Casting Facebook’s data efficiency plan as “the savior of the developing world” is “hard to swallow.”
– David Talbot, MIT Technology Review
The father of this nation, the late President Nyerere, studied history and political economy for his Master of Arts at the University of Edinburgh. Most probably he would have commented on Facebook Inc.’s present initiative to help the developing world “to get connected”, by looking back into the history of African experiences with Western “good-will” intervention.
One of the most popular writers in the age of Victorian Great British Empire published a poem in 1899, which started like this:
Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.
—The White Man’s Burden, Joseph Rudyard Kipling1
A most favourable interpretation might concede, that Kipling2 was driven by a philanthropic intention, namely that the rich (whites) have a moral duty and obligation to help “the poor” (coloureds) “better” themselves whether the poor (coloureds) want the help or not.
The US-American contemporary writer Mark Twain though, was judging less polite on his workmate, when in 1901 he rebuked Kipling’s propaganda:
Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who Sits in Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole; and there is money in it yet, if carefully worked…
—To the Person Sitting in Darkness, essay by Mark Twain3
Doing good and making money
In 1905 Twain published a pamphlet against Leopold II, King of the Belgians, who had lobbied for and been granted at the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, the “Congo Free State” as his private property. On the pretext to improve the lives of the native inhabitants, the king employed a mercenary force to impose a brutal forced labour system. A British journalist and shipping agent who understood checking the commercial documents of the Congo Free State, noted that while millions of dollars worth of rubber and ivory were coming out of the Congo, all that was going back was rifles and chains.
The punishment for Africans who failed to meet the quota in collecting rubber was death – as proof of execution a cut-off hand had to be presented to the company accountant. Smoked hands became a sort of currency.
At the end Leopold II had set-off a genocide of monstrous proportions, reducing the ingenious population by half, while forcing the survivors to lead dehumanised, miserable lives. All had started in 1876, when under the guise of missionary work and westernisation of African peoples, the philanthropic organisation “Association Internationale Africaine“ (International African Association) was formed – with Leopold II becoming its single shareholder!
Humanitarian Intervention – a synonym for Colonialism
If Facebook’s Zuckerberg is recently publishing a white paper titled “Is Connectivity a Human Right?” – which on closer inspection apparently just means “connect people to Facebook”, then where is the difference to Leopold’s hypocrisy?
Even most of the Congo victims one century ago, didn’t die because they were directly murdered, but of “starvation, exhaustion, exposure, disease” – which means, because of their miserable living conditions – leading to “a plummeting birth rate”!
… is the headline of an article which “wonder[s] what kind of productivity people will enjoy through a 4 inch display” using the few websites offered through Internet.org? “Even US$ 10 dollar annual revenue per additional user will be enough to make Internet.org a profitable venture in terms of cost-to-benefit ratio.”
All Internet.org members unites a vested interest: Samsung, Nokia, and Qualcomm are hardware manufacturers, Ericsson builds the internet infrastructure while Facebook seeks to expand its proprietary “Internet light”.
Consequently Time Magazine observed, that “however much the company spins it as altruistic, this campaign is really an act of self–serving techno-colonialism.”
On 13/11/2006 the New York Times asked: “A Fresh Approach | What’s Wrong With Profit?“ This article described “the Philanthropreneurs” as “a new breed of billionaires [who] are out to harness the marketplace as a force for doing good in the underdeveloped world.”
A popular spin of Western propaganda is, to describe Africa as “underdeveloped” – even if it’s not, like in the following case.
Destroying African Agriculture
Gates’ Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa is based on the same unfounded assumption which Kipling once justified as “The White Man’s Burden”, namely that some countries are unfit to help themselves – and therefore intervention becomes a noble obligation. Alas such a doctrine is not supported by the facts:
“At the time of decolonization in the 1960s, Africa was not just self-sufficient in food but was actually a net food exporter, its exports averaging 1.3 million tons a year between 1966-70. Today, the continent imports 25% of its food, with almost every country being a net food importer.”
Professor Walden Bello views African agriculture as “a case study of how doctrinaire economics serving corporate interests can destroy a whole continent’s productive base.” He claims that policies promoted by World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been systematically destroying African Agriculture5.
Following the money
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation disposed of “an endowment of US$38.3 billion as of 30 June 2013”. To maintain its status, a charitable foundation has to donate at least 5% of its assets each year. Hence B&MGF is obliged to ‘give away’ a minimum of US$1.9 billion for 2013 – while the philanthropic front is meant to make an unavoidable business expense appear like the noble gesture of free will!
The hypocrisy behind Philanthro-Capitalism
An insider claims, that “the Gates Buffet foundation grant is nothing more than a shell game”, designed to increase their massive wealth “under the tax-exempt umbrella”, exploiting “so-called legal loopholes to charitable giving”.
Since the philanthropreneurs remain in full control of their assets – how do they deal with the 95% capital beyond philanthropy? Gates purchased shares in Monsanto – the notorious champion for genetically modified food – and in the agribusiness commodity giant Cargill.
“There could hardly be a more effective form of colonialism. The genetic engineering industry will effectively be able to hold us hostage.”
– Dr. Tewolde Egziabher, African chief-negotiator of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety6
It is obvious, that sooner or later the factory-farming business of “philanthropreneur” Bill Gates has to collide with the interests of the indigenous Africans, who seek to continue with their traditional way of small-scale agriculture. Prepare for future conflicts:
Google and Facebook aim to fix global connectivity – but for whom?
“‘Smart power’ is the use of American power in ways that would help prevent and resolve conflict – not just send our military in.”
– Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th U. S. Secretary of State
In the age of computer, internet, satellites, drones, and smartphones, an entire new arsenal of “soft-power” tools has emerged. Thus Information Warfare has become an imperative weapon in the Global War on Terror and an important element of the global US-military Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine.
In a former chapter, named “Africa’s Challenges“, we already noted, that the foreign surveillance of vast regions of our continent is still not in place! The people are too poor to buy their own sensors (smartphones) and the domestic mobile phone companies consider it a money-loosing deal, to invest into network-infrastructure there.
Under-served means under-controlled
Africa is under-exposed: only 7 percent are connected in average. Refer to this interactive map for precise numbers by country.
“Scientia est Potentia” – Knowledge is Power, only total control can provide satisfying results. We predicted that “the ‘African Challenge’ might be to roll-out more ITC-infrastructure in […] Black Africa”.
“Loon for All” – (Google announcement)
Surveillance by Google isn’t scary because the “don’t be evil” corporation explains it like an amazing adventure for kids – and their balloons are called “loons” – hey, that’s so cool!
All right Hillary, no necessity to use military equipment, as long as Google and Facebook collect the data. “After disasters” – good to know indeed, whose cellular is switching back online after a drone-strike; the “global community” will become a much safer place thanks to the U.S.-Internet©.
… and let us take care of all your cash too:
In 2012 the Better Than Cash Alliance was founded, to propagate the idea of a cashless society, based on the farce* that eliminating cash would stimulate entrepreneurship among the poor. In reality, the elimination of cash would reduce a great many opportunities for entrepreneurship for people of few means, while handing-over control to foreign transnational corporations. Obviously the U.N. Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is used, to lend their plot a honorable appearance.
* Why is it a farce? Read more here: 2016: Digital Dividends or Increasing Divide?
Recommended reading, excepts added:
by Alfredo Lopez
Using a combination of drones, satellites and other technologies, Facebook seeks to bring connectivity to the entire world. The picture is remarkable: Facebook satellites and drones with six month life cycles will bounce every connection signals (like Wify) to people in every corner of the earth. Every human being will now have access to the Internet.
On its face, it’s a wonderful idea until you realize that this would put all the world’s connectivity in the hands of one company and a coalition of partners it’s brought on to realize the project. Those partners, by the way, include — are you ready? — the National Security Agency of the United States.
The obscene irony in using drone technology (used, among many other things, to kill thousands of people a year) to bring the human race together is offensive, but the very real threat posed by putting most people’s communications in the hands of one company is deeply disturbing.
If you connect a population to the Internet, and it depends on that connection, your ability to turn it off gives you virtually dictatorial powers.
What in the world is the NSA doing as part of this “connect the world” coalition? Facebook will only say the NSA is working on research to use its satellite system to expand connectivity. But if the agency is handling that chunk of connectivity, what will that mean for people’s privacy and rights?
By David Talbot
Despite Zuckerberg’s lofty statements, Facebook in particular is falling short of some of Internet.org’s goals: the company isn’t investing in network extensions in developing countries, and its business practices, in many cases, have obligated Internet service providers in such places to incur extra costs.
Facebook is a major online presence around the world. Take Africa, where it often ranks first or second in popularity among websites. Yet Facebook doesn’t have data centers there, which means content generated by Facebook members in Kenya, for example, has to traverse undersea fiber-optic cables to data centers on other continents. That costs local ISPs at least $100 per month for each megabit of traffic. This charge wouldn’t apply if Facebook stored user content locally.
Facebook spokesman Derick Mains e-mailed a clarification: the company, he wrote, hasn’t invested in any “physical buildout of infrastructure” to connect people. He declined to say where the $1 billion went, giving only one example: Facebook’s $70 million purchase of Snaptu, whose technology makes it possible for apps like Facebook’s to run on the basic phones that are common in developing countries.
Such acquisitions, of course, are meant to improve Facebook’s own operations.
If Facebook really wants to connect more people, it should support cutting-edge wireless networks.
“Sensational” News 02/12/2015: “A letter to our daughter”
Mark Zuckerberg writes a gut-wrenching letter to his newborn. Therein he pledges to give away 99% of his fortune to “charity” – 😈 so why is his initiative then structured as an Limited Liability Company (LLC), and not as a Charitable Trust?
The vehicle for his beneficence will be the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative LLC, a family-run foundation that he controls and through which he will maintain control of Facebook for “the foreseeable future.” Unlike a charitable trust, which is compelled to spend its money on charity, Zuckerberg’s LLC will be able to spend its money on whatever it wants, including private, profit-generating investment.
Which basically means:
Mark Zuckerberg will transfer ownership of his Facebook stock without paying capital gains taxes. He will also benefit from the possibility that his foundation will live beyond him, with his heirs and their heirs at the helm, untouched by estate taxes.
The money put into the LCC will be used, according to a Facebook SEC filing, for “philanthropic, public advocacy” ( 😈 read: lobbying), “and other activities for the public good” ( 😈 read: connecting billions to Facebook).
$300 million reasons why above all it’s a good deal for himself: Mark Zuckerberg’s Charity Windfall
“Thanks to the miracle of modern technology”, some computer geeks claim they can compute, what Zuckerberg’s daughter might reply – you don’t want to miss that!
- philos – “loving” in the sense of benefiting, caring for, nourishing
- anthropos – “human being” in the sense of “humanity”, or “human-ness”.
Hence philanthrôpía describes a state of being productive to benefit to humanity. According to the New York Times, “philanthropreneurs [are] driven to do good and have their profit, too”.