Threat Management

Cyberwar PsyOps: Islamic suffrage and social media


Bottom line: There is a major change going on within the Arab and Islamic world right now, and technology companies who realize that women are going to be taking a larger part in online communities will be ahead of the game. Here's how this all rolls together.

Social media: Aiding analysis and refining Islamic protest tactics

In one recent article, comparison between the successful Tunisian revolt and the 2009 Iranian national election protests was given, citing social media and mobile phones as the technology which enabled a longer protest cycle, one which saturated the Tunisian government's will to resist:

The Tunisian "Jasmine Revolution" and the Iranian "Green Movement" shared striking similarities. The mobile phones of citizen-journalists, not the professional cameras of Western correspondents, broadcasted the dramatic images of both rebellions. In both countries, people from all strata of society partook in the protests, with youth and women at the forefront of the demonstrations.

The tragic death of young students, like Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran, and Mohammed Bouazizi in Tunisia, fueled the fervor against the oppressive governments.

YouTube videos, Facebook pictures and Twitter slogans captured the imagination of millions around the world and served as testaments to the brutality of political orders bereft of mercy.

Social media: Leveraging protest participation of Islamic women

Social media and other collaborative internet technology provides the 'opt-in' of identification. This simple fact enables women in Arab countries to speak and participate and this is key to the longer viewpoint.

This is not to be underestimated because that leverages a vastly untapped, educated and unheard resource.

Just like Rosie the Riveter empowered women to move outside the home just twenty years after suffrage gave them the rights to vote in the United States, online communities in the 21st Century nurture the voice of Islamic women, often highly educated but unable to participate as freely in decision-making or social issue policy due to religious restrictions.

Simply put, internet technology cloaks the identity of the speaker and enhances the consideration of content over presenter. Even at the lowest levels of simply cooperating in Twitter posts, each woman who assists in these protests through the communication layer effectively frees up another [male] body for the more physical protests occurring in the streets. Because of this assistance, we may never know exactly how many women participate.

Like after World War II in America, women's roles in Islamic countries undergoing internal change will never be the same. Increased online speech will slowly lead to other changes in perception.

Internet empowerment of Islamic women = increased opportunities and economic prosperity

Expect within a few years that more modernized countries, like Pakistan, will potentially be able to duplicate Indian technology marketing as discussed here:

Pakistan: The new India?

Personally I think that the India outsourcing model is going to move eastward in the next decade or so. Just like Korea did to Japan, like China did to Japan and Korea, Pakistan is close enough to benefit from India's success if it is sharp on timing and coherent enough to grasp the advantages.

From BusinessWeek: What Now for Pakistan? – Pakistan is Ready for Change

Lost in the chaos of Monday's [Musharraf] resignation was the fact that Pakistan's economy has the right fundamentals to mirror the kind of growth that neighboring India has enjoyed.

With a large, English-speaking population, vast pools of engineering students, and a youthful population, Pakistan could become an economic powerhouse under the right conditions, says Agha Imran Hamid, a development consultant with the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Channeled correctly, the innovation within Pakistan could easily displace India as a top seated outsourcing destination. Should this be encouraged over the next twenty years, Afghanistan and Pakistan could jointly provide the equivalent of India's developing 1990s era prosperity and knowledge management.

Empowering technologies add to concept developments and execution on many levels. Hopefully, the social media gains by women in Islamic countries in upheaval will continue through new leadership and their voice will be heard. Just like in America, once women's voices are heard on an equal basis, other changes may be imminent.

On the other side, changing the available personnel pool and bringing new pressure on the dynamics of societies which may not have changed much since the 15th century could have a backlash. It is too soon to tell.

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