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<nettime> Update: Conflict minerals and radical impotence
Eugenio Tisselli on Tue, 17 Apr 2012 08:35:07 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Update: Conflict minerals and radical impotence

Dear nettimers,

A few weeks ago, I posted a note to this list, "turning a q into a faq: cheap computers and conflict minerals". Briefly, the note was about asking the manufacturers of the ultra-cheap Raspberry Pi computer about their corporate stance on conflict minerals.

I just wanted to update you on what has happened since then. A few people responded to the call of turning the (Q)uestion about conflict minerals into a FAQ. And, sadly, we got incredibly pathetic replies, with which the manufacturers either tried to argue that the Raspberry Pi "only" used very little quantities of conflict minerals, or even dismissed the issue because "it's almost impossible to avoid conflict minerals, [and that's why we ignore them]"

Read this thread for yourself:

On subsequent questions, the Raspberry Pi staff started to get quite aggressive:

I tried to reply to this last comment, but my reply was never published. Here's what I tried to tell them:

"Yes, we deserve an answer. For the simple reason that we are potential buyers of the Raspberry Pi, and you are the manufacturers. If you don't believe we deserve a reply, why did you open a FAQ page? And no, we are not 'bugging' you. We are simply asking legitimate questions. In the case of bigger manufacturers of electronic devices (such as Apple), there are, correspondingly, bigger organizations asking these same questions. See, for example, Enough project's company rankings: http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/conflict-minerals-company-rankings"

A small company shouldn't be free from scrutiny from its (potential) consumers. No matter how big or small, we should demand clear corporate responsibilities from the companies that manufacture our devices. Simply stating that a device is being built on the principles of "... want(ing) to break the paradigm where without spending hundreds of pounds on a PC, families canât use the internet. We want owning a truly personal computer to be normal for children.", such as the Raspberry Pi (http://www.raspberrypi.org/about), doesn't justify a careless attitude towards conflict minerals. The "we can't do anything about it" narrative simply feeds the average consumer's feeling of radical impotence, in a time when we are becoming increasingly empowered to *actually* change things and make a difference. And when this story comes from a manufacturer, well... it's simply saddening.

We used to evaluate our electronic devices on criteria such as price, computational power or interface design. Some of the more politically-inclined users prefer devices that support open source operating systems rather proprietary ones. But, given the state of the world, we should also consider ecological and social impacts of a company's practices as important criteria.

The makers of Raspberry Pi are aggressively ignoring the issue of conflict minerals and, by the tone of their replies, they are not even willing to make a corporate responsibility statement. Bear that in mind before you consider buying their products.

Thank you for reading.

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