Friday, September 10, 2010

Texting - Friend or Foe

Last week independent media stated that following riots in the Maputo and other cities in Mozambique the National Communications Institute of Mozambique ordered all the cell phone operators to block all text messages.  While only two carriers agreed to the order, the majority of citizens were able to call but were unable to text.  In a country with about 5 million cellular users, this was to some a clear blockade on their rights to the free flow of information.  Text messaging was one of the ways that individuals were able to mobilize their efforts on what was seen to local Mozambicans as a infringing on their rights to protest an unfair price increase on bread. 
 "This technology is a new way of giving a voice, of giving power, of giving a means of expression that poor people themselves don’t have,” - Joao Pereira, director of the Mozambican Civil Society Support Mechanism

So was this an attempt of the government to ensure National Security or was it an attempt to use technology to control the marginalized populations?  In international communication there is still the ongoing debate on who should control the circulation of information, the state or the private sector?  

I believe that there has to be a good combination of both.  While the government alone can help bring policies that enable the infrastructure for communication, the private sector is vital for implementing and funding the establishment of that infrastructure.  That being said, the public sector should have some input in how the infrastructure is carried out.  It is a thin line between all three sectors.  Communication and technology can bring peaceful resolutions to many of the world’s problems but without that balance I believe at least in this case peace may only be temporary. 

1 comment:

  1. I believe in this case, we are looking at the relationship between private organizations and a governmental institution with regards to voluntary media restriction. The reason I say "voluntary" in this case is that only 2 carriers obeyed the demand, not all. Plus, the time frame of the restriction is not established. Also I believe we have to take into account the amount of cellphone users with text capabilities, while this may have hampered those with the capability to text for say the minority,it may not have affected the majority. Also it didn't eliminate all contact, as the phones were still usable.

    Therefore, this movement could be see as a move by the government to limit the spread of misinterpreted information. In this case, texts might be taken out of context or even worsen a riot that may have had/still has significance could be taken into a different context and misunderstood.

    Overall, I would say you are correct, that the good intentions of one group could be seen as a violation of another group. Or as quoted in John Sinclair's Global, supranational institution and media" article-"One Man's imagined community is another man's political prison."