In a deliberately provocatively titled paper – The PC is dead – Long live mobiles! – I argued for systems that use cellphones in dispute resolution and conflict transformation, a point that I’ve been making for a couple of years now given the exponential year-on-year growth of cellphones and mobile telephony devices in Asia and Africa in particular. I’ve written extensively on the potential of cellphones for conflict early warning, mediation, peacebuilding and reconciliation and humanitarian aid.
MobileActive.org is a tremendously useful website in this regard, that describes itself as “a global network of activists and campaigners using mobile phones for civic action and engagement”. The Toronto Declaration, featured on this site, is a very useful and comprehensive tableau for conceptualising the use of mobiles for civic movements and peacebuilding:
From the 22-24 September 2005, organizations and activists from across the world working on the use of mobile/cellular technology for activism met in Toronto to better understand the strengths and limits of the medium and to disseminate lessons learned, as well as strategically to increase activists’ ability to organize constituencies with this new technology.
Mobile phones and SMS have become one of the coolest gadgets on the planet and can be used in new ways to connect the people of the earth.
We affirm that:
• Communications technology is a right derived from the inalienable right of freedom of expression;
• Without “The People” mobile technology means nothing. Thus, the technology shall be used as a people-centred tool to maximize social good, justice and equality;
• Technology can and shall be viewed as a public good requiring worldwide democratic access; including open standards for hardware and software;
• Mobile technology offers the opportunity for reflecting an inclusive, democratic and compassionate voice for social justice. Put in the hands of the people and social movements, mobile phones and SMS can produce positive results for the common good;
• Mobile technology be maximized as a tool to break down barriers of language, gender, race, class, and sexual orientation;
• Socially and ecologically responsible production and retirement of mobile phones is a must, as well as the ability to recharge them with renewable energy;
• The use of mobile technology be maximized in networking, mobilization, education and training to the end of creating a just world and in the fight against oppression.
• Finally, we acknowledge that the growth of mobile/cellular technology is not universal and thus reflects existing global political, social and economic inequalities. We work towards making it available to everybody for the world’s people to advance their welfare.
There’s a fantastic aggregation of web articles and news stories related to the use of mobiles on the site and a very useful section devoted to resources for those who want to mainstream the use of mobiles in social activism.
However, the SMS blog featured on the website is the least useful – a random collection of gibberish, it only serves to dilute the appreciation of content elsewhere on the site. It would be wise to revist the raison d’etre of the SMS blog and either revamp it or take it away from the site.
Overall, a site well worth a visit to get a comprehensive picture of how mobiles are helping shape social activism and civic movements.