Global Mobile

Tech in the Rural Classroom Part 1: A Closer Look at One-Laptop-per-Child

Updated: Wayan looked over this post and added some important clarifications in the comments below -- be sure to check those out.

Last week I had the opportunity to hear from Wayan Vota, a technologist and founder of the blog OLPC News, which is dedicated to tracking the progress of the the One-Laptop-per-Child (OLPC) program. Founded in 2005 by Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC’s ambitious mission is to deliver durable $100 laptops to children around the world to improve their education.

OLPC must be commended for a couple of reasons. First, its noble intentions to reach the word’s rural and poor using 21st-century innovation reflects the critical influence that ICT’s have on development. Modern technologies have been deployed in developing regions throughout the world in an effort to raise educational quality for children, as this useful review of ICT’s in education by the World Bank’s infoDev initiative neatly summarizes.

Second, OLPC’s affordable, portable, and efficient design inadvertently spawned a miniature technological revolution by catalyzing the tablet PC industry. As Vota explained during his lecture, the OLPC laptops needed tiny, high-powered processors and efficient, long-life batteries. The technologies developed out of OLPC are now being used and improved upon by all players of today’s tablet PC revolution. Pointing to his iPad, Vota succinctly told us, “Without OLPC, we’d still be years behind that.”

Lastly, armed with what many officials concerned with international development view as a sexy and simple answer to their problem, Negroponte has delivered the goods. His program has managed to implement several programs throughout many developing countries, including Rwanda, India, and Paraguay, with nearly two million units delivered since 2005. Although the impact of OLPC in education remains hazy at best, there’s no denying that Negroponte has scaled the program to an impressive and meaningful level.

Still, Vota offered several reasons to be skeptical before jumping aboard the OLPC train:

Costs: The “$100 laptop” never really reached $100 and hovers around $188 plus shipping in a bulk order. To put that number in perspective, the government of Rwanda spent an average of $109 per student in 2009, making it easy to understand why some developing countries might be hesitant to splurge on OLPC’s tools..

Lack of Infrastructure: What happens, asked Vota to the audience, when a school located 40km from the nearest town is suddenly burdened with the impossible task of providing power to 300 OLPC laptops? The batteries are notably efficient, but once they run out, the students often have nowhere to turn to charge them. One school in a rural area of a developing country that Vota had visited, for example, had only one low-voltage outlet located in the principle’s office -- hardly enough to power an educational tech revolution.

Additionally, it’s difficult to imagine how any of these  off-the-grid schools are equipped with Internet access (although OLPC laptops do come with wi-fi capability), meaning it’s unlikely that teachers will be using the technology to e-mail assignments to their students.

Implementation Problems: In one African country, Vota and a team assigned to deploying computers in rural and developing regions encountered serious administrative problems accessing schools, since no central records were kept of what schools were where, or how many students attended which schools. “One ministry [of education],” to paraphrase Vota, “asked us to go and deploy the laptops, then share our data [on school counts and enrollment] with them!” Such administrative problems present a serious the deployment of technology like OLPC’s.

Vota also mentioned how difficult it is to find trained technicians, familiar with local infrastructure and technology, who can install and maintain the ICTs -- especially considering how easily components like the keyboard membrane and mousepad break down. Finally, he explained how, after receiving a shipment of OLPC laptops, one schoolmaster was told that he would be help personally responsible for any losses or damages. Petrified of damaging any devices, the laptops sat in his office, untouched and unimplemented for months.

Lack of Usage: Argued Vota last week, the OLPC program suffers from a lack of on-the-ground logistical factors that ultimately suffocate its laptops’ effect on education. First, he pointed out how, after the deployment of nearly half a million laptops to Peru’s poorest schoolchildren, most kids never even brought the devices home. In Peru’s roll-out, children were held responsible for reimbursing the school for any damages, many of which could easily occur during long treks or drives in mountainous terrain. Parents of these kids soon asked their children use the laptops as little as possible, rather than risking losing an entire year’s salary paying for broken devices.

Writing in 2010, one OLPC intern also identified the problem of literacy. “A large majority of the kids have no idea where keys are located and sometimes don’t even know the letters,” he writes, pointing out that keyboard are strictly English, meaning laptops in Peru say “erase” instead of “borrar,” which would make using the device much easier.

To emphasize how much OLPC misses the mark in some cases, Vota also told us that, despite the impressive slew of the laptop’s features, (such as cameras and multimedia programs), the vast majority of teachers he’s met over the years only care about one program: PowerPoint. His evidence is admittedly only anecdotal, but Vota suspects that all the attractive talk about multimedia or interactivity in the classroom enabled by OLPC’s laptops doesn’t really shape up in the classroom, as teachers stick with old techniques using a modern medium.

Lack of Empirical Evidence: Indeed, students don’t really use the laptops for much at all, and most studies actually indicate that OLPC laptops have little, no, or even adverse effects on student’s learning. Check out Miller-McCune journalist Timothy Ogden’s summary of the empirical case against giving laptops to students in the developing world -- it’s a good read and presents some interesting arguments. Of greater concern is that most of OLPC’s evidence of success is based on anecdotal evidence; only recently has a large-scale empirical study been initiated.

Lessons Learned: Vota’s message was clear, and it was one worth sharing. As is often the case, it’s easy to view technology like OLPC’s laptops as a sexy, straightforward answer to the crisis of education in many developing regions. Instead, it must be viewed simply as a tool to supplement education. It’s not enough to throw shiny toys at the developing world’s youth; myriad related factors come in to play, requiring an intimate knowledge of the specific region before ICTs can be rolled out.

This isn’t to say that injecting 21st-century in the developing world isn’t the right answer. In fact, there are several, more practical technological alternatives to OLPC that stand to drastically improve education in the developing world: Mobile phone communication and interactive radio instruction (IRI), both of which take advantage of a much stronger ICT network already in existence. That’s where the second part of this series comes into play -- check back soon for a look at how mobile and radio technologies stand to transform the rural classroom.

Last Week in Global Mobile | March 25, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • The State Department’s blog explained how traditional radio, combined with innovation in mobile technologies, continues to empower people of rural Pakistan.
  • Crisis-mapping software Ushahidi’s creator Patrick Meier reflected on the how technology could be used to counter SMS-based rumors during crises in Kazakhstan.
  • Sudan’s ruling party warned that its “cyber jihadists” are prepared to crush Internet dissent following an increase in anti-government social media campaigns.
  • Google teamed up with a few other companies to launch, a social mapping platform designed to help people find each other after a humanitarian crisis.
  • Worldwide fixed broadband subscribers surpassed 500 million by the end of 2010, gaining nearly 48 million in the fourth quarter alone, reported ABI Research.
  • A new directive granted the government of Uzbekistan the power to ask mobile operators to identify suspicious customers and shut down all mobile services at any time.
  • On the company blog, Google posted an interactive map of broadband speeds around the world based on 300 terabytes of data collected from 2009-onwards.
  • Search giant Google accused China of interfering with its Gmail service by disguising a  “government blockage” as an error on Google’s part.
  • Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang explained why telecoms’ success in the United States depends on mobile Web access, arguing for an expanded mobile network.
  • Mobile operator AT&T announced plans to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39bn, merging into the largest mobile services provider in the United States -- and some parties aren’t pleased.
  • Research and analytics firm ComScore reported that mobile Internet soared nearly 200 percent in Japan in the hours after the earthquake struck.
  • NY Times reported on China’s tightening of electronic censorship in recent days, including cutting off phone calls at the very mention of the word “protest.”
  • Amazon launched its own app store for Android devices, introducing several new features such as the ability to test-drive an app in the browser before installing it.
  • Google launched a new tech incubator, Umbono, which will help raise funds for innovators and start-ups throughout Africa.
  • McGraw-Hill and Pearson, two of the world’s largest textbook manufacturers, injected millions of dollars into a San Francisco-based e-textbook company to create “interactive books” for learning.
  • Egypt’s 3G offerings are expected to increase five times by 2012 to five million users, reported market research firm RNCOS.
  • A French tech company announced a fascinating new technology that uses a translucent solar film, placed over a phone’s screen, to charge the device while using it.

Diplomacy & Social Media in Latin America

The world is pretty hectic right now.  Japan is reeling after a mega-earthquake and tsunami. Armed rebellion in Lybia is stalemated while foreign fighters cruise the skies.  Yemen's president of 32 years might be about to fall. And the Côte d'Ivoire is in a crescendo toward civil war. So it's understandable if the president's trip through Latin America seems like a diversion. But it's not. If anything, it could have come earlier. More than just neighbors, Latin American countries are among our biggest trading partners and most valuable allies, and President Obama's stops in Brazil, Chile and El Salvador have helped reaffirm the administration's commitment to working with governments throughout the region to build a cooperative, prosperous shared future.

We've clearly got Latin America on the brain here, with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano speaking to NDN next Friday about a "21st century border" with Mexico, and a conference on the "chaning politics of the Americas" coming up on April 12. This coming Tuesday, we have another very cool event coming up which you, dear reader, are invited to attend or watch via webcast.

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Judith McHale will give a keynote on how the State Department is advancing U.S. foreign policy in Latin America through people-to-people exchanges, local and regional media outreach and the use of social media to establish direct relationships. And she'll be doing a long Q&A, taking questions both from the audience and online-- we expect students will be watching the speech and engaging via social media throughout Latin America.  This, of course, dovetails nicely with an initiative President Obama announced in Chile:

It’s the same philosophy behind two additional initiatives that I’m announcing today, which will help our countries educate and innovate for the future. First, we’re launching a new initiative to harness the power of social media and online networks to help students, scientists, academics and entrepreneurs collaborate and develop the new ideas and products that will keep America -- the Americas competitive in a global economy.

In the second hour, I'll be moderating a conversation among four individuals working at the intersection of technology, politics and civil society in different Latin American countries. Chris Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas will be speaking about how the U.S. embargo on export of ICTs to Cuba has, if anything, prevented any chance of an uprising there. Carlos Ponce, a Fellow at the NED, will speak on human rights and democracy in his native Venezuela, and how these causes have been advanced by new technologies. Oscar Salazar, a technology social entrepreneur will talk about his projects to use new technology to advance citizen participation in government in his native Mexico and elsewhere in Central America. And Ricardo Amado Castillo of George Washington University will speak about the impact of social media on politics in Brazil, Peru and throughout South America.

We'll be hosting the event at SAIS, and I think it will be a fascinating discussion about a very timely subject. The event is nearly full, so please RSVP soon.  If you can't make it, we'll be webcasting the whole event live.

Tuesday, March 29, 12 pm - 2 pm 
SAIS Rome Auditorium, 1619 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC
RSVP  |  Watch Webcast

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs at the Woolly Mammoth

Please excuse this pause in your usual Global Mobile programming for a (tech- & politics-related!) theater review. 

I went last night to see a preview of "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," which will run at the Woolly Mammoth theater in Washington through mid-April. When you open the program, you're warned on the first page that "This is a work of nonfiction." More than that, this one-man, two-hour story is a storm of first-hand investigative journlism, popular history, social activism, comedy and drama.  

Mike Daisey, your performer/storyteller/journalist/activist, has garnered acclaim for other works in a similar style, and this one weaves together two yarns, one a bouncy ride through the history of Steve Jobs and Apple Computer, and the other, a harsh story of the hard, sometimes crippling labor by people in Shenzhen, China that goes into making Apple products and fully half of all electronics sold in the US.

The show is consciously activist, and encourages the audience to think differently, so to speak, about the electronics in their pockets and the human blood that goes into making them. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who saw the show during its run in Silicon Valley told the NY Times that he would "never be the same again," and I must say that the glow of my various (numerous?) Apple products casts a different light after hearing Daisey's stories of 12 year-olds on 16 hour shifts to meet demand for the hot new thing and one-armed workers discarded like broken parts after getting too close to a metal press. 

We're all vaguely aware of the foul workplace conditions at the bottom of our economy, and we read the occasional story of the long string of people throwing themselves off the roof of the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen. But it's easy to forget, as Daisey reminds us, that everything-- everything-- is made by hand, by people, and when you hold your iPhone in your hand, it's hard to escape a degree of guilt.

And yet Daisey's performance is never hectoring or condescending; rather it is stirring and often very, very funny. Daisey is himself an inveterate techie and Apple fanboy-- he speaks the language and revels in the geekery-- and he's equally horrified at his own complicity. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and will closely follow Daisey's future work. 

The show is a must-see if you're a tech person in DC, but isn't just for the geeks among us: the three relatively normal people I went with were all thoroughly entertained and inspired. Tickets are available here, and if you won't take my word for it, the New York Times review is here

Google Announces First African Tech Incubator

A couple months back, I responded to a NY Times article critical of with what I hoped was one idea for an initiative that would allow the search giant's foundation to better leverage its considerable assets. Basically, I suggested that they help support technology & innovation hubs in developing countries similar to the iHub in Nairobi, bringing Google's financial, personel, and convening power to support bottom-up, local innovation.

Well, the Googlers have been working on such a project all along, and today announced Umbono, a new Google-supported technology incubator based in Cape Town, South Africa.  From the announcement at the Google Africa blog, which invites South African tech teams to apply to participate in the program.  From the blog:

Bringing together seed capital, Google mentorship, ‘Angel’ investors, local tech stars, entrepreneurs and business leaders, the Umbono program will help selected internet or mobile-focused start-up teams transform their ideas into companies. As part of its goal to strengthen the web ecosystem across Africa, Google hopes that Umbono will further encourage the growth of the developer community and support the country’s already flourishing tech sector.

It sounds like a great idea and a great project, and I look forward to seeing the innovation that comes out of Umbono. 

This Week in Global Mobile | March 18, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • The government of Cameroon asked mobile operator MTN to ban SMS Twitter messages, claiming the service was being used to organize illegal protests.
  • Nearly half (47%) of all American adults access local news on their mobile phones or tablet computers, reported Pew.
  • The U.S. embassy in Kabul partnered with a local organization to launch a $4 million telecommunications infrastructure project in Afghanistan.
  • Google launched its Gmail SMS service in three African countries to continue its efforts towards increasing e-mail access in the developing world.
  • Speaking before a Senate hearing on Internet privacy, the White House and chairman of the F.T.C. threw support behind new Web “Do-Not-Track” privacy measures.
  • Internet provider AT&T announced that it would begin to cap Web use among its DSL users, charging users $10 for exceeding 150GB of data per month.
  • Latin America’s online population grew 15 percent in 2010 to 112 million people, according to ComScore.
  • A report out of the Russia-based Public Opinion Foundation predicted that 80 million Russians will gain Internet access in their homes by 2014, bringing penetration to 71 percent.
  • The Middle East and Africa will enjoy a 10.7 percent increase in IT spending in 2011 to spur e-government development, reported research firm IDC.
  • Planning to replace credit cards with mobile wallet features in its next line of phones, Blackberry manufacturer RIM locked horns with various mobile operators about which party would maintain control over customers’ mobile banking information.
  • Meanwhile, Google announced that it would be testing its own NFC-based mobile payments solution in New York and San Francisco in the near future.
  • Mobile app downloads approached 8 billion around the world in 2010, reported ABI Research.
  • Smart phone shipments increased 74 percent in 2010 to 295 million units, with shipments expected to reach 1.2 billion worldwide by 2015.
  • To free up bandwidth in crisis-stricken Japan, the U.S. military blocked access to YouTube, ESPN, Amazon, and other popular services earlier this week.

Upcoming Event: Social Media's Impact in Latin America

In a couple weeks, Global Mobile and NDN/NPI's Latin America Policy Initiative will be co-hosting an event with SAIS looking at the impact of social media, mobile phones, and other new network technologies in Latin America. Back in January, I published a report looking specifically at Mexican civil society, how those groups and individuals had adopted new technologies into their work, and how they could do better. This event will be an expansion on that, and you'll get to hear from people much wiser and more knowledgable than I.

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Judith McHale will give a keynote on how State's public diplomacy efforts in Latin America have evolved with changing tools.  Her speech...

[W]ill address how the State Department is advancing U.S. foreign policy in Latin America through increased engagement, including constructive and meaningful people-to-people exchanges, local and regional media outreach and the use of multiple social platforms to establish direct relationships across the region.

And she'll be doing a long Q&A, taking questions both from the audience and online.  Following her talk I'll be moderating what I expect to be a really interesting discussion with a few people working at the intersection of new technology, politics and civil society in different Latin American countries.  Panelists will include...

Chris Sabatini is senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and founder/editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly. In a recent column at the Huffington Post, Sabatini explained how the U.S. embargo on export of ICTs to Cuba has, if anything, prevented any chance of an Egypt-style uprising there. He'll be elaborating on this issue and speaking about the potential impact of internet access in Cuba.

Carlos Ponce is a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and the general coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy, a network of over 210 leading civil society organizations across the Americas. In his native Venezuela, Dr. Ponce successfully founded and led the Justice and Development Consortium—an NGO that develops justice-reform and conflict-resolution programs at the local level—and worked as executive secretary of Venezuela’s National Human Rights Commission.

Oscar Salazar is a social entrepreneur in the technology space and a political activist. He is currently the CEO of Citivox, a platform to enhance citizen-government communication and improve quality of life in communities in his native Mexico. Salazar is also co-founder of Cuidemos el Voto, a web- and mobile-based tool to improve election monitoring and protect voters’ rights.

It promises to be a fascinating discussion, and I hope you'll be able to come.  Space is very limited, though, so please RSVP soon.  If you can't make it, we'll be webcasting the whole event live.  Here are the details:

Tuesday, March 29, 12 pm - 2 pm 
SAIS Rome Auditorium, 1619 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC
RSVP  |  Watch Webcast

Clinton: "We Are In an Information War"

Secretary of State Clinton sat before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday to talk budget issues, and made quite a splash with her remarks on what she referred to as the "global information war" that the United States is presently losing. As she characterized it, American propaganda efforts to win hearts and change minds around the world have waned since the fall of the Berlin Wall, while competitors-- in China, Russia, even Al Jazeera-- have succeeded in their own resurgent efforts to propagandize.

In perhaps the most colorful moment of her remarks, responding to a question from Senator Lugar about the role of the internet and new media in the Middle East, Secretary Clinton laid it out this way: 

We are in an information war, and we are losing that war. I'll be very blunt in my assessment. Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened a global English language and multi-language television network. The Russians have opened up an English-language network...

She applauded the efforts of the Broadcast Board of Governors to rebuild under the leadership of Walter Isaacson and mentioned some of State's own work with new media, including their brand new Arabic and Farsi Twitter feeds. But she reminded the Committee that most of the world still gets their news from TV and radio. To that effect, Secretary Clinton had a lot of good to say about Al Jazeera:

Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it's real news... You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.

Meanwhile, Clinton was very agressive in describing the nature of our information war with China:

"We are a competition for influence with China. Let's put aside the humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in. Let's just talk straight realpolitik. We are in competition with China."

There's a lot in her testimony-- the full two hours 40 minutes of which you can listen to here-- and the idea of an information war is an interesting one.  Hopefully it will reinvigorate the Broadcasting Board of Governors and help remind Congress of the importance of State's efforts at public diplomacy.  The juiciest few minutes from her talk (quoted above) is here:


This Week in Global Mobile | March 4, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • A portion of the U.S.’ $150 million aid package to Egypt will be spent on “digital training,” Secretary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation Alec Ross told Fast Company.
  • This interactive visualization indicated that the United States’ share of the online population has declined dramatically since 1990, falling behind China in 2008.
  • The Chinese government plans to monitor the movement of the 17 million mobile phone users in Beijing, reported The Next Web.
  • Intel Corporation announced the World Ahead Program, a partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Education to promote “the transformation of the education system” to the 21st century.
  • San Francisco’s mayor rolled out an application that allows residents to report graffity, potholes, and other problems to officials via Facebook.
  • The U.S. Army launched a new iPhone app that allows soldiers on the ground to upload, blog, and share information as part of the “Army Strong Stories” initiative. More on mobile in the military here.
  • TIME journalist Abigail Hauslohner revealed how SMS messaging was the key tool for communicating reporters’ stories from Libya to the U.S. media.
  • Pew released a study about peer-to-peer health care, indicating that the Internet has emerged as a valuable tool for patients to teach each other medical information.
  • Ahead of expected protests on March 11, Internet connections in Azerbaijan were restricted, allegedly to prevent protesters from organizing via social media.
  • The Philippine authorities announced a proposal to register all laptops in the country in an effort to reduce cyber crime.
  • Researchers at the University of Illinois proposed a new paradigm for spreading information which involves sharing short animations about important information (such as cholera prevention) on mobile phones in the developing world.
  • 20 percent of all divorces in the U.S. are caused by a Facebook feud, reported the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in a recent study.
  • Mobile apps will rake in $38bn by 2015, reported Forrester Research, representing an increase from $4.5bn in 2011.
  • Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reached out to his young followers on Facebook, asking them to suggest people to fill the seats of his new cabinet.
  • A record number of people in Southeast Asia turned to online banking in 2010, with visitation to e-banking services increasing as much as 35% in Vietnam, reported ComScore.
  • An Egyptian human rights group announced plans to sue various mobile phone companies and ISPs for cutting of service during the recent unrest in the country.

Social Media Delivers Digital Diplomacy in Egypt

Last week, a popular Egyptian-language news and information portal, hosted a Q&A session between the country’s youth and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As reported on the State Dept.’s blog DipNote, users submitted over 6,500 questions via Twitter, YouTube, and Masrawy’s website in a powerful demonstration of new media’s ability to connect governments and people. Watch the video and read the transcript here.

The State Department’s decision to work with Masrawy was no accident. The largest web portal of its type with 600,000 daily visitors, Masrawy’s users are predominantly young Egyptians under age 35. This same demographic is widely credited with playing a major role in the January 25th revolution against autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak, who had enjoyed U.S. support for years.

Because of the U.S.’s prior support of the Mubarak regime, last week’s digital Q&A session presented a unique opportunity for the people of the revolution to speak their mind about America’s involvement in Egyptian politics. Many of them used the forum to challenge U.S. foreign policy in Egypt over the years. Here are my favorite and most direct questions, submitted over YouTube and Twitter (some are direct translations from Arabic):

Does America really support democracy? If yes indeed, why the U.S. was late in its support for the Egyptian revolution?

The attitude of the U.S. during the Egyptian revolution was to support the Egyptian regime first. Then, when the revoluation turned successful, the U.S. switched sides and supported the Egyptian youth and the youth revolution, and the U.S. said that we learn from Egyptian youth. Why was such a delay?

Over the last 30 years, why the American Administration shook hands with such oppressive regime and treated them like we treat other true democratic government?

Does the U.S. Administration prefer to see the presence of a true democratic system in Egypt capable of ensuring stability and peace in the region, or does it prefer to see only a partial appeasement that put on the face of a democracy but only to serve its own interests over those of the people of other nations?

Don't you think that the latest American veto was just a clear reminder that hte United States loses any credibility as a fair and honest partner in the Middle East peace process?

My point here isn’t whether U.S. foreign policy in Egypt is controversial (I don’t know nearly enough about the subject to take sides on that). Rather, my point is that this conversation, enabled by social media and increased web access around the world, provided the outside world with a transparent window into the thoughts of the Egyptian youth. More importantly, these young, passionate people actually used this opportunity to speak their mind. Through videos filmed in Tahriri Square and tweets posted from Internet cafes, Egyptians presented challenging, candid, and intelligent questions to Secretary Clinton.

And most importantly, this whole conversation wasn’t a tame P.R. stunt. The host didn’t toss softballs at the Secretary, choosing instead to ask valuable and honest questions, and Sec. Clinton answered them, streaming her responses around the world. The Masrawy conversation was as raw as we could have hoped for. So as far as digital diplomacy goes, last week’s Q&A session between Secretary Clinton and Egypt’s youth was a resounding success. And as the web of digital connectivity continues to spread to other regions of the world, we can look forward to more substantive and honest conversations between the United States and citizens of other countries.

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