Conflict Minerals and the Democratic Republic of Congo

Conflict Minerals and the Democratic Republic of Congo

Featured image

Living in an era of rapid technological change and advancement, we are using an increasing number of components to produce our technology. (Kiggins, 2015) The resources which make up these components must be “taken from the earth with machines and human labour to then be processed, graded, sorted and recombined to become the micro-chips, the computer screens, the mobile devices” (Reading, 2014) which we all use.  Some of these resources are referred to as conflict minerals; natural resources which are extracted in conflict zones/countries suffering conditions of conflict. The four most discussed conflict minerals are gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten (and their corresponding ores). (Enough Project). These are often referred to as 3TG.

A region which is often discussed when looking at conflict minerals is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has suffered mass conflict mineral atrocities due to the western consumer demand for more technology. (Usanov, et al. 2013) The DRC is said to have $24 trillion mineral deposits, therefore is the largest sufferer of conflict due to mineral extraction. It is important to note that conflict in the DRC is not solely a result of conflict minerals, it is due to political differences, ethnic differences, and agricultural land. However, minerals are a large contributor to the problem and increase the severity of the conflict, due to all profits being used to fund violence.

The Eastern DRC has rich deposits of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.  The mining of these minerals in the DRC have helped funding of the ongoing conflict in the Congo. This is done in two ways. Rebel groups, local militias, or units of the Congolese army may directly control mines, guarding them using weapons, and charging tax on anyone entering. Or, the same groups may illegally tax the transport (and often smuggling) and trading of minerals along certain routes. (BSR, May 2010) It has been widely noted that revenue from mineral sales go to warlords, leaders of militia groups, and the Congolese army, who control mining areas and have been known to commit brutal acts of violence, including rape as a form of weapon. (Parker and Vadheim, 2016) The mining of Tantalum for example, has aided and fuelled violence in the DRC. (TED TALK). The profits from the mining and smuggling of Tantalum, and other conflict minerals, are used to purchase weapons by rebels and militia groups.

It is high western demand for electrical goods which demands the large number of rare minerals like those in the DRC. Minerals are a very small part of electrical goods, but a vital one. The supply chain of these minerals is not always traced effectively, and pressure is continuously put on technology companies to demand fair regulation regarding mining and trade on these minerals. There have been developments in regards to regulation and fair trade of said minerals, and there is plans for more. Therefore, it is necessary to critically look at what is being done, and what needs to be done in the future.


Prototype Project Reflective Report


SHUHUB Team – Josh McBride, Sophie Williams,

                                Ire Akinfisoye, Simon Harvican

This report will reflect on a prototype development project. As a team, we mutually agreed to develop a prototype app for Sheffield Hallam University. (SHU) The initial team discussions took place during seminar time, and were focused on discussion of the general problems with the current SHUgo app. As Students of SHU, we all had an opinion on the functionality and usefulness of the app, and immediately identified problem areas which needed to be solved in the development of SHUHUB. Following this, we agreed to meet each week to discuss progress and development of the project.

Following the identification of key development goals (design and no reliance on Blackboard), roles were delegated to each team member; based on what we needed to accomplish for the pitch presentation. These included: Introduction (SHUgo and the need for SHUHUB), Design & Development, Creation & Cost, and Market Research. SHUgo and the need for SHUHUB were delegated to Sophie, Design & Development to Ire with help from all, Creation & Cost to Simon, and Market Research to myself. Following role delegation, research and working on the project was done individually, using suitable programs to stay up to date on progress. For example, Facebook group chat, and Google Slides/Docs due to its live update/saving functionality. This made the logistics of working individually easier due to us being able to see what all team members were doing.

The delegated roles were fulfilled successfully, and accurately delegated due to our strengths and interests. However, we did not restrict ourselves to sections, and worked cooperatively during times of difficulty, and towards the end when compiling all the research and designs. For example, we all distributed the Survey which Sophie created, to get a greater number of respondents. This method of working individually but cooperatively also, while communicating throughout, was very successful. Often group projects can be logistically difficult due to poor communication, and our methods prevented this.

The result of our team project was a well-researched, well presented, thorough prototype. We collected a great amount of informative information and research, through our hard work both individually and cooperatively. On reflection, the project has been a learning and development process. Skills and knowledge of app development have been increased, and our confidence and creativity also. Personally, my confidence has increased the most, as I believe we went into the pitch feeling confident that our prototype project had been successful.

The project has helped us all develop as strong collaborative workers, and given us knowledge and insights which are valuable for both Media Technologies and wider society. For example, due to market research and user satisfaction research, we now recognise the significance of having users involved with the development process of an app. The cooperative, inclusive approach to development and management of SHUHUB which we suggested, can be promoted to more than just apps. Cooperative working and collaboration between creator/user would benefit more than just SHU. If the wider society took this approach, then it would result in more shared, successful developments of ideas – turning them into realities.


SHUgo (PlaystoreAppstore) is a mobile app (iPhone/android) designed for Sheffield Hallam University (SHU – UK) students to aid their university education and experience. The app allows students to have access to their emails, Blackboard (module/assignment materials, or top up their SHUcard (student card payment for cafes or printing). SHU students have mixed opinions on the app; however the feedback we gathered via market research (SurveyMonkey questionnaire, full results in pitch) suggested that improvements could be made. In particular, that the design was out of date (as images show), and functionality was seen as problematic.

screen696x696 screen696x696-1 


The User experience (survey responses) of SHUgo was our main reasoning behind the development of SHUHUB- a virtual hub for SHU students.

Development of SHUHUBshuhublogo

To develop the prototype app, we used prototype creation software called Justinmind. Using Justinmind made the app development process a lot smoother and simplistic, as we have little programming expertise. We concluded that there were some main issues with SHUgo which needed to be solved by SHUHUB. For example, the design needed to be more friendly and modern. For example, the colour scheme needed to reflect the users – SHU students. (Ginsburg, 2010)



Secondly, and arguably most importantly, the reliance on Blackboard (external module information app) needed to be solved. Therefore, we developed a prototype which would incorporate a student’s module information within the app itself. We felt less redirections were needed, and therefore tried to incorporate as much into the prototype as we could; without the need for redirections. The USP of SHUHUB is undeniably the design changes, and the removal of Blackboard from the app. This is demonstrated in the presentation design slides of the pitch.

After development of the app, marketing of SHUHUB was considered. Due to the target audience, the best marketing techniques to use are those in which SHU use. (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, E-mail updates, Shuspace, and flyers/posters). Using SHU resources to promote SHUHUB keeps the tone and brand of SHUHUB relevant. (David and Murman, 2014)

Place in the Media World

Recognition of SHUHUB’s place in the media world was needed, and to do this we used McLuhan’s Tetrad of media effects (McLuhan, 1992)


For example, SHUHUB enhances and augments skills of productivity – including organisation, time management, and navigation. SHUHUB retrieves planning and organisation assistance, like that of a PDA or diary; as well as retrieving the navigational assistance of a map. SHUHUB makes Blackboard obsolete from the app. However, when flipped, SHUHUB can be said to be electronic waste; is it really necessary. As seen from the Tetrad, SHUHUB fits well into the technological media world. SHUHUB successfully does all things any media should do, as said by McLuhan.


SHUHUB development and maintenance would require resources and funding. However, the University has access to many resources. For example, SHUHUB development, maintenance, and marketing would be conducted on a voluntary basis by students and staff wanting to contribute to the university, and to gain experience. Office space is also provided to SHU students/projects for free (The hatchery).  Although, some costs are inevitable.  The Apple Developer Enterprise Program and Adobe Creative Cloud annual memberships add up to £789.62.

The Development of SHUHUB meets the needs of the users – SHUgo currently does not. SHUHUB is an app which, if developed, matches the brand of the University much better than SHUgo, through its student involvement. The prototype developed is an insight into what a SHU app could be, and should be.