July 18, 2013

India's great revolutionary: the mobile phone

images.jpeg In India, an explosion in mobile phone usage has seen former 'untouchables' form successful political parties, and is playing a critical role in the liberation of women. Political Scientist Robin Jeffrey on NBC says the ubiquity of mobile computing has also changed local banking, and reinvigorated the music industry.

quotemarksright.jpgIn India, the autonomy brought by the cheap mobile phone can blow up long-standing social relationships.

.. The key element of the mobile phone, emphasised by the scholar Manuel Castells: it’s not the mobility, it’s the autonomy. Every owner of a basic 2G mobile has the potential to be a broadcaster and a global networker.

... Cheap mobile phones have made it possible for poor people to politically organise. A striking example occurred in the vast northern state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in 2007. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had been created in the 1980s to work for the benefit of 'untouchables', who constituted more than 20 per cent of UP’s population. Though ‘untouchability’ has been illegal in India since 1950, vicious prejudice remains, and Dalits (as ‘ex-untouchables’ are now known) are poor, rural and often illiterate.

To everyone’s surprise, the BSP won a majority in its own right in the 2007 elections. How? The party was based on true-believing workers who for the first time had the ability through their mobile phones to link constantly with each other, with party strategists and with influential voters. quotesmarksleft.jpg

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