Put simply, we’re on the cusp of a dramatic transformation that will extend far beyond the mere ability to download e-mail, photos, and webpages more quickly. Plentiful wireless bandwidth, coupled with more sophisticated mobile devices, will usher in a new generation of wireless tools and services.
This excerpt, from a Business 2.0 article featured on CNN that I read today, captures succintly the potential of very large footprint web and internet access technologies radically influencing the way we interact, contribute to and distribute content in what can be called the new information societies. Sucn sentient and ubiquitous coverage of web access technologies will facilitate content production and dissemination that no longer relies on a central hub for production. In a way, such content will be comparatively raw and unedited – on the other hand, centralised media houses will not be able to compete with the plethora of information produced by communities for their local community.
For peace, this means that grassroots communities will (finally) have the means through which their voices can be promoted, at little or no cost (certainly less than the combined cost of PC ownership and PC based wired internet access) through mobile telephony frameworks or WiMax & PDA combinations to a larger audience. In reality, this means that technologies already development for news and journalism using mobile video can be used for human rights monitoring, bringing to light local government corruption, capture government officials who take bribes, help in alternative dispute resolution with regards to post-conflict land issues by giving mediators a better idea of the contested territory through video & photos, helping humanitarian aid work and strengthening community participation in peacebuilding frameworks.
The Business 2.0 article has some interesting links to existing technologies that are pushing the barriers of wireless access and related technologies. In particular, the very same technology used in the location based service provider Bones in Motion featured in the article can be used to animated some of the ideas I’ve written about here.
If technologies are being developed to order food through mobiles, surely it’s time to also see how our new wireless world can contribute to peacebuilding? For instance, news I read today on that Sri Lanka is to offer frequencies for high-speed mobile services is interesting in light of the peacebuilding content, now designed for the web (podcasts, manuals, streaming videos, RSS updates, blogs etc), that can be tailored to fit and be made accessible through mobile devices.
My fear is that while ideas that seek to promote ICT to the grassroots in Sri Lanka oftentimes take the form of technology provision (through hardware and software solutions), there is little interest in the creation of content that specifically makes use of the broad spectrum of access technologies (from PC’s in Gnanasela’s to mobiles and PDAs) in support of existing peacebuilding initiatives conducted by civil society, NGOs and the government.
The success of any technology, however advanced, lies in its ability to facilitate the creation, dissemination and consumption of content that is relevant to users. 3G is all well and good, but if content is only limited to the re-broadcast of tired TV & traditional electronic media, polyphonic ring-tones and juvenile mobile videos, it would be a singular waste of technology that has the potential to revolutionise the way grassroots communities interact with polity and society in Sri Lanka.