Building on Johanna's earlier post on social media, I thought I'd highlight a few points from Clay Shirky's new piece in Foreign Affairs, entitled "The Political Power of Social Media" (users must register). The essay is a thought-provoking contribution to the ongoing discussion about technology's political impact - and it also gives me an opportunity to clarify a few issues regarding my thinking on the Internet and authoritarian regimes.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Poverty Matters Blog (Guardian)
Technology’s role in fighting poverty is still ripe for discussion
"I'm rarely one for predictions, so I shied away from the usual scramble to make a few at the start of the year. Looking back on events, however, is another thing, and for me 2010 has been a particularly interesting year on a number of fronts.
If I were to make one key observation, I'd say that the "D" in ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) resembled more "debate" than "development" during 2010. The ICT4D field has always been ripe for fierce discussion – perhaps a sign that all is not well, or that the discipline continues to mature, or that the rampant advance of technology continues to catch practitioners and academics off-guard. Where, for example, does the advance of the iPad fit into ICT4D, if at all?"
When it comes to use of social media in development, development institutions remind me of lumbering elephants walking down the autobahn. In any other sphere, development organizations would not be at such a disadvantage. We have been building roads for ever. There has not been any fundamental change in the technology of building roads. Development organizations learnt slowly but well about development challenges in various sectors and are now legitimate experts in these areas. All the same the title of “knowledge institutions” is a bit hard to swallow. The reason, probably somewhat unfair, is that knowledge today, for most people is intimately tied to technology, social media too is viewed as a medium for knowledge, much like the network of roads and highways are a medium for commerce.
Say you're a civil society activist who uses online and mobile technology as a tool for greater accountability. Wouldn't you want to be able to call up a map of the world and easily find examples from other countries that might also be relevant for your work?
Turns out, you can. Recently, at the Internet at Liberty 2010 conference co-sponsored by Google and Central European University, I heard a presentation from the Technology and Transparency Network, which is an initiative of Global Voices and Rising Voices. Click on the link, and you'll see that the Technology and Transparency Network's home page is a map of the world, where you can zoom in on individual projects in countries like Mexico, Sudan, Uganda, Cambodia and Hungary.
This past weekend’s launch of the iPad has had me thinking more and more about the future of information because I’m not entirely convinced that we should go in the direction that Steve Jobs is taking us.
Or what I really mean (since I have every intention of getting an iPad) is that I’m not convinced that that’s the ONLY direction we should go.
Let me step back for a moment and briefly explain what the media gurus believe is in our future.
We live now in the age of Web 2.0 and the next BIG thing on the horizon is being called Web 3.0 or the “Semantic” Web. In other words, we are heading, we are told, for a web that has “meaning.”i