2012 was yet another eventful year for all things technology. We began the year with your predictions that citizen journalism, mobile entrepreneurship, cloud computing and the digital divide would continue to make an impact, and these predictions did come true. We incorporated more discussions on these subjects in many of our in person trainings, webinars and private consultations.
Here are some of our other observations from 2012:
Recharge E-waste Campaign
We launched our year-long campaign – Recharge E-waste – to bring awareness to the growing problem of electronic waste worldwide. We received such a great response from you guys, especially on our compact disc art post, that we will be putting out a publication on the topic – Recharging E-waste: Ideas for Reducing Electronic Waste & Greening the Tech World – next month.
Apple & Labor Practices
This year also saw the spotlight put on Apple and their unethical labor practices. According to a New York Times article, “almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.” Apple employs 43,000 workers in the United States; however, there are many more Apple contractors worldwide, including 700,000 people who actually engineer and assemble iPods, iPads, iPhones and other “iThings.” In addition, there have been many reports of poor treatment of foreign workers who make Apple products. With more NAFTA-like free trade agreements, such as the South Korea FTA, getting passed by the US Congress, and the recession continuing to loom, many feared even more US jobs would only be shipped overseas. Earlier this month Apple CEO Tim Cook vowed to bring more jobs back stateside, but no word on any improvements in working conditions in Foxconn factories.
One of the biggest online campaigns of all time came and went like the speed of light this year. #Kony2012 started out as a 30-minute video on YouTube about the child victims of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. The video was made by California-based advocacy group Invisible Children. The video was seen by million around the world; however, within hours the video was debunked. Many activists felt that the campaign was manipulating the facts. For one thing, the LRA has been around for nearly 30 years and Kony has allegedly not been seen in the country since 2007. However, the film presents this issue as if the LRA just came on the scene and that these crimes are currently happening. Invisible Children’s finances also came under question. According to the organization’s most recent financial statements, it spent $8,676,614 last year, but only 32 percent of it went to direct services in Uganda. The rest of it went to staff salaries, overhead and film equipment. Jason Russell, the #Kony2012 filmmaker, had a very public and very embarrassing breakdown, which he blamed on the stress due to the video’s criticism. Russell flatly denied the criticism, but this case should really highlight why it is still very important to do both online and offline research about any campaign or organization before becoming a supporter of it.
“Digital Caste System”
We also continued our focus on supporting women, ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups using tech for social and economic empowerment. We did a post about TechGirls, an initiative that brought 25 Middle Eastern teen girls to Silicon Valley to meet with American innovators and learn new tech skills, as part of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “smart diplomacy.” President Obama announced the creation of the Broadband Partnership of the Americas, a program set to improve Internet access across Latin America and the Caribbean during the Sixth Summit of the Americas. Secretary Clinton also announced the Small Business Network of the Americas and Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas – which will promote trade among small businesses throughout the Hemisphere. There is a special interest in supporting “diaspora entrepreneurs” through the Latino American Idea Partnership (La IdEA) and the Caribbean Idea Marketplace (CIM) business competition platforms. Also the Open Society Youth Initiative (YI) started a social media training program through its Disability Rights Initiative (DRI) to support the advancement of disabled persons. They began trainings in Africa earlier this year to raved reviews. We also wrote a post about Burning in the Sun, a documentary about Daniel Dembélé, a young entrepreneur who has come back to his village in Mali to start up a solar panel business called Afriq-Power. In the film, we see Dembélé and his company building panels for an area largely without electricity. We also wrote about Solar Mamas, another documentary about women being trained to build solar panels. It has been proven time and time again that the digital caste system needs to be reduced among marginalized groups to help society progress as a whole.
Coming off the Troy Davis protests late 2011, racial relations and digital activism came to a head earlier this year around the Trayvon Martin case. Both supporters and opponents of the murdered black teenager voiced their opinions on many online social media tools. A couple of months before, we examined how online video is being used to discuss race in America and challenge stereotypes using the Internet meme “S#*t Girls Say. Iraqi photojournalist Tamara Abdul Hadi has also taken on the challenge to break the stereotype about Arab men when she created Picture an Arab Man, a photo slide show that takes a critical look at the unexplored viewpoints of stereotypes in general. The sudden death of Rodney King had us reminisce about how the video of his beating by the LAPD was a benchmark in citizen journalism.
We had a chance to attend some great conferences this year, including the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, and learned some really cool stuff about e-waste at the U.S. Center,. We also attended Netroots Nation, where we got audio interviews with attendees about the importance of online activism in this year’s US presidential election, gave tips on online video activism and talked with Flavianna Rodriguez. Finally, we attended both the Clinton Global Initiative and the Social Good Summit in New York City during UN Week. We learned about how technology is redefining diplomacy and social good. We interviewed TMS Ruge about online activism in Uganda and actor Forest Whitaker about conflict resolution through the use of multimedia storytelling. The Broadband Commission for Digital Development released a new report – The State of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion – just prior to this year’s UN General Assembly in New York. It is their first ever country-by-country analysis of broadband deployment worldwide. We interviewed Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, about the report and the future of broadband.
Internet Policy & Politics
Last but not least, technology played a big role in global politics this year. SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, net neutrality continue to challenge discussions about Internet freedom. The Innocence of Muslims video highlighted the possible limitations of online speech. Hurricane Sandy, the sudden resignation of CIA director David Petraeus and even the latest James Bond film Skyfall brought up questions about national security threats to American infrastructure and specifically the growing concern about cyberterrorism. This was the first presidential election year both Republicans and Democrats utilized social media for campaigning. However, in the end, many believed that Obama was re-elected not necessarily because he ran a successful social media campaign reminiscent of 2008, but really because Romney’s campaign proved to be too divisive for a country that wants to move “forward.” Finally, the world said no to Internet regulation (and censorship) at the World Conference on International Telecommunications.
So, yeah, this was a pretty packed year, and we hope to continue to deliver for you all in 2013!
Talia, Marjane, Philip and Maria