Monday, January 30, 2006

Political compromising

In a recent article I expressed concern regarding the digital divide. It is all very well British Telecommunications plc suggesting that the coverage for Broadband in the UK is well into the late ninety percent but few are considering that adult literacy and access to understand the basic aspect of computing is still lacking.

The need for access to information using the Internet as the so called ‘online library for all’ is now being challenged by another issue. The issue of freedom of information, i.e: who has access? It is a bit like being charged to walk on any part of the Earth. Similar to the issue regarding access to fresh water for all being a fundamental human right. Does every living person on this planet have a right to water for free? Yes, but millions die of food and water starvation every day. Unfortunately much depends on the political system that one lives with. In the West we consider ourselves as lucky. For example, the welfare state exists.

In terms of the Internet, unfortunately commercialism has taken over. On my laptop I’m asked for my credit card details if I’m visiting a coffee shop with wireless Internet access. Suddenly my access to the world is constrainted!

In this weeks Financial Times and a variety of media outlets we all sat back and absorbed the news that Google will be launching its highly successful set of service in China (.cn). Let us also consider the following statement that accompanied this announcement from Google: 'In order to operate from China, we have removed some content from the search results available on in response to local law, regulation or policy'. Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel, said in a statement. ‘While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.’ Maybe Google is attempting to strike a balance between the freedom of information it champions and the censorship demanded by Beijing, which controls access to China's 111 million Internet users (NB Compare that to China's total population!). Or, should we consider this compromise as bowing to a communist dictate!

The company added that at least for now, it will stay away from e-mail and blogging (weblogging or a personal journal is known as blogging) in China, which have been the source of recent controversies after Beijing demanded information on an e-mail user from Yahoo, and Microsoft pulled down a politically sensitive posting from its China-based blog service. Google also said it will also stay away from chat rooms, another popular form of expression over the Internet.

Reporters Without Borders… (Reporters Without Borders, or RWB (French: Reporters sans frontières, Spanish: Reporters Sin Fronteras, or RSF) is an international non-governmental organization interested in issues relating to freedom of the press. Although small in size, RWB has been recognized for the frequent issuing of reports and press releases on press freedoms. RWB draws its inspiration from Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that everyone has ‘the right to freedom of opinion and expression’ and also the right to ‘seek, receive and impar’ information and ideas. This has been restated by several charters and declarations around the world covering Africa and the Americas. In Europe this right is included in the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. RWB published its highly acclaimed Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents in September 2005)…joined others in asking how Google could stand up for US users' freedoms while controlling what Chinese users can search for. Interestingly, some have questioned RSF/RWB's impartiality due to a significant amount of funding coming directly or indirectly from US and French government bodies.

Google’s decision represents another compromise by the West for China. It is unfortunate that the world sees that it is OK to trade and play (Olympics 2008) with China, whist they can continue with their policies. Unfortunately, I guess money talks.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

We are all Diverse so why do some find it hard to accept?

I read with some alarm a Sunday newspaper article suggesting that an attitude of opposing any form of liberalism could be deemed to be racist. The writer was referring to the changing shop front landscape of Woolwich. I personally don’t know Woolwich, having only visited a client there once. However, the issue at hand was not his (the writers) reference to Woolwich alone but the swift allegation that he could not accept that certain shops had disappeared, shops that he considered to be traditional and based on childhood memories.

As a starter, what the writer / reporter failed to take into account is the changing nature of business both globally and nationally. From a national perspective giant super market chains have robbed towns and cities of local shopping facilities.

His focus of concern also highlighted how traditional British shops were now limited, citing 4 out of the 40 he visually surveyed. His particular gripe suggested an ethnic influx could be responsible. His statements suggested that he could not appreciate the changing nature of the world. I wonder if people thought the same about the Irish or the Jews when they first entered the UK hundreds of years ago. People have to start or rebuild their lives somewhere or perform a migration. Interestingly he didn’t appear to say a word against MacDonald’s, Pizza Hut or Starbucks, i.e: Or, what many people describe as possible Amercianisation.

This brings me on to the topic of the need to accept diversity as an essential feature of life. Although many organisations suggest that there is strength to be gained from a diverse workforce, do they actually practice what they preach? For example, how many high profile roles are occupied that compare to the diverse community that exists around or within a firm. An interesting contraction is now evident: We should tell the writer of the original article that there are many that try to make good in their community by running their own little businesses. One only has to look at the power or should I say the fuel that a once immigrant work force brings to a nations economy – creating wealth, jobs and therefore contributing to financial stability of the country.

Ironically a recent article in The Economist suggested that Southall in West London now represented the next generation of landlords, effectively by becoming even bigger landlords than their predecesors. For example, many of today’s landlords are expanding their original shops by further subdividing them into units for rent – Therefore, implying that yesterdays shopkeepers / tenants are today’s landlords! The question to ask is whether their attitudes have changed in terms of money or fairplay?.

Although European and national policies appear to be rightly ‘hot’ on Health and Safety training and equality in the workplace, there appears to be a lack of sensitivity and priority given to diversity training. Diversity training is ‘up and coming’ but more innovative and non-patronising techniques need to be developed.

In summary, there is a need to recognise that if the world around us changes, so will our neighbourhoods, becoming more vibrant, dynamic and fun to be part of.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The need for a rallying cry for help : Barefoot in the snow

Last week a news item showed an alarming view of barefoot children and people walking across freshly laid snow in the altitudes of disaster torn Kashmir. It was a reality check. The problems generated by the South East Asian Earthquake are now being compounded by originally predicted factors : bad weather and poor resources. Temporary housing, for example tents are collapsing, food shortages are occurring and illnesses have started. Another scene that was disturbing was a group of men sitting outside a doctor’s tent, all were coughing, heaving for breath. In a world that is full of so many resources and predictive approaches, why are we still unable to provide service to these people? I’ve asked this question so many times. It is great that teams do exist and that the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) provide a facility to collect supportive funds. However, I can’t help thinking that there is more that we can all do.

Take for example corporations. Say you wish to order some stationery or some Information Technology equipment. Is it not wonderful that procurement processes are so sophisticated that within 24 hours one can get a delivery. Another example is Amazon. Again, another example of great logistics. Placing an order within them can (dependant on availability) result in the delivery of your item the next day. The knowledge, systems and motivation of the employees of these operations has to be admired. Yet today we struggle to get the basic needs of a disaster struck zone fulfilled.

Would it not be great if secondments could be established in corporations for such expertise to consult and work with relief teams? Even if corporations did not allow staff to take time off, they could suggest various ways of helping. For example, freight organisations could provide free cargo capacity to allow the transportation of essential goods.

Ideas require motivation but in order to help generate such ideas people should be motivated in the context of self-less service. Unfortunately without the dimension of money/profit any momentum to help is often replaced by apathy.

I believe that there is an opportunity to develop a collaborative world community. If only companies could set-up their own Make Poverty History (MPH) teams to accelerate the momentum for radical world change and harmonisation. Just imagine if we could also have monthly MPH sessions to review company assets and opportunities to help – what a wonderful caring world we would be in.

Heavy rain and snowfall are badly hampering relief efforts in Kashmir. Roads have been closed and helicopters grounded by bad weather and landslides. Survivors' tents have been flooded. While many in the west sleep in centrally heated houses in another part of the world many face another night in the cold. Barefoot children and adults continue to seek a sense of warmth.

Start a corporate relief campaign today and head for
to raise further relief funds.
£15 will buy 7 blankets, £42 will buy a family survival kit helping for at least 20 days and £90 will buy a winterised tent for a family

Please see the photo evidence and let us release ourselves from world apathy…

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Eulogy – Service held for my Mother

WGJKK WGJKF. First of all I’d like to thank each and everyone of you for coming to this service today. There is a reason why I wanted to say something today. It is not because it is my duty to deliver a eulogy. It is because I wanted to share with you the extent of loss we all feel and to reiterate that she was truly a wonderful person. She would never say a bad word against anyone nor would she accept anything negative to be said about them.

Firstly, she was honest and hardworking. Having qualified & worked as a teacher in India she waited for a year in India after marriage before coming to the UK in 1958, a year after my father came to make a life here. Imagine what life would have been like then. Only a few brown faces, open racism, limited opportunities and few of the ethnic resources we enjoy today.

She was strong person and could challenge any wrong against her children. For example, on our road a number of children had decided to hoard stones into plastic bags and ride up and down our street throwing them at us. She did not hesitate to challenge their parents and demand justice. This is one attribute I will come back to : Bravery.

She gave up her career for a while to look after my sister and I in our early years. In addition she also was so caring that she brought up a number other children. When she returned to work I remember her being a popular person who made friends quickly and was loyal to them.

She was a person that loved family. She told me that one of the things she wanted the most was from a family was for us to all support each other.

It is this support network that she built upon that made her work with the Milan centre and set-up what is known as ‘The kitty’. She loved gardening often spending hours there. She also had a lovely singing voice.

Although in the last 2 years ill heath really took a grip, she remained determined to overcome it. This attribute of bravery is one of things we need to admire. Health complications entered her life but her ‘get up and go’ /determination is something we need to recognise as a fundamental driver for us all. It is easy to give-up in the face of health issues, she had an unrivalled inner strength.

She also knew that she had a family that cared for her. Dad provided full support and made it his mission to give her the best care. Our next door neighbours said that my father and mother could teach people what true love and support is all about.

She was close to her grandchildren and knew that we all loved her very much. In 2005 she attended both grandchildren’s 1st and 18th birthdays. She celebrated her birthday in Goa before she fell ill.
Even right up until the end of her life, when my sister and I saw her in Mumbai, she fought like a real hero. Although during our short stay we could only see her for less than 10 minutes in the morning and 10minutes in the evening, my sister and I both had a similar encounter… She was sedated so we were unsure if she was conscious or not. We asked her on separate occasions if she knew if we were there. On both occasions she nodded her head gently and then a single tear streamed slowly down then side of her temple.

She was fighting for survival like a true hero, a true Sikh.
She was a true Sikh, believing and exercising honesty and truthful living.

I was told that when a person is gone it is only then that you truly realise the loss. The whole family misses her terribly but we have to learn to live without her but we know that today she is with us in spirit - among us and watching over us.


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Sunday, January 01, 2006

A year in review

Twelve months on and I’ve now clocked another year of writing articles / blogs and reviews. But how much has the world really changed?Earlier in the year I attended the ‘Make Poverty History’ semi-launch in Trafalgar Square. It was great to see Nelson Mandela get up and give us inspiration to become the generation that will make the change happen.

Unfortunately, I have developed and even deeper cynicism since returning from India. It certainly not because today is New Years eve and I’m sitting in a transit lounge conforming to put up with a current four hour delay to return to London! The cynicism is based on hoping that desire for change comes from within…

My last two weeks (end December) in India (hence no articles / blog postings) consisted of going to Amirtsar, Delhi, Panji (Goa) and then finally back to Delhi. It has further opened my eyes to the appalling conditions that many people are in. The massive distinction between those that are extremely poor and those that live in their mansions is hard to come to terms with. People work, sleep and eat on the streets. Beggars often approach you by tapping you on your arm to request aid.

Even transportation is shock, not because it takes at least 2 days to become both acclimatised and confident to cross a road in Delhi! At one point in a certain part of Delhi I estimated probably twenty different types of vehicles in their hundreds competing for road space. There appears to be no discipline in a world where me first and the ‘horn’ is the only indication of one’s existence and your survival – God help those that are deaf!

Twelve months on and poverty still exists and human rights abuses are still occurring, even though we all know what countries are still maintaining their stance of denial.

Bottom-line – The world needs to change but the power from the people is not being exercised, instead our will has been exorcised/removed from our psyche, replaced by materialistic goals. Corporations are not interested in sharing or harmonising the world, yet the top US firms are keen to spread their market based culture – fast food rules in a world of mass consumerism and the introduction of the ‘no time’ culture.

Reduction of pollution is still not considered as a priority – Statistical arguments hide children that choke from the fumes.

The world is hungry and we standby with our declarations of the need for improvement.

Although the media in so many countries paints a picture of gloss, it covers the tracks of reality – the truth is out there and its strokes of pain are taken by barefoot and hungry souls.

We need change and it can come from a collaborative approach. We need to break free from the shackles / attitude of ‘we’re Ok and someone will sort it out’ and come to terms with demanding greater priority / accountability from the people we put in power. Can 2006 become a turning point for us all, only we can make it happen!

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