Saturday, June 20, 2009

Online Revolutions: A Glimpse of the Future in Iran?

Politics online
June 19

For several years now, the Internet and new technology has been planning an important role in various people-powered 'revolutions' around the world - from South Korea to Ukraine, to Lebanon and beyond. However, not since Obama's campaign have we seen the Internet and new technology play such a large political role as in Iran today. There were a number of key ingredients that all came together in Iran that further demonstrate what's required for a 'successful' formula for online political activism around the globe.
Success in the Past - During the 2005 presidential elections, Iranian reformers used SMS messages and blogs to send information about rallies and campaign updates. Although they had little success, the reformist bloggers who actively followed the elections online came from the ranks of Iran's opinion- makers and intellectuals. In 2005, blogging crated a different information ecology with new types of pre- election news that was then available and the election seemed, according to one Iranian blogger, to be "much more transparent".
A Well- educated, Tech-savvy Young Populous - Various student led movement have been fighting for democracy and freedom in Iran for years. Their desire for such basic rights such as free expression of opinion and an open press and media stirred similar uprisings in 1999 and 2003. In essence, these were test runs among students of a larger tech fuel movement that has moved to a wider population in today's protest.
Limited Success by a Repressive Regime - According to the Open Net Initiative, "Since 2000-in the midst of a media crackdown that has seen the judiciary close more than 100 publications, inspiring widespread self-censorship-the Islamic Republic of Iran has installed one of the most extensive technical filtering systems in the world." Despite the enduring threat of government censorship and imprisonment of journalists and activists, online activists have managed to find a way around this technology of oppression. With proxy servers, code hacking and other techniques, the protesters have managed to avoid a complete shut down of traffic that could have choked off their ability to communicate.
Twitter and New Tools - The use of Twitter may well have been the breakthrough technology in Iran. Used more extensively than every before, mobile technology and micro-blogging site Twitter has been the technology of choice used to organize street protests. Twitter has been used to report on real-time events with pictures, videos, statements and first- hand accounts not being shown by the state-owned media. Tehran was become the Twitter capital of the world. It importance was evidenced in a front page NY Times story of how a 2/? year old State Department employee asked Twitter to defer shutting down for a brief period for scheduled upgrades so the demonstrators would not loose this important communications tool.Every tech powered 'revolution' is different - but they are all learning from each other and some basic patterns and strategies are emerging. Iran is another giant leap forward.
Iran's Young and High-Tech Population
According to the CIA World Factbook, Iran's population is estimated at more than million by July 2009 and has a median age of 27. Of the almost 70 million Iranians, 47 million have cell phones and 21 million have Internet access.
See also:
Personal Democracy Forum - Iran Roundup: Facts and Framing

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