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.
“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.
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)
"The chicken that is searching for food in the rain must be very hungry" is a Nigerian proverb the Chinese hope won’t become their fortune. China is not yet hungry but it is looking to get in front of the rain that is sure to come in the form of a Western rush. The Chinese footprint in Nigeria is expanding quicker than most would think or admit. While oil and other natural resources are essential to Western economies, there is more to Nigeria and the region. There are other business opportunities the West in general, except for French Alcatel’s lucrative partnership with China, are missing out on.
The way the Lucent (NYSE:LU – news) buyout by Alcatel (ALA) (NYSE: ALA – News; Paris: CGEP.PA – News) plays out will be telling. Without an Arab company involved, it will surely not raise to the level of "sophisticated" political discourse that we saw with the "Dubai Ports" deal. The reality is this deal should raise greater concerns (especially since the port deal was a red herring), which I doubt it will.
RConversation is behind an interesting project, FON, to create "lily pads", to use Negroponte’s term, of WiFi connectivity. This deserves more words than I am devoting here, but Rebecca and others here delved deeply into the subject already and as of now, I’ll rely on their words. Read Ethan Zuckerman’s description of FON here. The project team is very serious about what they are doing and pragmatic about implementation.
Use this GoogleMaps mash-up to find FON accessible areas. Big names that have signed up to back FON: Google, Skype, Sequoia Capital, and Index Ventures.