Liberation Technologies or Not…

Democracy is rarely discussed nowadays without reference to digital technologies. It has become a marriage that sometimes feels like a honeymoon [technology for democracy], and at other times a war zone [technology for autocracy].

An activist in Cairo stated during the popular uprising against Hosni Mubarak in early 2011:

We use Facebook to schedule our protests, Twitter to coordinate and YouTube to tell the world [culled from Patrick Meier’s PhD thesis].

Lately, I have been skimming the thesis submission of Ushahidi’s Director of Crisis-Mapping, Patrick Miere. The thesis title goes, Do “Liberation Technologies” Change the Balance of Power Between Repressive States and Civil Society?

Meier’s question is born out of the realisation that the use of ICTs have not resulted in a succesful Arab Spring for most countries in North Africa and the Middle East. He says from Sudan to Bahrain and Syria to Libya, protests have been brutally repressed and thousands of protesters killed.

Meier is asking, “does the change in means of, and access to, information genuinely threaten authoritarian control by shifting the balance of power between state and society?”

Today on Washington Post’s Politics page, there is story on Obama to target foreign nationals’ use of new technologies in human rights abuses.

I quote from the report:

Social media and cellphone technology have been widely credited with helping democracy advocates organize against autocratic governments and better expose rights violations, most notably over the past year and a half in the Middle East and North Africa…but authoritarian governments…have shown that their security services can also harness technology to help crack down on dissent — by conducting surveillance, blocking access to the Internet or tracking the movements of opposition figures.

Obama’s executive order intends to acknowledge those dangers as well as the need to adapt America’s national policy to “a world being remade rapidly by technology”.

The U.S. President will also announce some U.S. development “challenge” grant to encourage technology companies develop new ways to aid residents in countries vulnerable to mass killings better detect and quickly alert others of impending dangers.

The summary of my thoughts on this for now is that the LIMITED power of technology, if it had any at all, is becoming increasingly obvious. It is only logical to accept that the more sophisticated you design ‘liberation technologies’ to be, repressive regimes would not be resting on their oars.

Nigeria seems to be gearing for a follow-up Occupy Nigeria part 2, with the publication of the fuel subsidy report and all the  scandalous details contained within …and I am wondering if the role technology is meant to be used to play is really understood, before protesters embark on this mission.

What role do you suppose technology should play in the fight for freedom, corruption or generally, a better democracy?

Media Junkie

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4 thoughts on “Liberation Technologies or Not…

  1. Am afraid that we are over relying on technology for these social movements however Technology has its limits and the limits have not been touched at all. I will stick with the theory that the governments are totally afraid of the strengths of technology and how it can spur and help rally up social movements.

    Am all for technology any day.

  2. Mykey Irene says:

    Liberation technologies’ vary from one country to the other. Darlington opines that: ” Every new source from which man has increased his power on earth has been used to diminish the prospects of his succesors. All his progress has been made at the expense of damage to his which he cannot repair or forsee.” Therefore, if liberation technologies must fiight corruption and other social ills, the individuals and the said society must be willing to deal with challenges “technological” results provide.

  3. Okay, so first of all I have to be honest and say that I am kind of, sort of, sick and tired about everyone obsessing over twhat influence social media will have or not have in the quest for better governance. Perhaps this is partly the fault of the ‘Arab Spring’ leaders, but it is all out of proportion now.

    Why will anyone believe that the governments that are threatened won’t try to control the internet? Why does anyone think that governments around the world will just allow their people to access the Internet freely? It is a fundamentally wrong premise. It is also a wrong premise to imagine that these governments will not be successful initially to some degree.

    What people don’t understand is that any revolution, all revolution, is a process like any other. These things don’t happen overnight. We are only at the very beginning of that global process! Heck, the Green revolution in Iran is not quite three years old! This struggle will be on for a while, and I also believe that ultimately, ALL governments and corporations who try to control the Internet, will lose. ALL of them.

    What we should be worrying about is documenting the process as accurately as we possibly can, not fussing over what technologies will bring ‘liberation’ and which of them won’t. Liberation is already here. Revolution is already here. Whether anyone likes it, or not.

  4. 'Lara says:

    Great post…technology or not, Nigerians have not gotten to that place yet..we are not yet ready to fully fight against corruption and bad governance. The so-called activist are fighting these cause for their own future benefits and recognition.The average Nigerian is not ready to die for the country. The Arabs were ready for a change and did every thing to get it. Till we are truly ready for a change, all the noise on twitter and facebook will just be the noise it is.

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