Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thinking Beyond Web 2.0 and Mobile Is Needed For Protesters and Dissidents

One of the reasons I started blogging about mobility and mobile devices is that I loved my OLPC's XO. Unfortunately, the device hasn't taken off as I had hoped but I've had plenty of other mobile issues to write about.

Now, I'm going to get into mobility and censorship. Bottomline: current social and mobile tools are not adequate to circumvent regimes bent on oppressing its citizens. Sites like Twitter and Facebook can easily be blocked. Ask Google how it's doing with it's Chinese search engine.

In fact, I'm not sure any tools created on existing technologies and Internet protocols will be effectively. The main advantage dissident groups may have is the ability to move quickly to avoid giving the government time to adjust.

Obviously both sides can create new tactics. But I've got an idea from one of the things I've spoke to Dave the Mobile Warrior. Remember when you're kids, and you can create a two- or three- way communication device with cups (cans) connected by a string?

Well. I don't think those anti-government protesters are going to carry around cans with strings all over the place. But I spoke to Dave about creating what I like to call a "puff network" by string together a bunch of access points and creating a small Internet. Your own Internet that allows you to do everything you want and provide access to those you trust.

Obviously, that's not going to work since the demonstrators are always on the move. It's not going to work for those Chinese dissidents trying to bring democracy to Beijing. But if someone can program an app that allows like minded mobile devices or laptops to share bandwidth using obfuscating protocols, would it be possible create these puff networks that is constantly moving and making it difficult for regimes to track individual movements?

Here's a scenario. A few thousand protecters are trying to find a place to demonstrate their ire against an issue or government. Instead of texting, since it's being monitored by the government, the leaders can send out messages via a private puff network accessible to trusted individuals who can share it by word of mouths. Dissidents can use these puff networks to share ideas and papers with others, effectively bypassing monitors and other censor apparatuses.

I'm leaving out a lot of details here but I believe this can be achieved. I'll leave the technical details to folks like Dave the Mobile Warrior and other technically inclined readers to think this over.

Personally, I think it's kind of cool to be able to string together access points and mobile devices to create a puff network. You can share music, movies, or any other files with people you trust. You can own your own Internet.

Crazy? Well, that's for blogs are for. It's why I enjoy writing about these things. No, it's not crazy. Someone prove me right.

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