Saturday, January 29, 2011

Internet & Mobile Technology: Spurs Human Rights Movement Around the Globe

Impact on Human Rights of the People of the World

The world is stepping into unknown territory of instant global communications, global social networking, global commerce, and the rapid spread of unrest from country to country, propelled by the Internet and mobile technology.

Internet and mobile technology will bring about major changes in all aspects of our lives. However, the most significant changes would be the human rights movement around the world where people gather in the Internet and mobile communications forum to finally recognize, organize and demand their basic human rights.

Human rights are "rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled." Proponents of the concept usually assert that everyone is endowed with certain entitlements merely by reason of being human.

Egalitarianism, is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort. Its general premise is that people should be treated as equals on certain dimensions such as religion, politics, economics, social status, and culture. Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or moral status. It is defined either as a political doctrine that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people or the decentralization of power.”

Already, there has been civil unrest in countries such as Greece that have been sparked by their recent financial problems.

The lesson from unrest in Egypt, Greece, and regime change in Tunisia are very profound and clear.

“People will no longer accept oppression, particularly when oppression is married with rising food prices, a lack of employment and the destruction of hope for a young generation.”

Incidents of civil unrest that are already breaking out around the world are just a foretaste of what is to come, perhaps even to the United States.

In response to the civil unrest in Egypt, President Obama said in his recent communique to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak...

"I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters," Obama said.

The U.S. president also said protesters in Egypt have a responsibility to remain peaceful. "Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms they seek," Obama said.

Obama called on Egypt's government to reverse actions it has taken to "interfere with access to the Internet, to cellphone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century."

The suspension of the Internet is one of Egypt's latest moves in halting online communications amid unrest.

As the Technology blog reported, on Thursday the government blocked Internet data for BlackBerry smart phones and on Tuesday social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were unavailable to Egyptians as well. Mobile phone service in Egypt was cut off on Friday too.

The Web, and in particular social media sites, have been an invaluable tool for activists seeking political and social reforms in Egypt, said Charles Hirschkind, an associate professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley.

"The Egyptian government, they're hoping that these communication methods are a lifeline for the protests and activists and they're hoping that cutting off access will help lead to stopping the demonstrations," Hirschkind said. "But it's also apparent from the number of people in the street that people have plenty of ways to communicate outside of the Internet as well.

"The social networks in activist and in protest movements like this are social networks that extend beyond the Internet. The Internet is a tool but not the social network itself."

Last year, there were 60 million mobile phone users in Egypt. In Egypt, there were 17 million Internet users as of December '09... that is 21% of the Egyptian population, according to the ITU.

There were 20 million people in Egypt that live below the poverty level... so I guess, they must be the one's without a mobile phone and are probably the ones demonstrating on the streets. I'm sure those demonstrating come from all walks of life and all socio-economic levels except for the elite.

"What has happened in Tunisia, is happening right now in Egypt, but also riots in Morocco, Algeria and Pakistan, are related not only to high unemployment rates and to income and wealth inequality, but also to this very sharp rise in food and commodity prices."

In Egypt alone, food prices soared 17% -- in part because of the worldwide surge in commodities prices but also because of local supply imbalances.

However, the bigger problem in Egypt, Greece or Tunisia lies not in just prices, but in the fact that when citizens are unhappy, they have little opportunity for political recourse... so they take their frustrations to the street in the form of protests and riots.

"In the U.S. if you're unhappy about who you've elected to the public office, you vote them out in the next election. "But it doesn't work that way in Tunisia or Egypt."

When it comes to the role of Internet and mobile technology, need I say more than what the President of United States has said about the Internet, mobile communications, and social networking as being the basic human rights of people of the world.

Just in case you forgot, Senator Obama raised close to a billion dollars for his Presidential campaign in 2008... and won the Presidential election on the back of Internet, social networking and his Blackberry mobile phone.

Communications has always been an important part of any successful person or business, and ways to communicate have certainly progressed over the past 100 years: from postal mail to e-mail, from telegraph to the telephone, from landlines to mobile smartphones, from written communication on paper to terabytes of data on finger tips, and from fax broadcasts to web-casts.

However, the most significant development has been the emergence of social networking sites, made possible by the Internet and mobile technology, as a forum for people to meet, exchange information, organize, and execute actions instantaneously in a dynamic mode.

We live in some very exciting and dangerous times... where events can gather momentum rapidly, and changes that took decades to emerge; can happen now in days and weeks.

What a difference a few strands of fiber and a prism of light can make to change the destiny of human race in the new millennium.

Anant Goel