world again, telling everyone that he has won the election when it is clearly not true. Reuters has reported that bloggers are sharing the news with the world as it happens.

Whilst technology can be used to blur the truth, I think we are living in the most transparent environment in mankind’s short history. It is certainly possible to edit photos and video to distort the truth, but given that IT and communications technologies are available to the masses and not just to a wealthy minority and of course we are now much more IT literate, the opportunities to even stretch the truth such as Hilary Clinton’s recent ‘mistake’ about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia recently are becoming few and far between.

Back to Zimbabwe, I believe that largely due to communications and IT, Mugabe will no longer be able to get away with his version of democracy and the transparency of news and event information in real time has finally forced leaders from around the world to denounce what is going on there, even if they have turned a relatively blind eye to it until now.

It’s nice and comfortable to sit at home and watch this happening on TV and on the net, thinking it won’t happen to me. But I’ll bet the expat’s from Zimbabwe that I have met, who now live here and in other parts of the world and have lost pretty much everything they have worked for over generations, thought that once upon a time. Coups happen somewhere in the world pretty much every year and are at least in part covered up with attempts at disinformation and if it doesn’t directly hurt the major powers, it is often conveniently ignored. It’s my opinion that it’s going to be harder and harder for the powers of the world to do this. And that’s a good thing.

People used to say, “As an individual, there’s nothing I can do”. Today in Zimbabwe there are plenty of individuals doing something with their mobile phones and laptops and hopefully they will be able to bring about change, because if they don’t, there could be a civil war of proportions that make the disaster that is Zimbabwe today look like a picnic.

Why were there so many accidents in New Zealand last week?


This month to date there have been around 32 road deaths in New Zealand compared to 15 at the same time last year. The crazy thing is that the weather has been awesome. Unlike right now as I write this blog, and it is blowing a gale with a little precipitation, it has been warm, dry and perfect driving weather.

Last week I drove to Hamilton during the day on business. I passed 4 major accidents over a period of 3 hours and saw lines of congestion that averaged 2-3km of stationery traffic during a normally quiet time of day.

If you are reading this in the US, you might consider 32 road deaths as a pittance, but consider for a moment that there are less people in the whole of New Zealand than there are in many US cities. Most cars are relatvely new and feature power stearing and at the least anti-skid break technology, so there is no reason for multiple car collissions in these nice weather conditions. Our maximum legal speeds on our freeways is a mere 100 kmph and most people drive close to that.

I haven’t seen any statistics yet, but I am sure that the coroners will back up my theory. I suspect that a large number of people were in the process of text messaging and not paying attention to the road and other cars. Every time I drive I see literally dozens of people with one hand and eye on the road and the other on their phone. It’s a national disease. There is discusison about devices such as car navigation being a dangerous driver distraction, but as a seasoned user, I rarely look at my device when I am driving, I listen to the instructions. SMS is much more dangerous and distracting.

I don’t know what the usage statistics for SMS are in NZ, but with accounts allowing 2,000 free messages a month and services such as the ability for consumers to send a message to up to 15 recipients at a time, the numbers are mind boggling.

So my theory as to why so many people crashed and some of the 32 people who needlessly lost their lives on our road so far this month, is that they were sending or receiving text / SMS messages.

Seems funny now to think of the coroner in London in 1890 something who said that never again must any person die from a motor vehicle accident (that was when the guy walking in front of the car with the safety flag was killed by the very car he was protecting pedestrians from).

Surely no message is worth dieing for?