G20 protests live and networked

April 1, 2009


There are a series of very interesting developments around the G20 protests in London today, indicative of new uses of technology for advocacy and collaboration.

Twitter / live blogging

The Guardian has a liveblog of protest related events, found here.  They post an interesting Twitter roundup, as below:

Twitter round up:

Last Hours: “Cops & security guards on every corner of the city.”

Christian Action: “Lots of jeans & trainers in City today. Strange air of anticipation.”

Russell Brand: “Today at the Bank at noon I shall be protesting by being enraptured with joy and beauty and not being bludgeoned into tedium.”

Pop Chris “Staff @ RBS, Bishopsgate are told that once in, they cannot leave the building until end of business. Expecting the worst.


Also from the Guardian, a very beautiful interactive visualization, scenario planning style, of different groups involved in the protests.

Live video

G20 Voice is streaming live video from different events, here.  They also have a Twitterstream here.

Paul Currion on the “crisis” of crowdsourcing in a crisis

March 31, 2009


Paul Currion (humanitarian.info) has started an excellent critique of crowdsourced information in crisis, responding to two excellent posts by Patrick Phillipe Meyer (iRevolution).

Instead of incestuously summarising here, I refer readers to Patrick’s original posts:

And then to Paul’s critique here:

As well as an HFP blog related plug here:

We hope Patrick replies. Updates to follow as they emerge.

G20 activists hope Twitter will give them the edge over the police

March 30, 2009


The Times (of all places!) reports on the use of Twitter by ‘militants’ to plan protests in London ahead of the G-20 meeting here, today.

“Militant demonstrators aiming to disrupt next week’s G20 summit will use Twitter and text message alerts to stay one step ahead of a massive police operation.”

You don’t say?  Young politically active groups using mobile technology to out-organise, out-think, and out-maneuver stodgy old bureaucracies dedicated to defending the status quo using mid-20th century conceptual frameworks?  Quelle surprise!

UPDATE – As of Sunday, the protest didn’t seem to amount to much of a system disruption.  See the Guardian article here.

UPDATE 2 – Middle-class academics, squatters and students” must use Twitter too.  I bet Marx would have used Twitter if he could have figured out how to sync his Blackberry.

6 out of 10 people worldwide use mobile phones – ICT Development Index compares 154 countries

March 29, 2009

The International Telecommunications Union released their annual survey of ICT usage worldwide this month.

The report (press release, full PDF), compares information and telecommunications technology (ICT) over 154 different countries, from 2002 to 2007.

The most advanced countries in terms of ICT were found mostly in Northern Europe, although South Korea came in second (above both the US and the UK).  Sweden topped the list. 

Poorer countries, notably this in Africa, were found to have lower ICT development scores, as would be expected.  Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Viet Nam, however, have made rapid growth over the last 5 years (due mostly to the combination of combined mobile phone users and Internet adoption).

Other notable statistics from the report include:

  • On average the world increased its ICT usage by over 30% in the past 5 years.  
  • 23 out of 100 of the world’s inhabitants use the Internet.
  • There are approximately 3x as many mobile phone users as fixed line users.
  • ICT costs are lowest in Singapore and the United States, accounting for less than 1% of monthly expenses.
  • ICT costs ranged between 40 and 72% in the bottom least developed countries, a clear indication of their unavailability for the general public.

IDP camp, internet cafe, or participatory panopticon?

March 25, 2009


Fulbright scholar Jon Marino, reports on the use of the web in the Coo Pe IDP Camp in Uganda.

Take a walk through Coo Pe IDP Camp (Coo Pe literally means “no men” in Acholi/Luo) in northern Uganda and you are liable to stumble across something that may surprise you.  Thanks to Project BOSCO, residents of Coo Pe have access to the internet, either via a wireless network, or by using a solar-powered PC stationed in the camp.

He writes that the project was, “initially conceived as an emergency-response system that would give camp residents the power to share the oppression they were experiencing at the hands of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government with the outside world. However, now that relative peace has returned to the region, the technology is helping people with the rebuilding process. Farmers are using the wiki to share ideas about re-introducing crops. Human rights monitors are using it to highlight corruption and abuse. Schools are using it to access online newspapers for free.”

The rise of the participatory panopticon

This is another excellent example, like the Kakuma News Reflector, of IT tools empowering people from the ground up.  Futurist Jamais Cacao suggests that, taken to its logical conclusion, this trend could soon result in something like world-wide, voluntary, mega-monitoring of all our daily activities.  And not by Big Brother, but by ourselves, for our own various ends.

In The Rise of the Participatory Panopticon, he writes,

Soon — probably within the next decade, certainly within the next two — we’ll be living in a world where what we see, what we hear, what we experience will be recorded wherever we go. There will be few statements or scenes that will go unnoticed, or unremembered. Our day to day lives will be archived and saved. What’s more, these archives will be available over the net for recollection, analysis, even sharing.And we will be doing it to ourselves.

This won’t simply be a world of a single, governmental Big Brother watching over your shoulder, nor will it be a world of a handful of corporate siblings training their ever-vigilant security cameras and tags on you. Such monitoring may well exist, probably will, in fact, but it will be overwhelmed by the millions of cameras and recorders in the hands of millions of Little Brothers and Little Sisters. We will carry with us the tools of our own transparency, and many, perhaps most, will do so willingly, even happily.

I call this world the Participatory Panopticon.

Implications for aid and development futures

This has both exciting and terrifying implications for development and aid provision.  At the recent HFP Stakeholder’s Forum, a participant raised the question, “what would happen if aid agencies and their insurers instituted mandatory drug testing of all field employees?  How many of us are on anti-depressants and stimulants and what impact would this have on staffing?”  

Another issue raised was the ever increasing efforts for HQ to control field workers through such technological means.  What if every action was being recorded and could later be used for investigation, inquiry, or even law suits?  

Although the prospect has many positive aspects, such as better monitoring of human rights abuses, exposure of corruption and graft, etc., the participatory panopticon is clearly a powerful and game-changing trend which could fundamentally alter the way aid is planned, delivered, and received.


Americans “overwhelmingly support” climate change action

March 25, 2009


In a significant change from past attitudes, a new poll by Yale and George Mason Universities found that most Americans “strongly support” action on global warming.

The survey, found in summary here and in full here asked 2,164 Americans about their “climate change beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences, and actions.” It found that:

  • 92 percent supported more funding for research on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power;
  • 85 percent supported tax rebates for people buying energy efficient vehicles or solar panels;
  • 80 percent said the government should regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant;
  • 69 percent of Americans said the United States should sign an international treaty that requires the U.S. to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide 90% by the year 2050.

Surprisingly, the majority said that they would, “support policies that would personally cost them more,” specifically (emphasis in original):


  • 79 percent supported a 45 mpg fuel efficiency standard for cars, trucks, and SUVs, even if that meant a new vehicle cost up to $1,000 more to buy;
  • 72 percent supported a Renewable Portfolio Standard that required electric utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 a year;
  • 72 percent supported a government subsidy to replace old water heaters, air conditioners, light bulbs, and insulation, even if it cost the average household $5 a month in higher taxes;
  • 63 percent supported establishment of a special fund to make buildings more energy efficient and teach Americans how to reduce their energy use, even if this cost the average household $2.50 a month in higher electric bills.

This is fantastic news for the planet!  And it is true despite the case that the US media is still largely ignoring the issue of climate change.

Met Office creates “Dangerous Climate Change” research programme

March 25, 2009

The Met Office has announced the beginning of AVOID, a research programme designed to build the evidence based around catastrophic climate change.

The press release, found here, states,

The initiative aims to further improve the Government’s evidence base on the science of climate change and to contribute to securing decisive global action that will reduce and respond to it. It will address key questions such as “how much climate change is too much?” and “What does the world need to do to avoid such levels of climate change?” The key objective of AVOID, in its first year, will be to provide supportive evidence to UK negotiators who aim to secure a robust international agreement in Copenhagen this December which will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.