Welcome to another “As It Is” program. I’m Jim Tedder in Washington. Today we hear from Indonesia, where millions of people are using cellphones to help them find jobs. Then we will have more about pirates off the coast of Somalia, and how they are being held responsible for their crimes. But first, the story of good things from people most of us do not trust.
Johnny Long is known as a computer hacker. He is famous for his ability to hack, or break into, computer systems. For 15 years, he was paid by governments and companies to hack computer systems and find their weaknesses so security could be improved. In 2009, Mister Long moved his family to Jinja, Uganda, and started an organization called Hackers for Charity.
“I’m a high-tech guy, I hardly have any other skills. I get somebody else to change light bulbs. I’m just not the type that you would think of going to Africa and doing anything.” Now Mister Long’s organization provides a way for hackers around the world to volunteer their skills to help nonprofit organizations that cannot pay for computer help. Many of the organizations are in Uganda and other East African countries. In Uganda, organizations and schools receive free computer training and computer repair.
Mister Long says one of the biggest problems is persuading organizations to work with hackers.
“Most organizations see that word hacker -which we won’t remove from our name, because it’s who we are -and that’s it. End of discussion. Organizations that would normally donate to us won’t donate because they’re fearing a news story.”
Tim Rosenberg has volunteered for two projects with Hackers for Charity.
“We’re not known for our social skills. We’re known for spending hours and days and months in windowless offices interfacing on laptops and computers, and not really moving outside of that bubble. An organization like Hackers for Charity, that provides the ability to start impacting into the wider community and the world, is just a phenomenal opportunity.”
Mister Long says he also hopes the work will change public opinion of hackers.
“We’re able to show hackers aren’t just about mayhem and causing trouble. We’re actually making a difference.”
There is more information about the group at HackersforCharity.org.
An organization fighting hijacking near Somalia’s coast is developing a legal system to permit officials to take pirates captured at sea to court on land. The organization is called the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. The planned legal system will also include rules about arresting pirates in international waters. Caty Weaver tells us more.
John Steed of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia says the system faces many problems because Somalia is a failed state. He says the country is trying to re-organize itself after many lawless years.
“Somalia does not have the legal framework that the international community would recognize, so most of the prosecutions take place in countries like the Seychelles and Kenya and elsewhere in the region.” The Contact Group was established in two thousand nine. It includes more than 80 counties and has international groups such as the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union and NATO. The group’s main aims include making sure pirates are brought to justice. More than 1,200 Somali pirates are currently being held in 21 countries.
Prisons are available throughout Somalia. But they are small and cannot hold many people. In addition, trials of accused pirates are rarely held in the country. James Hughes of Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office says the group seeks to have Somali pirates serve sentences in their own country.
“In the shorter term, those convicted in regional states can be returned to Somalia to serve their sentences in Somali prisons. And in the longer term, of course, (the goal) is to develop court and prison capacity in Somalia so that the Somali administration can bring those convicted of piracy to justice at home. Obviously, this will not happen overnight. This is a long-term process”. Pirate attacks off the Somali coast have decreased greatly in the past few years, after international navies started guarding the coast. But, the Contact Group says piracy in the Gulf of Aden and nearby waters continues. It threatens the safe arrival of humanitarian aid to Somalia and the safety of business and supply ships as well as local fishing activities. The International Maritime Bureau says 75 ships were attacked off Somalia in 2012 and 14 were hijacked. I’m Caty Weaver.
A twenty-three year old man sells face coverings for about 30 cents each in central Jakarta, Indonesia. Yet he makes enough money to buy a cell phone that permits him to visit Facebook and Twitter websites. Like many Indonesians, he has found that the device has become an important part of his life. Christopher Cruise has our report.
Rio Sofiyanto says every average person has a cellphone. He likes having one because he can talk to his family when he is away from home. And he is especially pleased that he can use it to listen to music. Mister Sofiyanto’s phone has a keypad that makes it look like a Blackberry.
It is a known as a feature phone or smartphone “lite.” That is because it is cheaper and cannot perform all the actions of the latest versions of Apple’s iPhone. These devices make up the majority of cell phones sold around the world. The have proven more successful in places like Indonesia, where smartphones cost 700 dollars or more. Although many lower-income users are new to smartphones, they are quickly learning to use the technology.
Eddy Tamboto is the managing director of the Jakarta office of the Boston Consulting Group. He explains the importance of having a mobile phone.
“The way they get to know about employment opportunities, the way they get to know about entrepreneurial opportunities is actually through the mobile phone. So the phone and the smartphone is not just a convenience of indulgence, but actually it’s a big part of a day-to-day necessity.”
Local businessman Aldi Haryopratomo has developed a way for small store owners to sell things like prepaid cellphone minutes and life insurance through text messages. Ruma is the company that developed the technology. The company is working on a system that will notify people about chances for jobs in their area.
Business advisors say Indonesians are explorers who like to try new things, especially when it comes to digital technology. They are some of the biggest users of Facebook and Twitter. I’m Christopher Cruise.
And I’m Jim Tedder in Washington. Thank you for being with us. Since today is “Barbershop Quartet Day” in the United States, we leave you with a song from the famous American play, “The Music Man.” You can hear the latest world news at the beginning of the hour on VOA.