Sunday, February 27, 2011

Indian Annual Budget

The keenly awaited Budget for FY 2011-12 will be presented by Finance Minster, Pranab Mukerjee in the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha)  within a couple of hours from now. Indian business community and the common people are looking forward to a progressive budget this year in view of high inflation in food and allied commodities. One can follow budget here.

Daniel Ellsberg, key figure in Pentagon Papers affair, to visit Newhouse School March 8

Prof. Dana Radcliffe has informed that Daniel Ellsberg will be in University on March 8. He would be participating in “From the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks: A Conversation with Daniel Ellsberg.” Ellsberg had passed on classified information relating to the  U.S. government’s engagement  in Vietnam to the  press.complete information about the program is here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Documentary on Egypt Revolution

Can a film or a documentary be made by using crowd-sourced video recordings and procuring them through social media? Well, a young journalist from USA seems to think so. The journalist believes that various people must have recorded footage of crowds and their activites during the 18 days revolution in Egypt’s Tahrir square and elsewhere. He has therefore asked people to provide links to all such footages on the twitter or facebook so that he can make a documentary. I read this report today. The link to it is given below.

Friday, February 25, 2011 Social Networking for Governance in India

Gov 2.0 Action Plan will be discussed in a conference in India on 11th March 2011. Prominent figures will be speaking. Details. You can follow it on facebook also.

LinkedIn ban in China lifted

It is reported that Chinese authorities have lifted the ban on LinkedIn which was clamped a day earlier. Simultaneously, China has prohibited  its soldiers from blogging due to security reasons. The BBC world service carried these news.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My thoughts about the role of Social Networks

President Obama has texted me:P

Last class was about the role of Social Media with particular focus on current unrest in the Middle Eastern countries. I believe, there is no doubt that social media has had its impact on organizing and mobilizing people who opposed their governments, but there is also something that needs to be considered as contributing factor to anger of people who have been succeeded in toppling the regime in Egypt. Utilization of Technologies like Iphone, computers that are connected with the internet has reshaped the communication architecture of the contemporary world. Today, there is no place where someone can feel her/his self isolated from the rest of the world. Something which happens in one corner of the world will be straight away communicated with most of the people around the world in few seconds.

Instead of spending too much time on other original sources, I do get most of the news that I am interested on from those people who have been part of my social networks (facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and so on). Based on my area of expertise, I have strived to be connected with those people who have been experts on the subjects of my interest and concentration too.

I would like to share a personal story which I believe will last forever in my memories. It was when President Barack Obama was off to Egypt to deliver his historical speech to the Muslim World in summer 2009. Prior to that and his election as President, in 2008, I was doing my fellowship at New York State Legislature, where I got to his facebook page and was among campaigner for his election. Even though it was not part of my job nor I was officially entitled to do so, as an informed Afghan Citizen, whose country’s future is closely tighten to the policy of US administration, I found his policy and approach toward Afghanistan very promising and full of optimisms. Therefore, I was trying to talk to as money Americans as possible to share my thoughts about him and how wise his strategy was toward Afghanistan which was among major issues in his campaign. However, I got the news from his facebook web page that whoever is having cell phone will receive the key points of his speech in almost more than 12 languages, including Farsi which is one of our official languages. Nevertheless, due to my interest of learning English, I chose to receive the texts in English. I registered my cell phone number and left office earlier than usual for home. After having my late lunch with the family, I had gone on a short nap but my cell phone peeped and I straight away got up and screamed “ hu, this is President Obama”. My wife and brothers all got to me and they thought I dreamed something crazy. My older brother who is physician by profession had perceived something was going wrong with me. But I was right, the text was from his(President Obama) team and I had kept receiving texts till the end of his speech. This is something, that I was so excited to see happing for the first time in my life and I am still teased by my wife and brothers that I was expecting the text from President himself, “President Obama has texted me”. As most of the Muslim population lives in Asia, the President’s team (DOS) translated his remarks into Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and some others which I don’t recall.

However, today many of the Afghan politicians, officials and intellectuals have been active part of social networks. Social Networks for the first time were utilized during the Presidential as well as recent parliamentary election campaigns in my country. I saw bulk of comments and exchange of ideas about the policies presented by the candidates as well as criticisms were put on their web pages.

Based on the facts mentioned above about the importance of Social Networks, I believe it is very important to be part of any of them. As personally I use facebook and LinkedIn, has seen the benefits they offer. Part of my facebook, I get most of my news, information about the subjects posted by my friends as well as I am in connected with all my family members as well as relatives whom I haven’t in person in 20 years or so. Part of my professional network (LinkedIn) I in very short period of time I have been introduced and connected with some organizations and folks who I see as positional employers for my career.

Finally, I firmly believe on the importance of Social Network and it does play a critical role in bringing people together, mobilizing their expertise, knowledge and efforts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Anti poverty program and it's applicability to developing countries

Recently, I had read an article in New York Times titled "To beat back poverty, pay the poor". This article is about "bolsa familia" (family grant) program in Brazil. This conditional cash transfer program has been.successful in raising income of poor by seven times in last six years and Brazil is able to reduce it's poverty from 22% to 7% because of this program. In this program direct cash is transferred to poor household provided the conditions of sending children school, regular medical check up, attending the nutrition and disease prevention workshops are followed by members of family. In India, National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme can also be modified to incorporate success indredients from Brazil.

Revolution 2.0

The last few weeks were full with reports on how social media applications, such as Twitter and Facebook, have contributed to the fall of governments in Tunisia and Egypt. We have seen protesters holding up signs like the following:

Or this one, implying that the Egyptian revolution was carried out through Twitter and Facebook:

A prominent Google marketing executive in the region, Wael Ghonim, has drawn a lot of attention to a Facebook group he has used to organize young people in Egypt. In his interviews with several US media outlets he highlights that the revolution started on Facebook - starting in June 2010. The government itself was apparently taken by surprise. Protesters organized and coordinated their actions using the #jan25 hashtag on Twitter - keeping the online movement alive. The Egyptian government quick shut down the internet and blocked access to Twitter and Facebook.

From a government perspective, criticism is popping up that social media is fueling the protesters - ignoring that the technology itself can't spark a revolution. Instead, public managers need to be aware of what their citizens are talking about, where hot conversation topics are bubbling up, and how to make citizens feel that government is listening to their citizens' needs.

What these so-called "social media revolution" also show is, that people don't need a broadband connection to connect to each other - instead, cellphones are widely available, independent of income or education. What's common to most of the governments that were overthrown or are under attack is that their citizens are disappointed or don't feel that their government hears their wishes and complaints.

Cellphones are being recharged on Taheer Square in Kairo, Egypt

Also check out the Wallstreet Journal video discussion with Clay Shirky.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Last week Prof. Ya Li spoke about China. The Economist reported that China has now become No2 economy in terms of the size of GDP. The other behemoth shaping the world is India. Indians overtly or sub-consciously keep sizing up China on various parameters. They view China with awe when it comes to their economy and military power. They draw comfort from Westerner's admiration that India is a democracy and China is not. Perhaps, India's comparatively slower economic growth is the price that Indians pay for the cherished values of freedom, democracy etc that is driving revolutions in the Arab world through social media.
In the last couple of years, I have seen many conversations on the internet comparing India and China. One of them is by the alumni of Delhi School of Economics who despaired at India failing to catch up with China, and lamented the failure of Indian state and the bureaucracy to deliver to the Indians a quality of life comparable to that of China. In one of the conversations, a stray statement of Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate was picked up to justify certain claims about the two countries. Prof Sen promptly wrote an article clarifying his stance. The facts and views presented by him are thought provoking. Go to the link to read it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I found this  you tube feature on role of social media in Arab uprising quite intriguing.You may see it in the link given under:

Can Social Media be used for Genuine Public Opinion like elections?

The power of social media to mobilize certain sections of people is now quite established after seeing what is happening in the Arab world. Now Imran Khan, the famous cricketer of Pakistan, has prophesied that a similar movement will take place in his country. It seems more as his wish, but that made me think. Can the social media sites be used to project a genuine public opinion on a matter? For example, can we use the facility to conduct elections? If it were possible to design a medium specific to this objective with each subscriber being genuinely identified and asked to vote, I think this could make the election process faster and more transparent and with fewer expenses, more quality results could be expected.

Friday, February 18, 2011


This is the title of a well researched new book by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Sherry Turkle, published by Basic Books in January this year, which raises some poignant soul searching issues related to overuse of social media or what she calls social technology. In this strikingly sharp critique, Prof Turkle argues that despite the advent of social networking sites and text messaging ,our intimate relationship with technology has not translated into closer personal relationships between fellow humans.
Alone Together is the result of Technology and society specialist Sherry Turkle’s nearly fifteen year exploration of human lives on the digital terrain. Based on interviews with hundreds of teenagers and adults, it describes new, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, parents, and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude. It is a story of emotional dislocation, of risks taken unknowingly. But it is also a story of hope, for even in the places where digital saturation is greatest, there are people—especially the young—who are asking the hard questions and concerns about sustaining direct human connection. At the threshold of what Turkle calls “the robotic moment,” our devices prompt us to recall that we have human purposes and, perhaps, to rediscover what they are.
I have come across an interesting interview of Professor Sherry Turkle, in which she has revealed her thought process, which is available at following link:
This book is more relevant for saturated societies other than emerging ones, but the issues raised point out some compelling other side pictures of social media which demand our attention.The fact is social media is a tool to facilitate human to human interactions , not replace them, by self imposed solitude or what Professor Sherry Turkle chillingly  calls “ alone together”

misuse of social media

I thought I would share it with you. "the misuse of social media"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Facebook freedom fighter

Google Executive Wael Ghonim Admits he was ElShaheeed. He was the man behind the Facebook page that sparked the revolt. He was the facebook freedom fighter.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Salaam Wael Ghonim !!!

I salute the young Google Marketing Executive Wael Ghonim, whose social-media expertise played a major role  in igniting the anti- government protests, by creating a face book page “ We all are Khaled Said” along with Amr Salma which today has more than 8,00,000 fans. I salute him for helping a new type of social capital among youth in Egypt who took  to the streets  in thousands  to protest poverty, rampant unemployment, government corruption and autocratic governance of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country for 30 years-ultimately leading to the historical change in the form of stepping down of President Mubarak.
I salute him for creating a new space of activism- on line activism –which is intrinsically linked and energising the real time protests. He has brought down the distinction of digital savvy young educated class, known hitherto for being confined to its passive self obsessed lives and pursuit of comfort,  with the suffering millions of the country. Hope this could be a model for other countries too.
Roger Cohen in  NY Times(10th Feb,2011) outlines the significance of this revolution in Egypt -“This is a seismic event in a long-dormant Arab world, reflecting at last the modernizing urges of the region’s overwhelmingly young populations. They are questing, Face book- and Twitter-empowered, to become citizens rather than cowed subjects; they have learned that the utopias proposed by fanaticism are empty.

Ghonim  was arrested , kept in blind folded isolation  and tortured probably for 12 days  by Mubarak government while he was at the scene of demonstrations in central Cairo .I salute him for his words which he spoke just after the release “Please don’t turn me into a hero. I’m not a hero. The heroes are the ones who were out on the street.” This captures the ground reality and why Ghonim deserves our salutes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I came across this very interesting write up on the role played by social media in the political revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt. After the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, there is a lesson for political leaders: Do not take people for granted. In Tunisia, it was a self immolation by a youth who lost his livelihood to arbitrary cancellation of his license by civic and police authorities that triggered an unprecedented mobilization -- through social media -- of people who empathized with that young man. In Egypt, it was a young woman -- fed up of rising prices and growing hardships -- announcing on Facebook that she was going to sit out in Tahrir square of Cairo to protest on 25th January that brought thousands of people facing similar hardships to that place. They were all there till Mubarak left!! Are we witnessing a new wave of revolution against indifferent and worthless governments?? Politicians, bureaucrats, its a wake up call.....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Re-connecting Abducted Kids with Their Families: The New Function of Social Media in China

Professor Yu Jianrong, a high-profile scholar who is famous for his research on weak groups of China and speaking for these people, recently launched a microblog based movement to encourage citizens to take pictures of children beggars and tweet the pictured message via a specific microblog account to help rescue them and re-connect them with their parents.

The original Sina microblog account has already had nearly 200,000 followers. As of today, more than 1000 kid pictures has been tweeted, and at least 6 kids have been found by their parents.

Inspired by Professor Yu’s effort, others microblog websites have also opened their microblog accounts for same purpose. This is one of the very few microblogging efforts got the support from the government.

Please visit the Sina microblog and see the relevant news articles from Financial Times and Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

The last IP address allotted

The unthinkable has arrived. Or is it the unimaginable? The Internet has run out of IP addresses. Gosh, it seems so easy to zip through four billion, two hundred and ninety-four million, nine hundred and sixty-seven thousand, two hundred and ninety-six addresses.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Are we overhyping social media as a tool of movements for democracy?

Social media was widely recognized as a tool for popular movements demanding democratization in June 2009 when twitter feeds played a major role in eruption of street protests in Iran following the country’s fraudulent presidential elections. Then came Tunisia in December 2010 when a facebook page on the harrowing event of a 26 year old protester Mohammed Bouazizi setting himself ablaze fuelled wide scale street protests finally culminating in the overthrow of  the regime President Zine al-Abidin Ben Ali .The genesis of the present unprecedented mass upsurge could be traced to the killing of Khaled Said from Alexandria, beaten to death by Police in June 2010. Said’s death spurred the creation of widely supported Facebook group-“We all are Khaled Said”. The recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have both seen an increased use of social networking media such as Facebook and Twitter to help organize, communicate and ultimately initiate civil-disobedience campaigns and street actions.

The media observers are carried away  by the capability and outreach of social media to track events and cover diverse locations, perspectives and demographics in real time. However, some experts have a very different take on this. Experts Marko Papic and Sean Noonan observe-“A revolution is far more than what we see and hear on the Internet — it requires organization, funding and mass appeal. Social media no doubt offer advantages in disseminating messages quickly and broadly, but they also are vulnerable to government counter-protest tactics. And while the effectiveness of the tool depends on the quality of a movement’s leadership, a dependence on social media can actually prevent good leadership from developing.”(Social Media as a Tool for Protest, Marko Papic and Sean Noonan , Startfor Global Intelligence, Feb 3,2011)

They maintain that   key for any protest movement is to inspire and motivate individuals to go from the comfort of their homes to the chaos of the streets and face off against the government. Social media allow organizers to involve like-minded people in a movement at a very low cost, but they do not necessarily make these people move. Instead of attending meetings, workshops and rallies, un-committed individuals can join a Facebook group or follow a Twitter feed at home, which gives them some measure of anonymity (though authorities can easily track IP addresses) but does not necessarily motivate them to physically hit the streets and provide fuel for a revolution. At the end of the day, for a social media-driven protest movement to be successful, it has to translate social media membership into genuine and effective street action.  Evgeny Morozov, in his recently published book “The Net delusion” makes a very intersting remark-“ Supporting a cause on Facebook and Twitter is an activity that  requires something quite different from what political action demands- the willingness to risk one’s stability and comfort, not to mention the possibility of physical confrontation with the forcces of repression”.  Before getting carried away by such hype, it is time to take a pause and ponder- is it realistic to imagine revolutions by downloads?

Can Social Media Connect Our Soldiers' Families?

The readings for Social Media-II lecture were very interesting and informative. One of the problem solving applications of social media that I found particularly interesting was reported in Alexandra Samuel’s ‘Waiting for Government 2.0’ article regarding an application developed by the US Navy to enable the anxious mothers of new recruits to network with the mothers of more senior navy officers. It appears that this networking, based on social media applications, helped the mothers of new recruits to overcome some of their apprehensions and anxieties about the future of their children. Interestingly, this application appears to be totally independent of the navy’s information systems; yet it helps to solve one of the major obstacles to the navy’s recruitment of new manpower.
Is a similar application possible in India? The families of para- military forces battling insurgencies in disturbed areas could network on social media. Or, maybe, the families of soldiers deployed on borders could be networked together over social media. One problem I visualize is the absence of computers or social media enabled mobile phones in rural areas, particularly with the families of soldiers. The other problem I visualize is the language barrier. I am not very sure whether the social media can operate easily with Indian vernacular languages, like Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil or Kannada. Also, I wonder what sort of networking is possible if the networked families communicate in different languages. I would, therefore, be interested to know more about the adaptability of social media to different languages and the possibility of translation of content as is available on Google.

Friday, February 4, 2011

"I learned it by watching you, Zuck"

The other day, i read a news article regarding Facebook in Japan. It says Japan has very very low rate in using Facebook considering its widely spread Internet use, and one of reasons analyzed was its culture in which people generally do not want to expose their private lives to the public. What do you think about that?

Anyway, i would like to share this article with you concerning vulnerability of privacy in this social media age. Don't they look quiet creative like Zuck? Big Brother is not the only thing we should worry about!

Northeast India rocked by Earthquake and USGS response

Northeast India has witnessed a 6.4 Ritcher scale earthquake, which is believed to be biggest in decades.
I tried to correlate the news with the USGS - "Did you feel it" and impressed with the responses received on USGS website. . It really helps to measure the response of citizens and can help in deploying the relief resources.

Colorful India

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Delhi Police uses facebook to connect to citizens reg. traffic information

Last week, I have learnt the possible usage of social media applications by govenment agencies. The social media eg. Twitter, facebook etc can be used effectively by govenment agencies to proactively informaing people with updated information. In some government department have started using it also eg. Delhi Police is using this to address the traffic problems . This application has got an overwheming response from public and become a medium of conveying traffic related issues to the goverment. The success of this initative lies in prope responses to citizens posting on the facebook site as well as regular traffic updates.


The arrest of India’s former Communication &IT Minister Mr Andimuthu  Raja   and former Telecom Secretary Sidharth  Behuria by Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) on 2nd February, 2011 is a landmark event signifying the power of the  movement against corruption and demand for transparency by civil society and citizen through social media.  When traditional mass media like Press and TV News Channels got embroiled in the infamous “Neera Radia Tapes” scandal- a shameful episode exposing the  close nexus of media with the corporate lobbyists. With the discredited media loosing the public faith, social media like face book, twitter, my space, blogs and other social networking sites have played a significant role in mobilizing growing demand for higher transparency in public life.
Fast expansion of Internet and mobile telecommunications in India has been accompanied by a series of scandals that are a consequence of poor regulatory oversight and deliberate manipulation of policies to favour a select group of companies. The biggest and most brazen of these scandals relate to the blatant irregularities in the allocation of 3 G Spectrum- electromagnetic spectrum or radio frequencies, under Mr A  Raja. According to a report of the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) of India tabled in Parliament on 16 November,2010, the total “presumptive loss ” to the national exchequer on account of undervaluation of spectrum was in excess of Rs. 1.7 lakh crore or nearly $40 billion at current exchange rates, making it the biggest scandal of its kind in the country. Rules and guidelines were bent in an arbitrary manner in this scam. The enormity of the scandal was acknowledged only after the Supreme Court started asking pointed questions of government agencies and the CAG came out with a scathing indictment of DoT policies and practices. Raja was forced to resign his post and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) made to expedite its investigations that had begun in October 2009 with the lodging of a First Information Report (FIR).Social media and networking sites kept close tab on the development and steered the demand for tough action.
One most significant fillip to the social media would be success in its demand for freeing CBI from political control and to target the corrupt politicians. This unprecedented arrest may bring some deterrent effect among political and bureaucratic class and bring down rate of corruption in high places eventually.

G2 to 2G

Those who are interested in the 2G scam in India, can see the following link:

This has come about after a long process. The effort also used the Right to Information Act, to retrieve detailed documents from the telecom dept. I think, this would be the biggest success story of RTI  in India.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gov 2,0-a silent revolution in the making

The use of social networking sites by Government is silently ushering in a revolution across the globe. It is being said that social networking sites like Twitter , facebook , youtube have been responsible for the recent Tunisian uprising, Some Governments are cashing in on the power of social media by posting their actions/proposals in the social media