Dear Ethix – Issue 51

African Report Helpful

I am presently in Beijing participating in the Sino-African forum. I checked on the Ethix website and discovered, with a lot of satisfaction, the tremendous job you did in treating the Central African Republic as a special report in the 50th issue. I need to express to you my deepest gratitude for what you have done. Some weeks ago, a journalist from Sweden came to Bangui with the objective of gathering some facts that can help CAR draw the attention of the world to its desperate case as a country without commitment from the international community. Last week, I was in Tunis, Tunisia, trying to mobilize donors for providing CAR with resources to clear its arrears to the African Development Bank. The gap to be filled was US $7 million, but we have only 10 days to reach the deadline. Donors are looking at each other without any sign of compassion. This is very sad and disappointing, because we are running the risk of missing a good opportunity to normalize our relationships with that very important partner.

This is how CAR is seen in the global world, and we hope that your work will help us turn the perception.

Sylvain Maliko
Minister of the Economy, Planning, and International Cooperation
Bangui, Central African Republic

Liked the Special Issue on Africa

I thought the November/December issue of Ethix was terrific! Please include more like this in the future.

Devoting much of my time to Global Partnerships’ micro-lending activity in Central America, it is interesting to observe what an enormous impediment to economic development is presented by the low or nonexistent ethical standards of the political leadership of so many underdeveloped countries.

Corruption on the part of their leaders is the major obstacle to the poor of the world climbing out of their poverty. It is highly appropriate for a bulletin devoted to ethics to focus on your personal experience in the Central African Republic.

Ethix is making an important contribution on so many fronts from so many perspectives. Keep up the great work!

Bob Richards
Issaquah, Wash.

EDITOR: Bob, we were encouraged that leaders in the Central African Republic are trying to turn the corner on corruption because they recognize, as you say, that this is a major impediment for them as a country.

Technology Challenge Is Not Just for Africa

Likely anyone who picked up the November/December issue of Ethix had trouble putting it down without at least a brief “visit” to the technology-free zone of the Central African Republic. Aptly and compassionately described as a “… people caught ‘outside the system,’ in a web of poverty, corruption, and challenge …,” we read of a world tucked away so much the “inverse” of that of most Ethix readers experience, that insertion of even a single pickup truck presents a major dilemma quite foreign to any who has lived within what we know as “developed” economies and societies.

When one imagines the world behind the questions raised by the articles, even the smallest distance seems intimidating, between villages, between appointments, or from need to supply of almost anything. “What a fertile ground,” one might exclaim, “for inserting technology (appropriately, of course) and then for reaping great rewards, measured in economic, health, and sustainability metrics of various sorts.” Yet, the impediments even to the simplest “technology insertion” are very real, if only because of the substantial deficits of almost everything, from education to support infrastructure. Likely, no place on earth provides a better “proof text” for the ethical challenges inherent in technology insertion.

Yet, as obviously compelled one might be to “do something” to aid in the CAR’s journey toward the promised benefits of some degree of technology modernity, we might first be wise to go back, in hopes of reading “between the lines,” so that we can discover that the CAR technology ethics story tells us as much about ourselves as it might about the deeply troubling plight of a people nearly frozen in time. First, we are challenged to recommit to the proper role of technology as adjunct to, versus driver of, human and societal well-being in the global community. Technology does not solve problems; nor does technology define quality and/or competitiveness nearly as much as we read so often.

Success of technology — whether in the CAR or in Harvard Square — must be measured by the value it delivers, rather than by the potential it promises. The truck dilemma in the CAR has many subtle but no less important “cousins” of dilemmas in the 21st-century United States. Similarly, caution is necessary when seeking to reach across the oft-referenced “digital divide” or “technology gap” in hopes of delivering “better” quality and/or quantity of life, often in the illusive form of “global competitiveness” or “higher standard of living.” For years, organizations, technology policy makers, and many others have worked hard to incorporate “outreach” into professional programs and initiatives. But now, the time is right to move from the easily and self-satisfying programs of “outreach” — in which we extend exposure to that which we already know and have —to the passionate reach for “discovery” of things which we do not know.

Indeed, in this discussion, we have “many miles before we sleep, many promises to keep” (R. Frost, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”).

Brett Berlin
Alexandria, Va.