Tag Archives: congress

Is Social Media a New Foreign Policy Tool?

Last week the Associated Press published findings about a now defunct social media platform, called ZunZuneo, designed to undermine the Cuban government. ZunZuneo was created by two private contractors: Creative Associates International (CAI) from Washington DC and the Denver-based company Mobile Accord. Both companies have a prior history of undertaking contracts for U.S. government democracy initiatives in developing countries. The AP reporters also uncovered details showing that funding for ZunZuneo was provided by USAID. 

The USAID has vehemently defended the program. The head of USAID told Congress,  “Working on creating platforms to improve communication in Cuba and in many other parts of the world is a core part of what USAID has done for some time and continues to do.” However, the AP article quotes USAID documents that specifically say ZunZuneo was created to “push (Cuba) out of a stalemate through tactical and temporary initiatives, and get the transition process going again.”

Supporters of the project noted the important role that social media has played in politics across the world, explaining how “text messaging had mobilized smart mobs and political uprisings in Moldova and the Philippines, among others.” The AP article also mentioned Iran and the fact that “USAID noted social media’s role following the disputed election of then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009 — and saw it as an important foreign policy tool.” As more and more of the world’s population is connecting to social media everyday, its not surprising to see it being used by governments and organizations to instigate and support political change.


Cybersecurity Act (CSA) of 2012 Defeated

Last night, the CSA did not pass in the U.S. Senate.  This article explains how Congress could not agree to the regulatory approach to cybersecurity because the CSA was far too ambiguous.  It failed to address the following questions:

  • Cost?
  • Implications for critical infrastructure?
  • Standards introduced – would they become outdated before they are even fully implemented? Would they be developed by the government, and if so, how would we make sure that they are “good?”
  • How would the CSA affect innovation?

Depending on the strictness and nature of regulations, they could result in large costs for the private sector.  It’s more than likely that whatever regulations are put into place become outdated before they are enacted.  If they somehow manage to not be outdated, they have the potential to stifle innovation.  As our guest speaker, Ralph Russo, discussed in class today, the US is already WAY behind in terms of software innovations and cyber progress (when compared to China, for example).  So while the CSA has a lot of potential benefits, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the risk of putting us even further behind in STEM research.

Instead of the CSA (which has already been defeated twice), this blog suggests information sharing between the government and private sector as a low-cost alternative that would still provide up-to-date warnings against cyber vulnerabilities and threats.

What do you think? Should we keep trying to modify the CSA until it passes, or is it time to work on different means by which to protect us from cyberattacks?


MWC and ICT4D

Each year the Mobile World Congress is held in Barcelona, Spain. This year the event begins on Sunday, February 26th and runs for one week.  All of the major OEMs and software companies use the even to highlight their newest models and vie for the attention of first adopters and tech bloggers who can’t wait to get their hands on quad-core Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) phones. Microsoft is also using this even to launch the consumer preview of their latest operating system, Windows 8.

However, this year’s MWC may feature a few announcements that have nothing to do with quad-core processors and Super AMOLED+ screens and are much more relevant to lower income phone users. For example, the Windows Phone 7 update “tango” is aimed at devices with lower-end specifications. This means that Nokia, who has been pervasive in emerging markets, will now be targeting smartphone models to lower-income users, particularly those in Brazil and India where it has a strong presence.  Google’s Android operating system is also likely to gain a few new phones that can be marketed to low-income consumers.

There is no denying that smartphones will change the landscape of ICT as they enter developing countries, it is simply a matter of how long it will take to make them feasible.

So keep an eye on MWC 2012!