Reflections on Online Activism in India

Anja Kovacs’ article excerpted here:

“Research and activism on the Internet in India remain fledgling in spite the media hype, says Anja Kovacs in her blog post that charts online activism in India as it has emerged.

Since the late 1990s when protesters against the WTO in Seattle used a variety of new technologies to revolutionize their ways of protesting so as to further their old goals in the information age, much has been made of the possibilities that new technologies seem to offer social movements. The emergence of Web 2.0 seems to have only multiplied the possibilities of building on the Internet’s democratising potentials, so widely heralded since the rise of the commercial Internet in the 1990s, and since then, the use of social media for social change has received widespread media attention worldwide. From Spain to Mexico, activists used the Internet as a central tool in their efforts to organise and mobilise – be it to express their stand against a war in Iraq, against a Costa Rican Free Trade Agreement with the United States, to mobilise support for the Zapatistas of Chiapas, or more recently, to push for a change of guard in Iran.

In 2009, when Nisha Susan launched the Pink Chaddi campaign, the ‘ICT for Revolution’ buzz finally seemed to have reached India as well. Phenomenally successful in terms of the attention it generated for the issue it sought to address, the campaign sought to protest in a humorous fashion against attacks on women pub-goers in Karnataka by Hindu right wing elements. In only a matter of weeks, Facebook associated with the campaign – ‘The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women’, which gathered tens of thousands of members. It was ultimately killed off when Susan’s Facebook account was cracked by rivals. The campaign was perhaps the singular most successful account of ‘digital activism’ in India so far, and an impressive one by all measures.

The creativity of the campaign should not come as a surprise to those familiar with the long and rich history of activism for social change in India. Organised social actors have been critical influences in the emergence of new social identities as well as on critical policy junctures from colonial times onwards, developing a fascinating and unmistakably Indian language of protest in the process (see Kumar 1997 and Zubaan 2006 for examples from feminist movement)...”

Article continues at:

Crime Mapping and SMS Could Reduce Mexican Crime

...Nearly a year after the massive anti-crime protests in Mexico, little has changed to curb crime or to improve relations between citizens and law enforcement.  Originally, as a result of the protests, the government promised to “root out corrupt police moonlighting for kidnapping rings, better coordinate police actions, and create more citizen watch groups.” And although the government says it has accomplished its goals, citizens still feel unsafe.

Overcoming a Culture of Not Reporting Crime

The real problem, pointed out by one citizen, is not police corruption itself, but rather Mexico’s culture of not reporting crime. Many citizens do not report crime out of fear of retaliation from criminals, or fear that the police that they report to are corrupt and won’t pay attention anyway. The article points out that as much as 80% of crime goes unreported.

What exists, then, is a massive lack of trust between citizens and law enforcement. This mistrust leads to a culture of fear toward law enforcement. Just like any neighborhood in the United States, if citizens fear the police, they will not work with them to reduce crime—or even report it. The problem of mistrust, then, is the root of the problem.

Quelling Fear Through Anonymity and Technology

Fear and mistrust are bred from secrecy. One of the ways that Mexico can encourage citizens to trust police is to open up crime data to the public. Illuminemos (“Light Up Mexico”), an organization dedicated to reducing crime in Mexico, has reportedly published a crime map to combat the lack of information from police (although, I have not been able to find it). Nevertheless, public-facing crime mapping could prove a useful public relations tool for a government trying to instill its citizens with trust in law enforcement. Pushing actual crime data to a publicly available site not only gives citizens the information they need to track crime and protect themselves, but opening the data up to the public shows that the government trust the public with the information. If the government offers an olive branch, through public-facing crime mapping, they prove that they are not hiding anything and that they are actively seeking citizen participation in reducing crime.

In addition, some citizens do not report crime for fear of retaliation. CiviRep, a pioneering SMS crime reporting system has been deployed in Venezuela (read more about it here). The system allows citizens to use cell phones to anonymously report crime from any location. The crime info is sent to local police who can respond and map crime in real time. A similar system, deployed in Mexico, could help quell the fear of retaliation and increase crime reporting dramatically.


Granted, there are some technological issues to overcome in deploying public crime mapping and text message crime reporting. For instance, because addresses in Mexico are not clearly defined or regulated, mapping by address could be a problem, forcing police to map crime by GPS coordinates. In addition, the money may not be available to build or maintain these systems. However, working toward these technological solutions to reduce crime and create openness could provide a positive return on investment for citizens and the Mexican government

Get on the crime map at

Original article at:

"Wake Up, Humans!"

Sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, human rights are still under attack. Amnesty International Belgium took a very interactive approach to raise awareness and inspire action among Belgians.

The Good Life

The Good Life (by Colombian-born, New York-based artist Carlos Motta, is a video project composed of interviews with pedestrians on the streets of twelve cities in Latin America shot between 2005 and 2008.  The project—which includes Internet Archive, a video installation and a series of commissioned texts and articles—examines processes of democratization as they relate to U.S. policies and covers topics such as the interviewees’ perceptions of U.S. foreign policy, democracy, leadership, and governance. The result is a wide spectrum of responses and opinions, varying according to local situations and specific forms of government in each country.

Open Source Activism

Musician, artist, filmmaker and activist Justin Dillon, has harnessed the power and community of his anti-slavery film Call and Response ( to create an participatory social action platform he calls Open Source Activism.

Also tied to the film and its social action engagement initiatives is the Tag You’re Free ( project, which cleverly combines mobile phone activism, geotaggin, performance art, participation and fundraising,

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Germination is a production company bringing people together to develop innovative solutions to social issues.

Lina Srivastava

Lina Srivastava helps agents of social change by providing socially conscious and business-savvy strategic consulting services.

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