Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Burma…ground zero for an Internet “arms race”?

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While driving around today I heard a re-broadcast of this segment on Internet and mobile phone usage during last year’s protests in Burma/Myanmar. What’s happening in Burma should really end any debate between the technology-is-Utopian and technology-is-Orwellian crowds. Both sides are right, and how it all turns out remains to be seen. Point 1:  without technology, the world would not have connected to the protests, either visually or through the first-hand experiences of bloggers and other Burmese citizens. Point 2: the military regime has exploited the same technology for its crackdown … witness the sentencing of one blogger to 20 years in jail for publishing a cartoon.

Point 3:  nothing’s really changed, at least not yet. Imagine that instead of the Internet and mobile phones, we were talking about print presses and film cameras. Same cycle, liberation and repression. New technology hasn’t yet given an advantage to either side. 

The next round in this race is 2010, the year the ruling junta has committed to hold multi-party elections. Will anything change? 

I think the question depends more on what happens outside Burma than inside. If – and when – there’s an opportunity for ICT to support a liberation movement, where and how can it be provided? Will it be provided by governments, or individuals acting on their own – something between a “Free Tibet” movement and the so-called “hacker wars” that can accompany international crises? 

Or will the Burmese government get there first? 

For more on Burma’s crackdown during and after the crisis, see this piece from Technology Review.

Written by Mark

December 8, 2008 at 5:37 am

Posted in Technology

Tagged with ,

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