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10 tactics for turning information into action

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We asked 50 rights advocates how they turn information into action and we asked what info-activism means to them Info-activism means having access to technology and being able to use technology to create and disseminate information in a very democratic and participatory way Giving people information helps them make informed decisions helps them mobilise and motivate their communities and it also means helping to raise hope in circumstances where that's the last thing that you actually feel you have People who haven't had access to sophisticated tools for communicating and advancing their agenda now have pretty amazing access We have these amazing tools with the internet and mobile phones to spread messages very quickly And the entertaining messages spread even more quickly It has to be people centred. Has to be participatory And it has to be the strategic use of different communication tools It's about using new spaces that have opened up because of the internet and even new media as well even cheaper forms of digital technology whether it's video or other platforms such as online publishing And it's about making use of all these new spaces to do you know, to do old fashioned activism engagement creativity interaction mobilisation connecting people participatory accessible inspired sharing co-operation action change 10 tactics for turning information into action a film by Tactical Technology Collective Information is power. It can raise awareness, improve lives uncover corruption and rights abuses and when used effectively within a campaign bring about equality and justice. Info-activism is what happens when rights advocates use information as their primary asset for driving change. It is what happens when we turn information into action to address an issue. Info-activism involves harnessing information and communication tools for positive social change. Here are ten tactics explained through successful campaigns from around the world that you can use to turn your information into action 10 tactics for turning information into action. Mobilising people around the issues that matter to them Requires a strong message, clear goals and a good plan. Video is a powerful tool that can be used to bring people together to take action. We train communities in making videos and in one of the areas where we train communities they made a film on land rights in a very feudal part of Gujurat and all the videos actually end with a call to action. So the call to action in this video was to stand up for their rights and ask for the land. Video is a good tool because I think a lot of communities do not have literacy and access to other forms of technology, for instance the internet. In that sense I think video is a very good medium to reach out to such communities because you see things happening right in front of your eyes and it really creates a lot of impact. As a result of this film which was screened in around 25 villages around 700 people took a rally out and went to their local administrative office and filed complaints that they were not being distributed land Although the application is still under process the fact that 700 people got together and took a rally out was a great thing and it was one of the biggest impacts that we've had. Online platforms, such as social network websites can be used as virtual meeting spaces for people concerned about a particular need or issue Rebecca Saabe Saade uses Facebook in her work with lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in Lebanon. Because facebook is so popular in Lebanon it allows the organisations Rebecca works for to connect with a large number of people struggling with discrimination and social pressures. But using popular social network sites like Facebook has disadvantages as well. When I was working with marginalised society it was different because mainly the pressure is social so just by being out it's a problem. So we had to find a way to use this very popular tool in Lebanon without damaging their security or their anonymity. So what we did is we started this very lonely profile that doesn't have any friends, that just contains very basic information: the logo, the name of the organisation, the country and what we work on which is lesbians or trans in Lebanon. The whole point of this profile is not specifically social networking. It's just to help these women or whoever is looking for support for lesbians in Lebanon to just get to our website. It's linked to our website. I mean we have profiles in different places but this is the point. The point is to always advertise in a very popular way to get them to our website. Working with a very marginalised community that I work with we were aware that Facebook is not private at all. No matter what you try to do it can not be private. So if we start a group, for example, and a lot of girls join that group, it will be very clear that these girls are lesbians, most probably. So what we had to do was find a very inventive way of not connecting anyone to us. The Pink Chaddi campaign in India also revealed pros and cons of using Facebook. 'Chaddi' means 'underwear' in Hindi The Pink Chaddi campaign was developed as a response to women being attacked by a right wing political group called Sri Ram Sena simply because they were seen drinking in pubs. The Pink Chaddi group mobilised 16,000 people to join the campaign within just three days and it peaked a few months later with over 50,000 members. "In a shocking incident of moral policing... hoodlums viciously attacked girls who were at a pub..." A lot of the images of this attack were broadcast on television across the country and a lot women and other people got very angry at how women were being treated by the Ram Sena. There was a lot of momentum on the online group, a lot of anger and resentment that had to be translated. One of the ways it did get translated was the sending of the Pink Chaddis to Pramod Muthalik. There was a lot of media coverage as well of this act and in response what he has said first was that he would respond by giving pink saris because he wants to cover up our perversion with something decorous like a sari. The Pink Chaddi campaign has definitely been successful in my opinion because it has allowed for a space in which a conversation has happened between ordinary people and the Hindu right which is not always possible. It's a non violent response and it's not about beating up people who were involved in the campaign which is very often what happens -- that there is a violent response. There were various problems with the online activism which made it difficult to translate into an offline mode and one of them was the fact that it was on Facebook. And Facebook stops you from messaging the people in your group after you hit 5,000 members. So without realising when we crossed that mark and became 16,000 and 40,000 we realised we could not communicate with anybody who was in the group anymore. All that could be done was discussion boards and messages on the wall which were not effective enough to communicate with everyone. Later, the Pink Chaddi campaigners learnt that using Facebook had other disadvantages as well. The groups online presence was hacked into, defaced and later deleted while offensive messages were sent to the group's creators. Despite numerous requests on Facebook to re-establish the group months later, no action had been taken. These examples highlight the need to be alert to both the opportunities and risks involved in using online platforms for activism. As media recording devices have become smaller and cheaper people have started to record rights abuses, as they happen. Supporting witnesses to record rights abuses and providing spaces where they can be broadcast is a useful tactic that can be used to highlight rights abuses and have them addressed. For me the power of video lies in it's ability to convey the visual evidence and the real first hand experience of what it's like to experience, for example, a human rights abuse. The exciting thing now is people have cell phones which they can use to capture the first person reality that they experienced. So it's no longer just a select few who get to tell the stories. Everyone has the potential to be a witness. Witness, record, broadcast and expose. This was the tactic used by the Targuist Sniper -- an anonymous video activist in Morocco who filmed police officers taking bribes from motorists. So he filmed those police in different places in different days of the week doing the same thing. He filmed about 10 or 15 police agents doing the same abuses in the streets of those villages. He put that on YouTube: he published the first, second and third videos The videos were seen by hundreds of thousands of users. They pushed the government to arrest those agents and they pushed the government actually to use the same technique and hide cameras in the street and monitor police agents by using the same technique as was used by the Targuist Sniper. In a different context in Burma citizens' documentation of state abuses does not appear to have changed the behaviour of its military regime. However, bloggers have recorded and broadcast what they have witnessed putting a global spotlight on Burma and this has raised awareness about the human rights abuses that are taking place. Now, in Burma, everything is restricted especially internet, email and online stuff. But a lot of people in Burma are using blogs. So they are posting stories, images, whatever they can get. And then people around the world can see what is actually happening in Burma. Blogs and cheap digital recording devices were seen as integral to the so-called Saffron Revolution that took place in Burma. As the Burmese protests about economic hardship and military brutality grew in size and frequency, reports of military violence also increased. Images of protesting nuns and monks wearing saffron coloured robes were broadcast on the internet and were then picked up by mainstream media across the globe, leading the military regime to temporarily cut all internet and most cellphone services during the peak of activities. Despite this, as Aung explains, the deployment of simple, cheap cameras was critical for recording what happened while blogs were an invaluable tool for getting news and images distributed to the outside world. What happened was people saw this thing happening in front of their eyes and they just took a camera and they just shot it. All the photos, audio, videos that they got they just posted them up on blogs. That did automatically become a very good success. But under repressive regimes successful online info-activism does not always easily translate into offline impacts. In Burma, many bloggers are now paying a high price for their online activism during the Saffron Revolution. Many have been jailed with sentences sometimes stretching beyond 50 years. This shows why the consequences of online activities need to be thought through carefully in advance by those involved in uncovering and broadcasting rights abuses. Victims and survivors of human rights abuses are already vulnerable. So it's really important when we film them to make sure we don't doubly victimise them. For us that means making sure that people understand the worst case scenario for who will see the footage. In a digital era you can't assume that once a piece of footage is out there it won't be copied, placed on YouTube and seen by the perpetrator or the person who is responsible for whatever happened. We think you should explain the worst case scenario and help people make their own judgement about whether they want to speak out or be seen and then take measures to protect them. So disguising their identity or voice and taking those steps. I think one of the biggest challenges now for info-activism is how we encourage thousands of people who are now participating in movements for human rights using video to think about how they understand the importance of consent and how do they understand these issues so they don't doubly victimise people who have experienced human rights abuses. Mobile recording devices, blogs, videos and online broadcasting channels Are just some of the ways that info-activists can record and expose rights abuses and support actions that will address them. But as these examples have highlighted, it is essential to carefully consider people's need for anonymity, to protect those who may be vulnerable to further abuses. To really engage an audience, you need to be creative. Rather than overwhelm people with words or text there are many ways to visualise an issue. Animation is one way and it is a medium that also provides a creative license to explore sensitive issues. I think animation would be particularly good as a info-activism tool in advocacy in a situation where there's an explosive or sensitive political context where you don't necessarily want to handle things in a literal way or in a head-on way when you're dealing with, for example, race or gender sensitivities because you can use animals or objects, for example, in animation rather than real people. That gives you a license to deal with a lot of things that you can't deal with in conventional film making. I think the magic of animation appeals to everyone. Moving inanimate objects or objects you don't expect to move is quite amazing and it's something that excites most people. I'm currently working on a project in Cairo with a group called The Women and Memory Forum who are re-writing Arabic mythology or folk tales from a feminist perspective We're producing a three minute animation based on one of those re-writes in order to have different cultural representations of women in the Middle East. Maps are another way to visualise information. There is something timeless about maps and this may be why they are a medium that people seem to trust. During the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon human rights NGO, Samidoun used maps to help people understand what was happening. We did a couple of maps during the summer of 2006 at the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The two main maps, one detailed the daily bombings on Lebanon every day and it was updated daily. And the second map detailed damages in infrastructure and vital sites. During that period when we started we didn't really know what we wanted out of collecting that information but we wanted to understand what we were going through. As we started working and publishing the stuff we had we discovered different uses for it in activism, in organising relief work and in facilitating reconstruction later on. You don't need to create new maps to embed your messages. Anyone who tries to look at the Tunisian Presidential Palace using Google maps, is likely to find some unexpected information thanks to the work of Tunisian activists involved with the independent collective blog site, There is a very creative experience that we've seen on the Tunisian internet when activists from Nawaat geo-tagged their videos on YouTube. By geo-tagging I mean giving geographical information or the name of the place of the video you are publishing on YouTube. By doing that you are making your information, your video available and watchable on the mapping tools of Google. So what the Tunisian activists did is they geo-tagged all the videos about human rights abuses in Tunisia by putting them around the Tunisian Presidential Palace in Carthage So when you go to Google Earth and you go to the Presidential Palace you will find it surrounded by videos talking about human rights abuses in Tunisia So you will find two sides of Tunisia. The touristic side of Tunisia about the big history and on the right side information about the recent Tunisia the modern Tunisia of human rights abuse. Maps and animation are two of many tools that can be used to help people navigate and interpret information in a visual way, that will engage them and embed pictures in their minds that are likely to resonate over time. It is easy to get lost in the big picture of human rights abuses. Bringing people's personal stories to the front of your info-activism is one way to make sure people's experiences are not ignored. We use personal stories in our information activism because as a feminist organisation the personal is political and for us they really demonstrate the real life application of human rights and women's rights. An example of where we've used digital stories in our work is in a training with two groups of women. One group of women were survivors of sexual assault because of their sexual orientation. And another group of women who had survived domestic violence. We put these stories together on a DVD and we distributed the DVD with a book that gave instructions on how to integrate the stories in a human rights education programme. So the stories were really meant to provide alternative training materials to people who are trying to do change-making training. We hope that will also contribute to the information that's out there but assist in understanding and also reduce violence against the groups that we are speaking about and help inform policy that is really addressing the needs of people as they identify them. This a particular example of how a silenced community can take control over their own words and images and make something not necessarily revealing their identities as well. They get to choose the voice, the images and also have control over the actual equipment and the computers themselves. Personal stories can be compiled and distributed in many different ways. Grassroots video-making can capture people's experiences in a way that will bring about change. We were working with a group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where about 5 million people have died as a consequence of the conflict. One of the biggest problems is the use of child soldiers. This group was trying to find a way to engage communities to think about why they let their children become child soldiers. So they thought to produce a video that would open a debate in their community. They showed it in communities all around the Eastern Congo to start a discussion. I think that's really important because they thought not only about what the issue was, but they also thought about who their audience was what their goal was and what story they had to tell. They were successful in starting to get people thinking about that and then they realised their campaign had moved on. And so they needed a new tactic. At that time the International Criminal Court was starting to think about its first prosecutions. So they said, 'well how can we influence the criminal court to think about that' A completely different audience. So they made a different video which really brought the voices directly of those children who had been forced into the military to show to senior officials at the criminal court. And they chose a different story. It wasn't an open story, it was much more of a directed story saying to that audience 'You need to act on this because this is a crime of war... ...a crime against humanity' For me that's really an illustration about how the power of personal experience at a local level captured by people who are closest to it can be used as a tactic to influence different audiences at different times to really achieve change. Blogs are renowned for their ability to blur the lines between personal and public dialogue which makes them an effective storytelling tool. The collaborative blog project, Blank Noise allows people to support an ongoing discussion about sexual harassment in India. They invite bloggers to talk about their experiences of urban sexual harassment. But they do in a way where, well in the year that I participated they asked us to talk about it as if we were superheroes. So it's a very interesting take on urban sexual harassment. It's not a report, it's not like a sob story, it's kind of wittily put. So it's a great way of making things readable as well for a different audience. I think blogs are good tools for info-activism because they lend themselves to storytelling. Blogs are very personal so it becomes quite easy for individuals to put their perspectives out there. And it's very easy to use, it's like journaling. It's a very accessible way of writing and also reading about issues. The way most blogs work for info-activism and for advocacy is through blog communities. Blog communities centre around a particular issue and they usually have a time-frame where they write around a particular issue. Blogs, documentary videos and online stories are three ways that personal stories can be used to ensure that people's experiences reach different audiences and bring about social change. A good joke can spread far and wide and can be a powerful tool, especially when it is used to criticise or mock power in environments where it is difficult to do that in a direct way. In Egypt, while activists were trying to mobilise people against the Mubarack's regime we got tonnes of contributions from practically unknown young people on the internet of humorous images that are basically remixing of film posters depicting the face of the President in place of famous villains and thugs and thieves and members of organised crime or whatever to make a statement about the current situation. In a very short period of time because of the incessant use of humour the whole mystique of power around the President was completely destroyed and he is now perceived as an aging old man who is trapped into this role and being very inefficient about it. That became like a kind of narrative platform to build an actual movement that is demanding democratic reform and clean elections and so on. People don't only laugh at good jokes. Ever been to a karaoke bar with your family or friends? The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers in Thailand use karaoke to raise awareness about serious things using popular songs with lyrics and video clips that are re-focused on sex worker's rights. It's a clever tactic, which uses popular music to transmit information to sex workers and their allies and to get them thinking about what is wrong with the laws and policies that affect their communities and to push for change. I use video Karaoke because in Asia people love to sing a song and see the picture Video Karaoke in Asia is really popular. So it's easy to get people into it. That's why I got the idea to change the lyrics of a song So it was easy to get a message across about anti sex worker policies and the new trafficking laws. For sex workers from the Asia Pacific Network Kareoke provides a common language, even when they do not have another language in common. The group's karaoke videos have been screened across the region at parties, performances and in front of audiences of thousands such as at an international HIV/AIDS conference. One video received nearly 10,000 views online on YouTube and A different example of how humour can be used came in the form of a birthday gift to Belarus's President, Alexander Lukashenko after he complained publicly that the internet was too anarchic and announced plans to tighten content restrictions. Activists responded with an online campaign that sought to mock what they saw to be propagandising government-controlled media. Humour is the first step to break taboos and to break fears. So by making people laugh about dangerous stuff like dictatorship, repression, censorship is a first weapon against those fears, actually There is a very funny campaign launched in Belarusia, a few years ago. It's called 'Give Luchenko his net' Because Luchenko made statements accusing the internet of playing against the government of Belarus saying 'their is a lot of untrue content there'. So the Belarusian activists made a clone of YouTube and Live Journal And published their stuff, very funny videos and humorous cartoons about President Luchenko This kind of use of tools that are easily identifiable by internet users, but switching the content to something political and shaping it in a humourous pattern that makes fun and it makes political accounting interesting. Making people laugh can be a highly effective way of breaking down barriers that prevent positive social change. Websites, karaoke video clips and film posters are just three ways to convey a serious message in a light, yet effective way. Sometimes an overlooked part of info-activism work is the value of maintaining and sustaining healthy networks. Networks are power in the digital age and exploiting them fully requires planning and time. All the non-profit work and campaigning is basically about people. And when you translate it into technical language People are contacts. Not only people but organisations, groups, relationships in between them. All of this is information that you can build on that you can use to engage your audiences and you can use to engage your targets. I am personally involved in a project called CiviCRM which is a free and open source software built especially for non-profit organisations and advocacy groups. It has been built with a lot of feedback from all those groups so in my personal opinion it's basically an excellent tool for managing contact information. FrontlineSMS is a different kind of software that also supports targeted, network communication this time, specifically using SMS. Well managing contacts is obviously important from an organisational point of view but speaking from the perspective of the someone you are communicating with the last thing they want to be receiving is messages or information that they are not concerned about, that does not interest them, is not relevant to them. So if you're running multiple campaigns clearly you don't want to be sending the wrong groups of people the wrong messages. It may be necessary to send a message just to a group of women in a particular area or maybe to human rights activists working in a particular region. If you're not categorising people in the right way then you're going to start blasting people with things they don't want. Not only does that affect the effectiveness of your project or your campaign but it also upsets people and it can be very counter-productive. A good example of how FrontlineSMS is being used to help send targeted messages and communicate with targeted groups was during the reconstruction efforts after the Asian Tsunami where a project being run by Mercy Corps was looking to have conversations and send specific information to a different number of groups. So using FrontlineSMS they were able to group people into different categories and these people included farmers, who might want to know the coffee prices in different markets, Government Ministers who wanted summary information on the different market prices being charged in different areas other people wanted weather forecasts. Using FrontlineSMS and using the grouping facility and functionality within the software they were able to put people into multiple groups depending on what information they wanted to receive and then they could target those people with an SMS providing them with that market price, or that weather report or whatever the information might be. If you want to manage your contact information in your info-activism work you need to be systematic you need to try to integrate information collection on almost all the levels After some time, well I will not hide it, it's an effort! But after some time you will see the incredible effects of seeing different connections, seeing patterns. Basically it's like getting a very powerful tool to find out about what's happening around you and giving you a powerful tool to achieve your goals. Databases, client relationship management systems and bulk text messaging software are three tools you can use to manage your contacts and to sustain healthy and productive relationships with the people who want to support you. Sometimes issues are very complicated. They may involve issues that have been evolving for a long time or they may be connected with many events and many different people. To enable an issue to be understood you may need to find out what information exists and whether you have a legal right to access it. Every year most of us pay our taxes to the government and every few years we elect the representatives who will run that government and therefore we're handing over power and money and we have a right to know how that money is spent and how that power is exercised. In over 82 countries around the world access to information or freedom of information laws give everyone a right to ask a question and get an answer from their government. The international standards are very clear that access to information procedures should be simple, fast and free. Generally they are. In the majority of countries filing a request for information is free. So we have many examples from around the world where people have asked the government a question got information and used that in public debate to change the way things are done. is an initiative that lobbies for access to information about government farm subsidies across the European Union. It aims to ensure that journalists and civil society are able to scrutinise how the billions of euros of funding allocated for farm subsidies is spent. Within our campaign at when we're successful we're almost faced with an avalanche of information. Deciding which information to draw the attention of the media to is very difficult If you've got an enormous data set and you're trying to find out ways to present it to people one really good way of doing that is to make it relevant to them in their locality, in the area where they live. A great way of doing that is to use a map to plot the data out on Google Maps, it's quite easy to do that now, the technology is free we've done that with Sweden because we got excellent coordinate information for Sweden and so we were able to present seven years worth of farm subsidy payments in Sweden on a single Google map so people could zoom right in to find out where the money goes in their area and that really makes it relevant to them -- much better than looking at a long list that goes page after page of boring text. But getting access to government information is not always easy whether a freedom of information law exists or not. It took me three years to get the data on the UK farm subsidy recipients and I'm not quite finished in fact with my request. So you have to be prepared for a long fight and to not take no for an answer and to use any tactic you've got whether it's your legal rights or whether it's political pressure that you can apply through anyone you might know working in the area or maybe even through the media You need to just build up the pressure using your rights as a citizen. In another example, technologists and rights advocates obtained information from multiple sources including government and non government agencies. The information came in many different forms and so the challenge lay in making it meaningful to a global audience who could then take action. A project I was involved with was the featured layers on the Darfur Crisis in Goggle Earth. We were a team of about a dozen people assembled by the United States Holocaust Museum. They wanted to, in a very engaging way raise awareness of what was happening in Darfur. We really pushed the boundaries of what could be done in Google Earth. We had a great amount of information -- spreadsheets, photos, videos plus the base layers in Google Earth themselves which were recently updated satellite images often showing villages that had been destroyed in Darfur. We spent about six months working with that data to really pay proper respect to the situation there so that we could convey a powerful message. It got great coverage by Google and in the media and thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people have seen those layers and it's greatly raised awareness of the issues there. We also provided direct means for people to get involved in the campaign. So from the layers there were links to sign petitions and to get even more deeply involved in the cause. It's not always an easy task exercising your right to information and then finding the right ways to present dense information to engage the public. But it is an important tactic in Info-activism. If you can persist you may be rewarded with significant leaps forward for your cause. Not so long ago, real time collaboration between large numbers of people was difficult if you weren't physically gathered in the same space. New technologies have changed this. We are now seeing innovative examples such as what is sometimes called swarming. Swarming is what happens when people's experiences and knowledge are pulled together to create a combined effect far greater than their individual acts. As the 2008 Mumbai attacks unfolded, a swarm was created using Twitter. A microblogging service that allows people to send and read each others personal updates via the internet and mobile phones. When the Mumbai terror attacks were happening there were a lot of us within the vicinity and we started pouring out our emotions and talking about what was going on and what we were seeing on television into Twitter. We were feeling like 'what do we do?' and we were feeling alone in our homes because we weren't allowed to get out and it allowed us to feel less alone, less angry as a group and we able to actually network with people on the ground to bring out information that was required. For instance, we had people going to hospitals and collecting lists of injured and dead which wasn't published anywhere on the web and they were faxed to us and then we quickly put them up as links on Twitter to a blog that was supporting this. In other cases it was about getting the right kind of blood to the hospital that required that kind of blood. So its about spontaneous mobilisation of a community that already exists through the multiples nodes and hubs that you have as you leave your footprints on the web. The other thing that is really sort of almost magic about microblogging is the aggregation of these things and the amplification of these things because it is a broadcast mechanism. So that served in getting a lot of interest from mainstream media which fed back into how effective the mobilisation could be around awareness of what was going on. As the Mumbai terror attacks showed, mobile phones have become vital tools during crises. In Madagascar, mobiles were used with computer software to enable citizens to report what was happening when anti-government protests turned violent. One software program, FrontlineSMS allowed text messages to be sent and received by large numbers of subscribers in Madagascar while Ushahidi allowed subscribers messages to show on a map. In 2009, during the troubles in Madagascar where I believe some demonstrators were shot by the army there was clearly an opportunity there to collect information and news and voices of people on the ground who were experiencing the troubles, who were involved in the demonstrations and who were impacted by what was going on. Using technologies you can combine the collective voice of people so people can SMS in information, they can send in emails, they can complete online forms. You can then aggregate that information with the news coming in from the mainstream and then bringing all that together you get a much better picture of what's happening on the ground. Ushahidi, the crowd sourcing platform, which used FrontlineSMS to allow people to text a number and then contribute to the news through their mobile phones so people could go to the internet and send emails or they could go onto a website and complete a form. People generally prefer, due to convenience and speed, sending an SMS and FrontlineSMS was used to collect those messages which was then posted to the Ushahidi site and from that point they were aggregated with the other reports coming in including information from the mainstream media and then placed on a map and it gave a very good idea of where the hotspots of the trouble were and it gave a much broader view of what was happening in the country than otherwise would have been given. As these examples illustrate, mobile phones, when connected with online platforms can be a powerful way to combine experiences and knowledge to report events comprehensively as they unfold. Technology that listens is technology that responds to individual information needs. One example is Infonet's budget tracking platform which allows people to send free SMS enquiries about the allocation of funding for development projects in their local area. Citizens can then contact social watch groups to assess if funds have been spent in the way that was intended. The context here is that we developed a system that uses short code SMSs and we get people sending in queries about the amounts of money that have been allocated for projects at a local level. It's a two way process because they query the system and at the same time, they feed the system with content. Infonet's budget tracking platform has led to a number of discoveries of misused funds. By leaking these findings to government and mainstream media Infonet has been able to ensure that corruption has been addressed and citizen efforts have been rewarded with action. Recent developments have greatly increased the ways technology can listen and respond to people's needs. The phone used to be something that was controlled by the telecommunications monopolies and over the last few years, there's been a whole renaissance in telephony technology that's built around voiceover IP. You can now run your own phone company on free software. What that means is you can do all of the creative call centre and interactive voice menus and that kind of stuff on your own phone system or on your own home computer so many activist groups will now set up a call-in line. Using their own phone system, the Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe developed a platform that ensured citizens were informed via an SMS about where they could vote in government elections. In Zimbabwe, we've had many elections over the last seven or so years One of the government's tactics was to make it difficult for people to work out where to vote and where to register to vote. But one of the things that we did was to help people find out where to vote by cooperating with another organisation that had managed eventually to get the voters' roll into a database format. We got people to send us their national registration IDs using SMS. We compared those IDs against this database and then we SMSed back to the people where they could vote. It was a very interesting campaign and a lot of people took advantage of it. While thousands of people used this system developed by the Kubatana Trust the experience showed that lack of literacy and language differences continued to limit people's use of SMS services. To address this, Kubatana are now developing 'Freedom Fone'. A system that uses voice recognition rather than text to provide people with information. The Freedom Fone project is being built out so that each group can take a copy of this software and run it on their own system and simply provide the menus of what kind of information they are going to access and provide. Freedom Fone registers that they called and the phone system calls them back so the organisation is able to cover all the costs. There is a tool that has been overlooked I think by the development sector and that's the area of interactive voice response. We believe that if we can make this an easier device to use by non-profits that we will see people reach out to their communities using dial-up information services which would become almost the poor person's equivalent of the internet, being able to dial up for information when you need it. Designing and using technologies that can listen to people's needs and respond quickly can be a good way to quickly address immense gaps in information and improve information flows. When corruption and right's abuses are being committed by those with the most power such as governments, multinational companies, police or the military It is sometimes necessary to investigate and expose what is going on. Although there was widespread knowledge of police brutality in Egypt it was an issue the mainstream media seemed unwilling to report on. To help affected citizen's carry out investigations Journalist, Noha Atef, began a blog called 'Torture in Egypt'. All the content is about torture crimes committed in Egypt and the relationship between policemen and citizens. 'Torture in Egypt' was started at the time when torture was not highlighted enough, at all. Torture crimes were rarely mentioned on TV It was not very interesting to mainstream media. So 'Torture in Egypt' highlighted it and it was inspiring to other internet users, especially bloggers to write about torture and even their views. Because what they were reading in 'Torture in Egypt' that was really shocking. By uncovering human rights abuses in Egypt through though this blog, Noha has managed to correct some serious injustices. In 2007 a woman wrote telling Noha that her husband had been kept in prison for 14 years even though the courts had found him not guilty of the crime he was arrested for. The court said that he was not guilty but the policeman, a certain policeman, kept him detained. And he was renewing the papers to keep him in jail. And I wrote about it many times and I was following it up. Noha's article was cited in mainstream media across Egypt. The policeman involved in the case wrote to her upset at the public attention he was receiving. A short time later the jailed man was released from prison free, as he should have been 14 years earlier. Another effective investigation was carried out in Tunisia. The story of the Tunisian aeroplane video began when a friend of mine, Tunisian activist and blogger was searching the internet for photos related to aeroplanes in Tunisia and he found the image of the Tunisian Presidential aeroplane in a website for jetspotters -- people who share photos of planes they have taken in airports. He kept on searching and found more than 20 photos of the same Presidential aeroplane in different airports in Europe. So he went to the Tunisian Presidential website and took the list of the official trips of the Tunisian President and compared that with the photos with dates and places of the photos of the Presidential plane in Europe and he found out that only one trip was official So the question that he asked was 'Who is using the Tunisian aeroplane and why?' He went out and made a video mashing up those images using Google Earth flying over the different airports where the plane was witnessed. He published that on YouTube and engaged the Tunisian blogosphere to talk about issues of transparency and the abuse of power. Big mainstream media like foreign policy magazine published the story and investigated the case and said that the Tunisian aeroplane was used by the first lady of Tunisia for some personal shopping in luxury shops in Europe. As a result of the public attention this video received the government in Tunisia blocked YouTube and another popular video sharing site, Dailymotion. Despite this, this story, like the Torture in Egypt blog shows how the internet can be used both as a tool to investigate abuses of power and to broadcast and spread the truth. As digital tools become cheaper, more widespread and easier to use our ability to access, analyse and share information grows. By linking new technologies with creative thinking communities and advocates can transform information into powerful action that defends and promotes human rights. Tactical Tech have been working with rights advocates to use information for advocacy for over a decade. In this film we've collected advocates stories and shown 10 tactics you can use to turn information into a force for change If you'd like to implement some of these tactics Try using one of our toolkits and guides which will tell you how to use different techniques and provide you with the software and tools you will need. Then, think about how you can document your own info-activism stories and when you have done this, tell us so that we can share these stories with others. The information age is here. And with it comes the power for us all to make change. For updates and content visit:

Video Details

Duration: 55 minutes and 19 seconds
Year: 2009
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: Tactical Technology Collective (
Director: Tactical Technology Collective (
Views: 4,349
Posted by: tacticaltech on Apr 2, 2010

10 tactics features 25 info-activism stories told from the point of view of advocates in different countries including Lebanon, India, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia, South Africa and the UK. For more information see

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