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FON, disclosure, ethics, controversy

My friend David “El Oso” Sasaki raises some issues about FON’s marketing strategy in a recent blog post. He’s concerned that the buzz FON’s recent announcement of investment has received in the blogosphere may amount to “a personalized press release for the company”. David mentions that Rebecca and I both disclosed our involvement with FON in our posts, but worries that others haven’t disclosed their involvement.

David’s concern is a valid one – if it’s not clear whether someone’s supporting something out of enthusiasm or out of fiscal interest, blogs become a much less useful – and more fraught – medium of discussion. With that in mind, I’ve added a formal disclosure policy to my blog – it’s accessible from each page of the blog as well. (I modeled my policy on the exemplary policy David Weinberger has had on his site for the past 18 months.) If there’s insufficient information in there, let me know and we can talk about whether I’m willing to add the information you’re interested in. There are limits to what I can disclose, in some cases – I’m under confidentiality agreements regarding some of my work – but I’ll work to disclose potential conflicts of interest as well as I can. I want to mention, though, that I’ve disclosed my relationship with FON in my prior two posts on the topic.

David’s concerns about FON have already inspired conversation within the US Advisors mailing list and advisors have already been asked to disclose their involvement in posting about FON. I suspect a formal policy like the one David is asking for will be in place soon.

A note on how FON is working with bloggers: if FON were using bloggers just to generate buzz about the product, I’d be skeptical and wouldn’t be involved. What’s been interesting is that Martin’s used his team of advisors to an extent that I’ve literally never seen a board of advisors used. I generally get 5-10 emails a day from the FON team, most of them inviting my input into decisionmaking. While I’ve not responded to all of them, I’ve responded to some, and, as a result, tend to feel more engaged with FON than I do with some of the other projects that I advise. I realize that what’s visible to the outside world is enthusiastic blogging by some FON advisors – what’s less visible is the fact that these advisors have been putting a good deal of time into helping shape an interesting project.

FON has also taken some criticism from advocates of Community Wireless Networking solutions, including my friend Michael Lenczner, who runs a hugely successful wireless project in Montreal. Michael is concerned that FON hasn’t sufficiently involved people from the Community Wireless movement in the project and therefore may be rebuilding the wheel. I’ve made some efforts at introducing one of the community wireless leaders he mentions in his post to the FON community and will make more efforts in the future – Michael’s absolutely right that FON needs to learn from the successes and failures CWN projects have had in the past. FON also made a major misstep in not acknowledging more clearly the amount of work that’s already been done by community wireless project on software and models – I’ll also do my best to give that feedback to the community.

My friend and co-worker Boris Anthony echoes Michael’s concerns and wonders whether FON is getting more attention from folks like me because of the involvement of seasoned entrepreneurs and major investors. The answer, simply put, is “yes”. I’ve been involved with community wireless efforts through my work with Open Society Institute for two years now. My interest in FON has to do with a desire to see community wireless projects spread much more widely than the small, tech-savvy cities (Montreal, Berlin, Copenhagen, Champaign-Urbana) where they’re based now and spread much more widely. In my opinion, that requires two things – a revenue model and marketing dollars. FON’s just raised money that can be used to spread the idea of sharing WiFi far and wide and is working hard on a model that makes participating in FON fiscally compelling, something I feel has been absent from most of the dialog around community networks.

(By the way, my sense that Community Wireless Network projects need to think about fiscal models more seriously is longstanding – Tomas Krag from wire.less.dk and I wrote a talk proposal for ETech 2005 about making community networking efforts more appropriate for the developing world. Much of the focus was on adding fiscal models to wireless sharing that would allow users in Africa to share bandwidth while making money. Regrettably, ETech didn’t accept the proposal and we never wrote the paper we’d intended to.)

Boris also points out – as does Steve of Steve’s Gallery – that I made a factual misrepresentation in my previous post on FON, noting that bandwidth shaping has been an option in most Wifi sharing software released for the Linksys WRT54g. This was an error on my part. Due to involvement with a mesh wireless project where bandwidth shaping had not yet been implemented, I was unaware that several distros for the Linksys included this feature.

I don’t see shared wireless access as a zero sum game – I think it’s important to try different approaches to bring connectivity to the developing world. I got involved with efforts to bring connectivity to sub-Saharan Africa in late 1999, and between then and my departure from Geekcorps in 2004, I saw a lot of approaches to African connectivity attempted. In the end, the approaches that worked best were those attached to solid business models, not those supported by foundation support. That experience – as well as the experience of watching my grant-supported NGO go under – is part of what makes me so enthusiastic about the potential for FON in Africa. I certainly don’t think FON is the only solution, and I’ll continue to champion other solutions that I think are success stories, including SchoolNet Namibia’s projects. Mmy previous post was not intended to be a comprehensive overview of community wireless projects in Africa or elsewhere – I apologize that I slighted the several excellent efforts already underway in this space.

4 thoughts on “FON, disclosure, ethics, controversy”

  1. List of racial discriminations in Malaysia, practiced by government as well as government agencies. This list is an open secret. Best verified by government itself because it got the statistics.

    This list is not in the order of importance, that means the first one on the list is not the most important and the last one on the list does not mean least important.

    This list is a common knowledge to a lot of Malaysians, especially those non-malays (Chinese, Ibans, Kadazans, Orang Asli, Tamils, etc) who were being racially discriminated.

    Figures in this list are estimates only and please take it as a guide only. Government of Malaysia has the most correct figures. Is government of Malaysia too ashamed to publish their racist acts by publishing racial statistics?

    This list cover a period of about 48 years since independence (1957).

    List of racial discriminations (Malaysia):

    (1) Out of all the 5 major banks, only one bank is multi-racial, the rest are controlled by malays

    (2) 99% of Petronas directors are malays

    (3) 3% of Petronas employees are Chinese

    (4) 99% of 2000 Petronas gasoline stations are owned by malays

    (5) 100% all contractors working under Petronas projects must be bumis status

    (6) 0% of non-malay staffs is legally required in malay companies. But there must be 30% malay staffs in Chinese companies.

    (7) 5% of all new intake for government police, nurses, army, is non-malays.

    (8) 2% is the present Chinese staff in Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), drop from 40% in 1960

    (9) 2% is the percentage of non-malay government servants in Putrajaya. But malays make up 98%

    (10) 7% is the percentage of Chinese government servants in the whole government (in 2004), drop from 30% in 1960

    (11) 95% of government contracts are given to malays

    (12) 100% all business licensees are controlled by malay government e.g. Taxi permits, Approved permits, etc

    (13) 80% of the Chinese rice millers in Kedah had to be sold to malay controlled Bernas in 1980s. Otherwise, life is make difficult for Chinese rice millers

    (14) 100 big companies set up, owned and managed by Chinese Malaysians were taken over by government, and later managed by malays since 1970s e.g. UTC, UMBC, MISC, etc

    (15) At least 10 Chinese owned bus companies (throughout Malaysia, throughout 40 years) had to be sold to MARA or other malay transport companies due to rejection by malay authority to Chinese application for bus routes and rejection for their application for new buses

    (16) 2 Chinese taxi drivers were barred from driving in Johor Larkin bus station. There are about 30 taxi drivers and 3 are Chinese in October 2004. Spoiling taxi club properties was the reason given

    (17) 0 non-malays are allowed to get shop lots in the new Muar bus station (November 2004)

    (18) 8000 billions ringgit is the total amount the government channeled to malay pockets through ASB, ASN, MARA, privatisation of government agencies, Tabung Haji etc, through NEP over 34 years period

    (19) 48 Chinese primary schools closed down since 1968 – 2000

    (20) 144 Indian primary schools closed down since 1968 – 2000

    (21) 2637 malay primary schools built since 1968 – 2000

    (22) 2.5% is government budget for Chinese primary schools. Indian schools got only 1%, malay schools got 96.5%

    (23) While a Chinese parent with RM1000 salary (monthly) cannot get school-text-book-loan, a malay parent with RM2000 salary is eligible

    (24) 10 all public universities vice chancellors are malays

    (25) 5% – the government universities lecturers of non-malay origins had been reduced from about 70% in 1965 to only 5% in 2004

    (26) Only 5% is given to non-malays for government scholarships over 40 years

    (27) 0 Chinese or Indians were sent to Japan and Korea under “Look East Policy”

    (28) 128 STPM Chinese top students could not get into the course that they aspired i.e. Medicine (in 2004)

    (29) 10% place for non-bumi students for MARA science schools beginning from year 2003, but only 7% are filled. Before that it was 100% malays

    (30) 50 cases whereby Chinese and Indian Malaysians, are beaten up in the National Service program in 2003

    (31) 25% is Malaysian Chinese population in 2004, drop from 45% in 1957

    (32) 7% is the present Malaysian Indians population (2004), a drop from 12% in 1957

    (33) 2 millions Chinese Malaysians had emigrated to overseas since 40 years ago

    (34) 0.5 million Indian Malaysians had emigrated to overseas

    (35) 3 millions Indonesians had migrated into Malaysia and became Malaysian citizens with bumis status.

    (36) 600000 are the Chinese and Indian Malaysians with red IC and were rejected repeatedly when applying for citizenship for 40 years. Perhaps 60% of them had already passed away due to old age. This shows racism of how easily Indonesians got their citizenships compare with the Chinese and Indians

    (37) 5% – 15% discount for a malay to buy a house, regardless whether the malay is rich or poor

    (38) 2% is what Chinese new villages get compare with 98% of what malay villages got for rural development budget

    (39) 50 road names (at least) had been changed from Chinese names to other names

    (40) 1 Dewan Gan Boon Leong (in Malacca) was altered to other name (e.g. Dewan Serbaguna or sort) when it was being officially used for a few days. Government try to shun Chinese names. This racism happened in around year 2000 or sort

    (41) 0 temples/churches were built for each housing estate. But every housing estate got at least one mosque/surau built

    (42) 3000 mosques/surau were built in all housing estates throughout Malaysia since 1970. No temples, no churches are required to be built in housing estates

    (43) 1 Catholic church in Shah Alam took 20 years to apply to be constructed. But told by malay authority that it must look like a factory and not look like a church. Still not yet approved in 2004

    (44) 1 publishing of Bible in Iban language banned (in 2002)

    (45) 0 of the government TV stations (RTM1, RTM2, TV3) are directors of non-malay origins

    (46) 30 government produced TV dramas and films always showed that the bad guys had Chinese face, and the good guys had malay face. You can check it out since 1970s. Recent years, this tendency becomes less

    (47) 10 times, at least, malays (especially Umno) had threatened to massacre the Chinese Malaysians using May 13 since 1969

    (48) 20 constituencies won by DAP would not get funds from the government to develop. Or these Chinese majority constituencies would be the last to be developed

    (49) 100 constituencies (parliaments and states) had been racistly re-delineated so Chinese voters were diluted that Chinese candidates, particularly DAP candidates lost in election since 1970s

    (50) Only 3 out of 12 human rights items are ratified by Malaysia government since 1960

    (51) 0 – elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (UN Human Rights) is not ratified by Malaysia government since 1960s

    (52) 20 reported cases whereby malay ambulance attendances treated Chinese patients inhumanely, and malay government hospital staffs purposely delay attending to Chinese patients in 2003. Unreported cases may be 200

    (53) 50 cases each year whereby Chinese, especially Chinese youths being beaten up by malay youths in public places. We may check at police reports provided the police took the report, otherwise there will be no record

    (54) 20 cases every year whereby Chinese drivers who accidentally knocked down malays were seriously assaulted or killed by malays

    (55) 12% is what ASB/ASN got per annum while banks fixed deposit is only about 3.5% per annum

    There are hundreds more racial discriminations in Malaysia to add to this list of “colossal” racism. It is hope that the victims of racism will write in to expose racism.

    Malaysia government should publish statistics showing how much malays had benefited from the “special rights” of malays and at the same time tell the statistics of how much other minority races are being discriminated.

    Hence, the responsibility lies in the Malaysia government itself to publish unadulterated statistics of racial discrimination.

    If the Malaysia government hides the statistics above, then there must be some evil doings, immoral doings, shameful doings and sinful doings, like the Nazi, going on onto the non-malays of Malaysia.

    Civilized nation, unlike evil Nazi, must publish statistics to show its treatment on its minority races. This is what Malaysia must publish……….

    We are asking for the publication of the statistics showing how “implementation of special rights of malays” had inflicted colossal racial discrimination onto non-malays.

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