Censorship fallout from the Arab Spring?

Censorship fallout from the Arab Spring?

 

The use of ICT tools to drive reform protest movements captured the imaginations across North Africa and the Middle East. But it has also drawn the attention of repressive governments with an eye on censorship.

The use of Internet-based and other ICT tools to drive reform protest movements captured the imaginations of tech-savvy individuals across North Africa and the Middle East over the last year. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter helped drive street demonstrations in a dozen countries and secure international support for reform efforts around the world. But the trend has also drawn the attention of repressive governments and some within the ICT sector fear censorship battles may heat up in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says his company fully expects to be the focus of disagreements with repressive regimes and fears Google employees may be at risk from detention and torture in some countries.

“I think this problem is going to get worse. The reason is that as the technology becomes more pervasive and as the citizenry becomes completely wired and the content gets localized to the language of the country, it becomes an issue like television,” Schmidt said at the Google-organized Dublin summit on militant violence this week.

“If you look at television in most of these countries, television is highly regulated because the leaders, partial dictators, half dictators or whatever you want to call them understand the power of television imagery to keep their citizenry in some bucket,” he continued.

Governments ramping up their efforts to shut down the information highway is something Internet service providers have been grappling with on and off for the last decade. Experience with China’s censorship efforts in particular has drawn significant attention. Yahoo! Inc. faced serious public backlash after its 2002 provision of user information led to the arrest, abuse and imprisonment of Wang Xiaoning.

Since then ICT sector players have clashed on and off with authorities in China, and elsewhere, as the tide of support for universal access has gained prominence. Both Google and Yahoo! are members of the multi-stakeholder Global Network Initiative, an effort to promote freedom of expression and privacy, and like other major ICT companies have initiated efforts to increase access to services in developing countries.

Earlier this month the United Nations affirmed its support of access to the Internet as a human right, with Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue issuing a report making the case for Internet access to enjoy the same legal protections under international standards as other methods of mass communications.

But the practical truth is that as long as authorities maintain control over networks and infrastructure, fully unhindered access to the Internet, its tools and information is still just dream for hundreds of millions of users worldwide.

The U.S. State Department confirmed shortly after the release of La Rue’s report that American authorities are investing millions to fund efforts to bypass government censorship through the use of “shadow” voice and digital communications networks that allow users to send information, according to the New York Times and other media. The benefit, say proponents of alternative networks, is that even in cases where dissidents can use circumvention technologies to sidestep censors, if authorities have slowed down network speeds users may still be unable to post most content.

A variety of innovative options are being considered – some of which sound like they could have come right out from Q’s workshop in a James Bond movie. Consider the following examples cited by the New York Times and other reports:

  • The suitcase project uses small wireless antennas and base stations disguised as suitcases, boxes or bags to help transform electronic devices like cellular telephones or laptop computers and build a wireless Internet network that is outside official control. If authorities seize a unit once a core network is established in an area the other stations will compensate.
  • U.S authorities are helping develop cellular telephone applications, or apps, such as the “panic button” which will erase a cellular telephone’s contact lists and emit an emergency signal to alert other activists.
  • Another idea seeks to build on the use of Bluetooth headsets, which Iranian dissidents have used to transmit data outside authorities’ control. Developers are looking to create a system that allows users to mark data so that when other trusted individuals come into range their mobile devices automatically get the transfer.

Until governments around the world cease efforts to restrict Internet access and the international community develops a legally enforceable mechanism to compel countries to comply, censorship circumvention efforts will remain at the forefront of the battle for fair, equitable universal global access.

Broadband crucial to businesses in rural Wales

 

Broadband a vital resource for business

Demand for IP telephony solutions could be set to increase in rural parts of Wales after an MP said broadband has become a vital resource for businesses in these areas.

Glyn Davies, who represents Montgomeryshire in the House of Commons, insisted that high-speed internet connections are “crucial” for firms based outside of the major towns and cities, BBC News reports.

However, he stressed that broadband is also important to the wider public and could help to boost entrepreneurship in rural communities.

“Good access to the internet is something that is going to be necessary to sell houses, to set up businesses and retain public services,” Mr Davies commented.

He was speaking after a report by telecoms regulator Ofcom revealed that broadband penetration in Wales is lagging behind many other parts of the UK.

Ben Underwood, director of the Country Land and Business Association in Wales, recently suggested that the scarcity of high-speed internet connections in rural communities is putting some firms off establishing themselves in these areas.

 

Is telepresence the next ICT business revolution?

Is telepresence the next ICT business revolution?

 

Telepresence is quickly emerging as a business solution to trim costs, improve energy efficiency and slash carbon emissions.

The use of telepresence meetings cuts travel related emissions and in the case of developing countries that don’t yet have the same kind of infrastructure as fully industrialized nations can provide a way leapfrog over some development issues that would drive environmental stress.

Companies across a wide variety of industries, including telecommunications, retail, financial services, healthcare and oil and gas, are already turning to telepresence solutions to meet a variety of operating needs. Telepresence is winning support from executives worldwide over video conferencing technologies because of increased reliability, security enhancements and a more immersive overall experience.

In late 2010, AT&T and BT announced the pairing of their telepresence networks allowing clients of the two telecommunications groups to schedule meetings and connect with users on either network. The two –which operate the world’s largest telepresence networks –operate over 2,000 telepresence rooms worldwide including 1,100 corporate clients. Many ICT and telecommunication industry observers predict this collaboration may set the global standard for telepresence services.

U.K.-based BCS Global Networks Limited, which offers companies video conference and other services worldwide, also operates a network of public videoconferencing and telepresence rooms for business travelers to help them connect globally. In India, Gurgaon-based Business Octane recently ramped up its telepresence capabilities for the market to enable connections of up to 40 locations and 600 people at any one time. The company –which is eying the government sector and large enterprises as clientele –hopes to take their platform global.

The possible effects of a telepresence revolution are astounding. A single company using four telepresence rooms can shave off over 2,200 metric tons of carbon emissions in a five year period, the equivalent of the emissions from 400 passenger vehicles, according to a recently released Verdantix study commissioned by the Carbon Disclosure product and supported by AT&T. Growth in the use of telepresence and videoconferencing could help large U.S. and U.K.-based corporations with revenues over $1 billion to slash around 5.5 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2020.

Increased use of telepresence technology also boasts other benefits for companies –such as expenditure reductions, increased employee productivity and more rapid decision making capabilities, the report says.

A recent study from the World Wildlife Fund-UK took a look at air and business travel, and British corporations’ views on emissions cutting measures. Aviation is one of the UK’s largest and fastest growing contributors to carbon emissions –increasing 3 percent annually, according to the report, Travelling Light. Business travel accounts for 25 percent of British passenger trips.

WWF-UK found that over 80 percent of companies have or are planning reductions in their business travel, and that 85 percent believe videoconferencing has an integral role to play in achieving their reduction goals.

Developing economies like China and India are some of the world’s largest contributors to carbon gas emissions. One of the major hurdles hampering efforts to forge a binding international treaty to fight climate change when the Kyoto Treaty expires in 2012 is the insistence by developing countries that they should not be hamstrung in their efforts to develop infrastructure –which increases emissions – when industrialized countries did so freely in decades past. Technologies such as telepresence are touted by supporters as giving developing countries the ability to leapfrog past some infrastructure development that contributes to environmental degradation and climate change.

Is telepresence the next ICT business revolution?

Is telepresence the next ICT business revolution?

 

Telepresence is quickly emerging as a business solution to trim costs, improve energy efficiency and slash carbon emissions.

The use of telepresence meetings cuts travel related emissions and in the case of developing countries that don’t yet have the same kind of infrastructure as fully industrialized nations can provide a way leapfrog over some development issues that would drive environmental stress.

Companies across a wide variety of industries, including telecommunications, retail, financial services, healthcare and oil and gas, are already turning to telepresence solutions to meet a variety of operating needs. Telepresence is winning support from executives worldwide over video conferencing technologies because of increased reliability, security enhancements and a more immersive overall experience.

In late 2010, AT&T and BT announced the pairing of their telepresence networks allowing clients of the two telecommunications groups to schedule meetings and connect with users on either network. The two –which operate the world’s largest telepresence networks –operate over 2,000 telepresence rooms worldwide including 1,100 corporate clients. Many ICT and telecommunication industry observers predict this collaboration may set the global standard for telepresence services.

U.K.-based BCS Global Networks Limited, which offers companies video conference and other services worldwide, also operates a network of public videoconferencing and telepresence rooms for business travelers to help them connect globally. In India, Gurgaon-based Business Octane recently ramped up its telepresence capabilities for the market to enable connections of up to 40 locations and 600 people at any one time. The company –which is eying the government sector and large enterprises as clientele –hopes to take their platform global.

The possible effects of a telepresence revolution are astounding. A single company using four telepresence rooms can shave off over 2,200 metric tons of carbon emissions in a five year period, the equivalent of the emissions from 400 passenger vehicles, according to a recently released Verdantix study commissioned by the Carbon Disclosure product and supported by AT&T. Growth in the use of telepresence and videoconferencing could help large U.S. and U.K.-based corporations with revenues over $1 billion to slash around 5.5 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2020.

Increased use of telepresence technology also boasts other benefits for companies –such as expenditure reductions, increased employee productivity and more rapid decision making capabilities, the report says.

A recent study from the World Wildlife Fund-UK took a look at air and business travel, and British corporations’ views on emissions cutting measures. Aviation is one of the UK’s largest and fastest growing contributors to carbon emissions –increasing 3 percent annually, according to the report, Travelling Light. Business travel accounts for 25 percent of British passenger trips.

WWF-UK found that over 80 percent of companies have or are planning reductions in their business travel, and that 85 percent believe videoconferencing has an integral role to play in achieving their reduction goals.

Developing economies like China and India are some of the world’s largest contributors to carbon gas emissions. One of the major hurdles hampering efforts to forge a binding international treaty to fight climate change when the Kyoto Treaty expires in 2012 is the insistence by developing countries that they should not be hamstrung in their efforts to develop infrastructure –which increases emissions – when industrialized countries did so freely in decades past. Technologies such as telepresence are touted by supporters as giving developing countries the ability to leapfrog past some infrastructure development that contributes to environmental degradation and climate change.

ITU boosts e-waste, climate battle efforts

ITU boosts e-waste, climate battle efforts

 

Stakeholders across the spectrum are responding to predictions of massive growth in e-waste and the detrimental effects discarded electronic devices have in the developing world.

Major national and international telecommunications firms, for example, committed to developing the first industry standard universal charger to promote efficiency and aid in the battle against climate change, the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Industry (ITU) announced this week.

The new charger upgrades a 2009 universal battery charging system decision by the ITU that eliminates the need for individual chargers for products sold by different manufacturers. This will eliminate the need for manufacturers to sell chargers with each new phone.

With this week’s decision, the ITU expanded the reach of the universal charger to cover cameras, GPS systems, headphones and other lower-power devices. The new chargers will use faster charging currents to reduce charging tomes, and also feature a detachable cable with standardized connectors to allow data transfer. These additions will reduce the number of cords needed, decrease production energy consumption and ultimately impact the amount of waste generated by the industry. ITU officials expect manufacturers to roll out the chargers –which will be produced with eco-friendly materials – by the billions over the next few years.

“Other standards claim to be universal and energy efficient, but only ITU’s solution is truly universal and a real step forward in addressing environmental and climate change issues,” ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure said after the decision. “This updated standard will bring the benefits of the universal charger to a wider range of devices and consumers… The environmental impact of wide adoption will be enormous.”

Several major industry players have already committed to the new system, including AT&T, France Telecom-Orange, Swisscom, Telecom Italia and the China Academy of Telecommunication Research. The Geneva-based ITU works with 192 governments and over 700 private sector entities to set industry standards.

Buy-in from industry players operating or based in high usage growth regions like Asia and Africa is paramount for the broadest impact. In China, for example, the growth of the middle class over the last decade has catapulted demand for electronics while domestic energy consumption levels have risen dramatically.

The new standard meets requirements of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal –known more commonly as simply the Basel Convention –according to the ITU.

E-waste –the collective name for discarded or scrap electronics like television, cellular telephones, refrigerators and computers –remains a major campaign focal point for influential stakeholders such as Basel Action Network, Greenpeace International and the Campaign for Recycling.

The world produces around 40 billion metric tons of e-waste every year –with hundreds of millions of tons making their way to landfills in places like China, Nigeria and India. The components contain toxins and heavy metals like mercury and lead which leak into nearby soil and water supplies, and endanger the health of impoverished workers picking through landfills for components to sell.

In late 2010, the United Nations released a report with stark warnings about the growth rate of e-waste in developing countries. India will see a 500% growth in the amount of e-waste in its’ landfills over the next decade, while China and South Africa will see 400% increases over their 2007 levels in the next ten years. The bulk of the waste will not originate in those countries but come from abroad, predominantly the U.S.

Multi-stakeholder initiatives in the U.S. and internationally are looking to address the need for better recycling and waste processing. Companies including Samsung, Capital One, Bank of America and the Apollo Group have signed up as Basel Action Network e-Stewards committing to support the group’s rigorous certification process for responsible electronics recycling. In April 2011 the Consumer Electronics Association pledged to triple recycling rates in the U.S. for e-waste by 2016, to equal one billion pounds of electronics annually, through a combination of public education projects, infrastructure building and recycling enhancement. The industry group’s eCycling Leadership Initiative will look to build national recycling standards to enhance different state-level policies.

Millions of Smiles

The Joomla! team has millions of good reasons to be smiling about the Joomla! 1.5. In its current incarnation, it’s had millions of downloads, taking it to an unprecedented level of popularity. The new code base is almost an entire re-factor of the old code base. The user experience is still extremely slick but for developers the API is a dream. A proper framework for real PHP architects seeking the best of the best.

If you’re a former Mambo User or a 1.0 series Joomla! User, 1.5 is the future of CMSs for a number of reasons. It’s more powerful, more flexible, more secure, and intuitive. Our developers and interface designers have worked countless hours to make this the most exciting release in the content management system sphere.

Go on … get your FREE copy of Joomla! today and spread the word about this benchmark project.