Iran


Iran is considering a permanent ban on Telegram. To make it effective, they will probably have to go after VPNs too. Interestingly, a lot of the opposition seems to have an economic basis. Is this the basis of Gyanendra’s Law and its various exceptions? For the many small-business owners who use Telegram to market their services and communicate with clients, the ban adds to their financial woes.
Pakistan has officially allowed private carriers to terrestrially plug the country with all the four neighbors including India. This multidimensional landmark decision makes Pakistan the buckle of South Asia-Central Asia telecoms belt. This route is embedded in our proposed trans-Asian connectivity for affordable broadband. It took us three years to convince ESCAP, which dubs our concept “Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway.” Pakistan currently exports internet bandwidth to Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
Iran has released 3G and 4G frequencies. It is now possible to share pictures taken by one’s phone. The Islamic Republic has eased up on its efforts to strangle the Internet, while not actually killing it. I’ve been talking about this off and on. But, Iran has added a new twist.
I saw first hand the futility of the Mullahs’ efforts to prevent Internet access by Iranian youth when I was in Tehran at the height of the Arab Spring. But what is new is that it’s the Minister of Culture who is highlighting the hypocrisy and futility. According to “The Iran Primer,” a website and publication of the United States Institute of Peace, “Iran is one of the most tech-savvy societies in the developing world, with an estimated 28 million Internet users, led by youth,” the site says. “Iran boasts between 60,000 and 110,000 active blogs, one of the highest numbers in the Middle East, led by youth.” The Iranian authorities admit, reluctantly, that it is almost impossible to rein in Iranians who are eager to know about the outside world and know how to use alternative means to gain access to the web.
We were serious about the sabotage in SEA-ME-WE4 at Egypt that impaired Internet across Asia, notably in Pakistan, last month. Our ongoing research about the fragility of Eurasian submarine cable connectivity refers to multiple terrestrial initiatives to link Middle East with Europe. EPEG or Europe-Persia Express Gateway is one of them. And Renesys Corporation, which supports our research, has confirmed that EPEG has made history by transporting telecoms traffic of Bahrain, Pakistan and Kenya to and from Europe. James Cowie of Renesys has made no effort to hide his exclamation: If you’d told me five years ago that we would one day see Iranian and Russian terrestrial Internet transit serving the countries of the Indian Ocean, from Pakistan to East Africa, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Something we rarely talk about in discussions of the great public policy success of our time, the mobile explosion, is how various kleptocrats rode the mobile boom. Libya’s Qaddafi’s present problems serve to bring this skeleton out of the closet: But never underestimate the human capacity for delusion. Here’s a despot who’s managed at various times to pocket America and Europe with après-moi-le-déluge talk of the need for his rule, bought off several smaller African states, cocooned himself for more than four decades with fawning acolytes, murdered with impunity, sired with abandon, enriched himself beyond measure and — like any self-respecting modern tyrant — doled out the cell phone companies to his kids. Through all this he’s survived. Our politicians just tax mobile operators in multiple ways.
In light of what’s going on in North Africa and Western Asia, the liberating potential of social media is very much on the agenda these days. Here is Clayton Shirky on the subject in a debate in Foreign Affairs: It would be impossible to tell the story of Philippine President Joseph Estrada’s 2000 downfall without talking about how texting allowed Filipinos to coordinate at a speed and on a scale not available with other media. Similarly, the supporters of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero used text messaging to coordinate the 2004 ouster of the People’s Party in four days; anticommunist Moldovans used social media in 2009 to turn out 20,000 protesters in just 36 hours; the South Koreans who rallied against beef imports in 2008 took their grievances directly to the public, sharing text, photos, and video online, without needing permission from the state or help from professional media. Chinese anticorruption protesters use the instant-messaging service QQ the same way today. All these actions relied on the power of social media to synchronize the behavior of groups quickly, cheaply, and publicly, in ways that were unavailable as recently as a decade ago.
I was impressed when the ICT Agency made a presentation at a recent conference, that included a detailed response to concerns that Sri Lanka was dropping in international rankings in the ICT space. The presentation included action items that would address weak points and would thus result in improved rankings. e government was central to the design of e Sri Lanka and is perhaps the program area that has absorbed most of the USD 83 million funds. Therefore, the UN e gov rankings are very important. Sadly, the 2010 rankings indicate that Sri Lanka’s position has deteriorated in relative and absolute terms.
In the old days, you’d just take over the newspapers and the TV channels. Now you have to take over the phone company too. It is implanting 6,000 Basij militia centers in elementary schools across Iran to promote the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, and it has created a new police unit to sweep the Internet for dissident voices. A company affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards acquired a majority share in the nation’s telecommunications monopoly this year, giving the Guards de facto control of Iran’s land lines, Internet providers and two cellphone companies. And in the spring, the Revolutionary Guards plan to open a news agency with print, photo and television elements.
The profitability and surveillance potential of the state telecom monopoly has not been missed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, described by many as the pseudogovernment of Iran: The nearly $8 billion acquisition by a company affiliated with the elite force has amplified concerns in Iran over what some call the rise of a pseudogovernment, prompting members of Parliament to begin an investigation into the deal. Full story. In other countries, similar arrangements are emerging. In Sri Lanka, it is alleged that no-name companies with interesting connections have entered into joint ventures with the incumbent teleco on highly favorable terms.
Some governments shut down telecom networks including the Internet to control dissent. Others do not. What are the conditions that give rise to the former action? Why do others not do this? Israel never shuts down telecom networks but Sri Lanka does.
Twitter postpones scheduled maintenance to keep service available for Iranian users. Journalists request video on twitter and get deluged with responses. The BBC’s Persian-language television channel said that for a time on Tuesday, it was receiving about five videos a minute from amateurs, even though the channel is largely blocked within Iran. One showed pro-government militia members firing weapons at a rally. “We’ve been struck by the amount of video and eyewitness testimony,” said Jon Williams, the BBC world news editor.
Since Rheingold wrote of Smart Mobs, activists have been atwitter about the potential of mobile phones and texting to effect democratic change. The ongoing struggle against the theocratic dictatorship in Iran has given many examples. But it also shows the limits. When the government shuts down the SMS system, or indeed the whole network, what happens to mobile based organizing? What are the conditions for the government not shutting down networks?
Iran has launched its first domestically made satellite into orbit, state media reports. TV commentary said Monday’s night-time launch from a Safir-2 rocket was “another achievement for Iranian scientists under sanctions”. The satellite was designed for research and telecommunications purposes, the television report said. Iran is subject to UN sanctions as some Western powers think it is trying to build a nuclear bomb, which it denies. Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are limited to the production of energy, and has emphasised its satellite project is entirely peaceful.