The Christian Science Monitor : 2019-02-11

12 : 12 : 12


heart of the news HELSINKI, FINLAND Welcome to Oodi: Helsinki’s new ‘living room’ By Gordon F. Sander / Correspondent The Finns like to call their country a “design nation,” one with a natural affinity for devising creative and efficient solutions for both spatial and social challenges. With the opening Dec. 8 of Oodi, the barrier-breaking Helsinki Central Library, one of Europe’s most design-conscious countries has a library that matches that motto, as well as one that reflects its democratic ambitions. Oodi – which means “ode” in Finnish – “is not just a library,” says Tommi Laitio, Helsinki’s executive director of culture and leisure. “It’s also a symbol of the goals we have as a society.” According to Antti Nousjoki, one of the partners at ALA Architects, the Finnish firm behind the monumental $110 million spaceship-like building, the designers’ objective was to create a library that empowered its users. “Oodi does not relegate citizens to the role of spectator or dictate single functions and possibilities,” says Mr. Nousjoki, “but rather acts as an open platform and tool for people to develop as they see fit.” And if the building – sited at the entrance to the Helsinki peninsula, at the apex of the capital’s new metropolitan mall – also serves as a monument to Finnish democracy, so much the better, says Nousjoki. Oodi being foremost a library, books have their place. The entire third floor – a soaring, tree-lined, open space dubbed “book heaven” – is devoted to them. The moniker is appropriate for a nation that prides itself as the world’s most literate. “Books hold a central place in the Finnish imagination,” says Raoul Grunstein, a former magazine publisher and the founder of Töölö Urban, an urban development firm. His firm created the Korjaamo Culture Factory and the Allas Sea Pool, two pub- HARARE, ZIMBABWE; AND JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA long she’d have to wait for her medication. Internet shutdowns are a blunt instrument of repression, but as web access mushrooms across Africa, they’re also becoming a more popular one. In the first month of 2019, governments have also shut off the internet in Congo, Gabon, and Sudan. In Chad, social media has been blocked for nearly a year and counting. And those shutdowns are part of a broader trend. In 2018, the internet advocacy group Access Now recorded 21 full or partial internet shutdowns in Africa, up from 13 the year before. As more Africans access the internet, more leaders grab for cutoff switch By Wendy Muperi Ryan Lenora Brown / Contributor / Staff writer Sorry. You can’t pick up your money today. Finally, a sympathetic teller saw the panic on her face and offered an explanation. Amid widespread protests across the country over a massive hike in the price of fuel, the government had shut off the internet. That meant money transfers were down, too. The intent of the shutdown, analysts say, was to disrupt the protests and prevent news about them from getting out. But in a country in the midst of a severe cash crisis, where more than 95 percent of financial transactions are electronic, turning off the internet also cut off many Zimbabweans from their only source of money. “I started panicking and felt helpless at the same time,” Ndlovu says. No one could say when the internet would be back or how and Collecting the money should have been easy. Alice Ndlovu had done it a million times before. But when she got to the front of the line at the bank in her hometown of Rusape in eastern Zimbabwe on a recent Friday, the teller shook her head. Sorry, she said. No service today. Ms. Ndlovu, a teacher who asked that a pseudonym be used for fear of government reprisal, desperately needed that cash, which her son had sent her from Britain to pay for her diabetes medications. So she reluctantly boarded a bus for the nearest town with a bank, more than an hour away. There, she walked from bank to bank, but every time the answer was the same: Transformative growth in web access The shutdowns are, in part, a reaction to the web’s growing reach in a continent that, even until a decade ago, was largely off-line. Today, the internet is an increasingly essential part of the economies of many African countries, from mobile payments for daily groceries to e-commerce. But with that growth, it is also becoming a tool for social change, prompting governments to take increasingly bold moves to muzzle it – 12 THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY FEBRUARY 11, 2019 | PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW

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