Author Archives: asomers6

ICT4D Professional Profile: Kim Stephens

Kim Stephens is the lead blogger of iDisaster 2.0, a popular word press account (iDisaster2.0) that aims to inform subscribers of topics such as emergency management, communication technologies, homeland security, social media, and a plethora of additional topics.  Kim is assisted by Claire B. Rubin–the founder of Claire B. Rubin & Associates–where the pair worked together as research associates for two years.  The firm specializes in research and consulting in the fields of emergency management and homeland security, working to serve clients in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.  It has produced a series of educational products, books, and services.  After leaving Claire B. Rubin & Associates, Kim was appointed senior associate at ABT Associates, where she works on a team that strives to help customers via research, technical assistance, and consulting services.

Kim was lead to a career in ICT4D because of her interest in how “social media and information technologies will change emergency management for the better,” according to her twitter page.  She has over a decade of experience as both a researcher and as a practitioner in the field of emergency management and has worked with federal, local, and non-governmental groups.  After earning her master’s degree in Public Administration from Texas A&M, Kim focused on the “application of social media to the practice of emergency management in the public sector.”  She focuses on the challenges that those in this sector may face when “employing new information communications technologies before, during, and after a crisis.”  Kim recently developed social media training for the 2011 Readiness in Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grantees and has been in correspondence with several emergency management groups at universities in efforts to research the use of social media for crisis communications in a collegiate setting.

Here is her LinkedIn.

Here is her Twitter account.


Keen’s “How Our Mobile Phones Became Frankenstein’s Monster”

In Andrew Keen’s CNN article, he discusses how mobilizing, yet immobilizing, mobile phones have become to the human race as both the power of technology and the power of our dependency grows exponentially.

Personally, I believe myself to be a victim of technology, as I am physically unable to leave a room without my iPhone attached to my hand.  I check email, communicate with teachers and peers, contact my family in the northeast, submit homework, use social networking sites, google whatever random topics pop into conversation, and utilize a plethora of other functions of the phone.  This seems great in theory—having communication and information at, literally, the palm of my hand, but how does this affect our human capital?

At the Mobile World Congress, there has been much talk about “personal empowerment” via mobile technology, but Keen believes that this is actually personal disempowerment as we rely more and more on external intelligences.

Primarily, cell phones operate via waves.  This exposes us to radiation that could be causing cancer.  Secondly, our mobile phones act as tracking devices, with bank account information, the ability to “check-in” to locations, and records of emails, conversations, and SMS messages.  For those who thought the information the Internet has about them was scary, imagine what would happen if the records of cell phones records were exploited.  Product’s such as Apple’s Siri are practically indistinguishable from the human brain, as they express facts, emotions, reasoning, and converse accurately in response to how we prompt them to.

Our mobile devices can provide us with audio entertainment, interactive games, videos, and in the case of Google’s Project Glass, they can alter the world around us in a virtual reality.  Keen claims that virtual reality will become so mobile that we will be able to wear it under our skin in the future.  At what point do we merge with technology and become one?  When do we accept that our mobile devices or computers have become extensions of our brains?  How does this affect our brain power?

President Obama presented a “Do Not Track” legislation and the information-collecting practices of major technology companies are being actively investigated.

Keen ends by stating that “All the coercively seductive new products unveiled in Barcelona in the next few days are just phones.  They can’t make us younger, richer, more viral, or more intelligent.  And they certainly don’t empower us.  The real sense of empowerment comes from re-establishing our mastery over our mobile devices.”

Project Glass

In recent efforts to compete with the unsurpassable Apple products, Google has released its newest creation: Project Glass.  The Project Glass sector of Google has been working to develop glasses that essentially function exactly as the iPhone does, but commands are entirely voice activated and no hands are necessary.

The Project Glass promotional video depicts a man going about his daily life—scheduling meetings, taking pictures, listening to music, getting directions, and even video chatting—all via a glasses lens that covers his right eye.  The product has caused quite a commotion on the Internet as people submit their feedback and opinions.  Many believe that Project Glass is enhancing reality in a manner that is unnecessary and distracting, while others believe that it actually frees people from the handheld confinements and distractions of technology.

Although I have not yet formed an opinion on how I feel about Project Glass’s everyday use, if this product were available in times of emergency, it would aid all aspects of response.  Granted the proper networking would be necessary, if emergency response teams had access to this product they could receive instant information—be it videos, 911 calls, or health information—without pausing their work.  In times when debris or smoke are causing vision handicaps, the lens could lead them to safety and it is not a device that would need to be carried around.  News feeds can stream information from social media or other networks, informing rescue teams of additional precautions that they should take or jobs that they should attend to.  Responders have the opportunity to respond to media quickly so that followers and other organizations and response teams can be informed of situations as they change rapidly.  In regards to health care, the view sharing tool could allow for doctors in other places to easily evaluate patients and instruct lesser health care providers on how to treat them.

Really, Project Glass is not very different from the current iPhone, but I believe that when applied to disaster response, its handheld features it becomes more of a survival tool than a toy.  Many are anxiously awaiting the official release of the product and it will be interesting to see the price and logistics of how it receives information, but for now Google has created a wave of controversial response to increase anticipation and publicity.

Here is a link outlining Google glasses.

Kony 2012

I’m sure the majority of you have heard of, watched the video, researched, or seen the Invisible Children posts all over your social media pages concerning Joseph Kony.  Invisible Children is both an organization and a movement that strives to end the abduction of children for use as soldiers in Uganda.  Joseph Kony is the rebel leader of these war crimes, and has subjected both children and adults to countless horrors.  I cannot say that I have known a significant amount about what the Invisible Children organization does or about Joseph Kony’s actions until the recent explosion of this video, but the way that people are reacting and the difference that social media is making on this organization is incredible.  There are numerous new technologies used in today’s age to share information.  Within a mere two weeks, this documentary has brought in over 4,000,000 views.  My entire Facebook news feed is full of video links, encouraging statuses, and people who have changed their profile pictures to the Kony 2012 ‘campaign’ picture.  The power of our generation to share information and encourage support for organizations and movements such as Kony 2012 does not and will not cease to amaze me.  A mere thirty minute documentary has turned Joseph Kony from a stranger to a household name.  The support for this cause has brought passion and donations as efforts to stop Kony and to spread awareness develop.  Although people must remember to more fully research what they are supporting, it is amazing what celebrity endorsements, videos, and the ability to share information instantly can do for the world.

On a more directly related note, according to the video, the Invisible Children organization has installed radio towers in Uganda that transmit information about rebel attacks to villagers, in hopes that they can remain more safe.


$100 Solar Powered Tablet in the Works

Although our class has thought Nicholas Negroponte, the project innovator for One Laptop Per Child, to have dubious business methods, the designer behind the project is working towards the completion of multiple innovative projects.  Swiss designer Yves Behar is the visionary behind the Jawbone Jambox sound system, SAYL chairs, Swarovski chandeliers, and New York City’s free condoms.

Yves Behar was approached by Negroponte six years ago with hopes of producing an “inexpensive and impeccably designed laptop for children across the world.”  In class, we discussed countless problems of the laptop and the pros and cons of a government purchasing these laptops and implementing them into school curriculums.  As many of the laptops are delivered to countries who lack the proper infrastructure to have dependable power systems, Behar’s newest design is a huge improvement.

The newest model of OLPC, the XO-3 tablet, is a $100 solar-powered tablet.  It is lighter, has a bendable screen, and solar panels allow the laptop to charge in sunlight.  Negroponte claims that technology is “in some sense more integral than food and water” because “with education, you can actually solve the water problem and energy problems, and, you know, the health problems.”  Although I doubt that this is entirely true, the new models of the laptop make the purchase of laptops a more fiscally responsible purchase for governments, as they do not break as easily, cost less, and do not need a steady power supply in order to function.  There are still a plethora of problems with the OLCP project, but the lower priced, more efficient tablets are a step in the right direction for the expansion of technology availability and knowledge.

In addition to this project, Behar is also currently involved in designing an array of low cost, visually appealing eye glasses for children in Mexico and South America.

Mobile Devices Monitor Health

In the New York Times article “Monitoring Your Health with Mobile Devices”, Dr. Eric Topol jokingly commented that “the smartphone is the future of medicine–because most of his patients already seem ‘surgically connected’ to one”, but this statement is becoming a reality.  In today’s age, most people are too busy taking care of their families, working, and attending school to take a day off to visit a doctor.  With the assistance of smartphones, many people will have access to apps and relatively low-priced attachments that measure health statistics such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and a plethora of others.  In addition to providing patients with information about their current health state, this information can be sent to doctors to further evaluate and to determine if a follow up appointment will be necessary.

Of course, these methods of health measurement will have a certain percentage of error and will not be 100% accurate, but the immediate access to these statistics can assist people who do not have the time, money, or opportunity to attend regular doctor appointments to monitor themselves more closely.

Although the majority of developing countries do not have a high rate of smartphone access, even having a few smartphones per community with a connection to a doctor will help improve overall health tremendously.  If a patient believes that he or she may be in need of care, but has difficulty finding transportation to a health care professional, he or she can send information to the doctor and receive feedback or perhaps a recommendation to see another professional who is located closer to the patient’s home.

The new technology associated with mobile devices is incredible and the more availability to these technological services that can be spread worldwide, the faster the developing world can better themselves and further innovation.

New Twitter Censorship Policy Causes Commotion Worldwide

Twitter, one of the top social media websites of the decade, is an innovative way to share quick blurbs of information with millions of users in an easily understood format.  The website is responsible for numerous “Twitter Revolutions” including civil unrest in Moldova in 2009, a series of protests in Iran, and the Egyptian Revolution in 2011.  People can connect and share ideas with each other in an unprecedented and free manner, until recently.

This past week, Twitter announced a new policy to deal with censorship laws that caused immediate ruckus worldwide.  The website has enabled a country-by-country censorship policy.  With this new policy, tweets may be deleted if they are believed to not be in accordance with the user’s country’s laws and Internet regulations.  This allows for governments to shut down revolutions or any type of movements that are gaining strength via Twitter with greater ease.  Users who have had a tweet deleted will receive an email from Twitter explaining why the content was not permitted.

Upon hearing this information, I thought it was a horrible idea and that it was further restricting the free speech opportunities of those who are already repressed, but Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has a convincing justification for the policy change.  Although those in repressed countries may not be able to see certain tweets that violate policy, the rest of the world will be able to see them and respond accordingly.  This may help to stop repressive governments from blocking Twitter altogether in efforts to keep citizens in line.  China and Thailand have already announced their support of Twitter’s new policy, although the site is already banned in China.

Indian Mobile App Tracks Women to Prevent Violence

A new mobile phone application in India called “Fight Back” strives to keep women more safe.  The application is tailored for those who must walk by themselves at night in areas that are unsafe such as New Delhi, the city with the most rapes world wide.  When “Fight Back” is activated, the application tracks the user’s exact location until arrival at his or her destination.  If at any point the user feels endangered, he or she may press the “panic” button, which immediately emails, calls, and texts a set list of contacts to alert them of their endangered friend’s whereabouts.  The police in India are often problematic, and therefore it is more helpful for a chosen set of people to act on the alert.

Upon reading the article, I thought that “Fight Back” was a fantastic idea to help to subtly ensure the safety of women, but further research has left me uncertain.  The application not only tracks women’s routes home, but it displays a live feed of the exact location of attacks on its website.  This could lead potential predators to study the alert maps and target more unsuspecting areas.  If the application’s creators fell victim to corruption, they could use this information to stage muggings or other type of attacks, and since the police are not connected to panic calls, attackers would easily escape from the law.  The Indian police force is currently contemplating involvement, but corruption and injustice could continue to exist even with this new partnership.  For example, Indian authorities have ruled that “provocative attire was an invitation to rape”, allowing men to be excused for their violence.

Technology both helps and hurts us in every aspect of life.  Although “Fight Back” has seemingly pure intentions, it instills a fear in women and does not address the root causes of the violence.  The streets of India can be made safer through better lighting, reliable transportation, and the presence of safety officials, not an application to track down the exact location of nervous, unaccompanied women.