Looking into the future from the past is often fascinating. A Bell Labs film from 1961 on the changing communication environment predicts the future information age as it projects its technology into the future. This includes machine to machine communication, online ordering, e-commerce, and cellular phones, is no different. The underlying purpose is preparing the audience for change.
This morning, I was on the radio show The Takeaway, a co-production of WNYC Radio and Public Radio International, to discuss non-military options for the U.S. in Libya.
My comments focused on the empowerment of Libyans by enabling the acquisition and dissemination of information. In other words, freedom to get and give information creates not only knowledge of the environment, it lays the foundation for an open society. The actions of the Libyans must be by and of the Libyans. The only substantial role here, at this early phase of the establishment of a new state, for the United States (or the West in general), is one of facilitator. The Libyans must pull themselves up.
The United States is considering a range of options to deal with Libya, including military action and sanctions. However, there’s another possibility for Libya: an information campaign and the Pentagon has reportedly explored at the option of jamming Libya’s communications so that Gadhafi has a harder time talking to his forces. Matt Armstrong, lecturer on public diplomacy at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism and publisher of the blog MountainRunner.us, takes a closer look at how an information campaign might work in Libya.
The segment is about than seven minutes long and my conversation with host John Hockenberry, begins at the 1:30 mark. Listen below or go to The Takeway.
Yes, it was recorded live at 6a Eastern Time, making it 3a where I am…
“We found that Afghans in the most-troubled, insurgent- held areas lived in information wastelands dominated by militant propaganda,” [U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke] said March 17. “We are fighting back with a revamped strategy that puts the people and their ability to communicate at the forefront of our effort.”
Joanna Nathan, author of a 2008 report on Taliban propaganda for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, cautioned that expanding mobile-phone capacity isn’t enough to counteract the Taliban. They have dominated the war of words by exaggerating victories and fueling conspiracy theories, she said.
“It’s not the words, but how credible is your message,” said Said Jawad, Afghan ambassador to Washington. The U.S. must not only “respond to propaganda but deliver and make a difference in people’s lives.”
Short and to the point observation by Galrahn at Information Dissemination that winning a battle does not mean winning a war.
The Navy deploys hospital ships to other countries, but then turns around and takes a poll to measure success. In other words, the Navy is measuring success based on an opinion of an action.
But opinions also measure perception, and hospital ship deployments do not have an associated strategic communication strategy targeting the population of the country it is servicing, rather only has a blog telling stories in English to the American people of events as they unfold.
He follows with a suggestion of true multiple media engagement (person and radio).
I don’t care how ugly it is, someone should stick a giant radio tower on top of the hospital ships and broadcast the coolest damn DJ you can find that speaks the language of the places the hospital ships go to. If Al Qaeda has a radio station in the Middle of Pakistani Mtns to broadcast their propaganda of hate, why can’t we put a radio station on a ship and send out a message of friendship?
What providing wi-fi or wi-max or even temporary cellular connectivity, all for free? Such broadcasts might be in conflict with the host nation’s telecommunications monopoly, but there are diplomatic ways around that.
New edition of AP Stylebook adds entries and helpful features: AP writers can now use the phrase "to Twitter" in place of the wordier "to post a Twitter update." Both are far better (and technologically adept) than The New York Times use of “on their Twitter page.”
If you provide services to poor people, should you make a profit? Interesting question that goes to the increasing connectivity in Africa. (h/t @ICT4D)
Feeds for Information Graphics. Compiled by the Art Director for the Associated Press Interactive Design & Graphics Department in New York.
IT Dashboard. Track information technology spending by the US Government. For example, see that the State Department is doing pretty well managing its IT projects and that there are apparently problems with USAID’s Infrastructure and Modernization Program.
Combat camera for cops. French cops are getting ear-borne mini-cams to combat “to establish the context of our interventions.”
Some of the World Bank report Information and Communications for Development 2009: Extending Reach and Increasing Impact is now available online. This report
takes an in-depth look at how ICT, and particularly broadband and mobile, are impacting economic growth in developing countries. The data section includes at-a-glance tables for 150 economies of the latest available data on ICT sector performance. Performance measures for access, affordability and applications in government and business are also introduced.
I’ve only reviewed the introduction – to get the whole report you have to buy it (!!) – but it appears this report provides valuable justification for expanded information and communication technology investment for public diplomacy and strategic communication. However, the report all but ignores the impact broadband and mobile phones have on media and corruption or access to radio via mobile phones. Still, as mobile phones “now represent the world’s largest distribution platform”, it is worthwhile to read about their impact on economic growth.
From Foreign Policy, a map showing increased connectivity and the importance of investing in Information & Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) in Africa.
As interconnectivity between African countries increases, economic benefits are expected, especially in Kenya, which has a fast developing IT sector. Other potential impacts include education and access to media.
Increased interconnectivity also means increased importance of online media.
See also this 2007 global map by Alcatel-Lucent (5.6mb PDF).
Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) describes a general effort to overcome disconnectedness and to build up socio-economic capacity at the local level. It has tremendous potential for creating stable areas. Several years ago when I first started writing about the potential of ICT4D to deny sanctuary to extremism, a few pushed back suggested that keeping people in the dark and disconnected from any information was better lest the bad guys co-opt channels of communication to spread their hate, lies, and distortions.
If you haven’t seen the YouTube video below (I only saw this update for the first time week), you should. This is the latest from Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and Jeff Bronman, the three who created “Shift Happens”, a presentation originally for teachers. Check it out:
- Long Zheng’s Microsoft Office Labs vision 2019 (montage + video)
No time to comment, but Jim Fallows posted a worthwhile (and timely) post on the internet and public opinion in China.
Outsiders who follow Chinese events have known for years about Roland Soong’s EastSouthWestNorth site*, which draws from Chinese-language and English-language sources for reports and analysis.
I’ve just seen this post, from a few days ago, which strikes me as something that people who don’t normally follow Chinese events should know about. It’s the text of a speech Soong prepared for last weekend’s annual Chinese Bloggers conference (but did not deliver, for family-emergency reasons). In it, he discusses the differences the Internet has, and has not, made in the Chinese government’s ability to control information and maintain power within China.
This is a subject easily misunderstood in the United States, where people tend to assume either that the cleansing power of the Internet will ultimately make government efforts at info-control pointless, or, on the contrary, that the bottling-up effectiveness of the Great Firewall will protect the government from the power of an informed citizenry. (My own Atlantic article on the subject here.)
Soong elegantly illustrates why such categorical assumptions miss the complexity of what’s going on. The whole speech is worth reading . . .
Read the rest of Jim’s post here.