digital knowledge. digital culture. digital memory.


Fiji geek t-shirts

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Every geek subculture needs its own iconic gear - and Fiji's geeks should not be left out. Below are Digital Fiji's ideas for our new age of ICT attire. If you like these, we'll figure out a way to get them made locally.

Fans of the classic American "got milk?" advertising campaign followed by the thinkgeek "got root" t-shirt will appreciate the localized version below.

But if alliteration is more your thing, you will like this one.

Another localization of a timeless geek classic! If you cannot get enough of "all your base are belong to us", you will really like this fijified version complete with a little local txt speak.

We all know that food safety is not everything that it could be in Fiji, that's why those who stumble out of the nightclubs for a dalo, chop, and sausage with an egg on top deserve this badge of honor.

Digital Fiji is proud to keep it real. Now you can tell the world that you stand by your words too - even if you keep three or four anonymous accounts just in case!

The boys at Failed Paradise did not think this would catch on as Fiji's geek catch phrase, but I am still campaigning for it!


Security and Pacific technology policy

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The following is derived from my workshop on Information Security at PacINET 2007. My slides are available on SlideShare.

Historically speaking, information security is not new. There is evidence of people protecting and, of course, attacking information, information systems, and the flow of information in all cultures as far back as there is a written record. If we take early missionary accounts in Fiji, for example, we find that access to spiritual information was a closely protected monopoly of a priestly class. The confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information from the world beyond – which included extremely valuable information about the weather, the future, the correct course of action, the afterlife, and many other things – was strictly limited to established priests who held a close relationship with the local chief.

However, even pre-European-contact Fiji had its hackers. Living at the fringes of Vitian society were (and still are in remote areas) medicine men and witches who could also tap into spiritual information. Their status as relative social outsiders made them either an enemy or a counter-balance to the priestly information monopoly. Some witches and medicine men could even hack (I mean, influence) the spiritual world and alter the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information available to priests by counteracting the priestly influence on the divine or by uttering counter-prophecies.

In European culture, information security has a solidly military origin dating back, at least, to Julius Caesar's encrypted military communications. What is commonly termed information security today is really the defensive aspect of information warfare – that is, the part of information warfare that is concerned with protecting information assets.

Of course, with the rise of the personal computer and the Internet in more recent history, information security has become much more than a military concern. With the growth of the so-called information economy has come an equal and predicable growth of information crime, leading to some staggering statistics including a 2005 estimate that the cost of computer crime in the USA exceeded the size of the combined economies of all the nations in the South Pacific.

I have been quoted in the past as saying that despite all of the fascinating mathematics and technology that underly modern infosec, information security is fundamentally about people. Certainly no one likes to have money stolen from them, but increasingly information security is about our privacy, our public personae, our collective identities, and even our fundamental rights. Fiji's anti-government bloggers are only able to voice their opinions due to the security mechanisms provided by their blog hosts which assure their anonymity. Whatever you think of their opinions, they are one of the few voices of opposition to Fiji's interim regime and are undoubtedly playing a role in shaping the future of Fiji and the region. Only time will tell how large or small that role is.

Still, anonymous political activists everywhere should carefully follow the recent behavior of America's Internet giants, as they are not always on your side. The most striking example is the case of the activist Shi Tao who was essentially handed over to Chinese authorities by US-based Yahoo. Yahoo, and many other international firms, have agreed to cooperate with Chinese authorities – even at the expense of their individual customers – in order to gain access to the immense Chinese market.

Information security even has a role in protecting the function of entire nations. Take the case of Estonia, a small former Soviet republic on the coast of the Baltic Sea with a population of around 1.3 million people. In May this year, Estonia moved a certain Russian war memorial to a location more desirable to Estonians, which enraged many Russian nationals living both in and out of Estonia. Soon, blogs were posting instructions on how to wage a denial of service attack against Estonian institutions, and a little while later, this attack was in full swing. Numerous government and financial sector systems across the tiny maritime nation were brought to a stand still and international experts had to be flown in to curb what some described as an Internet riot. Should this story concern other, perhaps more tropical, small maritime nations who are rushing to get their citizens and institutions online? The answer is absolutely “yes”.

Still, one of the largest challenges facing information security today is the heady combination of social engineering and user ignorance. Many computer criminals have discovered that hacking just does not pay off as well as simply fooling people into giving up either their money (to help move funds out of Nigeria to help a poor window, for example) or enough information to get to their money. Wide spread user naivet̩ is widespread in the South Pacific. I have never received so many chain emails from friends and acquaintances since I came to Fiji Рand I was part of the first wave of naive Internet users in Canada!

Technology policy makers in the South Pacific should indeed be worried by all of this. By joining the global information economy, the region is embarking on an enterprise that is as fraught with danger and as ripe with rewards as the great Pacific migrations of days past. Fortunately, it is not necessary to sail the seas blind – technology policy navigators need only look across the ocean to the experiences of other more wired nations to see what problems to expect and which solutions will be effective.

Photo by: bhikku


The Pacific Internet Conference commences

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PacINET 2007 is underway in Honiara. I will be conducting a full-day workshop on Information Security on August 21st. The following press release makes it sound exciting - I am looking forward to it! (Due to unfortunate funding realities, I will only be attending the second half of the conference.)


Sunday, 13 August 2007

Hundreds gather in Honiara for leading Pacific ICT meet

Some 200 local, regional and international delegates are expected in the Solomon Islands this week for PacINET 2007.

PacINET is the annual gathering of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) experts organised by the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC).

The meeting is being held this year at the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) conference centre in Honiara, Solomon Islands, from the 15th to 21st August 2007, with the theme ‘National ICT Strategy Building.

“We have a record number of participants pre-registered to PacINET this year,” says PICISOC Chair, Rajnesh Singh.

“It is very encouraging to witness the development of ICTs in the Pacific increasingly becoming a priority, as reflected by the meeting’s participation, as well as by the range of pertinent issues to be covered by our agenda.”

PICISOC is an active chapter of Internet Society (ISOC), covering 22 Pacific island states and territories with a membership of over 400 individuals across the region. ISOC is a professional membership organisation with around 100 organisational and over 26,000 individual members in more than 180 countries.

Guest speakers at PacINET 2007 include John Crain, ICANN CTO and Dr Jimmie Rogers, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). Dr Vinton G. Cerf , considered one of the fathers of the Internet and Vice President at Google, has also prepared a keynote message to participants via video.

A Pacific ICT Regulators’ Summit will be convened tomorrow (14th August) preceding the conference, supported by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

“It will be an opportunity for the overseas speakers to exchange information with the region’s policy makers,” explains Mr Singh.

Also on the side of the conference will be an Asia Pacific Top Level Domains (APTLD) association meeting, and an IPv6 Forum (IPv6 is the next generation Internet).

The main conference is split in two strains - policy and technical - where workshops will be conducted providing training to participants.

Some 30 participants at PacINET 2007 were sponsored to the meeting by Pacific Internet Partners (PIP), Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Comments from participants of PacINET 2006, held in Apia, Samoa, follow:

"It was such a privilege to be chosen by the conference chairman to be part of a panel during the "Internet Censorship" forum especially when someone like Dr Vinton G. Cerf is in the room" - Andrew Moliware, VANUATU.

"This has been a great opportunity for the Cook Islands and for me, in my work, has come at a very good time as I am writing the policy for ICT in education for the Cook Islands. " - Alexis Wolfgramm, COOK ISLANDS.

"Meeting Dr. Vinton Cerf was a privile ge. His vision for the Internet and interest in its development in the Pacific Region is motivating. The simplicity with which he explained this vision makes it easier for Pacific Islanders to comprehend ;the future development of the Internet and how we can embrace the technology and utilize it to our advantage." Christina Kuper Wini, SOLOMON ISLANDS.

"My area of most interest is how computers can be used with people with disabilities thus the presentation 'a day in the life of a enabled pacific village' that Mr Don Hollander gave at the Conference was very informative and enlightening and most relevant." Mary Raui, COOK ISLANDS.

"Discussions on IPv6 sparked a new area of interest for me. Although, it does not relate to my specific area of duty the knowledge gained from the tutorial conducted by APNIC's Miwa Fuji has certainly help me to attain a better understanding of this issue and be aware of the implications IPv6 will have on ICT globally and also in the Pacific Region." Lynnold Misifea Wini, SOLOMON ISLANDS.

"I found my conversations with John Crain the CEO of ICANN about DNS management and the imminent arrival of IP6 very instructive. The depth and scope of issues like Net Neutrality were also new to me, something that Vint Cerf emphasised also during his keynote. The presence of Digicel, and their presentation on their 'aggressive marketing strategy' was also provocative. " Robert Whelan – FIJI.


For more information, visit

Photo by: sprbert


FAVIA puts on uniform to fight DVD pirates

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In January of this year I wrote about the Fiji Audio Visual Industry Association's (VAVIA) DVD piracy media campaign. One reporter likened it to Bainamarama's "clean up" campaign,

The Fiji Audio Visual Industry Association [FAVIA] has followed the military in its clean-up campaign by tracking down illegal suppliers of Digital Video Disc's (DVD) in its fight to curb piracy in the country.
["Audio body fights piracy", Fiji Times, January 15, 2007]
As I reported at the time, this parallel between the activities of FAVIA and the RFMF was drawn by the press and not by FAVIA. In the intervening months, however, FAVIA's opinion of itself seems to have grown, culminating in FAVIA's claim to have participated in two raids against DVD retailers at Fiji Showcase last month.
The Fiji Audio Visual Industry Association president, Chris Caine said they confiscated the DVDs with the help of the police, which had the authority to carry out such raids.
[DVD movies confiscated, Fiji Times, July 22, 2007]
Caine confirmed the joint FAVIA-police nature of this raid in a subsequent Fiji Times article published yesterday.

Exactly when did it become acceptable for industry associations to actively participate - arm in arm - with police on police operations? FAVIA can and should make complaints to the police, consult with the police, lobby the police, and even pay for copyright law training sessions for the police, but confiscating alleged contraband "with the help of police" is overstepping their role. Further, despite the fact that the police did obtain proper warrants before conducting these raids, these statements create the impression that the police are serving the audio visual industry rather than impartially enforcing the law of the land.

Expect to hear more from FAVIA in coming weeks. FAVIA president Chris Caine, owner of IMDVD, seems poised to continue taking a hard line in its ongoing fight against DVD piracy and has issued a warning to DVD vendors, festival organizers, and would-be DVD buyers at the upcoming Hibiscus Festival:
"I understand the same vendors plan on having stalls during the Hibiscus festival and people have to be made aware that they, as buyers, are just as liable as the seller of breaching the Copyright Act, and so are the organisers of the festival."
[Seized DVD needs expert opinion, Fiji Times, August 9, 2007]
It is undeniable that Fiji's marketplace is currently dominated by pirated DVDs, a situation that must be endlessly frustrating for vendors of legitimate DVDs such as Caine. What do you do when the law is on your side but the alternative market controls over 90% of volume and provides your product at a fraction of your cost? One day FAVIA may successfully lobby the AG and the police to improve copyright enforcement in Fiji - but how will they convince buyers to rent a DVD for $5 a day when they can buy it for $1? By arresting them (with police help) at the DVD stalls at the Hibiscus festival?

Photo by: Cayusa


The reality of free wireless in Niue

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In addition to OLPC, community wireless has been a topic of discussion in "development ICT" on the Pacific Internet Society (PICISOC) mailing list recently. I was interested to read an announcement pointed out on the list that reported the success of a free wireless Internet project in Niue.

Thanks to International Communication Technology (ICT) small and remote nations are not so remote anymore. The introduction of free, wireless internet services to all in the tiny Polynesian nation of Niue has reshaped the lives of close to 2,000 people living on the island. The vice chairman of South Pacific Internet Services, Franck Martin, says that access to the internet has made everyday life for Niueans easier. "ICTs are crucial (in regards) to improving the quality of life and to drive growth in the whole economy. Free wireless internet had had a vast impact on development in government sectors and poverty reduction," said Mr Martin. "People waited for days to talk to their families and loved ones abroad as there were defaults in the telephone and fax lines. But with free internet services, they can get in touch with them in seconds," Mr Martin said.
[Free wireless network reshapes lives in Niue, Islands Business, as it appeared August 1, 2007]

When I read this, it felt a little hinky to me - it simply sounds too good to be true. A quick search showed that the claims of aiding nearly 2,000 are a little exaggerated. According to the CIA Factbook, the 2007 population of Niue is 1,492. This may be an innocent mistake, but I kept digging.

It turns out that - to my surprise, if not yours - that Niue's free wireless Internet was announced over four years ago. Note the quote from former PICISOC chair, Richard St. Clair.
The Internet Users Society - Niue (IUS-N), today announced that it has launched the world's first free nation-wide WiFi Internet access service on the Polynesian island-nation of Niue. This new free wireless service which can be accessed by all Niue residents, tourists, government offices and business travelers, is being provided at no cost to the public or local government.

"WiFi is the prefect fit for the Island of Niue, where harsh weather conditions of rain, lightning, salt water, and high humidity cause major problems with underground copper lines," said Richard St Clair, Co-Founder and Technical Manager at The Internet Users Society - Niue and Chairman, Pacific Island Chapter ISOC. "And since WiFi is a license free technology by International Agreement, no license is needed either by the provider or the user."
[Polynesian Island of Niue the First Free Wireless Nation; Wireless HotSpot Launched in South Pacific Island of Niue, Business Wire, June 23, 2003]

Again, this sounds great! Why can't we have this in Suva?

Then a PICISOC member from Niue chimed in with the following reality check:
Currently the only thing being reshaped regarding access to the internet is my figure as there is no public transport here and the internet cafe (which is not free and only open between the hours of 9-3 and closes for up to an hour for lunch) is located 10 kilometers away from my village (removed to protect the innocent) where we have neither a land line for dial up or a wifi connection. A point to note is the "free" part comes after the $1600 NZ dollars each that 2 families in our area have paid for their connection. There is also a $25 one off registration fee for those that are fortunate enough to have access to a wifi-location. I have been in discussion with the users society here, through our local internet cafe and have been referred to the .nu owner in America (?) about information in regarding wifi being installed in our village as a community/village project, but have yet to receive any feedback.

I agree that access to the internet has a "vast impact on development in government sectors and poverty reduction" - for those that are fortunate enough to have access.

So it is too good to be true. Unless someone from Niue or ICT can counter this analysis?

Photo by: moblog