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ICT and the Continuing Struggle for Reform and Social Change

ICT and the Continuing Struggle for Reform and Social Change

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Published by Teddy Casino
Speech delivered at the De La Salle University Quo Vadis forum series, Feb. 11, 2011, SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.
Speech delivered at the De La Salle University Quo Vadis forum series, Feb. 11, 2011, SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.

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Published by: Teddy Casino on Feb 14, 2011
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04/05/2011

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ICT and the Continuing Struggle forSocial Reform
By Rep. Teddy A. Casino (Bayan Muna)Keynote Speech for Quo Vadis Pilipinas February 11, 2011SMX Convention Center, Pasay City 
Good morning everyone.As we sit here this morning, the people ofEgypt are entering their 18
th
day of protestagainst the 30-year dictatorship of EgyptianPresident Hosni Mubarak. It is a protest likeno other, the biggest and longest pro-democracy mass action in Egypt in fivedecades. Reports say as much as a quarterof a million Egyptians from all walks of life joined the protests the other day. From allindications, it appears Mubarak's days arenumbered.A few weeks before that, in Tunisia, the 23-year dictatorship of President Zine El Abidine Ben Alicrumbled after 28 days of widespread protests over high unemployment, high food prices,corruption, the violations of free speech and the generally poor living conditions of the people.I thought it proper to mention these recent experiences in Egypt and Tunisia because thesemassive upheavals, both movements for democratic governance and social reform, have beencalled “internet revolutions”, “Twitter revolutions” or “Wikileaks revolutions,” meaning socialmovements in which the internet and mobile telecommunications, particularly social media andSMS, are said to have played a key, if not leading role.It indeed tickles the mind of techies, geeks, reporters followingthe info-tech beat, as well as twitter and facebook fanatics andplayers in the ICT industry, to think that social media couldhave such a huge impact on events in the real world. Butactivists in Egypt and Tunisia will be the first to deny that theirswas a twitter or facebook or youtube revolution. It takes blood,sweat and tears, not a few clicks of the mouse, for a revolutionto succeed.Such simplifications of the role of mobile communicationstechnology remind me of our own EDSA 2, which celebratedits 10
th
anniversary last January 20. Did anyone remember thatone? I think no one did, not even former Pres. Gloria Arroyo.Anyway, EDSA 2 was known as the Text Revolution becauseof how mobile phones and SMS played a crucial role inmobilizing people and keeping them informed of the political developments. I remember a foreignTV news crew asking me to demonstrate texting simultaneously using two phones, one on eachhand – one for Globe and the other for Smart. Wala pa kasing group text noon.
 
Indeed, today, the power of communication and information is literally in our hands, in this tinycontraption called the mobile phone. It still amazes me what one can do with such a tiny device.You can call or text anyone anywhere anytime. You can surf the net. You can book a flight, hire amasseuse, check out the next movie showing. Youcan see what's happening in Egypt, or watch acongressional investigation in real time.Does anybody here remember the good old dayswhen we didn't have mobile phones? When it tookforever to get a landline and when you finally gotone, you had to share it with a party line? Alamn'yo pa ba yung party line? How about the beeper,where you had to dial 143 to beep someone to callthe message server. Tell me, can anyone in thisroom last a week without a mobile phone andemail?Today, we're in the era of Web 2.0. Through thepower of ICT, we have the capability to be on-line, logged in to each other 24 hours a day, sevendays a week. There's so much interaction, so much information, ikaw na lang ang susuko.But why is it that, despite the leaps and bounds of ICT, our government and our social institutionsare in such a mess? With so much information available, why are there still fixers prying on theignorant in almost all government agencies? We have a government electronic procurementsystem and yet rigged biddings are as rampant and brazen as ever. We have excellent websitesfor both houses of Congress and practically all government agencies yet our services remainwanting. Finally, with all the ICT tools available to the public, how can our leaders continue tocheat, lie, steal and get away with it?Well for one thing, access to the hardware and software is severely limited. Cong. Tinga alreadygave us the lowdown on ICT readiness and internet penetration. Yes there are 80 million mbilephone subscribers. Buthow many actually usetheir phones forpurposes other thantexting "WRU na?" andother jejemons?Unfortunately, ICT itselfcan be an alienatingfactor for ordinarycitizens. Lack of accessis one thing. But otheraspects of thetechnology, like the useof English, or the lack ofeducation and trainingon using ICT products,serve as a disincentivefor greater use of ICT byour people.Furthermore, ICT can be used and manipulated by those in power to maintain the status quo. Formany agencies, the full potential of ICT is not used due to fear that the public might have access toinformation that could be used against these very agencies. Why, for example, are governmentcontracts and bid documents not available on the internet? Why are statements of assets, liabilities
 
and net worth not posted as well? Why are transcripts of hearings or deliberations in Congress,even just minutes of meetings, all of which are already in digital form, not readily available to thepublic?The people cannot wait for the government to do these things on their own. We will have to takethe initiative. With such powerful instruments at our disposal – the mobile phone, the PC, the iPad,free/open source software, Web 2.0 – I can't see any reason why we should not use ICT inpushing for reforms and genuine social change. In fact, our social movements are taking the leadin applying ICT to their work. But like many others, there is a learning curve that we need toovercome.The easiest and most effective way of using ICT for social movements and advocacies is bycreating and disseminating the right information to the right people. By simply texting, tweeting,posting on your Facebook or blog site, or sending emails, one can raise awareness and eveninfluence public opinion on a whole range of issues and concerns – from anomalous projects,abusive officials and erring traffic cops to environmental causes. Facebook in fact has built inapplications for advocacies and campaigns. The two biggest TV networks – ABS-CBN and GMA –have incorporated texts, tweets and FB posts in their newscasts. This is important becausesometimes, changes can happen by sheer force of public opinion.We should also use the internet for holding online discussions and fora on various issues andadvocacies.A higher level of engagement is the use of ICT tools to develop programs, applications or web sitesthat facilitate people's participation and collaboration in various advocacies. Blogs are especiallyuseful for this, as are interactive sites that make people involved in giving information, monitoringor initiating projects. This is where the value of free/open source software comes in, as itdemocratizes software use and development. So now we have FOSS for disaster management,human rights monitoring, education, office productivity, SMEs, LGUs, and even automatedelections.The internet and mobile networks are as effective tools for education and awareness raising asthey are for organizing and mobilizing. It is most crucial to harness the potential of the internet andmobile phones for networking and collaboration towards real, concrete action. We should matchour online presence with offline actions. We should be as active in the virtual world as in the realworld.

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