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Monday, January 16, 2012

SOPA Strike - Web Goes on Strike

Tim Berners-Lee: The World Wide Web - Opportun...Image by FrÀulein Schiller via Flickr
Though this bit of news will not be of much interest to many of the global Internet and World Wide Web audience that is currently trying to find out that who will be the next Miss America and Miss Wisconsin or what happened to the cruise ship Costa Cruises but still, the biggest websites on the Web are preparing for a strike! Yes the Web will be going on strike against SOPA.

As shared here on SOPA Strike website, on January the 18th there is going to be an all-out strike with websites across the Internet will be going totally dark protesting against the internet censorship bills currently being pushed in the US Congress namely SOPA and PIPA.

So far, many of the of the largest websites in the world are participating including but not limited to Reddit, Mozilla etc. with many more that can be encouraged to join through various other ways such as leading micro-blogging platforms and a popular collaboratively-written encyclopedia but still they need a bit of a a nudge.

If you want to keep the Internet and World Wide Web functioning and protect freedom of expression online, you must support the world's largest online Web Strike Against SOPA and blog, tweet, darken your website and share with your friends across the world through status updates on leading social media websites. This is for the world!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Politics of whether the Internet is a fundamental Human Right or merely a tool to help free expression? Vint Cerf creates a stir in the Internet and Human Rights community!

human rights
Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Internet Access Is Not a Human Right stated Vinton G. Cerf in a recent opinion article in the New York Times NYT here that attempts to build and clarify a single sided relation between the Internet, Human Rights and Civil Liberties. His article created a stir globally for people that believe in the fundamental human right to communicate and express freely while access to the Internet itself being a fundamental human right.

Vint's attempt to differentiate between the right to access, using a tool, freedom of expression and Human Rights in general with regards to the Internet is interesting but it also provokes the question that whether  paper a human right or is a pencil a human right or is access to both a paper or pencil a human right?

In my humble opinion, this article attempts to recognize the layer of abstractness between Technology as only a tool of the current age and Human Rights and Civil Liberties as universal in order to understand
both the technical and civil roles.

Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself?
The larger point that Vint mentions that "technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself" says that there is something of more humane nature and need than just the technology in between. It just outlines in the following order:
  • Human Beings as Citizens,
  • Recognition of Human Rights (the right to freely communicate, share and express),
  • Technology (the tools),
  • Access (being able to access that tool),
  • Policy (government plans, regulations and action to achieve connectivity to the tool for its citizens),
  • Cost Control and Management (the dynamics of economy, demand and supply, market production and distribution),
  • Technology Evolves (update and upgrade both knowledge and infrastructure),
  • Waste (dumping old technology?)
  • Changing Needs (as human society progresses with technology)
  • Human Rights & Civil Liberty Violations, did the Internet violate those or did governments and corporations violate those?
Who will take the responsibility for providing access to the Internet and Web?
At the fundamental level, it is the duty or obligation of every government to create an enabling environment where its citizens can live and practice their fundamental human rights, can freely connect with each other, can freely share and interchange information with each other with the fear of violation of their fundamental rights (again greatly regulated under national constitutions). The tools then evolve and are used as Human Civilization embraces more and more scientific developments of its various needs.

Self created obstacles to the Internet?
For example, despite the tall claims of my country's telecom regulatory bodies that Mobile Penetration reaches nearly half of the country's population, smart phones are both expensive and a luxury accessible to only a certain affording class while even for them Internet access is a luxury. The governance of the telecom actually delays and prevents society to shift to 3G or 4G access which again increases the access to luxurious 3G and 4G compliant technology. There really is no line that can be drawn here.

The true cost of Internet Connectivity for the developing?
In my recent visit to Kabul, 1MB of Internet connectivity stood at US$200 to US$300. In Pakistan, that is at only US$12. For Afghanistan to achieve that price and make it accessible for its citizens will remain a dream for many years to come. Why, Pakistan is population wise the 6th most populated country in the world and thus the 6th largest market for Internet and Telecom Services. The market in Pakistan has evolved only after insufficient struggle to provide basic human needs and infrastructure. In the cities for example, we have had less and less electricity since 2007. In rural regions where over 66% of national population resides, electricity may be available only for 2-4 hours max in a 24hr day.

Is electricity a fundamental Human Right or simply access to it?
For both Pakistan and Afghanistan, electricity is a major issue and would electricity be subject to being an Human Right or a basic need for Humans to progress and participate in today's post-industrialized global economy? Is electricity a tool to run a bunch of other tools that help improve one's life or is it a human right that using it or not using it might end me up in jail because I did not use it to express myself? Electricity is a basic human need in today's world. I can still express with or without it. I can use solar power to charge my phone and send that particular SMS that can go viral. Then access to solar batteries would indeed be a challenge.

Another important discussion here is that if humanity uses electricity to build a technology on which all human ideas, expression and knowledge is stored, how can I access that? Do I have the fundamental right to access that human knowledge? Will I have to use electric powered tools to communicate in order to practice my fundamental human right to communicate? Once I can communicate, how do I use these tools to freely share and raise my concerns or help others so how can I practice my freedom of speech.

That has been the thin red line that prevails within the Human Rights Declaration and Internet Rights per say debate today. Is the tool the fundamental character or the tools to enable the right to access knowledge, the right to communicate, the right to freedom of speech? As Vint Cerf says, as these rights are universal to humanity, they are not bound to any particular technology at any particular time that also links Internet is valuable as a means to an end, not as an end in itself.

What are the Ethical Responsibilities of the Technical Community?
I taught thousands of Pakistani Web Masters and Internet Engineers from the very beginning of Internet and World Wide Web WWW penetration here since 1995 and have managed the country's critical Internet infrastructure in a government body in the past and continue to train governments and organizations on the use of Free & Open Source Software FOSS and Open Standards (Open ICT Ecosystems). It was both my professional and personal obligation to empower my fellow citizens with the knowledge and ethics of data, information and knowledge creation while maintaining safety and showing others how to use information while keeping safe while the Internet and WWW continued to spread.

To that end, I believe Vint Cerf simply says, protect existing civil and human rights without calling access to the tool a human right. Accessing that tool and expressing on it might get me jailed or killed, in our part of the world, it does. We may have to first "help" our governments first appreciate our fundamental Human Rights and Civil Liberties is what it directs at......but it does miss the point!

Is Vint Cerf using an Internet Infrastructure Protection Shield to protect Unilateralism?
Vint Cerf and his followers may be attempting to usher the global Internet community away from the notion that access to critical Internet infrastructure resources may be treated as fundamental Human Rights and an important component of today's understanding of Civil Liberties in a highly connected and networked world.

An example to this end may be various countries across the globe regarding broadband as a right for every citizen in their countries. Vint's notion may move on to actually defy that basic necessities of life are not rights at all? The philosophy being propagated here may just be an attempt to continue defense of the the unilateral control on the Internet as if someone rightly says that "thou shalt not touch what is not broken"!

Vint's article may vaguely be an attempt to keep away the focus of Human Rights and Civil Liberty activists and advocates from making the Internet and its critical infrastructure a globally shared responsibility.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Politics and Social Media in Pakistan - The struggle for new power within an immature democracy!

English: Picture of imran khan giving speech i...
Image via Wikipedia
The political scene in Pakistan is in full heat midst all the uncomfortable steam of the governance chaos, economic instability, war on terror, energy crisis and all that is constantly aired on the domestic and global news and media. It definitely is the complete package perfect for setting the stage for a Wild West movie or the perfect take over of the government by a bunch of gringos right here in South Asia's heart.

Chaotic History with a Chaotic Today, and Future?
With the massive terror attacks and daily target and political killings carnage across the nation, the never ending NRO case hearings, political unrest with fading accountability, death of Osama Bin Laden, the chaotic mishandling of Raymond Davis case, the political Memo Gate scandal, the crisis after NATO and ISAF's murderous attack on the Pakistani military border checkpoints, the protesting crushed citizenry against the unavailability of electricity, natural gas, rising prices of daily commodities with increasing inflation, the highest rates of joblessness in the world, no law or legal protection even at the basic level, with constant human rights violations midst constant media threats of martial law over an immature democracy, the country remains struggling to withhold its weight and avoid a total collapsing failure. 

Cooking pot for an Epic political drama of the century!
Despite all this chaos and pitfalls of democracy in Pakistan, the political stage is getting ready for the best election drama of the new millennium, a moment in history that everyone across the world will be interested in following. What will be the future of Pakistan and its governance? Hardcore dirty politics is not the focus of this discussion but more on how the political parties and key political actors have taken to the Internet, World Wide Web and Social Media to heat up the political battle ground for upcoming elections.

Social Media, a political goldmine in Pakistan?
Social Media continues to be a very undermined and less interesting space for the majority of the country's population. This is fueled by the rising illiteracy rates, fading access to the Internet, the constant threat by the governance that political outbursts will be treated as defamatory content and treason but this is the very same Social Media interest that outcried ex-President Mr. Musharraf's Emergency Crackdown on the Media in Pakistan during the last days of his government. Social Media burst out from all corners of the country reacting against the then emergency situation across the nation. 

The same Social Media has been constantly following and commenting on the political happenings in Pakistan and is slowly building a strong grip on the electronic media within the country. There is not a single domestic television program, anchor or analyst who may not be using the Internet and World Wide Web as a means to have an interactive dialogue with their audiences and citizenry of Pakistan. Who does not have a Facebook Page or a Twitter account today would actually be an alarming exposition among the Social Media aware online crowd. 

Imran Khan's slap on the rotten face of traditional politics!
So far the leading political actor is former cricketer hero turned politician Imran Khan leading the scene with his party The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (The Movement for Justice) of which he is the Chairman. Imran Khan has somehow resurfaced with a strong image in the recent years building the lead in the political drama by portraying an accountable and transparent personal, social and political character that is seducing the young generation of voters across Pakistan by leaps and bounds.

Imran Khan's supporters widely relate to the party leader's strong willed, determined, motivated and consistent persona for leading social, political and economic change. Not only that, Imran Khan's continuously successful political rallies across the country have attracted millions of supporters firing up support for his party that once had failed to make a mark on the Pakistani Political scene.

Imran Khan's progressive party is building upon the support from the country's middle class citizenry as this class has the very resources that are required to help the poorer majority nationwide while bring change across the governance and legislation to redirect the focus on what really matters to the common man. This middle class with its online resources is helping to build and fuel an online social media revolution. PTI online videos giving out the call to participate in the party's rallies like the following are spread across the domestic Social Media scene and are an indicator of the party's outlook towards using Social Media to reach out:

Imran Khan - Online call to Lahore Rally on October 30th 2011

The progressive Tehreek-e-Insaf is both online and offline 
Imran Khan surely has some of the country's finest Internet and Social Media talent supporting and watching his back online. Though volunteers, these talented young people are really cooking up his party's image and support online driving millions to him using Facebook groups and pages, Twitter updates and Livestream broadcasts.

Role of Social media Team in PTI Lahore Jalsa and Politics 31 october, 2011 by Dawn News.

During the recent Pakistan Blog Awards 2011 ceremony in Karachi, Imran Khan stated that social media played an important part in harboring a revolution in any country because most of the social media activists and users are the Youth acknowledging this role played by the young during the Arab Spring and revolutions in the Middle East and Northern Africa. His rally was broadcast live by the party Social Media Team across the world using Livestream generating a continuously rising following of over 30,000 viewers mostly from around the globe.
PTI Social Media at work on Karachi Rally on December 25, 2011 by CNBC News Pakistan

Political Social Media backfiring already?
Despite the all the beauty and flare on the political Social Media scene in Pakistan, there are also reports of backfiring by trolls and people not happy with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Social Media accomplishments. Despite images like the one below popping up around blogs by Pakistani bloggers depicting what the Social Media crowd in the country is getting ready for, there also have been discouraging backfiring as according to this post by a PTI supporter here * Sorry but the image and website were removed!

As is evident from this blogger's distrust with the PTI Social Media Team and its Social Media Strategy, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf appears to stand strong in its Social Media strategy and channels with an active party blog here, the official party Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PTIOfficial with over 236,496 likes (at the time of this writing) and 93,038 talking about it, over 700,000 new party members joining PTI via a SMS campaign by sending a TEXT MESSAGE with name and city to 80022 where 300,000 (at the time of this writing) people have registered through the SMS campaign. and finally a Twitter following here of about 20,676 followers (at the time of this writing) and a bunch of patriotic songs catching the attention of youth. The PTI Blog mentions the party's Social Media progress here.

Image courtesy of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Official party website here.
Politics from the computer screen to smart phones
Despite the discouraging trolls and angry Social Media PML or PPP supporters online plus the inexperienced Social Media Team, PTI is still advancing its political Social Media campaign while being positively determined to capture everyone's support across the country and outside with every possible mean. For example, CIO Pakistan recently reported here about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Android Application for Smart Phones running the Android Operating System. In continuation of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Social Media strategy that has been very active in using the social media as a tool to promote the party’s tactics and activities.

A young party supporter named Dayem Pasha has been developing an unofficial PTI application titled as Pakistan  Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, an application that will help users and party supporters find the party’s posts, status updates, social videos and Tweets on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter while the app can be downloaded for free on the Android platform.

Teeth Maestro and PTI
So whether one uses the Internet online through a computer or a cell phone, Tehreek-e-Insaf seems to be using every technological mean in the market to reach out to its future voting masses in and outside Pakistan. During its recent rallies PTI supporters and bloggers used their online sources to help build following using a variety of strategies. The following image is an invitation to supporters for the recent PTI rally in Karachi on 25th December 2011 decorated on Teeth Maestros' blog here:
Image courtesy Teeth Maestro's Blog here.
If Teeth Maestro talks about you on his blog, consider the world following you from that very moment. This Dentist cum blogger is a leading blogging pulse for the domestic political social media discussions and an inclination towards the Movement for Justice is evident through his postings. This is a prime example of the online changing allegiances towards a rapidly evolving political force in Pakistan by the online content contributors in the country.

Pakistan Muslim League PML(N) still in the hot seat but not cooking well?
The second political actor in the race is twice ex-Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N), one of the long standing Muslim League leaders but a very close ally of the country's establishment in the past though was overthrown in his last tenure by his own self-appointed Military Chief's of Staff General (Retired) Mr. Pervaiz Musharraf. Mr. Nawaz Sharif and his brother Mr.Shahbaz Sharif made a strong comeback in the post-Musharraf democratic elections but fell victim to the sympathy vote casted by the majority of Pakistani voters in lieu of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto's assassination. 

The PML(N) ended up in coalition federal government while forming the ruling party government in its native Province of Punjab but its conflicting participation and statements with the Pakistan People's Party led coalition government has deterred the majority of young Pakistani citizenry now inclining towards Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party. Not being able to back claims has been the major drawback for PML(N) that has resulted in its own parliamentary and party members to breakaway and join Imran Khan in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. 

PML(N) is now seemingly using its provincial government infrastructure to initiate and lead a Social Media effort that is not displaying much support online as the online Pakistani Social Media crowd is already bending towards  Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Social Media revolution.

PML(N) official website mostly portraying its leader's imagery is located here. Mr. Shahbaz Sharif has a Facebook Page here and Twitter following here that appears to be more personality driven than party driven but lacking the following that Imran Khan and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf enjoy online. It is also widely claimed by the Pakistani media and Civil Society that current Chief Minister of the Province of Punjab Mr. Shahbaz Sharif may also be enjoying the benefit of his government's machinery to support his online presence as opposed to Mr. Imran Khan's Social Media Team originally composed of volunteer PTI party supporters.

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) looking for a way out?
There is not much to say about this party as the world reads about its current state in the media everywhere. PPP remains the ruling party in the federal government of Pakistan but on the Internet, the PPP both as a party and government is taking the worst bashing ever with the whole political and activist online crowd giving it the best they can for the party's turmoil and blurring grip on the affairs of the country at all levels. The Social Media scene here is not the only one to blame as the Electronic and Print Media across the country is treating the issue in a similar fashion and public opinion appears to be concluding to a similar stance both online and offline.

The web is filled daily with coverage of criticism and hell seems to break loose on the PPP on every political space on Facebook, Twitter or Blog that follows the politics of Pakistan. Even non-blogging or tweeting citizens online are updating their statuses scolding the government for losing focus of all the issues that concern the non-feudal and non-capitalist middle and poor class citizenry of Pakistan.

PPP appears to be losing its ground both offline and online while any Social Media strategy on their part does not seem to be working as the Pakistani Social Media crowd is already displaying their allegiance to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Collateral damage but is it so for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf?
While Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is building up as Pakistan's most recent but most progressive political party, it is heavily inflicting damage to the traditional Pakistani political stage for the better or worse. Most of its damage is being absorbed by the Pakistan People's Party as it is finding hard day by day to counter the massive force Imran Khan is gradually building up. 

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is breaking old political relationships in all the political parties across the country inviting and opening arms to the old, experienced, seasoned and traditional politicians from PML and PPP whom feel betrayed by their parties or seek homage to a non-corrupt and more transparent and accountable political and governance future for Pakistan. This is also raising eyebrows within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf whether these old faces will support the new vision of the party.

Media now bending over to Imran Khan and a renewed vision of Justice with the progressive Tehreek-e-Insaf 
It is evident from what goes on in the electronic media in Pakistan that all media forces are slowly bending towards Imran Khan's political wave building a national thrust of support across all channels for backing Imran Khan. This is turning into a grueling battle for all political parties that somehow continue to believe that the traditional hierarchy of the Politics in Pakistan can be sustained through their misled and impoverished doctrines of class and religious confusion and oppression. 

Marking Political Social Media milestones for Pakistan
Tehreek-e-Insaf 's recent political rallies in the cities of Lahore on 30th October and in Karachi on the 25th of December 2011 launched the party's Social Media team to the nation. The team appeared to really have done an amazing job keeping the interest going, gathering the masses, keeping the masses in other cities and outside the country aware on what was happening on the ground though Twitter and Livestream while maintaining a storm of blog posts across the Pakistani Internet scene.  In fact, Tehreek-e-Insaf is the only political party that publicly recognizes its Social Media Team on its main website at http://www.insaf.pk.

Imran Khan definitely has made a mark on the Social Media history in Pakistan with his progressive Social Media Team that has over nine social media managers, a writers group and an IT Head. More interestingly, all the members of the party's Social Media Team have public profiles on Tehreek-e-Insaf's official website showing that the party honors and values them. This breaks the traditional political facade of not recognizing the efforts of party workers. Imran Khan is definitely striving for a new approach to party worker team building as well as portraying the contributions of these members to the public at-large. 

Imran Khan and his party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf definitely have a strong Social Media strategy in place. Its not rocket science but its definitely working wonders for PTI and building a strong online following that might just work for their elections. 

Wake-up call for all political actors online or offline
For all those political leaders and their parties that lack interest or do not follow the Social Media in Pakistan should be alerted that the largest voter base of Pakistan irrespective of their rural or urban location are following and commenting on the political carnage in Pakistan. These young minds are reading, commenting and creating the political social media scene in Pakistan generating interest across the country building a political revolution online in support of the Imran Khan's progressive and revolutionary movement for the people in the form of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.   

Social Media Political Elite of Pakistan online and exposed
Though this may sound like some celebrity's sex video being exposed but the interest that is evolving online with regards to politics in Pakistan gives a similar feeling. Almost every political actor in Pakistan is trying to grab the opposition by their neck and shake the sanity out of them only displaying how scared and unsure everyone is about the future of politics and governance in the country. 

The damage that Tehreek-e-Insaf has already inflicted to all the political actors across Pakistan by employing strong and progressive approaches online and offline to both the electronic media and new media shows the opportunity for Social Media to help determine the future political direction of the country. The politics in Pakistan is cultivating a new, highly aware and socially responsible young Pakistani crowd online that is slowly aligning its allegiance to the Tehreek-e-Insaf. 

The Social Media young are seen politically determined across all Social Media channels and outlets being used by Pakistanis that there is hope with Imran Khan. To what extent is this a reality will only be determined when the election dates are announced and the nation takes to the polling booths. Until then, its a lot of drama and rhetoric with political actors in a struggle to expose each other as if it was the end of the world for them!    

Getting the better of Human Drama in Pakistan
Social Media is continuing to play an important part in shaping the future of Politics and Governance in Pakistan. This is Change happening in Pakistan at its best and this time its the young online crowd building a silent revolution through a frequency even more interesting than the Arab Spring and occupy movements!

So far, the Government has been supportive of Imran Khan to hold his rallies across the country without any human casualties or terrorist attack attempts. Imran Khan's peaceful march towards true political democracy and governance appears to be very stable as opposed to the numerous deaths and brutality witnessed during the Arab Spring and other protests across the world.

I do not know if 2012 is the year during which the world ends but it does seem that the political drama in Pakistan is set for a big chaotic ride and there is hope at the end of the road so one must stay online to follow the developments while not forgetting that each and every vote matters!

Wake up Pakistan and join in defining the Political Social Media Revolution in Pakistan.