Tag Archives: internet

Evgeny Morozov & the dark side of ICTs

During our class on Tuesday, guest lecturer Adam Papedieck mentioned Evgeny Morozov and encouraged us to check out his TedTalks about the “dark side” of ICTs in developing nations.

Check out the TedTalk by Evgeny Morozov, How the Net Aids Dictatorships, here!   This video greatly compliments the other videos and writings by Morozov and Clay Shirky that my peers have analyzed this week in response to Papedieck’s suggestion.

Morozov criticizes the view that we can promote democracy through the spread of ICTs and the Internet.  In class and many blog posts, we have highlighted crowdsourcing, blogging, Internet access, and the social media as means to promote development, democratize information, and empower marginalized communities.  However, Morozov points out that the Internet perpetuates authoritarianism in many developing nations and defers democracy.

It’s important that consider both the positive and negative outcomes of ICT proliferation.  While we focus on positive uses of ICTs and potential development outcomes, we must be sure not to ignore potential unintended consequences.  This TedTalk is not meant to present a pessimistic view of ICT or to discourage optimistic ICT4D efforts, rather it is meant to encourage realism and encourage us to take consider all possible outcomes.  Morozo ends with this great quote: “We have to stop thinking about the number of iPods per capita, and we can start thinking about ways we can empower intellectuals, dissidents, NGOs, and the members of civil society.”

“How Social Media Can Make History”

After hearing Adam Papendieck speak this afternoon I decided to check out Clay Shirky’s TEDtalk he mentioned, How Social Media Can Make History. Shirky’s talk is fascinating; he articulately synthesizes many of the themes we have discussed this semester, as well as a host of new information.

Shirky begins his talk by discussing how social media is often used as an avenue for social capital, the idea that we are all in it together and will collectively gain from helping one another out, from cooperating. He sites the example of VideoVote, an application in 2008 that allowed people to look out for voter suppression, ensuring the sanctity of the vote by visually documenting polling places.

He then titles the age we are living through as “the largest increase in expressive capability in human history,” classifying it as one of the five media revolutions of human history. Shirky lists these revolutions in chronological order: the invention of the printing press, the creation of two way communication through telegraph and telephone, the documentation of recorded media in photos, sound, and movies, the harnessing of the electromagnetic spectrum in radio and TV, and the Internet. What he finds most revolutionary about the Internet in comparison to these other media revolutions is its “many to many pattern,” that users can act as producers and consumers. The audience can now talk back to the producer, as well as to other audience members.

Another factor Shirky discusses is that all forms of media are now on the Internet. The Internet is now not only a type of media itself, but a site of coordination for all media. Shirky believes the Internet has forever changed the nature of media, stating “we are increasingly in a landscape where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap.” He sees the current role of the media as less about crafting a certain message for individuals, and more as a way of creating an environment for convening and supporting groups.  The future of the Internet and media itself, depends on the masses, not the few.

Security vs. Civil Liberties

In this article by CNN, the author talks about new policies put forth by Facebook in order to prevent phishing and malware. The article states that a recent survey claims 52% of businesses have experienced increased viruses and malware. The most common way to do this is to post a racy or controversial link on Facebook in the hopes that someone will click on it. Once  clicked on, the link makes you log back in and it steals your login information (just like email phishing). This is something that our guest speaker yesterday spoke about. Although he is a bit of an alarmist (and hilariously so) the point about deciding where to draw the lines between security and our civil liberties is extremely relevant to all of us. He never really delved much deeper into that (probably because he wanted to seem politically objective) but I feel that is a debate that really needs to be more prevalent. With as many people obsessed with Facebook as there are, security of your online information is an increasingly pertinent issue. What would these “fair and balanced” policies look like? How can we have the government protecting our online lives without feeling that our rights are being called into question? Thoughts?

Cyber-criminals Took Advantage of Civil Unrest in Egypt

” Today our guest lecturer discussed cybercrime and various implications for security in the U.S. and international implications.  I decided to investigate issues of cyber crime and related problems in Egypt, the country I am focusing on this semester.

I found this interesting article — “Cyber-criminals taking advantage of Egypt unrest”  — about cyber crime in Egypt during the democratic revolution and civil unrest in recent years.  Although cyber crime is a problem at all times in the digital age society infiltrated by technology, cyber criminals (like any criminals) look for strategic points of entry and weaknesses.

In this article, James Lyne explains,”over the last year we have seen so many occasions where Anonymous [hacking group] and alike have attacked online services for political reasons. The reason for the increase is simple, we are all putting more of our lives online, governments and general public are putting more of their critical infrastructure online so it is an ideal way to attack. It is more anonymous than storming physically, it is less of a risk and it is as, if not more disruptive than a physical protest because so many of us rely on those services.”  This very much resembles the main points made today in our lecture.

However, there is another point made in the article that we did not discuss in class…

The article points out: “When Michael Jackson passed away, the top three hits on Google for a period of time were fake anti-virus sites, above CNN.com who spend an astronomical amount of money trying to do search engine optimisation, so be very cautious of the links you click online whether you are from Egypt or not. Whilst this is a hotspot of press activity, the bad guys will be looking to use you.”  This is a great tip to add to the list of ways to avoid viruses or other forms malware (along with not clicking on links in emails and maintaining up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer).  It is important to be aware of potential targets for cyber crime.  With millions of people across the world searching for news stories and updates about the situation in Egypt, cyber criminals look at this as the perfect opportunity to reach a new victims.

Hactivism was another major issue throughout the revolution and unrest in Egypt. The article notes that there have been “many occasions where Anonymous [hacking group] and alike have attacked online services for political reasons,” and goes on to explain that “the reason for the increase is simple, we are all putting more of our lives online, governments and general public are putting more of their critical infrastructure online so it is an ideal way to attack.”

This is a great article that touches on many of the topics we discussed today in class, and it broadens the conversation to a more international focus and to include important current events that have effected part of the developing world.  It’s definitely worth reading at length.

US Government Informs and Readies Citizens to Thwart Cyber Attacks

Click here to go to FEMA Ready.gov website page and view how this government agency hopes to educate US residents to thwart cyber attacks by terrorist organizations.

Cyberterrorism and cyber-attacks are not a new development, but, have been evolving recently into an increasingly volatile and serious threat to many countries. While searching for information about cyber attacks for this blog post I came across the United State’s FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) page in which it hopes to educate and inform residents of the US about the nature of cyber attacks, what some of the greatest possible risks are, how they can affect the average resident, and what one should do before, during, and after a cyber attack event.

I found this page very informational. While many have a bad taste in their mouth after saying FEMA, I think they are being very proactive and forward thinking by trying to inform the general population of the risks of cyber attacks. Cyber attacks are not something that many individuals have in the forefront of their minds, and some may not even be aware of the concept at all. By making it clear that all are at risk for cyber attacks and that even someone who thinks that they do not have important information or connections can be at risk and put others at risk through the use of their computer to infiltrate other computer networks remotely.

I also think how FEMA chose to organize its page, with tabs for what to do before (preparation), during (reaction), and after (assessment) a cyber attack, is very smart. They provide not only information that might cause fear in some or nervousness (the possible effects of an attack), but, also how to mitigate and prevent these attacks from happening. As I have learned in Public Health, whenever fear is used as a way to influence people, it is important to provide ways in which individuals can react to that fear in order to have a project which has impact, and FEMA does just that.

FEMA goes one step further by providing additional information and ways in which individuals can stay connected and ahead on this issue by signing up for listserv’s about cyber security. As cyber attacks become more and more common and destructive it will be interesting to see what additional measures government agencies take to inform their populations about the threat.

BOSCO Uganda

This blog is for BOSCO Uganda: Battery operated systems for community outreach. Their project is focused on, “providing innovative information and communication technology (ICT) solutions using a collaborative and Internet approach to foster socio-economic development and peace building in rural communities in Northern Uganda” (Bailey).

Their main goals are:

“1 .Managing all Internet sites in the Amuru and Gulu Districts in Northern Uganda

2. Developing content, with a focus on education and peace building, for BOSCO’s Intranet system.

3. Supporting the expansion of BOSCO Uganda through new proposals and partnerships

4. Managing communications between local, regional and international stakeholders in partnership with BOSCO USA” (BoscoUganda)

Recently Bosco has joined with different organizations in order to further pursue their goals.  They aim to, “bring solar powered micro grids, Internet connectivity, and entrepreneurial training to a number of sites in northern Uganda” (Bailey). Efficiency is an important aspect of ICT, if an ICT being integrated into a developing country is not efficient the people might abandon it out of frustration (ie if internet connectivity is constantly down) . In order to avoid this issue, these solar powered micro grids will provide internet connectivity with , “clean and efficient renewable power” (Bailey). The idea of the power being solar is also a very important aspect here, now the communities will not have to rely on power via infrastructure their country may or may not have.

In the reading for Tuesday Unwin stresses that, “all communication systems require a physical infrastructure to be in place to provide energy and to generate and receive signals. Without such infrastructure, none of the complex systems of computers, radios or mobile phones that exist today would be able to function” (92). He mentions a program that introduced computers to a school but this initiative failed because the school did not have sufficient electricity. BOSCO provides a possible solution to the absence of electricity in developing nations: the use of solar power.

I think that this initiative sounds very forward thinking and progressive, yet the question of cost comes into play. Solar powered micro grids are extremely expensive. They are being donated through a grant program in this specific place in Uganda, but what happens when they break for instance? How can other developing places gain access to them? Is there a way to produce them at a lower cost, so that their positive ICT4D affects can be further reaching? Additionally, I’m curious about the power range of these solar powered micro grids are, how many people are these micro grids actually going to provide with solar power?

Overall, I think that this initiative could be very successful in the future and could possibly be the remedy for poor physical infrastructure + electricity problems in developing nations, if somehow the challenge of cost can be confronted.

The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age

Though the toll the internet age will take on newspapers is often debated, I’ve rarely thought or heard about the future for public libraries in the United States. As Uwin points out, historically, libraries were the main storage and access point for information across the world, especially for those who could not afford to purchase their own information. However, over the last twenty years the increase in the amount of published material and availability of digital technologies has changed libraries’ role forever.

In Unwine’s ICT4D he sites Klugkist as suggesting that in the future libraries will continue to be a gateway to information, but in particular an expertise centre, physical entity, and collection center for printed material. He reasons that libraries will not be replaced, they will merely transform their ways of accessing information–they will become digital libraries.

In the National Civic Review’s report on The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age, Ruth Wooden emphasizes that libraries do have a future in the U.S. Even with the vast amount of information available on the Internet, Wooden is sure that libraries will continue to play a vital role in communities. Strong public opinion surrounds the issue. For example 78% of those interviewed states that if their library were to loose funding they would feel “that something essential and important has been lost, affecting the whole community.” At this point libraries are more than just an access point for information–they are a safe haven, a place for children, a community meeting place. Wooden believes that libraries have been a relic of community engagement in the past and will continue to be in the future, regardless of the Internet. Additionally, most interviewed believed precisely because there is so much information available now (some of which you must pay for), that public libraries are a necessity to provide free information for anyone who needs it. Similar to Klugkist’s thesis Wooden emphasizes that in the digital age public libraries are a haven for low income community members, a resource for those who have no access to a computer or the internet at home. Wooden and Klugkist both believe that the advent of computers and the Internet will not displace libraries, if anything it will heighten a need for them.

Simulating a Component of the Digital Divide

Click here to go to the website that simulates internet speed with low bandwidth. 

While searching for information about the digital divide I came across this website that simulates a component of the digital divide between the developed world and the developing world. Digital divides do not only mean access or non-access to technology, but, can also be created through differing access speeds. Thus, even in a world where everyone had hypothetical access to the internet, the digital divide could still exist through unequal access.

The website allows the user to open a webpage with the bandwidth speed that you actually have and then also opens another page with a bandwidth speed of your choosing, they have a variety of internet connection speed simulations. I feel like this is a very useful tool as before seeing this site I never really thought of speed of connection as a contributor to the digital divide. This simulation makes it clear that simply aiming to provide points of access for individuals without internet is not a complete or equal solution, for if the speed of connection provided is slow the internet can become a unproductive component of ones time.

This website also provided an interesting graphic that maps the Digital Access Index, DAI, of the world’s countries. DAI takes 5 components into account, Infrastructure, Affordability, Knowledge, Quality, and Usage, to highlight the digital divide between countries. Two of these 5 components have direct connection to the speed of the connection to the internet– infrastructure and quality. This makes it evident that moving forward speed and quality of internet connection will provide just as big of a challenge as providing everyone with access to the internet.

Organization Profile: The Global Impact Study

Given the recent hype over public information sharing on the Internet, and the outrage over PIPA and SOPA, I feel that profiling “The Global Impact of Public Access to Information and Communication Technologies”. The Global Impact Study (for short) is a five year long project, from 2007-2012, that worked to gather evidence about the “scale, character, and impacts of public access to information and communication technologies” (Global Impact Study, 2012). The Global Impact Study was implemented in 2007 by the University of Washington’s “Technology and Social Change Group” (TASCHA) as part of a larger research project under Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The IDRC’s project is focused on evaluating the social and economic impact of public access to communication and information technologies and supports both the Global Impact Study and “The Amy Mahan Research Fellowship Program” with CAD$7.9 million. Part of this funding was the result of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Global Impact Study’s staff is divided into two separate working groups, a research working group, and a survey working group. Both groups have a range of members, but most are from the University of Washington. The research working group has ten active members, and is responsible for the research design and activities of the Study. The survey working group has four active members and is responsible for designing and implementing the Study’s surveys.

The Global Impact Study looks at libraries, telecenters and cybercafés to investigate the impact of technology sharing in a number of areas including communication and leisure, culture and language, education, employment and income, governance and health. The Study has identified 16 major topic areas that they would like to evaluate, however, due to capacity restraints, they have chosen eight of these points to publish in depth studies on. These eight include: infomediaries or brokers of public access sites, collaborative knowledge sharing at public access sites, the impact of non-instrumental use of ICTs on users’ ICT skills, mobile phones and public access ICTs, interpersonal communication, cost-benefit, sustainable livelihoods, as well as policy and regulation. An in depth reported has been published on each of these with the exception of policy and regulation, which is still an ongoing project. The other eight points are also listed on the Global Impact Study’s website, and the Study encourages others to step up and investigate these topics. They are: non-users, willingness to pay, institutional and stakeholder influence, the role of networks in the venue ecosystem, local content, venue architecture and design, IT skills, training and employment, life cycle of public access venues and community information ecology. In addition to the reports the Global Impact Study has published, their website contains a number of current articles regarding shared information, and all of the above discussed topics. It has become a great information sharing tool in of itself.

I feel that The Global Impact Study has undertaken a very warranted project in evaluating information sharing on the internet. We live in a time when facebook, Wikipedia, twitter, reddit and countless other user generated sites dominate the web. I don’t know what I would do without Wikipedia (which is now said to be about 78% as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica by the way) to help me answer almost every question I could ever have. PIPA and SOPA wanted to put an end to this information sharing in the interest of profit accumulation for the few… when will we learn that something’s value is not dependent on the profit it brings or the price tag it wears? The value of shared information on the internet cannot be quantified, and it shouldn’t have to be.

Indian Government on Social Media

The past few years have been a testament to the power of social media in political development. Ubiquitous sites like Facebook and Twitter have become the 21st Century pulpit for young dissidents in oppressive countries. These countries have unanimously responded with some attempt at blocking this free speech, but the capacity of young people to utilize social media and like technologies proved to outpace the outdated regimes.

So now it would seem that a government’s stance on social media is a sort of litmus test for its support from the younger generation. If this is true, then the Indian government is testing neutral. Their minister of Information Technology, Kapil Sibal, has recently asserted that no government of India will ever censor social media. This claim, however, comes as a response to controversy stemming from a law passed last year that makes companies responsible for objectionable user content if it is not removed within 36 hours of a complaint. This bears some resemblance to recent legislative attempts in the US congress, though the restrictions on companies and users are significantly less.

Overall, social media and the internet as a whole remains uncensored in India. Chalk another one up for democracy.