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What does the internet mean to you?

By Liz Wing on 01/21/2010 @ 04:00 PM

I attended a speech today on Internet Freedom by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She started out by telling a success story from Haiti: A seven-year-old girl and two women who were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed supermarket after they sent a text message asking for assistance. American respondents were able to find them, thankfully. The President of Port-au-Prince had made communication a top priority, and the tech community set up interactive maps to assist the rescue efforts in Haiti.

This is one example of how technology can assist a community. There are many other examples: from women obtaining microloans in Kenya to citizens documenting unfair elections in Iran; internet empowers us.

Secretary Clinton mentioned that we can gain a significant yield from minimal input. Case and point: The “text HAITI campaign” has raised $25 million. A service was set up where you could send a text message to donate $10, having it added to your phone bill, and Americans responded, at an astounding rate. Small input, significant yield.

Secretary Clinton introduced the State Department’s initiative, 21st Century Statecraft, which includes a commitment to internet freedom in the 21st century as well as interesting, innovative programs like the one she speaks about below:

“Let me give you one example. Let’s say I want to create a mobile phone application that would allow people to rate government ministries, including ours, on their responsiveness and efficiency and also to ferret out and report corruption. The hardware required to make this idea work is already in the hands of billions of potential users. And the software involved would be relatively inexpensive to develop and deploy. If people took advantage of this tool, it would help us target our foreign assistance spending, improve lives, and encourage foreign investment in countries with responsible governments.”

This was a speech rich with information and inspiration. I really recommend watching or reading it.
View and watch the full speech here: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/01/135519.htm

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