BlackBerry phones have very secure encryption technology. This presents a challenge for the UAE government, which cannot access information on remote servers. John Palfrey of Harvard Law School, commenting in a piece on the announcement in the Washington Post explains: “The long-range goal is to ensure they can control the information environment that their citizens are living in. This is a very simple story on one level: If you use a certain device, where some information is not stored locally, the worry is that they don’t know what is in that information and how they can get control of it.”
As Sarah Hamdi, writing for the OpenNet Initiative blog explains, this latest news follows a series of crackdowns on Blackberry users in UAE:
Reporting back on his trip in the Guardian today, David admitted to "a slight colonial attitude going into the meet. Thinking of the UK as a great hacking nation and leading data port, I was expecting to be helping the collected Indian IT professionals and activists improve their skills and give them fresh ideas on how to bootstrap their democracy". But he found great examples of powerful data projects going on amongst his Indian counterparts. These included:
Read fuller descriptions of each of the projects he identified in his article.
MobileActive has begun a new series of research "screencasts" to share learnings from the latest papers and pilot projects in mobile technology for development.
The first installment of Research Ignite covers three papers that were presented at the 28th ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The first two papers look a mobile games for literacy in India and China, and the third examines the experience of mobile only internet users in South Africa.
Full citations and links to the papers discussed can be found here.
But there is a lack of clarity about how such price points can be achieved. Writing in the Guardian, Suhasini Sakhare points out that the cost of the components alone runs to $47, and that is before any labor or supply chain costs, or profit have been accounted for. The details of the prototype released last week also did not state who would be manufacturing the device.
Sakhare also argues that provision of cheap devices is not the right place to start. The mobile phone explosion in India was driven by huge demand; cheap handsets had to be created to meet this. With a poor broadband infrastructure in India, demand remains low - new broadband subscriptions are at a rate of 100,000 to 200,000 a month compared to 18 million for mobile connections. Demand for such cheap devices will only come with much greater awareness and computer literacy, she believes: "Unless it channels and meets the demand for usable, accessible knowledge, the $35 tablet will remain an interesting oddity, a shortsighted solution and a fledgling power's fist-waving response."
Here's the description:
The increasing ubiquity of mobile phones in developing economies has enabled the capture, for the first time in history, of massive amounts of behavioral human data in areas of interest to international development. Proper analysis of such data could provide important insight into areas from health and education to microfinance and agriculture. Unfortunately, much of the research related to mobile phones and development has been done in methodological silos: technical researchers focus on quantitative analysis; ethnographers perform in-depth qualitative research; and policy makers extrapolate policies from published research.
UPDATE: Ed Bice of Meedan - a community for Arabic-English dialogue and translated current affairs - has remixed some of the ideas in Ethan's talk in a presentation to John Hopkins University. Watch it on Slideshare here.
A number of talks from TED Global 2010, held in Oxford last week, have now been posted online. Here are two interesting ones:
Ethan Zuckerman: How to listen to global voices
Ethan explores why the web doesn't necessarily lead to more varied, globalized media, laments the fact that it is still easier to buy water from Fiji than to read news from there, and challenges his audiences to become part of the solution by seeking out and cultivating "xenophiles" - people who can act as bridges to allow us to access content from worlds very different from our own.
Julian Assange: Why the World Needs WikiLeaks
In discussion with TED curator Chris Anderson, Julian defends the role of WikLeaks in using information to expose corruption and create movements for change.
Over the next 5 years the report predicts, two out of every 3 new potential subscribers will be women. By connecting these women, mobile operators have a potential to add 600 million subscribers and to boost their collective annual revenues by $29 billion. Household income and whether a women lives in a rural or urban area are the currently most important factors influencing mobile phone ownership.
Closing this gap, the report argues, would have major development benefits through increased access to educational, health, business and employment opportunities. The report was the focus for discussion of Technology Salon- the network for development and technology professionals. During this, the author argued:
We all know that equipping women in low-income countries with productivity tools earns tremendous returns for development - it's not just good for them, it's good for their families, villages, societies, countries.
We know that women spend up to 90% of their income on their families and are responsible for up to 80% of food production in many low and middle-income countries. These women run families and businesses.
Technology for Transparency Network is a Rising Voices project to gain a better understanding of current online technology projects that increase transparency, government accountability. The research initiative studies Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, China, and Central & Eastern Europe. It is co-funded Open Society Institute's Information Program and Omidyar Network's Media, Markets & Transparency initiative.
The network has developed a series of five minute podcast interviews with leaders of some of the most interesting technology for transparency projects. These include:
While at the moment, integration of mobile technology into radio is "ad hoc and highly individual", the report concludes that it is at a "nascent yet promising stage, ripe for proper documentation and development of global tools and processes". Read the full document here.
Update: you can watch a video of Thursday's event here.
This Thursday evening, the New America Foundation will hold an event looking at digital activism and the implication for political freedom. Here's their description:
We have been asking the same questions about digital activism for several years now, but do not seem any closer to the answers: Does digital technology give activists or repressive governments the advantage? What are the implications of the changing tools and technologies that underpin it? If cyber-utopians and cyber-pessimists are both overstating their cases, where does the truth lie? What don't we know about digital activism?
What do we need to do to better understand it and get beyond debates based on anecdote and messy comparisons across starkly different contexts? The web, the devices that we use to access it, and our practices change year on year. Though our understanding can be only partial, it seems we know less than we should. At this event we will dissect the current problems in the way digital activism is discussed and debated and suggest ways to frame the issue for policy makers and move the field forward.