The Impact of Mobility on Social and Political Movement

The Impact of Mobility on Social and Political Movement

Nabil Harfoush
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-150-4.ch010
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The strength of social and political movements is often correlated with the cost and risks of organizing the effort. Reaching large numbers of people to inform them of a movement’s goals, and the ability to recruit supporters, has historically relied on mass media, both printed and electronic, along with traditional canvassing, public assembly, and public speaking. This has naturally favoured economic and political elites who had easier access to media channels, and who controlled in many cases the rights to public assembly and free speech. The emergence of affordable communications in general and mobile communications in particular, is bringing radical change to this balance of power. This chapter explores some of these changes and suggests directions for future research in this area.
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Over the past decade the cost of communications driven by technological advances has dramatically decreased. Communications came to be accepted as a major driver of economic development and became essential components of the declared developmental targets by global assemblies. The 2005 World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) has ten global developmental targets. Target 10 is to “Ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach” (ITU, 2010, pp. 193).

Among all the new ICT technologies, mobile cellular communications showed the most spectacular growth in the past decade, reaching a global penetration of 67 per 100 inhabitants in 2009 (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Global ICT development, 1998 – 2009. (© 2010 ITU. Used with permission)


As a consequence of such rapid growth, supporting the development of mobile communications became the focus of many global efforts. The United Nations agency for telecommunications, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), recommended for example in its 2010 mid-term report “Monitoring the WSIS Targets” the adoption of a policy of “expanding mobile network coverage in developing countries, particularly in rural areas” (ITU, 2010, pp. 207-208).

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