Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Darker Side of Digital by Dan Holloway

We like to think that ebooks are ethically wonderful. No dead rainforests, no nasty carbon. Of course, the environmental impact of ereading is not as simple as that. But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about one of the aspects of technology that really doesn't get the attention it deserves, but of which we, as digital writers, really need to be aware. It's something of which I was woefully ignorant until I met the wonderful poet Emma Ako, who works tirelessly to promote awareness.

At the heart of the electronics industry, especially high tech areas like smart phones, tablets, and ereaders, are rare metals like tantalum, which are often mined from some of the world's most troubled areas. The money from these metals often makes its way to the arms industry, to arming groups that cause misery in the countries where they are produced. Emma's particular focus is on Congo. This excellent video explains why this issue is important.



So, what does this have to do with us? Well, to start, as advocates of all things digital we ought to make it our job to know. And we should also make it our job to encourage readers to use technology that doesn't rely on conflict minerals, as well as doing so ourselves. This list, compiled by Raise Hope For Congo, is an excellent starting point. It ranks the leading electronics companies by their efforts to ensure the transparency of their supply chains and the freedom of their products from conflict minerals.

There are other areas of concern with digital publishing, of course, such as truncating access to culture for those on the wrong side of the digital divide. But one thing at a time. Do go along if you possibly can to one of Emma's events. As well as raising awareness of a vital issue, there's always really great poetry.


11 comments:

Tyson said...

Wonderful article and something I was just talking to a friend about. Excellent to see this list. I do have an HP laptop, but that wasn't exactly intentional. Though I will certainly buy again after seeing their score.

CallyPhillips said...

Thanks for pointing this out Dan. It's good to remember that the price we pay for all of our consumer 'must have' items is nothing compared to the price other people are paying for us to have these things - I won't call them luxuries because as you point out some of these things are work tools for digital publishers/writers. But we should really be more aware of the full 'story' of what we do. And perhaps we should use products 'responsibly' where possible rather than be sucked into the easy marketing which suggests we just chuck away, buy the new, upgrade constantly etc. If every upgrade means another rape - how keen would we be? Big issue. Big problem. None of us can solve it individually but we can start taking some individual responsibility for what we buy and what we use and KNOW the real price of thing - the beyond money price.

Dan Holloway said...

thanks, Tee - and great to know people are talking about it.

So many issues, Cally. started looking into everything even more when I was thinking about running an ethical small press and just how that would e possible - everything from 100% eco friendly printing to class war. It's complicted. No one cn do everything. But everyone who can should do something

madwippitt said...

Oh dear. My netbook doesn't do very well. This does rather make you feel that keeping prices high might be a good thing instead of technology getting cheaper: would encourage more repairing and recycling rather than throw it away and buy new attitude.

Dan Holloway said...

yes, these days it's not even - or just, anyway - planned obsolescence, it's the constant upgrade culture. The problem is that as a society we tend to see all these things in isolation rather than in the round, with a goal of what kind of a world we want that we can holistically plug each separate part of public life into - and yes, I know that will never happen, but it's still something to strive for

Lydia Bennet said...

gosh, I shall pass this on to Congolese friends. So much to consider, especially with new technologies. Thanks Dan.

Dennis Hamley said...

Yes, an urgent matter which I'd never even thought of. I'm pleased to say I've got an HP printer and an Acer netbook but now have serious doubts about all the Samsung products that I use. My computer is a Packard Bell. Any news on that? I'm getting rid of my Nokia phone, that's for sure. Oh, it is indeed so complicated.

Dan Holloway said...

thank you, both. Yes, complicated indeed, and absolutely sometimes you do good with one hand only to find you've done it wrong with the other - being aware I think is the real starting point

Kathleen Jones said...

Thanks for making me think about something I hadn't thought of Dan - try very hard to be ethical and 'green', but obviously failing miserably! Will think harder now.

Reb MacRath said...

Thanks for another thoughtful and very needed post, Dan.

Dan Holloway said...

:)