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Mumbai: Info Tech Comes Through

Despite the concerns of some, the importance of information technology as applied to the Mumbai attacks cannot be over-stressed. As noted in other outlets, the use of applications like Twitter and Flickr to provide real-time coverage is simply fantastic. Individuals and their gadgets beat traditional media and, dare I suggest it, probably bested the accuracy, volume and granularity of intelligence reporting (because we can probably count on one hand the number of human collectors who were on the ground to provide post-attack coverage, much less pre-attack warning).

But of course there are nay-sayers. Extracted from a private conversation are the following concerns:
  • Use of such technology will mean policymakers will rush to adopt untested, unreliable applications
  • What good are text messages/alerts for the nearly 1/3 of the population that is functionally illiterate?
  • Use of such apps in past warning/alert situations have fallen short
  • Not everyone has the tech/bandwidth to participate or benefit

To which I say: BS.

For starters, there is nothing that will stop ill-informed, ill-advised seniors from chasing after the latest shiny new thing, so whether its Twitter or UAVs, let's throw out that red herring.

A good number of people on the planet may indeed be unable to read to a given standard, but that doesn't stop people from learning and employing the highly non-standard language used in text messages, SMS, Twitter and the like.

Municipalities that have used SMS and similar technologies to help out in emergencies and have experienced failures are often looking at the wrong root cause. Because your people aren't adequately trained or available is not a fault of the technology. As with most sufficiently advanced or new tech, management, policy and procedure are the last to catch up.

The lack of bandwidth is only an issue if you're on a static platform. Phones are the largest growing computing platform - not just communications - in the world, period. That a given tech may be better experienced on a 22" LCD isn't the point.

Is this a "2.0 revolution?" I wouldn't go overboard, but I think we need to definitely chalk one up on the win column for this most recent demonstration. Naturally there are drawbacks - volume and reliability jump out at me for starters - but imagine the feeds places like the NMJIC and various intelligence watches could have if vetted collectors and trusted sources were adequately equipped, trained and deployed (a major concern WRT training sources is making sure they have tools that won't make them stand out from the norm. Solution: cell phone). Imagine the big-screen-adorned watches in our IC agencies not tuned to CNN (breaking news isn't intelligence, always a great annoyance to me) but RSS, Twitter, etc. Imagine real-time intelligence reporting, not IIRs and cables that are hours or days late.

1 Comment

Yes, indeed! And as one of my IT geeky friends recently wrote:

● The revolution will not be televised.

● The revolution will be blogged, tweeted, and instant messaged.

● The revolution will be live.

It's one of those things that is happening in real time. Fifteen years ago we "gophered" and today we "Google." Fifteen years from now, we probably won't recognize it.

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