In the morning there was a report that the great Asian democracy, India, had not signed the ITRs. Now it looks like it did. Looks like poetic babus played a double game. Kenya’s brave lone stand is extraordinary and can be explained by what it has to lose if the Internet ceases to be seamless, as I explained in an oped in the Business Daily in October. But there are surprises: Qatar and Egypt?
Moscow has claimed Cairo’s partnership in its plan to command and control the Internet. Nashwa Gad, a department manager at Egypt’s Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (MCIT), has, however, flatly denied: Our name was associated to this proposal by mere misunderstanding. Egypt has always been supporting the basic Internet principles that … the Internet should remain free, open, liberal. We do not see that the ITU mandate deals with the Internet. If the veil of diplomacy is removed, Egypt has officially accused Russia of cheating in the global stage.
Assailing the shutting off of mobile networks in Egypt and Libya and then allowing the same to be done by the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority was hypocritical. But American hypocrisy has limits. They have launched a public-comment process to define the terms. When will we see such actions in the developing world? The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing whether or when the police and other government officials can intentionally interrupt cellphone and Internet service to protect public safety.
Perhaps the program should have been named for Wael Ghonim. A bus branded with the Google logo will be traveling across 10 governorates in Egypt starting this week, including stops at universities in Cairo and Alexandria, scouting for the next generation of technology entrepreneurs with homegrown ideas on the scale of Facebook or LinkedIn. “We will put someone’s dream through a seven-month crash course that will help turn it into a commercially viable business,” said Wael Fakharany, Google’s manager in Egypt. “We have been working on this concept for nine months. We had signed a contract with the Egyptian government in 2009 to invest in the country’s Internet ecosystem and this is part of that commitment.
The al-Assad government in Syria appears to be responding to the use of ICTs by citizens unhappy with the political status quo more intelligently than its fallen counterpart in Egypt. The Syrian government is cracking down on protesters’ use of social media and the Internet to promote their rebellion just three months after allowing citizens to have open access to Facebook and YouTube, according to Syrian activists and digital privacy experts. Security officials are moving on multiple fronts — demanding dissidents turn over their Facebook passwords and switching off the 3G mobile network at times, sharply limiting the ability of dissidents to upload videos of protests to YouTube, according to several activists in Syria. And supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army, are using the same tools to try to discredit dissidents. In contrast to the Mubarak government in Egypt, which tried to quash dissent by shutting down the country’s entire Internet, the Syrian government is taking a more strategic approach, turning off electricity and telephone service in neighborhoods with the most unrest, activists say.
Gyanendra’s Law states that a government that shuts down its entire national telecom network does not survive. The resignation of Hosni Mubarak affirms the law. Named for the last King of Nepal. Could have been called Jaruselzki’s Law, but Nepal could do with some visibility one thinks. And it is a toss-up which tyrant’s name is harder to pronounce.
How many Internet providers does your country have? If five your government can do a Mubarak. However many you have, if they all go through one or two choke points as in Bangladesh, easy. The big lesson of Egypt may be less the danger of overmighty government than what it shows about how national authorities can (and can’t) close down the internet. The authorities there simply told internet service providers (ISPs) to switch off their computers.
Telephone networks were shut down when Lech Walesa was leading the workers of Gdansk against the Polish government in the early 1980s. King Gyanendra shut down the mobile networks of Nepal a few years back. It is not the first time that telecom networks have been shut down by governments with their backs to the wall. Reflections on the Egyptian shut down should be read in this historical context. The key difference is that Egypt was perhaps at a qualitatively higher level of ICT use when they hit the kill switch.
Looks like it’s not enough to shut down the Internet. You got to shut down all the mobile networks too. Unedited, raw, anonymous and emotional, Egyptian voices are trickling out through a new service that evades attempts by the authorities to suppress them by cutting Internet services. There is still some cellphone service, so a new social-media link that marries Google, Twitter and SayNow, a voice-based social media platform, gives Egyptians three phone numbers to call and leave a message, which is then posted on the Internet as a recorded Twitter message. The messages are at twitter.
I never expected an economy as advanced as that of Egypt to shut down the Internet. But it did. Not completely, as shown by the Figure in the Wired article that I have taken the excerpt below from. Egypt’s largest ISPs shut off their networks Thursday, making it impossible for traffic to get to websites hosted in Egypt or for Egyptians to use e-mail, Twitter or Facebook. The regime of President Hosni Mubarak also ordered the shut down of mobile phone networks, including one run by the U.
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.
“When a business model, rather than direct government action, is delivering the goods the most appropriate government action is that which supports the business model. Policy and regulatory actions must be derived more from analysis of the requirements of the business model and less from public administration theory.” How it applies to Internet and broadband is what Rohan Samarajiva, Chair and CEO, LIRNEasia explained in his keynote speech at the workshop ‘Expanding access to the Internet and broadband for development’ on November 16, 2009, at the Internet Governance forum 2009. His presentation entitled, ‘How the developing world may participate in the global Internet Economy: Innovation driven by competition’, can be downloaded here. The session was chaired by Dimitri Ypsilanti, Head of Information, Communication and Consumer Policy Division, OECD.
Helani Galpaya, COO and Indicators Specialist at LIRNEasia has been invited to make a presentation at the 7th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators (WTI) Meeting in Cairo, Egypt from 3 – 5 March, 2009. She will be speaking on demand-side data collection work LIRNEasia does, along with some of the supply-side benchmarking and NSO/NRA capacity-building work. An online version of the agenda can be viewed here. The presentation can be viewed here.
In what can only be described as a surprise announcement, Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH) says that it has been granted a 3G phone license in North Korea. Orascom says that it intends to invest up to US$400 million in network infrastructure and license fee over the first three years. OTH intends to cover Pyongyang and most of the major cities during the first 12 months of operations. Read more.
Iraq has sold three mobile phone licences for $3.75 billion to Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Co (MTC), AsiaCell and Iraq’s Korek Telecom. The three firms, which already run networks in the war-torn country, made the highest bids in an auction in the Jordanian capital that began on Thursday. TurkCell and Egypt’s Orascom had also bid for licences but dropped out of the race for one of the few sectors to thrive amid Iraq’s instability and crumbling infrastructure. The fixed-line network was hit by sanctions after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and by bombing during the U.
Dhaka, Nov 9 (www.bdnews24.com) – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report for 2006, launched globally Thursday, revealed that Bangladesh had shown impressive gains in water and sanitation sector although Asia’s emerging giants were lagging. “Income matters, but public policy shapes the conversion of income into human development,” said the report, entitled “Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis.” “India may outperform Bangladesh as a high growth globalisation success story, but the tables are turned when the benchmark for success shifts to sanitation: despite an average income some 60% higher, India has a lower rate of sanitation coverage.