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Rethinking app and social media use in a developing region

I’ve been back and forth to Erbil, North Iraq, over the last 18 months and for the sheer beauty of the scenery, the incredible history and amazing hospitality of everyone I met in Southern Kurdistan, I can only recommend that you all visit this amazing region.   But living here has also forced me to re-think and re-purpose my social media and iPhone usage. You have to get creative and tune in to a different culture of use. And now I marvel at the ingenuity of how people use it differently, hacking purpose to redefine it in order to fit with their needs and how it fits locally. Getting Around Whatsapp isn’t just a go-to messaging service (also rumoured to be popular as it is an SMS that isn’t monitored here), it has also been how you can find people/offices. There aren’t really addresses in Erbil. In my first week here I was directed to an office ‘behind 60m street, opposite Kak Supermarket’. I had a vague idea where 60m Road was (it’s long! it’s circular!) and no idea what or where Kak Supermarket was. It took me 1.5 hours to find. It is true that there are house numbers within gated communities but, honestly, no one ever found my house by the number. I spent a long time looking for a map of Erbil, finally finding a not very detailed one at tourist shop in the Citadel. Even the Google Map of Erbil is outdated with the continuous improvements in infrastructure in the city and the ever growing number of roads. ​ Sharing a location on Whatsapp is something...

The danger of standardised country lists

Country names has been on my mind as I have been working with a client in the Kurdistan Region of North Iraq and, with the current political climate, it looks likely that we will have a new country on the map at some point in the future. This will have to be added to the country list in their database. Given their users, it will be extremely important that this change is planned for and implemented as soon as independence be declared (should it happen). In Europe, perhaps organisations should have contingency plans to change country lists in their databases to include Scotland, come September this year. Being aware and planning for these changes shows respect and understanding for your users. Country names can be more contentious than you think: Years ago, when working for an EU Programme we received a warning e-mail from a Member State highlighting that we had included in a document an incorrect name of another, candidate, country (can you guess the Member State and Candidate Country?). It can also just be frustrating. Originally coming from a country where many people struggle to find the terminology: England? Great Britain? United Kingdom? I have this problem more frequently than I should. I get to the country drop down, type ‘U’ scroll down… not there… type ‘G’ and scroll down… not there. Have to start scrolling from the top of the list. It irritates me. If you’re dealing with countries worldwide, my personal go-to for an official list has always been the European Interinstitutional Style Guide, which has an updated list of all worldwide countries. It has...

The ‘least techie as possible’ guide to regional settings

After Mike’s blog about importing data, I got a couple of questions about changing regional settings for Excel files. So, I thought I’d talk you through it. Clearly if you have an iota more skill with a computer than I do, then you don’t need to read any further… for those of you on my level, I hope it helps! (A HUGE caveat before we start – you can import into 7Sheep with an Excel sheet using any regional setting, please don’t panic!) Why does it matter? Regional settings define more than just language. It also defines data formats – from dates to numbers. So what? So it can cause problems. About a year ago, whilst testing a new import function with 7Sheep we realised that we had a problem. Mario could import data, Mike could import the same file and me? I couldn’t. We made sure that I had the latest version of the browser (although that didn’t matter), we changed browsers and still had no luck. A bit of research later – we realised it was because I was using a UK regional setting for my computer and Mike and Mario were using Austrian. But why do I even need to think about this? Imagine how we interpret a table of data: The lines between each column or row tell us where one starts and another one ends. A line is a visual default list separator for a table which tells us how to read it. For importing and exporting data your computer programs needs these separators too, they just don’t use lines. And here’s the crux of...

What is the Safe Harbor Agreement?

A little over a year ago we published on a company blog a post about the Safe Harbor Agreement. It explained what is was, why it mattered and how we adhere to it (the original post can be found below.) Data Security Obviously, with 7Sheep data security is extremely important. And we need to re-look at the Safe Harbour agreement as clearly something isn’t working. After the NSA scandal, there were fears that the EU would suspend the Safe Harbour Agreement. They didn’t, but the European Commission did issue a statement in January stating: “EU data subjects must have clarity and thus must be able to trust that if their data is transferred to the US, it is not routinely screened by the NSA. After all, the purpose of the Safe Harbour was to provide EU data subjects with a higher level of protection than available under the law in the US, in order to meet EU standards of data protection. Safe Harbour is meant to be an island of EU-style data protection within the US.” They have also passed on a list of 13 requirements for the Safe Harbour Agreement to work. Over the coming months it will be interesting to see where and how this goes – and also how it will relate to data privacy more generally in the EU. We get asked by clients a lot about the Safe Harbour Agreement. As we work with so many EU programmes/public entities/companies based in Europe we also find ourselves needing to make sure third party products and services we recommend are either based in the EU or have...