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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Mobile Warriors: Costa Rican Youth, Mobile Phones and Social Change Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Lisa Campbell, Canada Feb 12, 2009
Culture , Technology , Human Rights   Opinions
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Mobile Warriors: Costa Rican Youth, Mobile Phones and Social Change Lisa Campbell is participating in the TakingITMobile Working Group, a project involving TIG members who are interested in mobile communications. Read more about the project and join it here.

Photo credit to Anna Kydd. The photo is from a workshop with the Zumbido participants.

Globally, 1.5 billion people have access to televisions and 1 billion to the Internet, yet overall the most actively used electronic gadget is the mobile phone, with over 3 billion users worldwide. Reaching the 4 billion mark before the end of 2008, that equals approximately one cell phone for every two human beings. Under 30 years in existence, the cell phone is one of the most rapid developing technologies the world has ever known. According to Touré, Secretary General of the ITU, “The fact that 4 billion subscribers have been registered worldwide indicates that it is technically feasible to connect the world to the benefits of ICT and that it is a viable business opportunity.” According to Touré, “Clearly, ICTs have the potential to act as catalysts to achieve the 2015 targets of the MDGs.”

Mobile phones are the first telecommunications technology to be more popular in developing nations than their developed counterparts, far outnumbering internet coverage (Zuckerman 2007). More and more people are using their phones instead of computers to access the internet. Soon there will be more cell phone users than literate people on the planet. This signifies a shift into a new age of digital literacy, where avatars, emoticons, pictures, sounds and videos often hold more power than names and numbers.

Economists around the world are hailing cell phones as the solution for ICT development and a ray of hope in bridging the digital divide. At the London Business School it was found that “for every additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people, a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) rises 0.5 percent.” With the power of decentralized networked communication, fisherman are able to monitor market prices in the next village over, and new applications are being brainstormed from the grassroots up.

Once again, on the front lines of this new revolutionary technology are youth. According to the MSN/ MTV Circuits of Cool report, “The mobile phone is ingrained into young people’s everyday lives, with 42% claiming it’s the first thing they look at in the morning and they last thing they do at night.” Mobile phones have been used by youth around the world as a tool for political mobilization, from getting youth out to vote, to organizing protests through social networks, blogs and text messaging. In Howard Rheingold’s book, Smart Mobs, we are reminded of the incredible social ramifications of crossing handheld mobile devices with networked technology, allowing activists to communicate instantly through a variety of media.

Despite the range of global examples from Asia to Africa, little research has been produced on the potential of mobile phones as a medium for social change within the Latin American region. One of the only available resources online is MobileActive.org’s ¡Acción Móvil¡ Guía de Móvil Activismo para Latino América, highlighting a series of efforts from both NGOs and grassroots groups to harness the power of mobile technology for social change.

Yet what is missing in this document is a glimpse at the ways that everyday youth outside of formal social organizations are using mobile technology in their own lives. There is a vast difference between Greenpeace sending out mass SMS campaigns, and a Costa Rican youth recording riot footage on his/ her cellphone, or a Panamanian youth blasting a banned reggaeton song calling out government corruption as a ringtone. These are examples that fall beneath the radar of the mainstream; those which have no representation in peer-reviewed journals or newspaper publications. In the following paper I will expand on the activist potential of mobile technology, focusing on how mobile phones can be used to increase media democracy in Latin America and beyond, creating access for a new generation of young global citizens.

The mobile phone is now approaching the functionality of a computer; yet unlike a computer, it remains by its owner’s side, powered up 24/ 7. This provides unheard of access for marketers looking to target users with commercial messages, yet also creates opportunities for NGOs and grassroots activists to interact in meaningful ways with their supporters.

A cell phone is no longer just a phone, it is a multimedia tool used for social communication. Users can interact with music, pictures, videos, games, Internet, email, text messaging (SMS) and so much more every day. Globally 82% of youth use their cell phones to take pictures, and 66% of youth send pictures and videos to their friends. Additionally, 20% of youth globally are interested in viewing “Clips from other people on sites like Youtube.” Cell phones are now multimedia mini-printing presses, capable of authoring and sharing content. Engineers and programmers are quickly developing new applications, such as solar powered smog indicators, as well as social network tools for providing sexual health peer-education, or reminders for HIV+ patients to take their anti-retroviral drugs.





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Comments


circulating a film on AIDS thru mobile
nielu patekar | Mar 30th, 2009
is it possible? if yes, how? whom to contact? hello, i am a woman writer-director-actress-cinematographer from mumbai, india. have you seen my following films? a film on AIDS, ‘it’s just unjust’ duration 3 min. access to the link, http://tigurl.org/uk0xo4 a film on baba amte , dur 7 min.s access the following link to view it in two parts. http://tigurl.org/spytmi I would like to share these with you, your family, friends , groups & your communities by including them in your video section, you can put the respective url s on your site so that visitors to your page can view it. pl. also let me know your comment on viewing my films. Regards, neelkantee



Thank You!
Timothy G. Branfalt Sr. | May 3rd, 2009
My younger brother died of aids at the age of 32. You are an incredibly determined mind that is of what this world needs more of. I live in Costa Rica, and if you ever seem to dwell on over, Me Casa es Su Casa!

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