The Digital Approach to Informal Human Rights Education

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Dec 10, 2013 (3 years and 8 months ago)

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The Digital Approach

to Informal Human Rights Education


(Essay 3)








By



Rebecca Joy Norlander

For RES 9030





Presented to Dr. Joel Federman

(Essay Supervisor)

November,

2011
















Saybrook University

San Francisco, California







Abst
ract



The world has experienced a dramatic shift in technological capacity
,
allowing people to

connect and interact
in ways

previously unimaginable. This new capacity has implications for
education,
in particular,
informal

human rights education (HRE), wh
ich occurs outside a
traditional classroom venue
.
Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa provide the
backdrop for considering the application of new communication technologies in the service of
human rights. A survey of the

evolution of
both

mob
ile and Internet technologies
precedes an
analysis of the ways
information and communication
technologies are applied

to informal
HRE,
including in
-
depth descriptions of three

examples of current
initiatives

that align with the work
of informal human right
s educators
.
C
rowdsource
d

data

collection, video documentation and
collaborative brainstorming

are some of the ways to facilitate an engaged, yet decentralized,
population capable of initiating transformative social change. The essay notes that the promise

of
digital tools is tempered by significant obstacles, including unequal infrastructure and access, the
inhumane manufacturing of technology, and a lack of critical evaluation of the potential of new
communication tools for democratic change. The essay pr
ovides an argument that while many
challenges to its implementation remain, Internet connection as a universal human right would
address these concerns in a meaningful way and be instrumental in securing other valuable rights
for marginalized groups.






Tabl
e of Contents



List of Figures

................................
................................
................................
.............................

iv


INTRODUCTION

................................
................................
................................
........................
1


HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATI
ON

................................
................................
................................
4

The Con
cept of Universal Human Rights

................................
................................
.....................
4

Unders
tanding Informal Human Rights Education
................................
................................
.......
5


THE EVOLUTION OF INT
ERNET TECHNOLOGIES A
ND

THE RISE OF DIGITAL
ACTIVISM

................................
................................
................................
................................
...
9

The S
h
ift to an
Information Society
................................
................................
..............................
9

From Web 1.0 to
Web 2.0

................................
................................
................................
...........
11

Mobile

Technology

................................
................................
................................
.....................
12

Integration of Mob
ile and Internet Technologies

................................
................................
.......
14


APPLYING INFORMATION

AND COMMUNICATION TE
CHNOLOGY TO INFORMAL

HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATI
ON

................................
................................
..............................
19

Three Tools Illustrating a Digital Approach to

Informal Human Rights Education

..................
26

Ushahidi

................................
................................
................................
..........................
26

WITNESS and The Hub

................................
................................
................................
.
28

OpenIDEO

................................
................................
................................
......................
29


CHALLENGES TO
IMPLEMENTATION AND U
SE OF DIGITAL COMMUN
ICATION
TOOLS

................................
................................
................................
................................
........
31

Unequal Access and Poor Infrastructure

................................
................................
.....................
31

Inhumane Manufacturing of Digital Technology

................................
................................
.......
36

Overcoming
Uncritical Evaluations of the Potential of New Communications Technologies

..
38

Establishing Internet Connection as a Human Right

................................
................................
..
39


CONCLUSION

................................
................................
................................
...........................
44


REFERENCES

................................
................................
................................
...........................
46


APPENDIX

................................
................................
................................
................................
.
52


A.
Geneva Declaration

of Internet Freedom

................................
................................
...
52





iv






List of
Figures



Figure 1: Int
ernet Users Activity in Groups

................................
................................
...
10




Figure 2: Ushahidi Mashup of Election Violence in Kenya

................................
...........
27




Figure 3:
Growth of African U
ndersea Cables from 2009
-
2012

................................
....
33



Figure 4:

Rapid Growth of Smar
tphone Use Compared to PC Use

...............................
35




Figure 5:

Beliefs About the

Right to Internet Connection

................................
..............
41


1







Introduction

T
his essay has been a
propitiously timed

endeav
or. The successful mobilization of

large
crowds
in

nonviolent

protest
against
repressive regimes in
the
Middle East
indicates

an
unprecedented age of
the effect
ive use of
communication

networks
. The magnitude of the shift
currently under way resulting from
the
escalation

of Internet
connectivity and growing
prevalence of digital devices
cannot be overstated. Sir Tim Berners
-
Lee (2010), the

inventor
of
the World W
ide Web, argues that this revolution in the human experience is based on a
deceptiv
ely simple concept: that any individual
can now share any information with anyone else,
anywhere, and at any

time. This essay
investigates

how that ability is manifested and

the
relationship between new communications technology and

the
project

of human rights education

(HRE).


D
oes increased access to information
necessarily

improve the human condition?
Knowledge

itself is not inherently transformative, yet digital tools are

increasingly
determining
how information is used. Technology dedicated to advancing human rights


which some term
“liberation technology”


includes
“any form of information and communication technology
(ICT) that can expand political, social, and econom
ic freedom. In the contemporary era, it means
essentially the modern, interrelated forms of digital ICT” (
Diamond, 2010,
p. 70).

By promoting
democratic norms and practices that make governments increasingly responsive to citizens’
demands, liberation tech
nology goes hand
-
in
-
hand with HRE initiatives. Human rights educators
share the responsibility of harnessing the power of new technologies for positive social impact.
This essay explores
the

intersection of our rights as human beings, our collective capac
i
ty for
action, and the new digital venues for interaction. It describes

the recent shift to a knowledge

2





society and examines the evolution from Web 1.0 to 2.0
,

and beyond, addressing the current state
of Internet technologies, including the enormo
us potent
ial of mobile telephony
. Recent events
and global trends provide the backdrop
for considering
the conv
ergence of ICTs and HRE,
amid
the larger project of social transformation
.
The methodological approach for this essay will

include
a historical theoretica
l analysis that

examines

three cases
-

Ushahidi, WITNESS/The
Hub, and OpenIDEO


exemplifying how new technologies can be integrated into HRE.

Education for h
uman rights is essentially about
engagement



not only informing

people
of their rights, but also
providing training
to
increase the likelihood that rights
-
holders will be
active participants in securing their rights and developing a human rights culture
. Technology
can be helpful in promo
ting this engagement through
re
-
envisioning
HRE

“curricul
a

thro
ugh
informal

venue
s.

While challenges and questions remain,
the
potential of the use of
d
igital
venues

for engendering social transformation in general, and human rights education in
particular,
is overwhelming
ly

positive
.

The more conventional

approach to

HRE,
particularly

in
the formal sector

through government
-
sponsored initiatives
, is subject to
serious

limitations.
Education has long been based on an authoritarian

model, where an expert
conveys

information
to students
,

rather than engaging co
-
learners
in participatory processes.

Didactic t
eaching about
human rights
runs the risk of being experienced as imposed from the top, where rights are
granted
rather than developed and experienced

collectively
.


The focus
of this essay
will be
informal

HRE


learn
ing that is incorporated into
everyday life


rather than teaching that occurs in more traditional educational venues. This
focus is
based on the premise that

the advent of digital technology has the potential to
dramatically alter educational initiatives,

including HRE, by making teaching and learning
decreasingly reliant upon

traditional classroom
settings
.
With the appropriate tools,

the process

3





of education can be self
-
sustained by a group taking an active interest in promoting their own
well
-
being

and
dignity: “[HRE]

is an emerging area of practice that aspires to promote and
protect human dignity and encourages trainers to involve learners in what can be
termed an
‘empowerment process’
” (Tibbits, 2005, p. 107). The result of
such
purposeful communicati
on is
shared responsibility and increased accountability.


4





Human Rights Education

The Concept of Universal Human Rights

While the concept of rights that apply to all human beings has been emergent in various
religious and cultural traditions throughout his
tory, the formalization of human rights concerns in
the form of treaties began with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the 1864
Geneva Convention, providing a foundation for universal humanitarian law (International
Committee on the Red Cross
, 2010).
The
creation of the U
nited
N
ations (UN) in 1945 increased
the scope of concern and greatly expanded states’ collective capacity to promote and protect
human dignity. T
he UN charter
specifically
mentions human rights

(United Nations, 2011a),
s
tating

its

purpose as striving
for

international co
-
operation in solving international problems of
an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging
respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all wit
hout distinction as to race, sex,
language, or religion” (para. 3).

This fundamental concern of the
UN

was
further
realized through
the adoption of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
in 1948 (United Nations, 2011b).
1

Although a

resolution ra
ther t
han enforceable treaty, the UDHR was (and still is) a document of

undeniable
importance,
representing

the most comprehensive global articulation of universal rights to date
.
The UDHR lacks the status of a

binding treaty upon member nations,
but
it is

the expression of
the United Nations Charter, which all states have agreed to uphold. Together with the
UDHR
, the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights form the Interna
tional Bill of Human Rights [Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
, 1996
]. Human rights
education

was



1

While

no nation opposed adopting the UDHR, a
partheid South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and the Soviet Bloc abstained
from voting.


5





conceived
alongside

the development of the UDHR and subsequent covenants,

although detailed
protocols for HRE were not c
onceived

until 1993 at the World Conference

on Human Rights

in
Vienna (OHCHR, 1995).

Understanding
Informal
Human Rights Education


Following a recommendation of
the
1993
World C
onference on Human Rights, the UN
General Assembly

(UNGA) established
the Unit
ed Nations Decade for Human Rights Education

(UNDHRE)
,

whose goals and methods were described in a Plan of Action
(UNGA, 1996).
T
he
UNDHRE was a testament to the
breadth of HRE

initiatives and again reinforced the importance
of pedagogy aimed at developing

human rights values and empowering learners:


H
uman rights education should involve more than the provision of information and
should constitute a comprehensive life
-
long process by which people at all levels in
development and in all strata of society le
arn respect for the dignity of others and the
means and methods of ensurin
g that respect in all societies.

(
UNGA, 1994,
para. 6)
.


Following the 1995
-
2004

UNDHRE
, which focused primarily on formal, classroom
-
based approaches, additional strategies were

ne
eded to
expand HRE initiatives
. The UNGA
established the World Programme for Human Rights Education (WPHRE
, or World
Programme
), beginning in 2005 and continuing to the present day (OHCHR, 2007). The
WPHRE was designed to advance
various aspects of
HRE, pr
omoting “a common understanding
of basic principles and methodologies of human rights education, to provide a concrete
framework for action and to strengthen partnerships and cooperation from the international level
down to the grass roots” (OHCHR, 2007, p
ara. 2).

Rather
than delineate a specific amount of
time (as the Decade for HRE had done), sponsors of the WPHRE

designed

it to occur in
consecutive phases
with periodic

evaluation and modification. Each phase has target objectives

6





and methods
. The first p
hase concentrated on HRE through formal education in primary and
secondary schools.

T
he second
, current,

phase of
the WPHRE

expands
its

scope to include HRE
in higher education and training programs for teachers and other civil servants.

Initially
,

learn
ing

about various human rights instruments and documentation was
considered specialized training primarily for lawyers and

diplomats (Mihr, 2009).
Subsequently
,
efforts

were localized and implemented in classrooms, reaching across
different
age groups,
edu
cation levels,

and disciplines. The current conception of HRE is the widest yet, with
educators recognizing the benefit of working
outside traditional educational systems to better
achieve the goals outlined in the WPHRE’s second phase (2010
-
2014), which d
efines HRE
as
“any learning, education, training and information efforts aimed at building a universal culture of
human rights” (UNGA, 2010, p. 4).

Human rights educators engaged in both formal and informal initiatives

consistently

cite

the
UDHR

as the con
ceptual core and origin of HRE
(Amnesty International, 2011; Tibbits,
2005).
Human rights education

literature
emphasizes

the universality of human rights, identifies
educational objectives, and discusses methods or mechanisms for
achieving educators’ goal
s.
While the objectives of human rights educators are diverse and
responsive to cultural
considerations
, it is widely recognized that the
how

of teaching is a determining factor in the
eventual success of HRE initiatives. The manner in which instruction oc
curs
should promote

the
dignity of those involved in the learning process. Much HRE relies on participatory learning that
nurtures students’ willingness to become personally invested in the protection and promotion of
human rights. As Jennings (2006) stat
es,

Knowledge of the principles outlined in various human rights instruments
, while crucial
and foundational, is not necessarily sufficient to bring about the compulsion to take

7





action, the belief that one can effect change, or the dispositions leading t
o responsibilities
for the

rights of oneself and others.

(p.
291)

While recognizing the benefit of

formal

educational structures to advance HRE
,

this
essay is primarily focused on

the potential impact of
non
-
formal
and
informal

methods,
occurring apart fro
m

traditional school
-
based system
s

of
education. Non
-
formal education, often
under the direction of non
-
governmental organizations (NGOs) or not
-
for
-
profit groups,
may

still
be comprised of


relatively planned curricula, planned stages of learning and per
haps even
assessment of learning
,
” but does not lead to a particular certification, diploma or degree (Le
Roy & Woodcock, 2010, p. 1).


Informal education
, by contrast,

“encompasses a vast array of learning that all people
take part
in, in their everyday l
ives...
without control from educators” (Le Roy & Woodcock,
2010,

pp. 2
-
3). Informal education can include learning that occur
s without the learner

being
aware of the process
-

through conversations, environmental influ
ences or various media outlets,
helpin
g students “
explore and understand key concepts of human rights by rooting them in their
everyday lives an thus helping them achieve a deep holistic understanding of the topic” (p. 1)
.


The distinction between non
-
formal and informal methods can be difficu
lt to identify,
since both occur outside of a traditional
, formal,

educational environments

and human rights
organizations often rely on integrated approaches to reach their audiences. Most NGO
-
sponsored
initiatives are relatively structured and thus would

be considered non
-
formal, yet the
organization Human Rights Watch has its own YouTube channel, taking advantage of a current
digital tool associated with informal learning (Human Rights Watch, 2011). In this essay, I
use
the term
informal

human rights edu
cation
to
refer to both informal and

non
-
formal methods
, as

8





well or any combination of the two; in other words
,

informal HRE is any

learning activity that

occurs outside of a school, college, or university.


A lived experience that becomes integrated into
a student’s understanding of the world
often produces lasting behavior modification and is of greater value
overall

than classroom
learning that is disconnected from real
-
world application.

Building from this insight
,
it has been
suggested that
methodologi
cal strategies
for HRE
“should favour a disposition to dialogue,
encourage student participation
[…]

and engage students in civic matters to promote and defend
human rights as part of participative pedagogies” (Print, Ugarte
, Naval & Mihr, 2008, p. 129).
T
here is increasing evidence for the success of participato
ry and self
-
directed learning over a
traditional authoritarian model. According to Engel (2011),

We want young people to become independent and capable, yet we structure their days to
the minute an
d give them few opportunities to do anything but answer multiple
-
choice
questions, follow instructions and memorize information. We cast social interaction as an
impediment to
learning, yet all evidence points to the huge role it plays in their
psychologic
al development. (para. 2)


In its current stage of development, the WPHRE only begins to take into account the role
of new communication technology in HRE,
and
will not
be e
valuated or amended until 2015.
The digital tools described in this essay are not i
ncluded in the official literature on HRE, which
is limited to “
website resources,
[…]
e
-
learning, online learning programmes, e
-
forums, web
conferencing and distance learning programmes”

(UNGA, 2010, p. 14), yet their existence and
early use in this area
represents an opportunity to dynamically re
-
envision the field.
New mobile
and Internet technologies can significantly increase the impact of the second phase of the
WPHRE by strengthening the emerging culture of human rights.


9





The Evolution of Internet Te
chnologies and the Rise of Digital Activism

The Shift to an Information
Society

The

predominance of the
manufacturing
economy has given way
to

a society built
increasingly upon access to information. Often, the most valuable goods and

services are
intangib
le.
For a large segment of the population, the traditional work model has also shifted.
Many people no longer depend on being physically present in a specific location to perform their
occupational duties, radically changing social and professional network
s. We find ourselves
increasingly living and working in a virtual realm.
Despite
accusations that too much time online
intensifies isolation,

a national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & Americ
an Life
Project found that I
n
ternet users are actu
ally
more

likely

to engage in groups than non
-
users

when
offline

(Rainee, Purcell & Smith, 2011)
.


10





Figure 1


Internet Users Activity in Groups


Source:
http://pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2011/PIP_Social_Side_of_the_Internet.pdf


Information
i
s only useful when intended for a specific purpose. For example, during the
events of the Arab Spring, that purpose has been facilitating connection and collective action.
Facebook groups and T
witter feeds in Egypt did not captivate the world’s attention u
ntil
crowds

gathered, not in virtual space
,

but physical
ly
. Net
works of people using technological tools

represent a powerful force for
positive social change, making

initiatives

more efficient and easily

11





scalable. The use of t
echnology merely facilitates
and strengthens
a pre
-
existing

human

need for
group meaning and belonging.

Technology
-
based learning

can enhance the fundamental project of education, shaping
personhood and developing critical thinking skills.

This

combination of human will and desire
wi
th technological capacity is

called

technorganic
,
a term that

“describes the ways in which
humans can interface with Internet technology to promote

peace, democracy, and social justice”
(Temple, 2010, p. 140).
Yet new digital communication tools
,
promising

as their use has been
thus far
,
are not

a panacea for society’s ills. A critical analysis of their use and implications is
imperative. Human beings are

fallible and technology is only as good as its users,
at times

more
of a mirror than a crystal ball.

Fr
om Web 1.0 to Web 2.0



In the beginning stage
s of World Wide Web technology
, the consumers of information
were rarely the ones who had produced it.
During that phase, now

broadly referred to as Web
1.0, the only possib
ility was one
-
way communication throu
gh websites. It lacked

the capacity for
interaction between

users and consumers (Ho, 2010)
. Web 1.0 was a broadcast medium, a “one
-
to
-
many” model that would soon be replaced by the “many
-
to
-
many” model of what came to be
known as Web 2.0.

Use of the Inter
net evolved to
le
t consumers also create content.

Web 2.0
“refers to a shift in the Internet landscape from a static, information
-
oriented Web experience to
a more connected, more user
-
centered, more dynamic second
-
generation Web” (Cronk, 2007
, p.
27
).

Ra
ther than being limited to a source of information, the Internet became a way for
individuals to actively create and share content. The average user went from a consumer to a
generator and contributor of information

and ideas
.
This made the online experien
ce much richer
and more engaging, shifting the focus to user experience, beyond just conveying static

12





information
(Franco, 2010). This improved communication and collaboration has
changed

the
way people relate to one another

online, and gave to Web 2.0, th
e connotations of “the
social
Web
,
" or "
the participatory Web.”

Web 2.0 has become a catch
-
all phrase used to describe
almost
all
sites, services, or technological tools that promote sharing and collaboration, including
blogs, wikis, photo sharing sites, Y
ouTube, social networks, and micro
-
blogging services like
Twitter.




Many of these sites fall under the category of
social media




the
poster child of the 2.0
generation”
(Ho, 2101, p. 5).
The content of social media sites is “
designed to be distributed
through social interactions bet
ween creators”
(Whyte & Joyce, 2010, p. 221)
.

Social media sites
have received much publicity


both positive and negative


both for the amount of
time users
spend online

and

how
drastically
they have altered
present
-
day
rel
ationships.
Both consumer
-
driven and n
ot
-
for
-
profit

organizations have taken advantage of social media by tapping

into
a
collective

desire to connect with other people,
deepen shared interests
,
and exchange stories and
experiences. The tools of s
ocial medi
a ha
ve

been effectively employed by digital activists, those
who use “
digital technology to increase the effectiveness of a soci
al or political change
campaign,” as in recent examples in the Middle East

and North Africa
(Whyte & Joyce, 2010, p.
218)
.

Mobil
e Technology

"If the pen is mightier than the sword, just imagine what a cellphone can do"

(
@digiphile
, 2011)


Remarkable strides have been made in recent years concerning m
obile
phone technology.
B
oth
market
-
driven and not
-
for
-
profit organization
s

continu
e to push for increased access to
cell

phones for the world’s poorest citizens.
Countless

initiatives now use mobile technology for

13





international

development

work
.
2

The United Nation
s
International Telecommunication Union

estimated that at the end of 2010
,

there were 5.3 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide
(
compared to just
720,000 in 2000
),

and that a full 90% of the world
’s

population now has access
to a mobile network

(Kessler, 2011)
.

This includes a projected penetration rate of 68% in
developi
ng countries by the end of 2010.
In contrast, only about 2
.1

billion people have Internet
access

(Internet World Stats, 2011).

The mobile industry expects the number of mobile phones to be in excess of 6.2 billion
by 2013 (UNICEF, 2010).

This widespread, a
nd increasing, penetration has led many NGOs

to
choose mobile network
s as the primary tool behind change initiatives.

There are numerous
advantages to using mobile phones for human rights work, including rapid transmission of
information and relatively low

cost of usage, especially for text messaging. Many of those newly
connected

represent

the bottom of the
economic pyramid (BoP), where access to services makes
both a quantitative and qualitative difference in standard of living
.

The

UNICEF
-
commissioned

re
port
,

Mobiles for Development (2010)
, cites the example of
Safaricom’s
M
-
PESA,
which
allowed 6.5 million Kenyans
access to
banking

services for the first time

in 2007

(p. 1).

MobileActive
is an organization at the forefront of putting

mobile technology to

work for
social change. Their objective is to assist organizations “
with data, tools, and how
-
to resources;
build a network of practitioners and technologists in a supportive community of practice; and
highlight and explore the many innovative campaigns a
nd projects built around mobiles”
(MobileActive, 2011, para. 10)
.

The MobileActive website provides e
xtensive data, including
which

mobile providers
service each country,
the

respective number of landlines and
mobile
phone subscriptions, internet bandwidth

availability, and cost per minute for mobile phone use.



2

For an overview

see UNICEF

(2010), Appendix 4


14





The website

also offers

a searchable database for social impact projects
on

topics
such as

advocacy, education, health, and democratic participation.


One timely
mobile phone
tool

is of particular in
terest to human rights educators.
HARASSmap (2011) is
a
platform

that allows users to
report inciden
ts

of sexual harassment

in
Egypt

via
text

messaging
, allowing for the anonymous
report
ing of incidents in real
-
time
. By
mapping these reports online

publicl
y, where anyone can view the location and type of incident
,
mobile technology contributes to
advocacy,

monitoring and

prevention

of further abuse.

Integration of Mobile and Internet Technologies

In
an
information society, those who
lack a

connection

to the

Internet

are

at a serious
disadvantage
. During the early years of the Internet, personal computers (PCs) were the

only
o
ption for accessing the Web.

Despite commendable efforts of individuals and NGOs,
it remains

unlikely that everyone in the Global South

will
soon
have the means to browse the Internet
using
a PC. However, the ubiquity of mobile phones considerably expands the prospects for access and
participation. The integration of mobile and Internet technology is thus the best opportunity to
bridge th
e so
-
called “digital divide,” which is defined by the United Nation’s
Special Rapporteur
on the
Promotion and P
ro
tection of the Right to Freedom, Frank La Rue, as “
the gap between
people with effective access to digital and information technologies, in par
ticular the Internet,
and those with very limited or no access at all
” (UNGA, 2011, p. 17).


While
three
-
quarters of the world’s population
can already
access the Internet

through
various means
, only one
-
quarter take
s

advantage of this ability to connect

(Bratt, 2011).

Many
reasons
for this
discrepancy

exist
. Often
the price of connection
outweighs the perceived benefit.
In many areas, local languages are not supported by
Internet technology
, nor is the content

15





considered relevant to user
s


lives. Additio
nally,
illiteracy and disability

can prevent successful
use of digital devices.



Organizations concerned with human rights have
developed
ways to
help reduce

the
digital divide,
rendering communication technology more accessible, affordable

and
useful
. Th
e
World Wide Web
(WWW)
Foundation (2011), founded by
Tim
Berners
-
Lee, works

to advance

W
eb technology as a way of promoting transformative social change
. Currently
the WWW
Foundation is

training African
programmers so that services will be available in le
ss widely
spoken
language
s
, increasing relevance
for previously disenfranchised communities. Over time,
this expands the value of the web
-
based

tool
s, since
more use
rs

will encourage competition
amongst companies providing services, thereby driving down th
e cost of access

(Kessler, 2011).


The
impact of mobile technology can be amplified even

for those

with

limited access to
the Internet.
Initiatives like FrontlineSMS (n.d.)
respond to

the need for large
-
scale inexpensive
communicatio
n without Internet acce
ss. FrontlineSMS is

free software that links a network of
mobile phones to a central computer and allo
ws for two
-
way communication. The
system has
already been downloaded for use in over 60 countries by more than 11,000 non
-
profit
organizations. Once the s
oftware is installed on the main computer an Internet connection is not
necessary at all, although an online aggregator makes the process more efficient (Braun, 2010).

By the year 2012, a predicted 17 billion electronic devices will be connected to the
In
ternet

(Himelfarb, 2010). Devices combining mobile and Internet technologies totaled 101
million in sales during just the last quarter of 2010, doubled from the year before (Vogelstein,
2011). While these integrated platform devices (primarily smartphones
and tablets) are becoming
more popular, they remain cost
-
prohibitive for many.
However, s
ignificant skepticism
about the

16





scalability of
smartphone technology
in BoP regions has been replaced with enthusiasm, as
technology continues to get faster and cheape
r and overall infrastructure improves.

Computers are increasingly functioning like mobile phones, and vice versa, reducing the
distinction between the two.
This integration

“results in more powerful and cheaper devices for
activists and thus a greater cap
acity to use
digital infrastructure for the

goals of political and
social change” (Joyce, 2010, p. 4).
Smart
phones


devices
that run
their

own operating system
s
and offer third party applications that users can install


are the best examples of
integrated

computer and mobile technolog
y.
Smartphones provide a range of services that essentially
turn a
mobile phone into a hand
held computer.
In addition to offering mobile service, Internet access
and camera functions, smartphones allow users to control applica
tions (“apps”), according to
interest. Apps take a tiny slice of the Internet and package it in a user
-
friendly way for specific
tasks, often charging a nominal fee for the initial download or for subsequent upgrades:

Over the past few years, one of the m
ost important shifts in the digital world has been the
move from the wide
-
open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport
but not the browser for display. It’s driven primarily by the rise of the iPhone model of
mobile computing, and i
t’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule.
And it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing, not because they’re
rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better
or

fit better into thei
r lives...
Producers and consumers agree: The Web is not the
culmina
tion of the digital revolution.

(Anderson

& Wolff
, 2010, para. 3)

Evidence suggests that people are willing to accept some compromise in freedom in exchange
for the uniquely customized app
experience. More than 18 million iPhones were sold in just the
first quarter of 2011
, a rise of 113%, resulting in
quarterly net profits
that have doubled since the

17





same time in the previous year

(BBC Mobile
, 2011
)
.
Apple’s App Store has been hugely
succes
sful. At the beginning of 2011 there were more than 300,000 applications available in the
store and downloads have totaled seven billion

(PC Mag
azine, 2011
)
.


Apple’s iPhone model, while enormously popular and not without many advantages, is a
proprietary
system that restricts its users’ freedom. It is being increasingly challenged by open
source smartphone software, primarily Google’s
Android

platform. Whereas proprietary
software relies on code that is “
a closely guarded secret and considered to be the in
tellectual
property of the firm developing the software
,

open source

refers to “
means of producing
software in which the source code is accessible to anyone who wishes to examine or improve it

(
Whyte & Joyce, 2010, p. 220)
.
Android was developed under th
e assumption that mobile
devices will soon be the primary means of accessing the Internet, rather than PCs, and that an
operating system must be flexible enough to accommodate a range of users’ needs and the
requirements of different devices. Anyone is abl
e to freely access, build upon, and adapt open
source software. Already, 170 devices run on Android, versus only five for Apple’s proprietary
mobile operating system (Vogelstein, 2011).

Last year,
Android’s share of smartphone sales
exceeded Apple’s for th
e first time
, with more than 300,000 activations daily compared to
270,000 for Apple; representing close to a full quarter of the global smartphone market
(Vogelstein, 2011)
. The development of Android apps is not as tightly controlled, making them
easier
and quicker to create and offer to users. In 2008, only one Android app was developed for
every 50 Apple apps, by 2010 the number was one in four (Vogelstein, 2011).


Smartphones, utilizing an
application model for accessing and organizing data
, have

enorm
ous potential for social impact.
For example,
Apps for Good

(2010) is an initiative where
“young people learn to create imaginative mobile apps that change their world” (para. 2).
Recent

18





tweets from Egypt suggest that
smartphones


which allow greater use
of social media
applications than do older mobile models


can

ra
dically shift the dynamics of an
uprising
against an oppressive leader, by increasing the capacity for monitoring and making crowd
-
silencing more difficult
. As @TechSoc (2011) notes:


Social
media strongest catalyst for change when there is widespread but repressed
dissent+ critical mass of users + some smart phones (
@
Tec
h
Soc, 2011a)

Smart phones emerging as key to uprisings b/c they counter censorship by forming
short, effective links to outs
ide. Bridging social capital. (
@
Tec
h
Soc, 2011b)

Plus smart phones dramatically deepen dictator's dilemma b/c shutting down
Internet+mobile is very costly.

Can only be sustained briefly. (
@
Tec
h
Soc
,

2012c)



A convincing case can be made that integrated dev
ices


combining the mobility and ease
of a cell phone with the power of the Internet


are
fostering emerging civil societies and
strengthening developed ones.

Wael Ghonim

(Blitzer, 2011
)
,
the Google executive who became
a

key figure

of the
recent
Egypt
ia
n

revolution, has credited
social media

for making possible

the
massive demonstrations
in Cairo’s Tahrir Square
that ultimately ended

Hosni Mubarak’s 30
-
year
regime. In an interview with
Cable News Network’s (
CNN
)

Wolf Blitzer, Ghonim touted what
he
calls

“Revol
ution 2.0,”

saying “
If you want to free a society, just give them Internet access,
because people are going to…
hear the unbiased media [and see the truth about]
other nations and
their own nation, and they're going to be able to communicate and colla
borate

together”
(Blitzer,
2011, para. 8)
.


19





Applying Information and Communication Technology to Informal Human Rights
Education


According to the d
raft plan of action for the second phase
of the WPHRE (2010
-
2014),
education for human rights encompasses t
he acquisition of knowledge, development of
corresponding values and attitudes, and action to uphold, defend, and promote human rights
(UNGA, 2010); briefly, these goals can be summarized as aiming to
inform
,
train

and
empower
:

HRE aims to provide

informat
ion about international or regional human rights norms,
standards, and systems

and to give people the skills and attitudes that lead to the
protection and support of human

rights. Educating people in their human rights should
empower them to know and use

t
heir human rights to protect themselves and othe
rs from
human rights violations. (Mihr, 2009 p. 177)

Increasingly,
educators and human rights organizations
alike recognize

the potential of new
technologie
s to increase the scope and impact of their work
.

G
oing beyond the limits imposed by
the traditional classroom through informal initiatives is increasing educators’ capacity to achieve
specific objectives in line with the World Programme and other HRE literature. Thus far,
however,
the
relationship

between

new communication technologies and
informal HRE

remains
relatively unexamined
.


All too often, the places where HRE is most needed lack adequate teaching resources.
Also, as vital as teachers are as trainers, facilitators, and role models, the use of tech
nological
tools


such as applications that allow users to access documents like the UDHR


by non
-
professional educators can help supplement teaching in cases where knowledgeable personnel
are too few. Through facilitating an understanding of what constit
utes a violation, content
-
based
education can assist long
-
term prevention and enable local, collective decision
-
making

20





processes. Having access to legal documentation is vital for advocacy work and useful for
activists who draw upon universal human rights’

standards to legitimize their work. The ability
to use virtual tools to locate relevant data and documentation without the continued assistance of
a teacher has a democratizing effect on education. Informal learners are freed from teachers’
biases because

they can access information apart from a school environment, verifying that what
they learn


which may be subject to political or religious ideologies


corresponds to
international standards for human rights.


The very notion of human rights is sometim
es accused of being an elitist Western
concept, relevant only to wealthier nations (Mihr, 2009). Technologically advanced countries
have occasionally disguised their own self
-
interest as concern for human rights, discrediting the
idea in the eyes of some.
Given the prevalence of such misuses and abuses of human rights
terminology, HRE, no matter how well
-
intentioned, can become easily confused with a Western
economic or political agenda and further exacerbate power inequalities (Mihr, 2009). Yet, the
more p
eople worldwide truly understand the universality of human rights principles, the more
universally accepted they become. Information and communications technology can help spread
this awareness while avoiding contentious political processes.


Additionally,

human rights educators can incorporate technological tools for a value
-
added experience through training initiatives.
While the word “training” might imply a structured
environment, the term can be interpreted loosely in the context of HRE. People with di
fferent
skills can teach and train one another in informal ways, increasing the scope and efficacy of
HRE.

As
Le Roy & Woodcock (2010) note,

The thrust of informal education is that peoples’
everyday li
ves should be used in education; […]
discussions they

have had, things that they have
experienced, barriers that they have overcome and even perhaps injustices they have

21





encountered


(p. 4
)
. New digital tools are relatively simple to use, especially for younger
generations of digital natives, who then become

informal trainers in their own respective
communities.


In HRE training initiatives, the educator acts as a facilitator, reversing the authority
-
based
classroom structure and enabling the learners to use tools pertaining to the issues most relevant
to th
em. This exemplifies one of the pedagogical emphases consistent in HRE


to not only
inform, but do so in a way that promotes the dignity of both learner and instructor; inverting the
traditional hierarchy by giving voice to the students. As Mihr (2009) no
tes, “
HRE has moved
from the teacher
-
student perspective to a learner
-
teacher perspective

and is thus taught and
learned through a bottom
-
up approach in which the needs

and interests of learners and target
groups a
re part of the training concept”

(p. 185)
.

Hands
-
on training fulfills the requirements of
the WPHRE, which is consistent in emphasizing the importance of using

participatory
pedagogies that include knowledge, critical analysis and skills for action furthering human
rights
” (UNGA, 2010,
p. 8)
.



The incorporation of new communication tools allows formal and informal HRE
“curricula” to be flexible and adaptable. To be meaningful for students, training initiatives have
to be relevant to students’ lives. This was stressed during the Decade for HRE an
d continues to
be critical to the success of the World Programme:

In order to enhance their effectiveness, human rights education efforts for the Decade
shall be shaped in such a way as to be relevant to the daily lives of learners, and shall
seek to enga
ge learners in a dialogue about the ways and means of transforming human
rights from the expression of abstract norms to the reality of their social; economic,
cultural and political conditions” (Bhaskara Rao, 2004, p. 16)



22





New communication technologies c
an provide a means of contextualizing learning, offering
tools that can be made highly specific and adaptable. Because such technologies are already an
element of a significant proportion of human interaction, it provides a natural extension of the
physica
l classroom. Activities can be easily assimilated into learners’ lived experience rather
than compartmentalized or isolated from deeper meaning. Human rights education training may
vary considerably according to the specific needs of a given region or comm
unity,
“[building]

on
the human rights

principles embedded within the
different cultural contexts and take into account
historical and social developments in each country


(
UNGA
,
2010,
p. 7)
.


Increased participation and informal peer training using new c
ommunication technologies
can be transformative. Certain tools allow learners to take action on issues that are of interest to
them personally, integrating “education” with personal experience. This increases participation
and motivation, resulting in a gr
eater sense of ownership of both problems and solutions.
Education is most effective when learners feel that they have the capacity to shape eventual
outcomes. Use of new communication technologies now facilitates this increased perception of
individual ag
ency through user
-
generated content and real
-
world applicability, often in ways that
are instantly recognizable.


An important goal of human rights education is to encourage people to
act

upon the
information and training they have received, to engender p
ermanent changes in values, attitude
and behavior (
Human Rights Resource Center,
2000
b
).
Students learn about human rights’
covenants, treaties, regulatory bodies and legislation, and are then trained in ways to make their
voices heard through digital docu
mentation and monitoring of abuse.
Human rights education is
the first step toward “e
mpower
[ing]

communities and individuals to identify their human rights
needs and
to claim them effectively” (UNGA
, 2010, p. 6)
.
The introduction of recent ICTs has

23





altered

this process of empowerment, providing compelling ways for learners to turn education
into advocacy. The ability to more efficiently document rights violations and disseminate data
can be used to pressure governments to be increasingly accountable by furt
hering anti
-
corruption
and transparency efforts. P
reviously, NGOs tried to hold
governments responsible for human
rights violations, but had limited resources, inadequate tools, and a lack of access to relevant
data. With
crowdsourced

data


in which data
are collected from distributed sources, generated
and vetted by users rather than experts


a participatory feedback loop is created that involves
more people in the democratic process of ensuring that rights are upheld.
Actions on both sides


those of ri
ghts’ holders and rights’ protectors


are easily monitored,
en
couraging

honesty and
transparency
,

because there is accoun
tability built into the system. T
his

transparency encourages
ongoing participation and involvement

(Kavanagh, 2010)
.


The increasing
prevalence of

cell phones with the capacity to
capture

photo

and video

footage

has made documentation of human rights violations much easier, allowing for high
contribution and participation rates in such documentation processes. Despite being recorded by
average citizens, who are neither trained journalists nor human rights experts, footage captured
can be widely disseminated and have serious ramifications (Morse, 2009). For example, mobile
footage from the 2009 civil war in Sri Lanka has been aired as a w
ay of bringing attention to the
atrocities committed and shaming the perpetrators responsible (Conlon, 2011). The Sri Lankan
government had deported journalists in hopes of eliminating witnesses, but was unable to control
mobile technology. This blending o
f traditional journalistic forms with new forms of
communication represents a major shift in human rights accountability.

The term

“sousveillance”



the inverse of surveillance


describe
s the phenomenon of observing from below, “watching
the watcher” (
Why
te & Joyce, 2010, p. 221)
: “S
ocial media provide many

opportunities for

24





activists to observe

and report on the activities of political

authorities

who usually are in the

p
osition of monitoring activists”

(p. 221).



Once utilized by various publics, sousv
eillance activities can serve as catalysts around
which social movements ignite. An example of this involved

the
tragic viral videos

of Neda
Agha
-
Soltan,
an

Iranian

woman
killed on camera in post
-
election demonstrations, whose death
has now been witnessed
millions of times by people throughout the world
.
Viewers even
included President Obama, whose public comments demonstrated the power of sousveillance
activities to reach highly influential political figures
(Morse, 2009)
. The Facebook page entitled
“We ar
e all Khaled Said” is another example of an effective user
-
generated human rights
campaign.

Dedicated to stopping torture in Egypt,
the page began after 28 year
-
old Said’s brutal
beating by… and subsequent death (We are all Khaled Said, 2011). As with Ned
a Agha
-
Soltan,

significant international

support
convened around a single amateur
-
documented event, triggering
sizable crowds to mobilize.


Informal human rights educators can shape the way that information, training, and
advocacy come together to promote
democratic initiatives:

Human rights education is essential to active citizenship in a democratic and pluralistic
civil society. Citizens need to be able to think critically, make moral choices, take
principled positions on issues, and devise democratic co
urses of action.
[…]

Active
citizenship also means participation in the
democratic process, motivated by a sense of
personal responsibility for promoting and protecting the rights of all. But to be engaged
in this way, citizens must first be informed. (
Hum
an Rights Resource Center, 2000
b
,

para. 2)


25





One reason that
the use of
new technologies
represents

such
tremendous potential for the
advancement of human rights

is their
unprecedented ability to reach

previously marginalized,
largely rural areas. For

the su
ccess of

any social justice movement, mobilizing a critical mass is
key. New
digital tools offer a way to increase
participation
in all areas

of society.
For example,
as
Bächler

(
2004
) notes
,
“r
ural citizens must be empowered to deal effectively with the s
ocio
-
economic, environmental and communal issues that affect them, if they are to escape economic
marginalisation, social decline, and, as a consequence, violence” (p. 4).

The use of new tools
facilitates such solidarity by transcending previous boundaries

and

reducing

th
e need for
geographic proximity. Social movements are evolving according to
the speed with which
information can

be now communicated and converted into action.



Education is an indispensible component of activism. The more fully the two co
nverge,
the more advantageous for each: “
Recognizing that the better informed the activists, the

more
effective their activism. […]
Furthermore, activists must themselves serve as catalysts for human
rights learning in their own schools
, workplaces, and ne
ighborhoods”

(
Human Rights Resource
Center, 2000
b
,

para. 3)
. The integration of information, training and action enables engaged,
transformative learning.


Many challenges remain concerning the application of digital ICT to informal human
rights teaching
and learning. As with any new endeavor, questions abound. Who are the
educators and who is the audience? Informal HRE often alters traditional differentiations
between the role of instructor and learner. As definitions of the respective participants, and o
ther
elements of the education process, become more difficult to establish, so do the processes by
which they are evaluated. How should “successful” education for human rights, and human
rights activism, be defined? The nature and breadth of work in this

field necessitates flexible

26





evaluation standards.

When the Decade for HRE neared an end in 2004, few governments had
actually implemented education programs in accordance with the Plan of Action for the Decade
(Mihr, 2009). As a result of these shortcomi
ngs, the World Programme was initiated. Clearly,
human rights violations abound and the world is far from being free of abuse. Digital tools can
play a vital role in changing this diagnosis.
While working within formal education s
tructures is
important, ac
hieving
the goals
of the WPHRE
will require a much
broader

approach that extends
the use of

informal education

methods.

Three Tools Illustrating a Digital Approach to Informal Human Rights Education

In this section, I will review three new technological t
ools being used
to enhance
informal human rights education and training. These three were select
ed


from a vast array of
possibilities


as illustrations that demonstrate the range of ways new communication technology
can be applied to human rights educa
tion, from monitoring human rights violations to matching
those in need with appropriate resources. These three tools also indicate the scope of rights issues
deserving attention


both short
-
term provisions in crisis situations and long
-
term access to
par
ticipatory, democratic institutions.
The use of these three tools assist informal educators as
they inform, train, and empower people to effectively identify and claim their human rights.

Ushahidi


In Swahili, the word “Ushahidi” means t
estimony


a suitab
le
word to describe an
initiative
that enables

people to witness and re
cord events while they occur
.
According to its
website,
Ushahidi is a “non
-
profit tech company that develops free and open source software for
information collection, visualization and
interactive mapping” (
Ushahidi, 2010
). It

was first
developed and used in 2008 during

Kenya’s post
-
election violence
,

as a way to map where
episodes of violence were

occurring

using mobile phones and the Internet,
in collaboration

with

27





journalists
. This he
lped activists address a discrepancy between eyewitness reports from sources
on the ground and those coming through official media channels
. Since then, Ushah
idi has grown
beyond the first 45,000 users in Kenya

into a mul
t
i
-
functional platform
, deployed wo
rldwide
.


Using Ushahidi, information is
crowdsourced
, then superimposed on a digital map.
Crowdsourced data are exponentially more available and, once synthesized, the data become
more useful through the use of “mashups,” referring in this instance to a w
ay of juxtaposing data
to see where events are occurring and how they are interrelated (Whyte & Joyce,
2010).
Figure 2
is an example of a mashup between the date and type of incident, and its location, the first use of
Ushahidi during the 2008 Kenyan elect
ions:

Figure 2

Ushahidi Mashup of Election Violence in Kenya


(DigiActive: A World of Digital Activists, 2008).


28






Providing an alternative to traditional information gathering, Ushahidi is extremely
beneficial in crisis situations where documentation and r
eal
-
time data are needed, but other
journalistic outlets are compromised

(Ushahidi, 2010).

This democratization of documenting and
reporting increases transparency by reversing the top
-
down model into one that maximizes
participation and allows individuals

to share experiences

(Ushahidi, 2011
a
)
.



While it remains possible to send data via text message without a mobile Internet
connection, accuracy and usability improve through increased audio, photo, and video
capabilities. A free Ushahidi app for smartph
ones synchronizes uploaded information with
current reports anywhere Ushahidi software is deployed. In addition to creating and sending
content, the user can examine incident reports according to location, view relevant text messages,
tweets and emails, an
d connect to related media content.


The potential of Ushahidi has already been demonstrated in various
crisis situations,
including the aftermath of natural disasters such as the February 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where
Ushahidi’s services included locat
ing relief services and connecting survivors, making the tool
“as ubiquitous in a disaster as the Red Cross” (Rosenberg, 2011
, para. 11). Ushahidi’s usefulness
is not limited to

areas

with
poor

infrastructure
, as evidenced by its use in the recent tragedy
in
Japan
(Sinsai, 2011) and

Washington, DC’s “Snowmageddon,” where Ushahidi allowed users to
map obstacles,
enabling

“ordinary cit
izens to organize themselves.

Anyone with a shovel and a
strong back could check the map for a site nearby and go” (Rosenberg
, para. 12, 2011).


WITNESS and The Hub


WITNESS, co
-
founded by musician Peter Gabriel,
began

in 1992
as a
partner
to

human
rights organizations
,

a
ssisting them in developing their video capacity
. WITNESS has worked
with
hundreds of

organizations in over 7
0 countries (WITNESS, n.d.a
.
), teaching and training

29





human rights workers to use

video for advocacy
projects.

WITNESS is dedicated to supporting
local groups
, thereby maximizing the relevance and
impact of video

technology, tailoring
involvement and traini
ng according to specific community needs. WITNESS facilitates

video
campaigns on a range of human rights issues, from slavery in rural Brazil to landmines in
Senegal. The organization has
begun
developing new tools
specifically tailored for
human rights
wo
rk
, such as the

Secure Smart Camera


an open
-
source camera phone application that protect
s

the user by blurring faces and encrypt
ing

data if the

phone is confiscated by authorities.

From 2007
-
2009, WITNESS developed and managed a user
-
generated database k
nown
as
T
he Hub
, an early example of technolog
y
-
based

collaboration
advancing human rights.
Anyone

with a cell phone

could upload video, audio, or snapshots of human rights issues to share
with The Hub
community, creating awareness of violations and
prompt
ing

account
ability for
rights’ violators. Currently, u
sers can no longer upload additional footage, but can still access
interviews, documentary journalism, resources, and advocacy through the footage and

links
available on T
he Hub (
WITNESS, n.d. b;

Morse,

2009). M
uch like Ushahidi, WITNESS and T
he
Hub
guarantee the means for

widespread
documentation that is unfiltered, providing
alternatives
traditional media.

OpenIDEO


Human rights work is concerned not only with participation in documenting a
buses, but
also in collaborative strategies and interventions
.
Increased

opportunities for
brainstorm
ing result
in a wider range of potential solutions, especially when it includes people from diverse cultures
and backgrounds who can build upon one another’s ideas.
A
n organizati
on called OpenIDEO
was

founded

on
the

premise
that crowdsourcing
is useful for aggregating

ideas
, not
only

data
and
documentation
as w
ith Ushahidi and T
he Hub.


30





Various “challenges” are posted o
n
the OpenIDEO

website,
such as one that seeks
imp
rovements in
maternal health using mobile technologies in low
-
income countries

(
OpenIDEO
, 2011)
. Challenges
have financial sponsors; in the instance

just mentioned,
OpenIDEO has partnered with Nokia and Oxfam. Once a challenge has been posted, there are
th
ree development phases. First is the inspiration phase, where
visitors to the OpenIDEO website

post ideas they have

about ways to address the issue. Inspiration could come in the form of

visual
or audio
posts, sketches, models or stories
; all are acceptabl
e and included as part of the
conversation
. People
join in, comment, contribute and
build
ideas collaboratively
. Following the
inspiration phase is a concept phase


where the conversation shifts to how ideas could actually
work
,
i.e., strategies for imple
mentation. Concepts are based on the Creative C
ommons

(2011)

model of cultural innovation


“share, remix, reuse”


rather than a contributors

retaining
ownership of their respective ideas.
Finally, once concepts are formed, the evaluation phase
begins.
Ul
timately, t
he challenge sponsor
is responsible for selecting one idea for
implement
ation
. OpenIDEO helps shape the process through feedback, encouragement and
facilitation.






31





Challenges

to Implementation and
Use of Digital Communication Tools


The use o
f digital ICT represents an unprecedented opportunity to advance the objectives
of education for human rights, but

significant challenges need to be overcome before these social
change resources can be utilized to their fullest potential. These challenges
include the following:
Unequal access and poor infrastructure in many parts of the world; the exacerbation of conflict
and violence due to inhumane manufacturing of technology; and the manipulation of ICT by
anti
-
democratic forces. In this section, I revie
w these challenges and argue for a more critical
assessment of both benefits and concerns of using digital technology for informal HRE,
ultimately considering the idea of making
Internet connection

itself a fundamental human right.

Unequal
Access and
Poor
Infrastructure


The digital divide continues to be a harsh reality
,

dividing
wealthier
nations
,
communities, and individuals
from less
-
privileged counterparts
, and rural dwellers from those in
urban areas
. According to the UNICEF
-
commissioned study,
Mobile
s for Development,

cited
above, remaining challenges to the continued growth of cell phone use include the price of
connection and services, insufficient market competition, poor access in rural areas, and
government interference with service providers

(UN
ICEF, 2010)
.
Access to the information and
networking services provided by an Internet connection does not just require bandwidth, but also
devices to utilize that bandwidth. If bandwidth is increased, either through fiber optic cable or
satellite, it is o
f little use if PCs, tablets, smartphones, or other electronic devices are not
available to take advantage of the connectivity. Most of these devices are not yet widely offered
at an acceptable price point for the majority of the world’s inhabitants.
Econo
mic issues are often
intertwined with other social, political and cultural determinants. Gender, religious beliefs,

32





literacy, strength of civil society and government corruption can all play a role and present
unique challenges to integrating human rights
education with digital technology.


All too often, the use of
technology

serves to reinforce existing social inequality,
perpetuating the divide between the powerful and powerless. Intensified marginalization of
certain groups represents an inherent danger

of increased reliance upon technological tools.
Technology merely amplifies the will of those who control it
(Fahamu Networks for Social
Justice, 2010).


A troubling

gender gap
exists with regard to
phone ownership and use.
Despite the
increasing prevalen
ce of mobile phones
in low and middle
-
income

countries,
300 million more
men own mobile phones than do women

(
GSMA Development Fund, & Cher
ie Blair Foundation
for Women,
2010)
.

On average, 21% fewer women own mobile phones, a percentage that jumps
to
37%
i
n South Asia
.
The reasons for this depend on the region, but typically include cost of
access, cultural factors like traditional male
-
female roles and privileges, and poor technical
literacy. Sadly, this deprives women of much
-
needed opportunities offered
by mobile phones,
such as access to healthcare or banking services.


In October 2010, the G
lobal Social for Mobile Communications

Association (GSMA)

launch
ed mWomen, an initiative that works to address this gap in ownership through public
-
private
partners
hips.

The mobile industry, governments and the international development
community are working together over a three
-
year period to close the gender gap by 50%,
providing more women with services that can help ameliorate their standard of living.


Insuffic
ient infrastructure compounds the problem of access. Technological tools are of
little value
in areas lacking
the necessary
infrastructure

for deployment and usage, and therefore
cannot

promote human rights initiatives. This further

deepens
inequality
and
creates a vicious

33





cycle of poverty and vulnerability
. The situation
seems even bleaker when considering more
costly integrated mobile
-
Internet devices.



While the concerns about inadequate infrastructure are
substantial
, organizations have
started to help

bridge the gap and increase connectivity and transmission in difficult
-
to
-
reach

areas,
making access more equitable. O3b Networks (2010), a for
-
profit venture, aims to connect
the “other three billion”


the rough number of people who currently lack Inter
net access,
whether due to incomplete network coverage or access that is priced in excess of affordability.
While O3b Networks hopes to increase access through satellite technology, expansion of the
reach of new fiber optic cables also holds promise for ex
panding Internet availability. Africa, in
particular, is currently

experiencing tremendous growth in bandwidth

through undersea cables
.
The total continent
al bandwidth has gone from 120 g
igabits per second to 9,560 in 2010 and a
projected 34,460 by 2012; a

28,700% growth
.

Figure 3


Growth of African Undersea Cables from 2009
-

2012






34








In addition to notably increased access, the devices that connect to the Internet are becoming
smaller and cheaper, allowing poorer countries to “leapfrog” intermediary

technologies. In the
West, connectivity is expanding from PCs to an ever
-
growing number of smartphones and
tablets. The PC is by no means a requirement, and latecomers may benefit by waiting until
cheaper and faster technology has been developed, potentia
lly omitting the need for desktop and
laptop computers altogether.


35





Figure 4

Rapid Growth of Smartphone Use Compared to PC Use





Barriers to widespread use of digital ICT related to access and infrastructure are not
limited to the Global South. A digital divide exists in the United States and other affluent nations
as
well. Google has selected
Kansas City
, Kansas as the first place to install a high
-
speed fiber
-
optic network connection of 1 gigabit per second, a rate about 100 times faster than the current
norm (Gross, 2011).

Google hopes to increase innovation and impr
ove access in a community
that has some “challenges”


including a high poverty rate and prominent digital divide (Gross,
2011). The much
-
anticipated installation will determine whether access and connection speed
have a noticeable effect on economic indic
ators or quality of life.


36





Inhumane Manufacturing of Digital Technology


While increased access to mobile technology in an undisputed
advantage

for many,
the
manufacturing process of the phones themselves negatively impacts others.

Ironically, the very
peop
le targeted for increased mobile connectivity through poverty reduction schemes are also
those whose lives are in jeopardy from the mining required to make electronic devices. Mobile
p
hones require rare earth metals
that

are often
extracted

by children and

slaves in conflict zones.
The idea of “blood mobiles” is modeled after

the
well
-
known
campaign against blood diamonds
mined in African war zones and
used to perpetuate

conflict
(Kristof, 2010).


Nathan & Sarkar (2010)
shed light on

the controversy over c
oltan, a mineral used in
mobile phones (as well as computers and other
devices
). While coltan only makes up a very
small percentage of the raw materials used in mobile phones, it is an essential component. 30%
of the world’s supply comes from the eastern D
emocratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),
where
its extraction

directly sustains

armed violence, child labor and poverty

in one of the world’s
deadliest conflicts
.
The c
oltan
industry
finances armed rebels and

has

become a reason for armed
conflict
between

gr
oups vying for control
:

“An ugly paradox of the 21st century is that some of
our elegant symbols of modernity


smartphones, laptops and digital cameras


are built from
minerals that seem to be fueling m
ass slaughter and rape in Congo
” (Kristof, 2010
, par
a. 2
)
.


Organized campaigns have begun pressuring

electronics companies to guarantee that the
materials in their devices are mined conflict
-
free. While this is
extremely difficult

to guarantee
due to
insufficient oversight legislation and complicated suppl
y chains
, awareness is a
positive
first step. At the same time, issues of importance

to consumers
become critical to

stockholders,
who then

have

greater incentive to change
a company’s
policies. Working with
the Enough
Project

(2010)
,

various corporations
have taken initiative by
pledging t
o use conflict free

37





materials.
Consumers can also
take action by signing a commit
ment to purchase

only conflict
-
free electronics, voicing their opposition to this flagrant violation of human rights (Raise Hope
for Congo,
2010).



Human rights educators can be involved with campaigns that attempt to safeguard the
well
-
being of marginalized groups and limit the negative tendency for technology to exacerbate
power asymmetries: “
By allowing technology to amplify social differe
ntiation, those with access
increasingly determine the destiny of the majority who don’t have access
” (Fahamu Networks
for Social Justice, 2010, slide 52)
.
The ubiquity of electronic technology should remind us that
the responsibility is to be shared, if t
here is to be collective benefit.
Kristof (2010) notes with sad
irony: “W
ith throngs waiting in lines in the last few days to buy the latest iPhone, I’m thinking:
What if we could harness that desperation for new technologies to the desperate need to curb
the
killing in central Africa?” (para. 2
)

Overcoming Uncritical Evaluations of the Potential of New Communication Technologies



“The idea that the Internet favors the oppressed rather than the oppressor is marred by
what I call cyber
-
utopianism: a naive b
elief in the emancipatory nature of online communication
that rests on a stubborn refusal to acknowledge its downside” (Morozov, 2011, p. xiii)



Another challenge confronting the successful application of digital ICT for positive social
impact relates to
the fact that such tools can be manipulated by anti
-
democratic forces for the
consolidation of their power instead of advancing human rights for all. Scholars and activists
differ on this issue, with “cyber
-
skeptics” providing a necessary counterweight to
those who are

quick to praise Internet technologies for
unparalleled gains in democratic values.


The fate of
Iran’s Green Movement of
2009



an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the
legitimacy of the re
-
election of President

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad


is often

cited to cast doubt
upon the effectiveness of the use of digital tools by activists. Shane (2011) notes that,


38






I
ran has become a cautionary tale. The Iranian police eagerly followed the electronic

trails left by activists, which assisted them in making t
housands of arrests in the

crackdown that followed. The government even crowd
-
sourced its hunt for enemies,

posting on the Web the photos of unidentified demonstrators and inv
iting Iranians to

identify them.
(para. 4)


Have so
-
called “Twitter revolution
s” been blown out of proportion? Are activists simply
caught up in exciting new trends and willfully ignorant of the range of possible outcomes? The
potential of NGOs to track human rights abuses is mirrored by the ability of governments and
other entities

to track human rights activists. Evidence suggests that rulers concerned with
maintaining control of their tyrannical regimes are taking increased measures to restrict
freedoms, a concern that is likely to increase as a result of ongoing uprisings in the
Middle East
(Kristof, 2011).


Widespread use of new communications tools, and social media in particular, can have a
destabilizing effect on totalitarian governments. Leaders often feel threatened by the increasing
use of these technologies and rationaliz
e their consolidation of power by whatever means
necessary. In the words of Varghese (2011), this potential for backlash is causing doubt about the
potential for the triumph of the “
technically
-
savvy David over the Goliath of violence and
despotism
” (
p. 10
).
Few deny the encouraging prospective of increased connectivity, yet gains
are easily marred by serious compromises in privacy and safety. Use of digital tools increase
vulnerability, especially
for
those in
activist or leadership positions

who may
need
to remain
anonymous.



Evgeny
Morozov
, a native of Belarus


a country characterized by long decades of
oppressive governance, human rights abuses and
limited personal freedom

brings a well
-

39





informed perspective to the debate
, citing examples where anti
-
de
mocratic forces effectively
manipulate the Web
. Morozov

(2009)

has popularized the term
"slacktivism" or “clicktivism”


the idea that digital “activism” is a lazy and ineffective approach to social change, satisfying a
desire for altruism without any real
-
world action.
“F
eel
-
good online activism


increases the
likelihood that serious engagement with issues is circumvented, since, according to Morozov