Tag Archives: government

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.

ICT in Iran

In Iran ICT exports account for 4.5% of manufacturing GDP. In terms of total GDP telecommunications account for 1.1-1.3% of Iran’s total GDP in 2002. Since the early 2000s this percentage has most likely grown as Iran begins to attempt to become technologically independent from other nations. Iran wants to become a larger exported of media and technology to help with their other geopolitical goals.

Iran has an extremely young population with the majority of their population under 30. This group has turned more and more to the Internet and technological careers and demand for computers and software is expected to skyrocket in the next few years. For security concerns that government has been hesitant to allow unregulated importation of software and in response a domestic industry has flourished. Out of necessity Iranian programmers and developers often work to create Iranian versions of useful apps and programs to circumvent governmental restrictions.

In the next few years the technology sector in Iran is predicted to rapidly expand and become a more important economic force.

Vision Bangladesh 2021

Bangladesh will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence in 2021. Currently, the country is one of the poorest in the world, with its exceptionally high population density and vulnerability to flooding and other disasters. Around a third of the population is living below the poverty line and there are huge divides between the urban and rural areas. In 2006, the government published what it hopes the state of the country will be by 2021, Vision 2021. These goals are largely in line with the MDGs, including things like poverty eradication, improvements in health and education, increases in accountability/transparency, and better business practices. A large part of this vision focuses on the adoption of technology to achieve the stated goals. They hope to see ICTs integrated into health, education, businesses, etc. This blogger points out that Bangladesh needs to fully adopt ICTs and become a “Digital Bangladesh” because societies only develop through the creation of knowledge.

As I researched statistics about Bangladesh’s ICT usage, I quickly learned that Vision 2021 is unlikely to become a reality. Internet penetration rates are below 10% and less than 5% of households own a computer at this time. It’s good that the government realized that adopting ICTs would be beneficial to the country’s development. It’s important that technology’s potential in boosting living standards is recognized. However, without the proper social and political will, this cannot be achieved. The goals set out in Vision 2021 are lofty; it would be better to start small, set more achievable benchmarks, and work both at the government and grassroots levels.

Can Social Media Help Build Up Governments and Nations?

This week in class we discussed social media and how it has the ability to help create real change. One example which we discussed was how social media, especially facebook and twitter, were utilized during the Arab Spring. We discussed how social media was able to change the speed and nature of this revolution. Ideas were spread more rapidly and reached a broader base of people. Everyone with access to a computer or Smartphone was able to share their ideas through the use of twitter and facebook. In the Arab Spring, specifically, social media was able to spread democratic ideas across borders, shape political debates and a large usage of online resources often preceded major events which happened on the ground. In these ways, social media played a large role in the Arab spring.

But the real question is can social media play a role in building up nations and governments, specifically Arab governments which have just been overthrown. The article in the Huffington Post titled Social Media Can Help Build Arab Governments Too states that “the Internet offers a new platform for people to collaborate and think seriously about what kind of government they want. Enabling people to discuss political issues openly, without fear of retribution from the top, would help to build the active political culture that is vital for a workable democracy. It’s an essential first step toward an election, and along the way it can bring into the discussion people who have been excluded so far.”  Like during the Arab Spring, the internet and social media sites can be used as a tool to mobilize the people and involve more people than ever before.

The article then proposes an idea of how social media could help build up a nation, specifically Egypt. It states that Arab speaking scholars would use radio, twitter, facebook and television to discuss different types of democracy and governments around the world and the advantages and disadvantages of each system. Then using social media, all Egyptians could post their thoughts on which type of government they believe would be best for Egypt. Although this might not come up with a perfect solution, it would allow the public to be more informed and allow them become more involved. It would allow the public to have an open dialogue about what form of government would be most successful in Egypt. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a system which is actually used and whether is creates successful, positive change.

For the full article click here

The World Wide Battle for Health Care


This week in class we have been reviewing the role of ICTs within the health and wellness sector, as well as within the governance and government sector. The quickly changing political, technological, and medicinal landscapes not only within the developing world but within the highly developed world has meant progress in many arenas in terms of facilitating and reforming public health. It has come to my attention that since a large portion of aid and inter-sectoral projects to these LDCs has been within the purview of public health, it seems necessary to evaluate those very states that serve as the ‘examples’ of the very systems that hundreds of governments, agencies, businesses, non-profits, and NGOs are anxious to ‘replicate’. Obviously, no one state or system could possibly hold the key to the best method of administering/ overseeing the production of universal health to its citizens… or does one? This is the very question that I wish to explore and fuel with ample evidence and testimony from the field.

I also feel it would a be a disservice to this particular post, as this weeks’ posts are designed to reflect the appropriate subject area, if we do not mention the current and lively debate that is occurring within our own United States of America as the Obama administration carries out its implementation of healtcare.gov and the Affordable Care Act (aka- Obamacare).

My aim this week is to provide as many sources, documentaries, videos, op-eds, and expert testimonies as possible to provide a synthesis of data for our class to have either an in person or digital debate/conversation as to what kind of health system we feel will eventually be most effective in these very nations, tribes, communities, cities, mega-cities, and families that we all study so intently and care so much about.

I invite everyone to post and share their own reflective opinion after reading and watching what is available here to develop a well-informed, lively, and engaged discussion for this blog. Enjoy!


Ross Douthat, The New York Times, “But What if ObamaCare Works?” 10/26/2013

C.H., The Economist, “Why the Hysterics over Obamacare’s Software Glitch?” 10/23/2013

The Financial Times, Special Report: Global Health Policy, 8/01/2012 (link to a pdf)

Michael D. Tanner, The Cato Institute, “The Grass Is Not Always Greener: A Look at National Health Care Systems Around the World“, 3/18/2008

T.R. Reid, The Washington Post, “5 Myths about Health Care Around the World“, 8/23/2009

T.R. Reid, PBS: Frontline, The Four Basic Healthcare Models

John McDermott, The Financial Times, “What healthcare.gov could learn from Britain“, 10/22/2013


Professor Uwe Reinhardt, Health Economist, Princeton University, 11/10/2007

Ahmed Badat, M.D., General Practitioner, Shepherds Bush Medical Center London

Prof. Karl Lauterbach, Health Economist and Member of the German Parliament, 10/25/2007

Prof. Naoki Ikegami, Health Economist, Keio University School of Medicine

Pascal Couchepin, President of Switzerland, 10/30/2007

Nigel Hawkes, Health Editer, The Times of London, 11/1/2007

David Patterson, M.D., Consultant Physician and Cardiologist, Whittington Hospital, London


l’Organisation mondiale pour la Santé, Research for Universal Health Coverage, World Health Report 2013, August 2013 (PDF english) (PDF français) (PDF español)

Michael Tanner, The Cato Institute, Policy Analysis, “The Grass Is Not Always Greener: A Look at National Health Care Systems Around the World“, March 18, 2008 (PDF english)

World Economic Forum + McKinsey & Company, Sustainable Health Systems, January 2013 (PDF english)

OECD, Health at a Glance 2011, OECD Indicators, November 23, 2011 (organization has reports on specific regions and countries as well)

Videos + Documentaries:

PBS: Frontline, Sick Around the World, April 15, 2008

One.org compiled list of 52 youtube videos about Global Public Health

Even More Resources:

PBS: Frontline resources for their special addressing international and domestic issues here

Hackathons to End Corruption

images-2 transparency_international1

Transparency International and
Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) have
collaborated to organize Hackathons that are aimed to challenge
anti-corruption and technology experts to work together and create
innovative solutions to corruption challenges. Corruption is an
impatient to the development process, therefore initiatives are needed
to make governments more accountable and less corrupt. This is there
ICT4D comes in. Both Transparency International and Random Hacks of
Kindness believe that technology can serves as a tool in the worldwide
fight against corruption. The hackathon relies on ‘problem statements’
from Transparency International chapters, and members of the public,
while Random Hacks of Kindness mobilizes their base of technological

These are the questions that they try to tackle together:

  • How can mobile technologies help us in monitoring elections across the world?
  • How can we visualise and structure our research data to engage more people?
  • How can we analyse public data through smart engines, or link
  • databases to shed light on the misuse of public funds?
  • How can we make e-solutions to prove the competitiveness of ethical
  • business behaviour?

Participants include hackers, coders, programmers, designers,
do-gooders, politicians, NGOs, political theorists and everyone else
ready to make a practical contribution to stopping corruption. The
Hackathon is live-streamed over the internet to over 8 countries who
have participants working together to find innovative ways to use
technology to fight corruption.

On example of such a Hackaton was headed by Transparencia Colombia who
with RHoK in Bogota, Telefonica, Movistar, Wayra Colombia, Microsoft
and Public,  developed a web and mobile citizen tool to report
electoral advertising for 2014 elections called Participa. They also
were able to developed an online platform for tracking citizen
corruption allegations on their way through Guatemalan public offices,
illustrating that the power technology has in the efforts to fight

Cyber Security: Fighting Back In Uganda

In this week’s lecture by Ralph Russo and previous discussion about cyber security I was intrigued about the extent of cyber security protocols and standards that are present in Uganda. From my research on ICTs in the business and industry sector in Uganda I was aware that security for both the companies and the consumer was an issue. The above video gives a wonderful overview of the effects of cyber crime on businesses, with losses ranging in the billions of shillings (1 USD to 2,160 USH), and that NITA-U has set up a task force to create safe e-commerce networks.

NITA-U isn’t the only task force on the cyber security scene though. A February All Africa article shares that  the Computer Warehouse Group (CWG)  partnered with Symantec in order to provide security storage and management solutions to one of Africa’s fastest growing telecommunications companies. But its not just the private sector that is standing up against cyber crime. In a 2013 article from IT News Africa the Ugandan government also established a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) under the country’s Communications Commission (UCC) in order to more effectively  detect cyber crime. CERT is equipped with state of the art equipment and IT experts that will aid in the continuos and growing battle against cyber crime in conjunction with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

With the pace that technology is evolving it seems like an immeasurable feat to keep up with the high rates of cyber crime and as Ralph Russo shared with us it is important to keep connections with those entities attempting to put a stop to cyber crime. As seen in examples above Uganda is creating a firm platform, consisting of both public and private organizations, aimed to stop cyber crime and create a more secure environment for businesses to grow and thrive.