Notes from Big Brother and Empowered Sisters: The role of new communication technologies in democratic processes, Uppsala, April 16-17. See Also the ICT for Democracy blog’s entries. Related sites are Sida and in particular, Spider.
For bios of speakers, see here.
I. Introduction: Mia Melin & Helena Bjuremalm
In Tanzania, Civil Society, citizens engage and monitor schools using cellphones: is there a school in the first place? As many classrooms as officially announced? Are teachers showing up for work? Bathrooms? ICT + grassroots.
II. Helen Belcastro: What’s New about New Technologies?
ICT: supposed to foster: poverty reduction/democracy/empowerment enhancement.
Poverty includes lack of information, possibilities, and power.
No technology inherently good or bad.
Technology used reflects dominant groups’ priorities.
ICT= technology used to process info. and speed info. Cells, Internet, GPS, TV, Radio (computers vs. mobile phones)
Contextually relevant info. + Open Source
Choice of tech. shapes organization & ideology of society.
= transparency, etc. should guide it
3 Levels of ICT:
i. Gov’t = e-gov’t:
-increasing gov’t ICT can lessen individual rights; rule of law is crucial
ii. People & Gov’t:
-strong state + powerful tools requires vigilance; personal integrity needed more
-electronic pub. of bills
-electronic election systems
-community info. centers
iii. ICT for Empowerment:
-citizens as consumers vs. citizens as agents
-Power and independence of nation-state has been reduced by ICT
-Internet can play intermediary role: debate, protest, monitoring and reporting (e.g. Burma, Belarus, Malaysia: SMS for mobilization)
-created opportunities in prov. info:
1. Personal integrity & Information: need to be addressed: risks of abuse of public info.
2. Use for hate
3. Access makes them effective; transform. from passive to active user/producer
-transient single-issue involvement; global collective action; whimsical; nation-states weakened; unbound by borders; fragmentation of discourse & debate = affects quality of discourse
-increased possibilities to participate
-intensify existing biases; permanent who is in and out
-collect & structure
-importance of trust
-IPR vs. Open Knowledge/Open Source Frontier:
1. the new social movement exists beyond physical boundaries
2. are they replacing old social movements?
3. producing social involvement?
Can ICT become a Trojan Horse for democracy?
III. Anriette Esterhuysen: Empowered Sisters — Strategic Uses of ICTs to Promote Social Justice and Equality
-Apartheid resistance efforts: South Africa, Philippines Civil Societies connected by e-mail (cool!)
-Solidarity Networks in Global North vs. direct from-the-ground sources: e-mail!
-Access to Knowledge Treaty:
i. IPR and activists
ii. share, collaborate
-collective vs. individual action: ICT‘s make possible microactivism and macroactivism
-interesting: thrives when there’s repression; but also thrives when there’s freedom; traditional activism emerges when there’s a common enemy – ICT allows more sustained activism
-not just issues, but systemic change
-Digital Opportunities Task Force: Donor community believes media powerful for democracy but not ICT: donors fear ICT, believing it can be used disruptively
-Universal Access Fund
-case study: TakeBackTheTech:
*(women RP, Malaysia)
*controversial image in Africa for African men
*Women to take control of ICT and use vs. VAW
Note: everyone in Business Class are men!
*postcards: “If I could communicate, I would not feel as trapped”
*telling digital stories = sharing & healing
Note: Malaysia = used ICT‘s, Woman’s Candidacy Initiative
IV. Robert Hårdh: Big Brother and Freedom of Expression
-lawyers can help promote subversion of the Law!
-wrong for people to assume problems are elsewhere (esp. Sweden must recognize it’s capable of violations, too)
-Fighting impunity: bringing Russia to the Int’l Court of Human Rights over Chechnya
*evidence provided by Russian soldiers videotaping abuses, uploading, not realizing they were providing evidence
-danger of private companies working with government (e.g. vs. pedophilia): safeguards purely w/ professionalism of police and ISP‘s
-Big Brother and his fears:
Repressive governments want to indoctrinate and control populations
*cat & mouse: regimes vs. civil society
*disturbing production & use of mass information
*Belarus 2006: KGB sent SMS saying there would be a bomb to disrupt attempts at People Power (N.B. like home!)
-Countries in Transition:
*low quality of media and journalism
*limited access to information for public/journalism
*media market dominated by state media
*political groups & organized crime own media
*demographic problem: “technical Taliban” (senior people in orgs. that are tech. ignorant)
*dysfunctional market: difficult for independent media to be self-sustaining
*low participation of citizens in issues
-Sidestepping Big Brother:
i. how to transmit (in the past, meet in apartments, simplest)
ii. cheaper, available to more, and less risk: facilitates mobilizing
iii. access: even if small percentage have access to ‘Net, still larger than would have had access to indep. media
iv. for Donors: hesitance in investing in these methods, if illegal in that country
*case study: use of political graffiti in Belarus
*LGBT rights in 3 countries
*rock concerts, theater performances + use of CDs
-Russian human rights: “Internet will prevent Russia from returning to Soviet era.”
-case of British girl, abducted: posted pics on Facebook, Italian police then used Facebook to investigate (pics from party she was at moments before disappearance; people in photos brought in for questioning)
*emphasizes works only if professionalism on part of investigators
V. Alice Wanjira Munyua: Cooperation for Empowerment: Civil society groups and national ICT policies
Clash in perspectives on ICT policy:
private sector = liberalize to universalize
civil society = sector-driven to universalize
government = Secrecy Act, non-sharing behavior dominated
Inherent tensions in any similar effort to get partners to get together
South Africa: Internet research kiosks during elections
Senegal: Rwandan genocide example encouraged clampdown on live broadcasts of elections
Kenya: “mobile reporters” using cellphones to report on elections; Kenyans trusted blogs/SMS more than foreign media
Succesful: Kenyan gov’t wanted to shut down SMS; instead, nationwide crusade to spread Peace Messages (reconciliation; send such messages free!)
-Digital Villages: Telecenters?
A kiosk based in school or district commissioner’s office; enables to access government services, incl. submitting taxes.
*Democracy better at fixing things but;
*Democracy is slow
VI. Sasha Costanza-Chock: New Social Movements in the Network Society: Implications for Democratic Processes
-Political economy of communication
-New Social Networks
-On line activism: too much concentration on adding members and turning them into sources of funding, and systems to do this
1. State does use tools
2. Interface b/ween state & Civil Society
3. What can Civil Society do to use 1 and 2?
*community based org’s; geographically-based networks
*NGO’s: range from real to business and gov’t fake NGO‘s
*unorganized social movements (counter power)
A. Access Inequality: between different layers & actors; how increased access to one may deprive access to others
B. For each of the Players: To what degree is each player internally democratic? Accountable inside?
-Social movements: collective actions that are purposeful (outside State)
*Tactical Communication: to communicate during crisis points
-Direct Action Online: electronic civil disobedience
*case study, cyberactivists vs. Puerto Rico U.S. military base (Vieques); used hack of autofill form to destabilize USN recruitement site; largely symbolic impact; opposition to the USN base in Puerto Rico was widespread and cross-sectoral (RC Church, etc. involved). (N.B. see Vieques, the Navy, and Puerto Rican Politics, and Navy-Vieques protests in Wikipedia)
-Horizontal comm. by Social Movements
*GIS = mapping tools
*games = Games for Change
*video = PEWS Center: 20% young Internet users (18-25) producing and uploading video
*Access Assymetry: w/in and b/ween Social Movements.
*Multimodality: cross-platform media use
*Localize ICT Tools: people need to be trained to use tools
*Face to Face: ICT skills transferred at mobilizations
-Social Movement impact of ICT: in past, mass media hits measure of success; in new space: important part is participation in the creation of media, not just how outsiders reacted
*1.5 billion Internet users, as of 2007: 10% in dev. countries vs. 60% in developed world;
*USA (2005) broadband, 40.4% urban, 20% rural; lowest use, 12% Latino vs. 40% for Asian-Americans;
*Among Social Movements: poor-led movements barely on-line (mainly e-mail by bosses)
-Movements that connect can draw away resources from local organizations, sidelines and deprives of resources by transnational movements
-High connectivity does not equal democracy
Ex. Singapore has more broadband but weaker political movements than Malaysia
-To address inequality of access:
1. Start developing measure of inequality, e.g. Gini Coefficient for access to ICT
*3 billion mobile subscribers
*only connectivity for social movements
-Partnership & Accountability:
*Access inequality is crippling:
iii. Civil Society
*More sophisticated analysis needed: accountability includes proposal-making
*N.B. community-based orgs. get equipment but not funding for staff
*What is the accountability mechanism? To ensure it, what do you do?
-“Social Movement Application Service Providers” -merchants of membership-management systems
*danger in increased specialization
-Case study: MST peasant movement in Brazil: in schools, program for ICT training w/Open Source ICT training
N.B. For both Hårdh and Constanza-Chock see: Side stepping big brother
Internet = excluding effect
Mobile Phone = including effect
But does internet effect more democratizing effect unlike mobile phone?
-Connectivity is the issue
-Transform user, expectations, attitudes, even language of democracy and behavior
-Experience in Sweden:
Multimodal = old methods, many issues, therefore, more sustainable.
Single Issue: new style, harder to sustain.
-In Africa: opposition to Internet backbone led by cell phone providers (commercial interest blocks community interests)
*to grab poor market: cell phone providers building consumers who can only afford basic handsets: creating a cellular phone underclass
*Open Platform/Open Source: need to be refocused and revised
Latin American recommendations:
i. regulators to force per second billing, including prepaid, and also to buy Microamount: savings by poor people up to 30% of telephony costs; up to 25% of income goes to telephony so savings would be great
ii. bring down prepaid costs: like corner store more expensive than drive-to supermarkets.
-New Media influence: up to 20 people influenced by one mobile phone, so numbers have to be interpreted according to some new means to calculate access and use.
-3 problems of Development:
i. Lack of power & influence
ii. Lack of opportunity
iii. Lack of resources
*15.7% internet penetration
*concern with breadline began with idea on Facebook: everyone ended up knowing stay-home strike to protest bread lines; became national issue covering all classes; can be an arena to make people act
*amazing it was a woman affecting politics
-Ghettoization of Internet:
*Why does ICT have to have a noble/good purpose?
*first build it and let people innovate based on what they want
*do not Balkanize
*people just want to have fun, enjoy; do not stay in ghetto of noble ICT use
I. Walid Al-Saqaf: Freedom of the Press and Political Activism
(N.B. was offered to be honorary Philippine consul in Yemen)
-presented charts of government-produced propaganda; it produces very few views online
-AccessFlickr!: enables Iranians, Chinese, to access Flickr. developed own version for Yemenis.
*electronic websites law
*harassment of Walid
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the perseverance to continue that counts. -Churchill
II. Johan Hellström: Mobile Democracy – The role of mobile phones in democracy processes
-In Uganda, many politically-active people use two phones, for dodging government surveillance (like Philippines!)
–FrontlineSMS: free download for NGO‘s; group alert, fixed communications
1. Democracy as a concept as something that involves access, empowerment, participation
*involving competitive elections
*involving party-based opposition
2. Democracy is slow, ICT is quick – can the two be put together?
3. Donor’s role?
*sustainable role in ICT/democracy
*distribute free mobile phones?
-Mobile applications, mobile phones
*comment: ICT can strengthen inequality in society
-Half of world’s population uses a mobile phone
*3% in Kenya
*11m out of 38 m in Uganda
-Who owns what?
*more likely a man in a city has a handset than a woman in countryside
-Cost/Affordability: barriers to phone usage
*cost (Uganda: $25 new phone, SIM card, $0.50 load; $1.00 SIM card; prepaid: $2 = 2 minutes, 20-25 SMS messages)
*who is paying for low price? mobile manufacturers in China, Indonesia working 72 hours per week, very low salaries; plus harmful materials
*peer pressure for prestige handsets
*”If you don’t have a phone, you’re out of the game.”
-Discussion: in Cuba, $130.00 for SIM card, 1/2 year’s salary; long lines for SIM cards
-Is there any killer application?
*how has behavior changed once mobiles are in people’s hands?
*disappointment w/time and institutional response?
*Applications for Democracy
A. China: Yu Zhang
-210 million Internet users vs. 115,000 in 1995
-50% online at home; 30% in Internet cafes
-83 imprisoned writers since 2004 (39 still in jail); 2/3 related to Internet writing
-Since 2000: 65 arrests of dissidents; 1st Internet case was in 2000: Huang Qi; latest, Hu Jia (just sentenced)
-Number of convictions: 60 since 2000: Guo Qinghai (in 2001); in 2007: Hu Jia
-Convictions of cyberdissidents only for Internet expression: 28 since 2001
*”disturbing social security”: Ma Yalian (for complaining online)
*”spreading false & terror information”: Li Changqing (for reporting outbreak of disease ahead of authorities)
“inciting subversion of state power”: Li Yuanlong: convicted for jokes (1/2 year for each joke; 3 jokes)
-Shi Tao: arrested with the help of Yahoo! Sentenced 10 years (Yahoo! later apologized, paid compensation; set up foundation for people arrested, $10m USD)
-Huang Jingiu: convicted of subversion; formed political party; sentenced 12 years
-Note: not that there are fewer arrests, and so, better atmosphere: instead, speedier surveillance of citizens in effect, who are then warned and self-censorship ensues. Surveillance of citizenry more thorough and efficient than before.
-China Internet Police: est. 1996 “Special Police for Internet Security Inspection”
*1998: Public Information Network Security Inspection Bureau, Ministry of Public Security
*2002: more independent special task force: nationwide, provincial, city contingents
*2006: Virtual Police: started staging online, 150 cities; patrols every 30 minutes; Jingjing & Chacha icons. Ex. Beijing Internet 110 Virtual Police w/ 1)cyberalarm: anyone surfing can send information on people/websites
*50,000 cybercops, one per 4,000 users; more than 500 cybercop websites
*2004: more than half of Internet cafe’s shut down; surveillance software installed in the rest recording names, addresses, ID Numbers, enable cybercops to centrally monitor and control Internet activities.
*More journalists simply fired; not even arrested; sends warning to others in the profession.
B. Philippines: Manuel L. Quezon III
-Magnifies top down; hierarchy
-Push for niche marketing in keeping with Zeitgeist but incompatible with collective action; frustration/hopelessness leads to apathy
-In battle for individual hearts and minds, resources are with the government
-Government websites plentiful but not updated
* legislation hasn’t kept up: e.g. Administrative Code requires answers to citizens by officials within given period; but not implemented in terms of online comm.
*barriers to information arising in keeping with larger themes: i.e. executive privilege
*Favila, DTI, to Donors: “If you are only going to complain, we don’t need you”
-The dominant ideology: Development vs. Democracy; ICT is a business tool for efficiency and profit, not for accountability and democratic participation. Note dominant ideology of efficiency etc. promoted by ICT. Effects on:
*corruption and accountability
*social mobility: effects on citizenship, of Call Centers, Outsourcing: beneficial and harmful effects on society
-ICT used for different ends:
*government: money-making (fees), prestige, power; QCT to most: another racket, $120-$340m NBN-ZTE deal;
*public: entertainment and not citizenship
*NGO’s: prestige, money-making, networking (power) but not substantive: lack of publication and information, of dialogue
-Law: not keeping up; old laws being used to establish control over New Media
-Discourse: how can it enable participation? Communication & advocacy vs. stunts
-Public: bridging the diaspora
-Propaganda: gov’t playing wiretapped tapes after opposing their use
-Note: Sweden’s Official Gazette: compare with Philippine experience
IV. Conclusion of Conference: Helena Bjuremalm
Need to go beyond basic description of democracy, focus on rules, outcomes
1. More than 50% live in democracy of some sort; but only 13% in full democracy; 40% under authoritarian rule. This will not change any time soon.
2. Stagnation: growing authoritarian backlash, but regimes less likely to resort to traditional repression. Instead, legalistic tactics and economic pressures being pursued: use of tax police, advertising pressure, restrictions on foreign aid (N.B. or alternative sources, e.g. China). Donor & creditor responses naive or cynical.
3. Global trend: loss of momentum in democracy; unique regional trends: disappointment in Latin America; strong central state in Russia
4. Democracy not widely accepted as only game in town: deficit between the unempowered and how authorities have monopolized, abused, rules of the game in democracy. Rules defunct, even if institutions in place!
5. Rise of oil and gas -increased prices strengthened antidemocratic govt’s; punished democracies w/ weak economies.
-Art of “Muddling Through” more characteristic of democratization. Why?
*About changing power relations, b/ween those pushing for it and those resisting it;
*expect longer time scales: 10-15 years for changes
*democratization after effective state and rule of law in place? Democracy is destabilizing?
V. Other Notes:
-Conversation with Hårdh: “Sweden gave the world the institution of the Ombudsman -but it only works in Sweden. That is because it was an institution that developed according to a situation peculiar to Sweden, where you can expect an investigation by officials appointed by the authorities to be investigated.”