Links for week ending 22 October 2010

High internet, SMS costs slow Rwanda rural project
The Rwandan Development Board is considering inviting competing telecommunications providers to take part in Rwanda’s e-soko project after users of the market price information service complained that SMS and internet costs associated with it were too high. 30,000 farmers, traders and consumers in the country are using the service.

Russian police investigating Wikipedia
Russian police are reported to be investigating claims that the Russian instance of Wikipedia is hosting “extremist” content proscribed by the Russian justice ministry. So far Wikipedia editors have not been told which works are under suspicion. Earlier this year a local Russian court ruled that YouTube should be blocked after complaints about extremist videos, although that decision was later amended to oblige Russian internet service providers to block only certain pages, and not the entire service.

Microsoft expands efforts to protect non-profit groups from piracy crackdowns
The New York Times reports that Microsoft is planning to provide software licences free-of-charge to more than 500,000 advocacy groups and independent media organisations in countries including Russia and China. The move follows on from reports that repressive governments were “using software piracy inquiries as a pretext to suppress dissent”.

Google offers piracy help to Big Media, at a price
CNet reports that Google has written a letter to executives at two music industry trade groups offering to help them track down pirated material online, for a price. The move comes in the context of Google’s ongoing licensing negotiations with the content industry following a recently launched “Google TV” service and a planned digital music service.

‘Scrapers’ Dig Deep for Data on the Web
The Wall Street Journal reports on the growing trend for media research firms, data brokers and other commercial entities to “scrape” websites for personal data and package it on at a price.

Peter Thiel launches new fellowship for young tech entrepreneurs
PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has launched 20 fellowships incorporating cash grants worth up to $100,000 each, for people under 20 years old “to further their innovative scientific and technical ideas”. The fellowships include mentoring from key members of Thiel’s extended network of successful technology entrepreneurs.

Open Access Week
This week is international Open Access Week, a global event to promote Open Access as a new norm in scholarship and research. To celebrate, the OSF blog interviewed the Information Program’s Melissa Hagemann about the successes in the open access movement so far, and the challenges it faces in the future.
Open Access Week | Interview

Decrypting the Web
Siva Vaidhyanathan writes a thoughtful and well-informed piece for Dissent magazine, recalling failed attempts in the nineties to regulate everyday use of strong cryptography, and detailing how the US government’s recently reported desire to “wiretap” the encrypted net will meet with the same fate.

Garage biotech: Life hackers
This Nature feature on “bio-hacking” is an excellent introduction to trends in garage microbiology and DIY genomics. It traces parallels between the activities of these hobbyists and the history of early personal computer development and computer hacking.

OER: Interview with Nicole Allen
Creative Commons interview Student Public Interest Research Group Campaign Director Nicole Allen on the topic of open educational resources (OER).

Research report: “Campaign Takedown Troubles”
This new report from the Center for Democracy and Technology documents the extent to which overly aggressive copyright enforcement claims made under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have inappropriately stifled online political speech during recent US election campaigns.

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