Subversive Technology: Burma's Struggle for Democracy

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Introduction to the Saffron Revolution and organizing in a low technology and highly censored context. Presented at New York University's The Change You want to See Gallery in Brooklyn, New York on April 27, 2009

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Subversive Technology: Burma's Struggle for Democracy

  1. 1. Subversive Technology ICT in Burma’s Struggle for Democracy Wednesday, September 16, 2009 1
  2. 2. Burma’s “Prophet” http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/ Eric Arthur Blair Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2
  3. 3. Burma’s “Prophet” http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/ George Orwell Eric Arthur Blair Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2
  4. 4. Burma’s “Prophet” http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/ George Orwell Eric Arthur Blair By: Shepherds Fairey Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2
  5. 5. Burmese Days Colonial Period 1824-1948 Major ethnic groups ▪ Karen ▪ Karenni ▪ Mon ▪ Shan ▪ Chin ▪ Wa ▪ Arakan ▪ Rohingya ▪ Kachin ▪ Burman Wednesday, September 16, 2009 3
  6. 6. Animal Farm: Burma “Independence” 1948-1989 1948 Aung San assasinated 1962 U Nu overthrown, Ne Win begins “Burmese Way to Socialism.” 1988 Student uprising for democracy Eric Elofson - http://passivepro.blogspot.com/ Wednesday, September 16, 2009 4
  7. 7. Animal Farm: Burma Animal Farm opened my mind to what kind of government is in “Independence” Burma. I can take a lot of parallels in real life with Animal Farm. 1948-1989 (The animals) want to have freedom, but later there is freedom 1948 only for Napoleon. Burma is also like that for the SPDC, the Aung San leaders. Before they become leaders, they say all are equal. But assasinated after they become leaders they change their minds. 1962 U Nu overthrown, When you ask ‘Why do you need more education?’ I see a Ne Win begins parallel. (In) Animal Farm, the animals, they overthrow the man, “Burmese Way to but only a few animals, especially pigs, are educated. The other Socialism.” 1988 animals (end up) facing the same problems. We are refugee Student uprising people, small minority groups. We don’t have an education. So for democracy we need education to be aware of this problem. Kyaw Tway, male, http://passivepro.blogspot.com/ Eric Elofson - age 20, English Immersion Program Overcoming Obstacles, Creating Opportunities - Section 6, pg 150-154 Wednesday, September 16, 2009 4
  8. 8. 1984: Myanmar Population: 60 million Religions Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2% KHRG Wednesday, September 16, 2009 5
  9. 9. 1984: Myanmar Population: 60 million Religions Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2% KHRG Wednesday, September 16, 2009 5
  10. 10. 1984: Myanmar Population: 60 million KEY INDICATORS worst best Religions GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2000 international $) ........ 1,446 3.50 Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% Life expectancy at birth (years) ............................................. 61 4.19 (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic Literacy rate (% of people age 15+) ..................................... 90 6.00 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, Human development index (out of 177)............................... 130 3.52 Rule of law other 2% (out of 208) ...................................................... 202 1.87 Voice and accountability (out of 208) .................................. 208 0.69 Digital opportunity index (out of 180) .................................. 176 1.36 Internet users (% of population) ........................................... 0.1 3.07 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Source (by indicator): IMF 2006; World Bank 2006a, 2006a; UNDP 2006; World Bank 2006c, 2006c; ITU 2006, 2004 OpenNet Initiative, Internet Filtering in Burma in 2005: A Country Study, at http://opennet.net/studies/burma/. KHRG from USD0.75 in 2004 and USD0.95–1.50 in straints. As in other areas, however, the state’s Wednesday, September 16, 2009 8 5
  11. 11. 1984: Myanmar Population: 60 million KEY INDICATORS worst best Religions GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2000 international $) ........ 1,446 3.50 Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% Life expectancy at birth (years) ............................................. 61 4.19 (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic Less than 1% mobile phone & Literacy rate (% of people age 15+) ..................................... 90 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, Human development index (out of 177)............................... 130 6.00 3.52 Rule of law other 2% internet market penetration (out of 208) ...................................................... 202 Voice and accountability (out of 208) .................................. 208 1.87 0.69 Digital opportunity index (out of 180) .................................. 176 1.36 Internet users (% of population) ........................................... 0.1 3.07 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Source (by indicator): IMF 2006; World Bank 2006a, 2006a; UNDP 2006; World Bank 2006c, 2006c; ITU 2006, 2004 OpenNet Initiative, Internet Filtering in Burma in 2005: A Country Study, at http://opennet.net/studies/burma/. KHRG from USD0.75 in 2004 and USD0.95–1.50 in straints. As in other areas, however, the state’s Wednesday, September 16, 2009 8 5
  12. 12. 1984: Myanmar KHRG Wednesday, September 16, 2009 5
  13. 13. 1984: Myanmar In Exile: ~4 million Sophisticated network of community based organizations Wednesday, September 16, 2009 6
  14. 14. 1984: Myanmar In Exile: ~4 million Sophisticated network of community based organizations KHRG Wednesday, September 16, 2009 6
  15. 15. Overcoming Obstacles, Creating Opportunities Our Research Youth Perspectives from the Thai-Burma Border www.newwordsmedia.com Youth Perspectives from the Thai-Burma Border Wednesday, September 16, 2009 7
  16. 16. www.newwordsmedia.com Key finding Young Burmese with access to the internet were more likely to identify themselves as activists Wednesday, September 16, 2009 8
  17. 17. Saffron Revolution www.uscampaignforburma.org Mobile phones were used by monks and other citizen journalists to send information to the outside world. Wednesday, September 16, 2009 9
  18. 18. Saffron Revolution www.uscampaignforburma.org Mobile phones were used by monks and other citizen journalists to send information to the outside world. Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10
  19. 19. Saffron Revolution www.uscampaignforburma.org Mobile phones were used by monks and other citizen journalists to send information to the outside world. Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10
  20. 20. constrained context. OpenNet Initiative, Pulling the Plug: A Technical Review of the Internet Shutdown in Burma, at http://opennet.net/research/bulletins/013. Figure 1. Timeline of Events, Aug. 19, 2007 - Oct. 13, 2007 Saffron Revolution Internet in Burma Willfrom Burma are always asking forthat silencing mobiles andand assistance “People governments learn information as well as requesting for help the internet are a necessary step in any crackdown? from [the] outside world but very little of their voices reach the world and most are lost in the endless state of the government vacuum.” — Burmese blogger Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11
  21. 21. How information travels Actions are recorded with mobile phones, uploaded to flash drives, taken across borders, uploaded to servers, sent to trusted contacts. Is there a better way? www.newwordsmedia.com Wednesday, September 16, 2009 12
  22. 22. Burma and its Borders In Burma the cost of a “normal” GSM sim card is 2.5 million kyat. This equals approximately $2000 on the black market conversion rate. At the official rate this is approximately $393,400. A new pre-paid sim costs Dollars Local Currency between $25 US dollars. Bangladesh India (Delhi) 4.18 7.77 250 300 Thailand 6.84 200 Use restricted to 1 month China (Yunnan) 14.6 100 Burma 50 Wednesday, September 16, 2009 13
  23. 23. Current Situation Bloggers imprisoned Increased sophistication from authorities China’s support 2010 elections Wednesday, September 16, 2009 14
  24. 24. Current Situation Bloggers imprisoned Increased sophistication from authorities China’s support 2010 elections Wednesday, September 16, 2009 14
  25. 25. Bangladesh: Mobile possibilities • Large populations in refugee camps • Stateless population • Extensive mobile penetration along border allows for reporting and monitoring www.newwordsmedia.com Wednesday, September 16, 2009 15
  26. 26. India: Challenges and opportunities • Relative freedom of expression • Tech support in Delhi • Isolation along border www.newwordsmedia.com Wednesday, September 16, 2009 16
  27. 27. China: Land of the Free? • Borders Kachin and Shan States in Burma • Ruili: largest Chinese city on border • Contact with outside world via China and Chinese technology • Relatively more internet “I think, to me, the China freedom web is totally free.” - Burmese male activist, 26 Wednesday, September 16, 2009 17
  28. 28. Thailand: Increased Opportunities • In Thailand, internet access is frequent. There, we found a correlation between access to internet and self- identification as an activist • Since then, internet access has grown, including affordable and reliable GPRS on mobiles Wednesday, September 16, 2009 18
  29. 29. Solutions http://www.flickr.com/photos/whiteafrican/2736565604/ Wednesday, September 16, 2009 19
  30. 30. Solutions Democracy • Being heard • Minority rights • Accountability and transparency • Advocacy for change • Access http://www.flickr.com/photos/whiteafrican/2736565604/ Wednesday, September 16, 2009 19
  31. 31. Solutions Democracy Digital Democracy • Being heard • Empowerment of the • Minority rights individual • Accountability and • Fall of hierarchies transparency • Wider participation • Advocacy for change • Democratization of • Access information http://www.flickr.com/photos/whiteafrican/2736565604/ Wednesday, September 16, 2009 19
  32. 32. Handheld Human Rights Making human rights accessible and actionable • Disseminate key information and messages to field workers. • Facilitate communication between groups working on these issues. • Collect data that can be mapped on the site. • Rapidly spread news of human rights violations to the international community and advocacy groups. Wednesday, September 16, 2009 20
  33. 33. Handheld Human Rights Wednesday, September 16, 2009 21
  34. 34. Project Einstein “Because Einstein was a refugee but could still do great things” Digital Pen Pals - Photography-based participatory education program linking American students with refugee youth overseas.  Wednesday, September 16, 2009 22
  35. 35. Project Einstein: Digital Pen Pals Peace Culture Let’s Discuss: Happiness History USA Ideas Bangladesh Pictures Let’s Exchange: Lessons Culture Resettled Refugees Photo Books with American youth Youth in in US schools Let’s Create: Slideshows refugee camps Videos D 2 Wednesday, September 16, 2009 23
  36. 36. What you can do: DIGITAL-DEMOCRACY.ORG / @DIGIDEM Wednesday, September 16, 2009 24
  37. 37. What you can do: • Donate money • the economy is hard for everyone but conversion rates between currencies is currently in US favor • Donate your skills • are you a designer, programmer, or have other skills that you can provide? tell us and help grassroots organizations make change • Volunteer • our parnters are always looking for smart help DIGITAL-DEMOCRACY.ORG / @DIGIDEM Wednesday, September 16, 2009 24
  38. 38. Mark Belinsky - @mbelinsky Emily Jacobi - @emjacobi mbelinsky@digital-democracy.org ejacobi@digital-democracy.org Wednesday, September 16, 2009 25
  39. 39. Working with local partners to connect people through new technologies that encourage education, communication and civic participation. Mark Belinsky - @mbelinsky Emily Jacobi - @emjacobi mbelinsky@digital-democracy.org ejacobi@digital-democracy.org Wednesday, September 16, 2009 25

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