Agents of the East German Stasi could only have dreamed of the sophisticated electronic equipment that powered Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s extensive spying apparatus, which the Libyan transitional government uncovered earlier this week. The monitoring of text messages, e-mails and online chats — no communications seemed beyond the reach of the eccentric colonel.
In 1439, Johannes Gutenberg sparked an information revolution. The invention of movable type lowered barriers for sharing ideas, creating spaces for reformation and revolution. Today's Internet fulfills the same role, a flexible medium for sharing information and democratic communications. It was with this idealized Web in mind that President Obama used his 2011 State of the Union address to call for an expansion of next-generation mobile broadband.
Did the youthful rioters who roamed the streets of London, Manchester and other British cities expect to see their photos scrutinized by angry Internet users, keen to identify the miscreants? In the immediate aftermath of the riots, many cyber-vigilantes turned to Facebook, Flickr and other social networking sites to study pictures of the violence. Some computer-savvy members even volunteered to automate the process by using software to compare rioters' faces with faces pictured elsewhere on the Internet.
But it's not all Justin Beiber-induced time-sink. Twitter keeps us tuned in to the warm, beating heart of the health policy news in D.C. and around the country, besides helping us stay connected to the latest breaking developments in Anatidaean linear progression.
We joined the Twitter party early.* On Februrary 19th, 2009, a program associate named Paul Testa pushed the New Health Dialogue head first into the social media revolution. With a minor de-anglification of our name, the @NewHealthDialog was born.
And now, 2 years, 5 months, 22 days, and 4,376 tweets later...
So a hearty digital thanks to @umtrey, as well as all of our 6,999 other loyal followers. It's been a wild ride, with that whole health reform debate... bill... law... more debate... court challenge... more debate... debt ceiling... and it sure doesn't look to be over any time soon.
Keep tweeting us (we love to hear from you!), and we'll keep bringing you all the live-tweeting and bad-punning you can handle. We've heard this whole debt commision thing might get interesting...
*Not that early... We were actually Tweeter #20,703,914. But to put that in perspective, if you registered for a new Twitter account today, you'd be somewhere in the 340,000,000s! So we beat about 320 million people to the fad.
**And an even bigger thanks to all the tweeters gone by! We're looking at you Paul, Allie, Meredith, Joanne, Thiago, Eric, Andrew, and Logan.
The "feature" mobile phone is the globe's top selling consumer electronics product. For many of the world's poor, due to meager connectivity in rural areas and the costs of more advanced mobiles, these phones effectively support only voice and text (or SMS) functions. Feature mobiles have spread into some of the most remote areas of the globe, with 48 million people now with cell phones but no electricity, and by next year, 1.7 billion with cell phones but no bank account, according to one estimate.
Wael Ghonim, Google executive by day, secret Facebook activist by night, famously declared right after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February: "If you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet."
Overthrowing a government is one thing. But building a sustainable democracy is turning out to be more difficult, and the Internet's role in that process is much less clear.
I have a 74-year old aunt who lives in a small town in the mountains in Greece. She has never used a computer. But when she asked me what e-mail was, I could explain it to her easily. It isn’t different from paper mail in any essential way. It moves faster and it’s cheaper. It, so to speak, smells different, but it’s pretty much the same thing.
The internet is a child with many fathers. It is an extremely complex multi-module technology and each module—from communication protocols to browsers—has a convoluted history. The internet’s earliest roots lie in the rise of cybernetics during the 1950s. Later breakthroughs included the invention of packet switching in the 1960s, a novel way for transmitting data by breaking it into chunks. Various university and government networks began to appear in the early 1970s, and were interlinked in the 1980s. The first browsers came on line in the early 1990s—20 years ago this August.
Our critique of the National Broadband Map, "Map to Nowhere," has caused quite a stir over at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Yet the response from Steven Rosenberg, chief data officer with the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau, offers PR spin and damage control rather than substantive ideas.