Growth of mobiles and ICTs in the Asia Pacific region

The UNESCAP 2007 Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific has some interesting figures on the growth of ICTs in general and mobile phone telephony in particular in the region.

Mobile phones per capita

Sri Lanka has more mobile phone subscribers per 100 population than Pakistan and India. Other interesting statistics include:

  • Mobile phone growth is stifling fixed line growth across the region, but particularly in low income countries, SAARC member countries and least developed countries in the region (e.g. 97% of all phones in Cambodia are mobiles)
  • Internet use is growing, though the statistics don’t register wireless broadband internet access (via mobiles).
  • The Maldives, unsurprisingly, has the highest number of cellular subscriber per 100 population with Sri Lanka coming in second in South Asia.
  • SAARC member states and least developed countries show the highest growth for mobile phone subscribers in the Asian and Pacific country / area groupings noted in the report. 

Not sure why in the report Sri Lanka doesn’t register any growth in (wired) broadband subscribers from 2004 – 2006, though it does show an increase in the number of Internet users. I thought SLT alone would have given out a fair number of ADSL subscriptions over the past two years.

It will be interesting to see the data that comes in for 2007 / 2008 on how the introduction and growing usage of wireless broadband connectivity (3G and WiMax) over mobiles and PCs impacts these figures.

For me, these stats are vital determinants in favour of strengthening and promoting citizen journalism and user generated content in the region.

Shooting in public – Citizen journalism under threat in Sri Lanka

In recent months, pedestrians who filmed public bomb attacks on their mobile phones have been confronted by the police. One citizen who passed on such footage to an independent TV channel was later vilified as a ‘traitor’. Overly suspicious (or jealous?) neighbours called the police about a friend who was running his video editing business from home in suburban Colombo.None of these individuals had broken any known law. Yet each one had to protest their innocence.

It may not be illegal, but it sure has become difficult and hazardous to use a camera in public in Sri Lanka today. Forget political demonstrations or bomb attacks that attract media attention. Covering even the most innocuous, mundane aspects of daily life can be misconstrued as a ’security threat’.

Nalaka Gunawardene writes to Groundviews on the emerging threats facing citizen journalists in Sri Lanka in an article titled Endangered: Our right to ’shoot’ in public

As Nalaka points out in his article, even liberal democracies such as the US have also tried to clamp down on User Generated Content (USG). As I’ve noted on this blog, while France24’s citizen journalism initiatives are commendable, they largely ignore the fact that France has clamped down on citizen journalism as well.

The problem facing citizen journalists in Sri Lanka is the vigilante justice in the form of Civil Defence Committees that have sprung up all over the country. As the Free Media Movement (FMM) in an open letter to the Inspector General of Police notes in relation to two recent cases involved accredited journalists:

We firmly assert that journalists and media workers have a right to gather and disseminate information in the public interest. Any means that directly or inadvertently curtails the rights journalists is tantamount to censorship. We believe the duty of the Police is to protect these rights that are the foundation of democracy. Sadly, in the both cases noted above, the actions of the Police were inimical to their role as defenders of rule of law, giving in as they did to the arbitrary actions of essentially over enthusiastic vigilantes.

If the situation is incredibly bad (and deteriorating further to boot) for journalists today, Nalaka’s understates the challenges facing citizen journalists in Sri Lanka today when he avers that:

It may not be illegal, but it sure has become difficult and hazardous to use a camera in public in Sri Lanka today. Forget political demonstrations or bomb attacks that attract media attention. Covering even the most innocuous, mundane aspects of daily life can be misconstrued as a ’security threat’.

Read his article in full here. The chapter on Citizen Journalism I wrote for Communicating Disasters, that Nalaka quotes from in his article, can be read in full here.

Interview with Dan Gillmor on Citizen Journalism at GK3

Interview with Dan Gillmor at GKP GK III in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 13th December 2007. I moderated a panel titled Pushing the envelop: New Media, Citizens Journalism, Human Rights and Development that had Dan on it at the Global Knowledge Partnership, GK III conference.

Interviewer: Ahmed Shifan from Young Asia Television

Clip 1 – What is Citizen Journalism?

Clip 2 – How did you become involved in Citizen Journalism?

Clip 3 – Citizen Journalism seems to be a growing trend in the world. So what now is the role of the professional media?

Clip 4 – What about the credibility of reports that are posted by Citizen Journalists?

Clip 5 – What is the future for Citizen Journalism?