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.
Developing countries have tended to focus on disaster relief and rehabilitation at the expense of strategies to prevent or mitigate effects of disasters in the first place. To a politician, the political payout from handing out relief materials to the disaster affected appears greater than investing in a national early warning system that may not yield any political reward during his/her tenure. Political expediency coupled with a mix of fatalism, laziness to undertake the hardwork required to implement mitigation/prevention strategies, low valued assigned to human life in developing countries have all contributed to the callous acceptance of natural disasters as a “fact of life.” Hence, the allusion to a “paradigm shift” referred to by the Indian minister, hopefully marks a policy shift rather than just a rhetorical one. ———— India, others work on region’s first disaster management policy The Hindu, August 22, 2006 New Delhi, Aug 22.
This article shows that government’s instinct to ban cellphones from conflict zones because of the belief that it will be used by militants/terrorists to further their cause, actually neutralizes one of the security agencies most potent weapons to track subversives. I doubt that the Sri Lankan government will allow cellular service to be available any time soon in the North. But at least it gives the security agencies some food for thought. The Indian government was similarly reluctant to have cellular service in Kashmir, but the Indian security agencies are their biggest proponents now. ———— Troops in Kashmir master new weapon: cell phones Reuters By Sheikh MushtaqSun May 21, 1:53 AM ET Minutes after a bomb exploded recently in Kashmir and wounded Indian soldiers, a senior member of an Islamist rebel group called local newspaper offices to claim responsibility for the blast.