I had a great conversation with David Carman yesterday who runs a community mesh network in Scarborough (south of Cape Town). We discussed mesh technologies, topologies, and Open Source medical applications but towards the end, the conversation strayed to digital video and security. He told me about a remarkable project in Palestine, called Shooting Back, in which a human rights NGO distributed 100 cameras to palestinian citizens to record human rights abuses. The results are pretty disturbing as this Guardian article testifies but also pretty remarkable. As David put it, often the power of the criminal lies in anonymity. Letting people know that they don’t have the luxury of anonymity can be a powerful incentive for behavioural change.
I was reminded of this today when I read a post by Brian Longwe in Nairobi about the Flip Camera that he had recently acquired. The Flip is an inexpensive (~USD130) video camera with a dead simple interface. This might make an interesting project. Acquiring 100 Flip video cameras to distribute to a high-crime community in South Africa would cost less than USD 13,000. It might have an impact on crime but also with a powerful, easy-to-use device like this, who knows what worthwhile unintended uses may emerge. I note that Brian’s first use of the camera was to record Kenya’s “Jim Hendrix” at a bar.