Syndicate content

Will Someone Find and Control the Master Switch of the Internet?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A recent  (2010) book by Tim Wu titled The Master Switch: the Rise and Fall of Information Empires is a sweeping, industrial history of the succession of new media technologies that rose to prominence in America in the 20th century: radio, the telephone, television, film and, of course, the Internet. It is an American story with global ramifications because of the powerful global influence of American information empires.

Wu's story is both arresting and depressing.

Can Virtual Civil Societies Build Citizen Competence?

Sabina Panth's picture

The image of civil society as non government entities with concrete institutions, with office space, meeting halls and formal titles, is gradually shifting in this virtual age of online activism and social media.  Instead, these formal institutions are diffusing into loose networks, where, in place of human resources, software programs are doing much of the work.  In the words of journalist Charlie Beckett, these emerging entities are the “Virtual Civil Societies.” 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Anti-Corruption Views- World Bank, UN make ‘how to’ asset recovery guide

"How do you stop corrupt regimes from stashing their money in your jurisdiction? That is the question a joint initiative by the World Bank and United Nations answers in a recent report.

The Barriers to Asset Recovery report, by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), gives policymakers a ‘how to’ guide on implementing laws and mechanisms needed to freeze and repatriate stolen assets." READ MORE

Yes, The Revolution Will Be Televised. Now What?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

In a media landscape saturated with images of tweeting revolutionaries and blogging dissidents, it's easier than ever to assume a causal relationship between the spread of technology and political revolution. But take a closer look, and the issue begins to look a lot more complex.

An informative and timely new essay by Marc Lynch, an associate professor at George Washington University and prolific commentator on Arab media and political issues, deftly sums up the main arguments, contradictions and knowledge gaps surrounding the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on the phenomena collectively referred to as "the Arab Spring." Entitled "After Egypt: The Limits and Promise of Online Challenges to the Authoritarian Arab State," (subscription may be required), the piece implicitly argues for abandoning the usual "optimist/pessimist" trope that plagues such discussions, favoring instead a more nuanced and complex perspective on the impact of ICT in authoritarian states. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, I agree - see this previous post.)

Forecasting Failure?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

A perennially relevant question is making the rounds again in the wake of the Arab Spring: Why can't anyone predict revolutions? (See Sina's "quote of the week," for example.) The issue is again raised in this piece by Foreign Policy managing editor Blake Hounshell, in conjunction with Foreign Policy's seventh annual publication of its Failed States Index (FSI).

The article seems geared toward explaining why the FSI didn't "predict" the Arab Spring, and it discusses the fact that indices are generally better at providing snapshots rather than acting as crystal balls. It also notes that while the FSI has captured some elements of political destabilization in the Middle East, it has missed others. Experts quoted in the article note that revolutions may be inherently difficult to predict, due to the so-called "demonstration effect" (whereby revolutions, aided by satellite television and other advances in communication technology, allegedly spread by contagion) and other factors.

Opening Channels for Citizens to Directly Interact with the Government

Sabina Panth's picture

I wonder how many of us, living or working in Washington DC, know about 311.  No, I’m not talking about the Three-Eleven rock band, but rather the phone-based 311 system that many cities in US, including DC, have opened up for citizens to submit inquiries or log complaints related to public services.  There is also an “evolved” version of 311, called Open311, which allows the public to submit and track the progress of their reports through use of modern technologies like mobile-phones or computers. In return, the government is able to capture accurate details of the inquirer’s input, act on those details and then notify the public on the actions taken.  Marc Angelo Irlandez, who heads Open311, relates the system with Customer Relations Management (CRM) information database that sales businesses use to store information on their regular and potential customers to tailor products and services accordingly. 

Post-Conflict Justice and ICT

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

We've discussed here and in related papers (such as Towards a New Model and The Missing Link) the role that media and communication (including all forms of information and communication technologies, or ICT) can play in pre-, mid- and post-conflict situations. Too often, donors think of media and communication as an adjunct to their main reconstruction and peacebuilding work, something with which to publicize their activities. I've advocated strongly in the past for assigning a more significant role to the field of media and communication in conflict, urging donors to consider it as a substantive, technical area that needs to be systematically incorporated into donor plannning rather than treated as an offshoot of public relations.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The NGO Corruption Fighters' Resource Book

"Corruption is a very big problem in many nations of the world-some would assert that it is becoming more extensive, and more areas of development activity are being affected.  Corruption is also becoming, de facto, an attack on governance as more and more of the rules under which nations are governed are breached with impunity.  Citizen engagement is very important in fighting corruption, and there are particular advantages in getting NGOs more involved in the fight. NGOs have limitations, but also great potential strengths, and these can be better realized through better project management."  READ MORE

The Unfinished Global Revolution: Book Review

Caroline Jaine's picture

When I first met Mark Malloch-Brown several years ago, he was a newly ennobled peer and part of the Gordon Brown lead British Government, serving as a Foreign Minister. Wearing the ermine of a Lord together with his Make Poverty History wrist-band, Malloch-Brown was a figure of both rebellion and conformity.  Given his outspoken stance on the war in Iraq and his uneasy relationship with America’s neo-cons, I wondered then whether he would be forced to compromise on his principles.

His latest offering to the world is certainly no compromise.  In The Unfinished Global Revolution, as the title suggests is all to aware that it is written at a time of immense change, less at the cusp of revolution – more in the thick of it.

This is a book about Malloch-Brown’s personal journey, and whilst the writer candidly shares remarkable anecdotes, he also offers unique insight into some of the world’s most challenging conflicts and commentary from inside both government and international organisations.  Ultimately, however, true to character, this reads as a call to action.  As he writes: We need to get on with it!