The Spider

Sunday, January 6, 2008

This occasional feature, reported by bloggers around the globe, weaves together the hottest stories on the Web.

LABOR MARKET: Tech support and software development aren't the only industries outsourced to India via the Internet. The Web has helped transform surrogate-mother services from an informal transaction into an international business. Nayna H. Patel, a doctor who was featured on Oprah, uses a slick Web site to advertise the services her infertility clinic provides and matches couples in the United States, Europe and elsewhere with surrogate mothers in the small western Indian town of Anand.

While some bloggers question the ethics of the "womb for rent" business, others say it represents outsourcing at its best: The procedure usually costs less than $10,000 -- a fraction of what couples would pay for fertility treatment in the West -- and offers surrogate mothers more money than most of them could earn in 15 years.

-- Arnab Ray is a research scientist who lives in Maryland. He blogs

SOFTWARE LIBRE: Local bloggers were scandalized by the partnership established last year between the Chilean government and Microsoft, which lets the computer titan train unemployed youths in the use of its Office products and establish municipal portals throughout the country. The netroots are still fighting what they see as a trend toward a dysfunctional and even Orwellian e-government. Worried that Microsoft products won't work with commonly used free software, some Chilean netizens banded together to form Digital Liberation, an online movement against the agreement.

One especially controversial feature of the partnership is the "Digital Address," an account for every Chilean run on the Windows Live platform, which is designed to connect citizens to online government services. As a measure of Digital Liberation members' distrust of the Chilean and U.S. governments, one blogger sounded the alarm that Chileans' personal information, stored on Microsoft servers, might now be subject to surveillance under the USA Patriot Act. As another angry blogger, Luis Ram¿rez, wrote in an e-mail about the partnership, "Why don't we appoint Bill Gates as Chile's President then!"

-- Will Sherman is a freelance writer who lives in Santiago, Chile. He blogs at

VOX POPULI: Blogs and zines may be old news in the United States, but they're still creating quite a stir in Colombia. Three Colombian Web developers recently launched Gacetilla Colombia, a Web site modeled on pages such as Digg and Reddit but focused on Colombian news. Anyone can post articles to the site; readers rate the stories, with the most popular ones rising to the top of the list.

Lately, Gacetilla has showcased negotiations over the release of hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Marxist rebels also known as the FARC, which have kept Colombians glued to the television. In the month and a half that Gacetilla has been up and running, its community has grown: It now boasts a blog and a Facebook group, and the Web site has also opened sections on literature, music and film.

-- Juliana Rinc¿n is a writer forGlobal Voices Onlinewho lives in Medellin, Colombia. She blogs in Spanish

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