ICTs in general

Computing for Good

Georgia Tech’s College of Computing has posted details of its Computing for Good (C4G). C4G is introduced thus

C4G centers on the use of computing as a platform for improving the human condition. It draws on both the self-focused and altruistic sides of students by presenting computer science as a cutting-edge technological discipline that empowers them to solve problems of personal interest as well as problems that are important to society at large.

But wasn’t this what ICT4D was supposed to do?

The range of projects conducted is impressive and each one engaging, but there’s no independent verification, no links to further details, no local voices of partners or beneficiaries. There are also concerns of sustainability and resilience of the solutions provided by students in Liberia and Ghana in particular, where details are not provided as to how the systems developed were integrated into local processes, networks and organisations so as to ensure sustained use once the students had flown back to Georgia Tech.

“They are down on the ground working on a real problem – using technology to help in global health initiatives or to heal a nation coming out of civil conflict – not sitting in a lab at Tech,” says assistant professor Michael Best in the School of International Affairs in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. “Students today want to do work where they can see its impact in real terms.”

The cynic may interpret the fact that Georgia Tech sees C4G as a way to get more students into Computer Science as the real reason behind the newly established programme of studies and practical experience. But taking it at face value, the programme’s benefit surely is in opening the eyes of generally insular College graduates in the US to experiences beyond what textbooks and classrooms at home offer, particularly for those who choose to travel outside the US and grapple with the challenges of implementing ICTs in post-conflict scenarios. The danger of this initiative however is that students maybe led to believe there are quick fixes through ICTs for deep rooted and long standing social, political, religious and other identity based conflict. Quick fixes are rarely resilient to change and endure the vicissitudes of peacemaking and peacebuilding. Quick fixes also run the risk of developing new platforms, services and products – when there already may be robust, open source and interoperable equivalents out there that can be adapted and adopted far more easily.

Reinventing the wheel can be excited for computer science students as part of their coursework, but hugely detrimental to processes and actors on the ground who use software that has no guarantee of support and training over the long term, and no assurance that the data collection can be integrated into other systems over time.

ICTs in general

Some thoughts on mobile phones and the digital divide

Nokia 1100. The best selling phone in the world. Image courtesy Wikipedia.    

 

 

 

Nokia 1100. The best selling phone in the world. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

 

Ken Banks has a super article up on PC World on using mobile phones to address the digital divide. In it Ken points to two aspects of mobile phones and their usage that not everyone even in developing countries quite understands. 

“They can make and receive calls, they have an address book, they can send and receive SMS, and the built-in alarm is very popular.”

“with many of the low-end handsets found in the markets and shops in developing countries, has no browser of any kind and doesn’t support GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or any other form of data transmission. Accessing the Internet? Dream on.”

I don’t know anything about sub-saharan Africa, but in Sri Lanka, wireless internet access footprints are expanding year after year. Today it is possible to get 3G coverage in many urban areas and WiMax coverage even further out afield. GPRS coverage almost blankets most of the areas in Sri Lanka. Areas that don’t have any of this will only get smaller. Even in 2003, when I was often on the A9 to Jaffna, I used to check my email via my old and trusted Nokia 3410 on the road. Today, I can tether my mobile to my laptop and access the net at speeds close to the “broadband” I get from my ADSL at home.

However, the question is whether those at the Bottom of the Pyramid access the internet through their mobiles or have any interest in doing so. I would think not. At least, not yet. While voice telephony and SMS usage is high, the potential of (new) mobile and devices that can produce, access and disseminate web based content will take years to take root even in the areas that are covered with high-speed internet mobile access.

But is this really a problem? I note in a recent paper on mobile phones and governance that,

From Zimbabwe and Kenya to China and Kuwait , from electoral processes and women’s suffrage to the voicing dissent against oppression, mobiles are already revolutionising our approach to and understanding of public participation in governance. Mobiles have already demonstrated in many countries around the world that in the hands of a vibrant civil society they are powerful tools that hold government and public institutions accountable, their interactions transparent and their transactions efficient. Conversations inspired, produced, stored and disseminated through mobiles are rapidly changing the manner in which we imagine the State, interact with government and participate in the mechanisms and institutions of democratic governance.

I endorse Ken’s suggestion for the development of a subsidized, fully Internet-ready handset for developing markets, but his own work with FrontlineSMS suggests that for the millions who use the phones we discarded years ago at the bottom of the pyramid, replacing handsets is not really a priority even if they are subsidised. Value has to be seen and realised in being able to access mobile content via mobiles, and that value today is simply not there for most consumers particularly at the bottom of the pyramid. I submit that it will also not automatically come with a new device / handset.

Part of this value has to be created by imagining governance that is responsive through mobiles. Citizens who feel that using the web on their mobiles to access information, participate in local government, produce information for the benefit of their local community and use it as a device in much the same way we approach social networking (such as Facebook on PCs and our high-end handsets) may create value and buy-in to use web enabled mobiles and bear the total cost of ownership over time, which will include data charges. 

Telcos can play a role. Today, many data plans and much of the content that leverages high speed mobile internet are those linked to entertainment. There is ZERO emphasis on governance. The emphasis on the market and resulting applications help (agrarian) producers at the local level get a better deal, but doesn’t capture the interest of others at the grassroots. And without sufficient interest and subsequent benefit to self and community, there’s no motive to upgrade from the likes of the Nokia 1100.   

Civil society can play a role. By leveraging some of the new technologies that seamlessly merge the web on the PC and the web on the mobile to create social networks, it’s possible to create virtual communities that produce and exchange information on shared interests, goals and challenges. 

Telemedicine can also play a role as an incentive for mobile internet. 

The issue of cost that Ken points to is important. The mobile web has to work differently to the web on the PC. The devices don’t lend themselves to laborious Google searches. There is limited screen space to display information. There are issues of language, with some scripts such as Sinhala requiring a larger font size (and therefore more screen space or less information on smaller screens) than English / Romanic fonts. There are issues of literacy to boot.

I have always though of mobiles empowering communities as an eco-system of complementary technologies. The lowest common denominator and the most useful to date is SMS. Add to this vernacular IVR services (which requires limited literacy) and wholly SMS driven information retrieval (such as that which many banks have on mobiles in Sri Lanka with details of credit card special deals and offers) and you have a range of technologies that aren’t impeded by the lack of internet accessibility on existing mobile handsets in the hands of the majority of consumers.

Ken’s full sentence in one of the excerpts above is as follows,

The problem is that the Nokia 1100, as with many of the low-end handsets found in the markets and shops in developing countries, has no browser of any kind and doesn’t support GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or any other form of data transmission.

Emphasis mine.

It’s a problem yes if you see it as providing everyone with web access.

However, the point I wish to make is that the internet isn’t just about the web or accessing it over a mobile web browser. SMS and IVR can hook into real time, live data sources on the internet (e.g. at its simplest, think of weather forecasting on-demand over voice or SMS for fisherfolk). Mobiles with just SMS can provide information to the web (think Twitter’esque services) that can in turn feed back into mobiles via SMS (think the erstwhile Rasasa). Think subsidised numbers that IDPs can call to access and listen to radio programmes with vital information. Think Government Information services that use IVR, are free calls, that enable all consumers to access information otherwise only available through the web. Think of cybercafes as stations to access printed documentation that is printed on demand through innovative SMS services.

Using Ken’s FrontlineSMS and a range of other tools and services, such as Sahana’s SMS modules, I will over the next three years work on some of these areas in Sri Lanka.

ICT for Peacebuilding

ICT4Peace wiki featured in Communications Initiative’s ICT4D section

The ICT4Peace Foundation’s ICT4Peace wiki, that I manage, was featured in the Communications Initiative ICT4D section recently.

As noted on the wiki, the “inventorisation” process revolves around the use of an edit-able wiki to share information about how ICTs – e.g., personal computers, mobile phones, and the internet – are being used to facilitate effective and sustained communication between all stakeholders involved in crisis management, humanitarian aid, and peacebuilding.

For more details of the Foundation please visit it’s website.

Please also see this disclaimer reg. the opinions, ideas and content on this blog and my work with the Foundation. Though it’s a fact that I started to think about and actually put into action initiatives to promote and support peace through ICTs, the Foundation’s work with the UN and other national and international actors is breaking new ground on how multi-lateral agencies and governments see and use ICTs for peacebuilding, peacekeeping, conflict prevention, mitigation, transformation and post-conflict reconstruction. 

It’s a very nice fit for me, even though my interests and practice in ICT4Peace are larger than the specific foci of the Foundation at the moment. 

ICT for Peacebuilding

Beyond Tunis: ICT4Peace before ICT4D?

Flightplan 1.5

It is inevitable that advancements in technology find their way into peacebuilding – we are not even scratching the surface of what is possible today. The future of ICT4Peace, however, is pegged to the availability of funding to explore ways that technology can best help communities transform violent conflict. To date, donors, international agencies and local bodies are reluctant, at best, to approach ICT4Peace initiatives. This needs to change, and soon.

Precisely because of its growing importance and global recognition, ICT4Peace is no longer the domain of geeks or early visionaries. Ranging from Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), inter-cultural mediation, and virtual secure spaces for international collaboration to decision support systems in peace negotiations and advanced information visualisation, ICT4Peace spans a gamut of technologies, theories and communities of practice. From mobile phones to PC’s, from wireless to wired, from the village to the city, from citizen to politician, the future of ICTs in general, and ICT4Peace in particular, is invariably entwined with how well it vitiates violent conflict that mars our world today.

So much of ICT these days is about the use of big words. The core vision and raison d’etre of ICT4Peace however is quite simple.

It exists to generate hope, where little or none exists.

And that’s something truly worth supporting, for all our futures.”

Read my article in full here.

ICT for Peacebuilding, ICTs in general, Interesting content on ICT4Peace, Links

ICT4Peace in 2007: Significant work, applied research and challenges

It’s been an bloody eventful year, literally and metaphorically.

Sri Lanka’s war escalated dramatically over the course of the year, with the LTTE suffering significantly at the hand of a Government hell-bent on its complete destruction. The timbre of democracy in Sri Lanka took many blows, not just through the erosion of human rights and the exacerbation of humanitarian crises in the embattled North and East of Sri Lanka, but also through the continuing unconstitutional rule of the present regime. Demonstrating a racism and rabid intolerance mirroring that of the LTTE, the regime in the South displayed a totalitarian bent that in living memory was the worst it has been for democratic governance in Government controlled areas in Sri Lanka.

Work on ICT4Peace was placed against this sombre backdrop. Clearly, though we established significant markers in ICT4Peace writ large, the continuing violence, anxiety, insecurity and war means that there is very little to celebrate. I am convinced however, as never before, that ICTs can make an impact in a number of ways despite the rise of violence.

Human Rights Monitoring, Reporting and Advocacy

Key in this regard is a Human Rights Monitoring, Reporting and Advocacy platform for two leading human rights NGOs in Sri Lanka that InfoShare designed and developing using HURIDOCS. When I first met a representative of HURIDOCS in Geneva in 2007 and told him about the system, his first response was how we had managed to create a world-class system without even one single questions asked of them. Clearly, they were impressed.

Strategically, the system came at a useful time for the two organisations currently actively using it (in addition to other HR consortia interested in using it for their work in SL). The Sri Lankan government’s placement of extremely sharp and loquacious experts of spin and counter-propaganda to man its key High Commissions (Switzerland) and diplomatic fronts (SCOPP) posed a severe challenge to even leading HR advocacy groups in Sri Lanka. These organisations were good at international lobbying and HR advocacy, but unused to collecting, recording, storing and disseminating HR violation in a systematic manner, which meant that what they produced and released in the public domain was mercilessly decimated by the Government spin doctors as partial, inaccurate and untrue.

Moving away from the collection of records from, in some cases, Microsoft Word and Excel, into the highly structured and comprehensive HURIDOCS standard was more of a organisational challenge than technical, as is always the case with most ICTs introduced to the NGO sector to augment their work. Adequate training had to be given and human resources considerably strengthened in order to use the system, which over the coming years we hope will set a local and international standard for strong HR monitoring and advocacy.

Our human rights system features:

  • Web based interface: The world’s first fully web based Human Rights monitoring and reporting system. The database will run on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, ensuring the highest accessibility and a system highly resilient to changes and upgrades in operating systems.
  • Admin interface: This consists of a full implementation of the internationally recognised HURIDOCS data gathering/interpretation system with a full-featured data management interface with which organisations can enter, edit and manage human rights information.
  • Public advocacy website: This is equipped with charts, GIS maps and reports for data analysis as well as functionality to manage publications, articles and news related to human rights issues.
  • Multiple user access levels that define whether a user can view public information, view confidential information, modify information or site settings. This enables organisations to give selective access to the data management interface to individuals and partners that they may wish to bring into future monitoring work. Further, this enables any partner anywhere in Sri Lanka or abroad enter data directly into the system that organisations can then verify and approve for publication.
  • UNICODE standards based data entry: For person names and place names, the system includes extra fields to enter the same names in Sinhala and/or Tamil. Unicode text is used to make these fields searchable.
  • Data export formats: currently exports to CSV, an industry cross-platform standard that enables users to view information on Excel or any other spreadsheet programme on any operating system
  • RSS feeds of all new and updated content that enables critical updates of human rights to be accessed via email, SMS, mobile phone, PDA or newsreaders
  • Automated periodic (day end/weekly/monthly) situation reports, available on the website as an archive and also available as an RSS feed.
  • Database backup: the data on the server will be automatically backed up daily.
  • Security: SSL will secure all data being transmitted between the user’s computer and the server.
  • Browser compliance: all features are supported on Mozilla Firefox 2, Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 2, and Internet Explorer 7.
  • Over the wire and on-disk industry grade encryption and data security.

Fully complaint and backwards compatible with HURIDOC’s own (ageing) WinEvSys, our system is several generations ahead of it. We have planned an exciting range of features, from full mobile and PDA integration to advanced data visualisation including GIS that we will progressively build on to the system. I worked closely on the design and development of this system and am looking forward to its evolution.

Citizen journalism and New Media – Groundviews

Groundviews

Groundviews, launched in November 2006, came to be recognised over the course of 2007 as a site for original and path-breaking content on Sri Lanka. The site went on to win the first international award any civil society web based initiative / site has won in Sri Lanka an award of excellence in new communications conferred by the Society for New Communications Research.

SNCR Award

The content featured on the site over 2007 has responded to key events and processes in Sri Lanka with content that, on occasion, would not have been published in traditional media. Ground reports from the embattled North and East were useful foils to critically appreciate traditional media reports and propaganda on the war. Leading news and information websites such as TamilCanadian News, InfoLanka, Colombopage, Global Voices Online and numerous other blogs and websites, both local and international, now regularly link to the site.

Over the course of the year, Groundviews took on the malpractices of traditional media, web censorship, compelling perspectives of life in the midst of conflict, legal and political analyses, articles that critically analysed disaster response mechanisms and frameworks, issues such as the case of Rizana in Saudi Arabia that were largely ignored, at the time, in traditional media and on a number of occasions had to deal with the challenges posed by trolls and other miscreants.

In addition to this, Groundviews digitised and uploaded as well as archived and featured progressive videos on war and peace in Sri Lanka and fully incorporated Facebook into the website (to my knowledge, the first citizen journalism initaitive in the world to begin a Facebook Fan Page as an extension of the main site).

As of today, Groundviews on average gets around 20,000 pages views a month and around 700 page views a day (click here for more stats on the website and its readership).

Citizen journalism and New Media – Vikalpa, Vikalpa YouTube Channel and VOR Radio

Vikalpa

Vikalpa was launched in 2007 to address the need for citizen journalism content in Sinhala and Tamil that critiqued the status quo. Even though Groundviews was and still is a place for tri-lingual content, much of the submissions came to me in English and I didn’t have the time to actively elicit and / or create content in the vernacular from the field.

With ICTA and UNESCO funding, Vikalpa started to generate content from the field on issues related to Groundviews but with an emphasis on the vernacular.

Vikalpa, which is run and edited by a team of two at CPA that I helped train in citizen journalism basics, has developed its own identity. Wholly based on UNICODE standards, that to date poses some problems with input of Sinhala to the site, Vikalpa nevertheless generates around 600 pageviews a day, which is incredible given what I thought (wrongly) would be the more limited audience of web users interested in alternative news and information in the vernacular (Sinhala / Tamil).

Vikalpa is the first and to date only CJ website in Sri Lanka that produces content in Sinhala and Tamil, including audio and video.

Vikalpa Video

To this end, though not yet officially launched, the Vikalpa YouTube Channel was a pathbreaking exercise. Exclusively using the Nokia N93i (as an experiment to challenge ourselves to take mobile phone based news gathering to the limit) the channel was in the 3rd week of December ranked in the top 100 list of Directors on YouTube (ranked #82) for a video we uploaded that featured perspectives of the embattled city of Jaffna in Sinhala, that alone was viewed over 4,000 times. The channel itself has been viewed over 1,300 times since we created it, with many videos featured in it viewed hundreds of times.

Again, I was proved wrong on just how much of an audience there is for CJ content critically analysing war and peace in Sinhala and Tamil.

VOR Radio

Voices of Reconciliation Radio (VOR Radio, Sri Lanka’s first and only civil society podcast website, was strengthened in 2007 over a hundred hours of programming, largely in Sinhala and Tamil, of content that explored social, political, economic, cultural and religious issues across all communities, ethnicities in Sri Lanka, including many voices and podcasts from communities in the East and North of Sri Lanka.

Notable in this regard was full selection of recordings from the first Women’s Tribunal in Sri Lanka on 25th November 2007, that includes deeply moving and compelling personal narratives of violence against women (click here and select November 2007 from the drop down list to get a list of all the podcasts).

Work with the ICT4Peace Foundation: ICT4Peace internationally

ICT4Peace Foundation

In my capacity as Special Advisor to the ICT4Peace Foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland, I was part of several interesting meetings over the course of the year culminating in the launch of the ICT4Peace: An International Process for Conflict Management at the United Nations in New York on 15th November 2007.

I penned a brief write-up of this event for the PeaceIT! magazine put out by the Crisis Management Initiative. A full list of documents on this process, including the report of the event, can be found on the ICT4Peace Foundation’s website here.

In addition to this, I also made a submission on behalf of the Foundation at the United Nations OCHA +5 Symposium held in Geneva in October 2007.

The Foundation also launched in 2007 the web’s first wiki that catalogues real world examples and applied research of ICT4Peace.

Publications and writing on ICT4Peace, New Media and Citizen Journalism

I wrote far more in 2007 to web and traditional media, as well as chapters to books, than I did in 2006. Most of my writing, that can be found on this blog, Groundviews as well as on my personal blog, were written as personal responses to and critiques on the situation in Sri Lanka.

Of my writing on ICT4Peace per se, the most notable submissions were:

Other significant developments and writing related to ICT4Peace, New Media and Citizen Journalism

So what?

I’m often asked what all this means. My response is simple. As noted at the beginning of the post, despite the increase in violence domestically, Groundviews, Vikalpa and VOR Radio in particular, but also the burgeoning Sri Lankan blogosphere in general offer a range of rich and varied perspectives on democracy, peace and war in Sri Lanka.

Some of the voices for example featured on VOR Radio are now no longer with us. The perspectives on Groundviews have engendered discussions and greater awareness on issues that traditional media has only managed to cover through stereotypes. Vikalpa has exposed little known facts of life even in Colombo, such as the existence of high security zones within the University of Colombo.

As I note in my article on citizens journalism on Madrid11:

There is no guarantee that Groundviews will foster a new social movement in support of peace. There is no guarantee it will secure peace, in any greater degree, on the ground and in the north and east of Sri Lanka, where it is needed most. There is no guarantee that hate speech will not take over the timbre of online debate. The more Groundviews is successful in fostering new voices in support of peace, the more it will become a target of concerted attacks to prevent its growth.

And it is here that our greatest challenge lies. Not in the technology itself, but in the creation of a social and political movement – one fostered by citizen journalism mediated through new media and new technology – that is able to maintain, in some small way, the hope of a just and lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

This hope fuels Groundviews, not as a simplistic magic bullet against terrorism, but as an increasingly important vehicle for ordinary citizens to record their views in support of democracy as the only way through which terrorism can be effectively combated.

Challenges

One of the greatest challenges I’ve had to deal with this year has been in responding to the significant challenge of trolls and hate speech online. Two spikes of hate speech and trolling on Groundviews – one for around 2 to 3 months in early 2007 and the other, ongoing at the time I write this and after our award, suggest that with every expansion of the sites to new audiences brings with it a share of new trolls and anonymous commentators who seek to use the fora to promote their own blinkered viewpoints that they parade as patriotic. This despite clearly stated guidelines for submissions and the tone of manner of discussion.

Editing and deleting these comments invariably brings the argument by those who have little tolerance for its otherwise (see comments in response to this post), that the sites flagrantly violate the freedom of expression.

Some of the trolls started their own blog posts to name and shame the sites and one other, most recently (and hilariously, I think) started his own blog for posts and comments rejected from Groundviews.

On the one hand, this demonstrates the high visibility and veracity our citizen journalism sites command locally and internationally, in English as well as in the vernacular. A comment or post on any of the CJ sites we’ve created is guaranteed more visibility than a personal blog. This is its own attraction for those trolls.

On the other, I’ve often had to make judgement calls, based on the guidelines and also on what I feel a particular post or comment may engender in subsequent comments and submissions. All of the posts on Groundviews deal with highly emotive and divisive issues, more so in light of the widening, violent disconnect between pro-democracy NGOs (and the public writings of those working in or associated with them) and the larger polity and society in the Sinhala South (and their counterparts amongst the diaspora, who often tend to be more rabid, intolerant and insufferable).

It’s been tremendously challenging to edit Groundviews in particular (and the other sites less frequently) because I’ve had to continuously weigh personal threats to self and family that come in the form of comments and emails against the need to keep the forums as open as possible to content that may rile the pseudo-nationalists and patriots, but are viewpoints that need to be features precisely because they are being erased apace in traditional and other media in Sri Lanka.

The most challenging comments however are those that may be overwhelmingly spiteful, but carry an essence of truth in them that if only the person could articulate sans the viciousness, would be genuinely useful to further debate. Interestingly, efforts to communicate with those who communicate in such a manner have on occasion proved fruitful. One case is with someone called Justmal, who made some rabid comments earlier in the year against me personally and others published on Groundviews, but over time, has demonstrated a marked ability to engage intelligently with the content therein.

On balance, I think that moderated fora work better than unmoderated discussion spaces. The lessons from Moju were well learnt in this regard, even though the challenge of moderating is quite honestly extremely draining with little that comes in the way of thanks save for the content I’ve engendered that serves as a vital record and archive of discussions for posterity.

Final thoughts

ICT4Peace, a field that since 2003 I’ve worked hard to define through applied research and practice, came of age in 2007. Through the work of the ICT4Peace Foundation at the international policy level and my own, more humble efforts in Sri Lanka within violent conflict, I think the acronym and what is means and stands for is now part and parcel of the debates on conflict resolution, Online Dispute Resolution, SSTR, civilian-military relations, crisis management and humanitarian aid.

I’m looking forward to 2008 to consolidate this appreciation of ICT4Peace.

ICTs in general

Vint Cerf on ICT and Development: “If ever a technology defined an era of human development, ICT has that role in the 21st Century”

Speaking on the role of private, public and civil society in an interview with GKP, Google’s Vint Cerf goes on to explain how each can contribute to the exploitation of new ICTs for building and sharing Knowledge for Development purposes:

“The public sector (governments) have the opportunity to set policies and to support research that can lead to more rapid proliferation of ICT access and use. It can also lead by acquiring products and services that stimulate the use of ICT in government. Such uses can include provision of services to citizens via ICT as well as intra-governmental applications.”

The private sector can help to develop products and services based on ICT for use by government, business and residential users. It can engage in competitive investment and development of new ICT products and services and it can be active in the development of standards to achieve interoperability in the context of competition, to the advantage of users.”

Civil society can participate in the development of policies favoring the use of ICT, protecting a competitive environment for the private sector that favors domestic and international investment in ICT. Civil society also has the opportunity to collaborate with the other sectors to develop policies that protect privacy of individuals while at the same time empowering governments to protect against the abuse of ICT (spam, fraud, denial of services, viruses, worms, Trojan horses and so on).” 

Cerf goes on to say:

“I believe that information technology has the potential to open up a world of information to those who have been denied access in the past owing to lacking infrastructure or weak economic conditions.”

but fails to flesh ot his own position on Google’s internet censorship.

ICT for Peacebuilding, Links

GKP Panel – Pushing the envelop: New Media, Citizens Journalism, Human Rights and Development

GKP

Despite a degree of skepticism about the event, in which I am not alone, I helped design and will moderate a panel for the 3rd Global Knowledge Conference organized by Global Knowledge Partnership.

Pushing the envelop: New Media, Citizens Journalism, Human Rights and Development

This panel brings together key thought leaders and innovators in new media and citizen’s journalism to explore the intersection of traditional and new media and the opportunities and challenges this presents to support human rights and media freedom – especially in countries with violent and repressive regimes.

Key questions explored by this panel will be:

  • Are citizens journalism and new media mere buzzwords or do they really make a difference compared to the reach and impact of traditional media?
  • Does censorship that traditional media is often subjected apply any differently to new media and citizens journalism?
  • Placed in harm’s way for the content one produces or showcases, how resilient is citizens journalism in the face of regimes that attack human rights defenders and media freedom?
  • Broadband is a pre-requisite for most new media. Is the new media revolution exacerbating the digital divide? How much can we generalise on the potential of new media to strengthen sustainable development as well as political and human rights issues?
  • Is new media more or less reflecting the imbalances in old media (gender related, for example) or is it more representative and equitable?
  • YouTube and SecondLife play a visible role in the mainstream party politics of some countries – is it a sign of things to come and what are the possibilities it presents for the future?
  • What does the future hold? Will the new media in 2015 look, feel and sound like?

More details here.