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Tools for Mobile Activists


The presentation-lite slides from last week’s Global Philanthropy Forum panel on Early Warning: Listening, Technology, Activism

The three things on the device that will impact the spread of activist material in emerging markets and beyond: lower device cost’s are broadening the base of who can afford a feature rich mobile phone – putting more people in a position to capture and communicate what they see and hear; memory prices are rapidly dropping and sufficiently-large-for-storing-media memory capacity will filter down into the lowest cost handsets increasing the range of what is stored and the ability to communicate via the sneaker net – photos and video passed from hand to hand, rather than say sent over the network; and mobile phones equipped with TV Out e.g. N82 will leverage existing big-screen infrastructure and practices. I’m less sure of this last one – but included because most people aren’t aware of the feature.

After the session Gigi Brisson asked a smart question about the likely strategies for staying one step ahead of whomever is trying to snoop – the simplest is single or limited use communication tools e.g. using one SIM/phone used for a single conversation before disposing of it. Whether this is affective assumes other factors such as buying from different sources, varying the location from which the communication is carried out, encrypting what is communicated and so on and on. Even though countries like Japan or India are supposed to register pre-paid SIM card consumers at point of purchase there are enough lost, stolen or hacked SIM cards/phones to create a steady supply. NGO’s looking for a comprehensive solution should start with Benetech and in particular Martus – with thanks James Fruchterman for the pointer.