recommended reading

State Department Eyes Smartphones As Policy Tool

ARCHIVES

By Dawn Lim February 8, 2012

recent posts

The smartphone's rise in overseas markets is a "key development" that the State Department is watching over the next year, an adviser said Tuesday, signaling the agency's interest in using mobile technology to advance foreign policy goals.

The deployment of 3G and 4G mobile networks will enable more people to connect to the Internet at the same time and "up the stakes politically," said Ben Scott, Policy Advisor for Innovation at the Office of the Secretary of State. Mobile broadband penetration in the Middle East and Africa has lagged behind basic cellphone use. How international networks grow over the next 12 to 18 months will be monitored closely, said Scott. With that expansion, "there is going to be a whole lot more money on the table for pushing policies for attracting investment," he said.

Scott spoke at a panel discussion on the flow of Internet information hosted by Media Access Project, a Washington-based public interest law firm. His statement is the latest indication of State's push to leverage mobile technology to influence the political message in unsettled regions.

Using smartphones, activists can access Twitter and transmit photographs to the Internet. "Anyone with a smartphone can become a citizen reporter," he said.

State is also looking to use mobile channels to spread messages to stabilize regions. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, will fund programs that can "develop SMS messaging and other cell phone initiatives" for "countering extremist voices," it indicated in a grant document in November 2011.

It was reported last year that the State Department and Pentagon had spent at least $50 million on building an independent cellphone network inside Afghanistan. The network, created with towers on military bases, was set up to keep the Internet up even if official services were disabled.

State also has quietly supported the development of a phone app in which protesters can trigger a "panic button" that will delete all their contacts and transmit alerts to activists.

In just over the last three years, State would have spent about $70 million to promote free access to the Internet.

"The Internet is politically agnostic. It allows people to realize their desires whatever they may be," said Scott, "To me, that's the bedrock of Internet freedom -- and why it poses both vulnerabilities and opportunities for every government in the world, including ours."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.