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Posts in category 'Africa'

22 October 2013

How teachers in Africa are failed by mobile learning

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Only projects that work with existing education systems will improve learning and cut poverty, says Niall Winters of the London Knowledge Lab at the University of London, and he argues for a user-centred approach (rather than a technology-centric one) that is focused on understanding teachers’ practice, co-designing interventions with them and providing them with training

“There is a vibrant Human-Computer Interaction for Development community that promotes user-centred approaches to technology design, use and evaluation. In my own work over the years, including in a current project for training community health workers in Kenya, we extensively use participatory approaches to help design and develop mobile learning interventions.

The idea that techno-centrism or even solely content-based solutions can address important educational challenges by themselves must be dropped. Research shows they can’t.

The path to success is clear: the risks of increasing the marginalisation of teachers — and by extension students — can only be ameliorated by understanding teachers’ practice, co-designing interventions with them and providing them with training.

Projects which work with existing educational systems, not against them, should have priority funding. Only then can mobile learning be seen to work for teachers, for their students and for the alleviation of poverty among those at the margins of society.”

29 August 2013

User-centred mobile app development in Kenya

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The success of a mobile app – its high adoption rate and actual use – largely depends on the degree of involvement of the end user during the development stage.

Mark Kamau, Kenyan web solution expert at the iHub UX Lab in Nairobi, believes a user-centric approach to mobile app development is critical to building a sustainable ICT-based solution.

“The failure rate of mobile apps is high and many development man-hours are wasted when user experiences are not taken into account right from the start of the development process. That is why people like Kamau and initiatives such as the UX Lab seek to convince developers to include the users in the earliest possible stage of the design process to better understand their needs and wants, and how, when and where they would use the new mobile app.”

27 May 2013

Social networks of mobile money in Kenya

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Social networks of mobile money in Kenya
Sibel Kusimba, Harpieth Chaggar, Elizabeth Gross, & Gabriel Kunyu
Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion
University of California, Irvine

With mobile money technologies, people use mobile phones to send money to friends and relatives, connect to bank accounts, and make payments. This research examines the role of mobile money in Kenyans’ social and economic networks. Research reported was conducted in Bungoma and Trans-Nzoia Counties in Kenya, and among Kenyans living in Chicago, Illinois in the summer of 2012.

Although mobile money services are often described as a form of “banking,” most users in Western Kenya use mobile money as a social and economic tool through which they create relationships by sending money and airtime gifts. A wide range of mobile money uses includes social gifting, assisting friends and relatives, organizing savings groups, and contributing to ceremonies and rituals.

Even though mobile money was designed for person-to-person transfers, its practices are best understood as created by collectivities and groups. In savings groups, groups of siblings and other relatives, and communities who contribute to ceremonies, users “save with others” through the entrustment of value to kin and friends and create new groups and communities based around the “floating world” of mobile technology. Individuals balance their social and economic capital in order to create marginal gains and mediate the conflicts created between social obligations and personal economic betterment. Ties to and through mothers are prominent in social networks of mobile money flows. Matrilineal kinship ties are a means of sharing or circulating money among those marginalized from access to other resources and forms of value.

6 May 2013

Tweeting Minarets: joining quantitative and qualitative research methodologies

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In the last post of the EthnographyMatters Ethnomining edition (edited by Nicolas Nova), David Ayman Shamma @ayman gives a personal perspective on mixed methods. Based on the example of data produced by people of Egypt who stood up against then Egyptian president and his party in 2011, he advocates for a comprehensive approach for data analysis beyond the “Big Data vs the World” situation we seem to have reached. In doing so, his perspective complements the previous posts by showing the richness of ethnographic data in order to deepen quantitative findings.

“Discovering how communities organize, grow, and communicate under times of distress is difficult even when technology hasn’t been cut. While many things surfaced on Twitter during the revolution, like the Hardees in Tahrir being used as a safe house, many questions were left unexplained or assumed to be the work of online social networking.

This is where ethnography matters–by surfacing what to look for in the big data and highlighting what might be salient trends and features despite not being dominant. And mostly, by identifying people’s motivations and giving a deeper understanding of why things happen. From there we can start to unravel the complex communication structures at play and define new metrics informed by human action. The effort is ongoing, as we surface what has been done and what we now know through, it still says we don’t know.

It’s not a race, it’s a partnership, a marriage. The goal isn’t to get to the end as quickly as possible but rather to work together over time and build a richer world. We should strive to find these links between the quantitative and qualitative, and leave the silos which have us fragmented as a research community.”

David Ayman Shamma is a research scientist in the Internet Experiences group at Yahoo! Research for which he designs and evaluates systems for multimedia-mediated communication.

1 May 2013

Write-up on Michele Visciola’s talk at iHub, Kenya

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Michele Visciola, President and Founding Partner of Experientia, gave a talk at iHub in Nairobi, Kenya, last week (see also this earlier post).

The aim of the talk was to demonstrate with actual examples how user experience principles are applicable for large and small projects in tech and other spheres, and to show how insights from user experience research and approaches result in successful accomplishment of project, regardless of their size and scope.

Mark Kamau, Head of iHub’s UXLab, posted a short write-up on the talk on iHub’s blog.

16 April 2013

iHub Nairobi welcomes Michele Visciola

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Michele Visciola, Experientia’s president and user research director, will speak at Kenya’s iHub this week, on Friday 19th April.

Michele is currently in Nairobi preparing research, and has been invited to be a guest speaker at iHub, Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community.

Michele will talk about “User-centred innovation: fostering culture evolution and behavioural change through design”, and the implications for technology development in East Africa.

iHub’s mission is to catalyse technology growth in Kenya. The hub’s community of technologists, investors, tech companies, young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers will be invited to hear Michele speak.

iHub is part open community workspace (co-working), part vector for investors and VCs and part incubator. It runs a number of initiatives designed to build an ecosystem around the Kenyan tech entrepreneur: iHub Research, iHub Consulting, iHub Supercomputing Cluster, and the iHub User Experience (UX) Lab, to connect the people with ideas to the people with money to help them grow.

The iHub UX Lab is the first User Experience lab in sub-Saharan Africa that will put together a flexible, efficient and state of the art User Experience design testing space as well as provide designers with global standard master classes to improve their competitiveness.

14 December 2012

McKinsey’s iConsumer Global Research Initiative

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Recent reports from McKinsey’s iConsumer Global Research Initiative:

Moving from “mobile first” to “touch first”
December 2012 (published on the EconomistGroup site)
Already, more than a third of the time people spend web browsing, using social networking sites, and using e-mail/messaging software is on mobile devices. In a couple of years, we expect it to be more than half. This is creating a ‘touch first’ computing paradigm, which means overhauling how information is delivered to and accessed by the consumer.

The rise of the African consumer
October 2012
The single-largest business opportunity in Africa will be its rising consumer market. A McKinsey report, one of the first of its kind, offers a detailed profile of African consumers, including their demographics, behavior, and needs.

The complex path to purchase taken by Europe’s iConsumers
June 2012
What are Europe’s iConsumers thinking? To find out, McKinsey & Company studied the digitally-based purchasing behavior of 40,000 Europeans in eight countries for the second year in a row. This study sheds light on future threats and opportunities by comparing European consumers and examining the resulting business implications.

The next stage: Six ways the digital consumer is changing
April 2012
The Internet, not yet 20 years on from its emergence into the consumer mainstream, is evolving as fast as ever.

25 October 2012

How the Kenyan Base of the Pyramid uses their mobile phone

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In order to understand mobile phone usage at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) in Kenya, iHub Research and Research Solutions Africa conducted a 6-month study, funded by infoDev (World Bank).

A total of 796 face-to-face interviews were conducted along with 178 diaries, 9 interviews with Kenyan developers, 12 focus group discussions (FGDs), and 10 interviews with key stakeholders in the industry. The full report will be released to the public in November 2012.

The following were key findings from the study:
- 16% of Kenyans at the BoP use Internet on their mobile phone
- Low awareness of other existing mobile applications
- Health and education Information most desired
- 1 in 5 forgo an expenditure to buy credit
- Calling, SMS, Mobile Money Transfer are the major uses
- No difference in mobile phone usage between men and women other than mobile Internet usage, which is dominated by educated male youth
- Higher likelihood of technology usage by those educated past primary level

16 October 2012

Creating behaviour change in people using mobile technology

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Rajeev Suri posted a short interview with Gustav Praekelt of Praekelt Consulting and the Praekelt Foundation, who focuses on creating behaviour change in people – particularly in emerging markets – using mobile technology.

In the interview he explains the notions of Computational Social Science, Influence and Susceptibility of an individual in a network, building on the work of behavioral scientist Sinan Aral at MIT. He also talks about the social community they built called YoungAfricaLive.

6 October 2012

Making mobile phones work for the poor

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In this BBC article, David Edelstein, a leader in the mobile for development space, argues that human networks are the essential ingredient for mobile phones to improve the lives of the poorest.

“Focusing on the technology betrays a truth that must be understood if we are to get beyond this hype and harness the true potential of mobile. To truly make a difference to the lives of the world’s poor, I believe that we must complement the existing mobile networks with well structured human networks.

What do I mean by a human network? To understand what they are and the impact they can have, our network of more than 850 Community Knowledge Workers (CKWs) in Uganda offers a good example.”

Read article

4 September 2012

Africa embracing m-commerce

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In a new report from its ConsumerLab, Ericsson maps out the potential of transformation within m-commerce across the region of sub-Saharan Africa.

Based on in-depth, extensive interviews with mobile phone users in Ghana, South Africa, and Tanzania, the report has four key findings: that consumers are constantly looking for new ways to improve their personal budgets; the speed and convenience of m-commerce points to great potential in the market; current behaviors and social structures indicate that the use of mobile payment services will expand; and that consumers need more information about the functionality and security of m-commerce transactions.

Consumers tell Ericsson researchers that they use mobile payment services for person-to-person transfers and purchasing airtime on their mobile subscriptions, and that they like the convenience of accessing money everywhere and at anytime, regardless of service hours. In Tanzania, for example, 38% of subscribers send money person-to-person over the mobile phone.

Another conclusion of the report is that people who use m-commerce keep little separation between private and business accounts.

Experience leads to greater trust, and the report finds that 44% of non-users of m-commerce are very worried about the integrity of their account information in case of theft or loss of their phones.

- Press release
- Media kit

1 June 2012

Ethnographic research in a world of big data

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Reacting to the Wired Magazine article that suggests that “the data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete,” Jenna Burrell, sociologist and assistant professor in the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, lists some questions that she (and maybe other ‘small data’ people) have about the big data / data analytics trend:

  • What do researchers consider the most compelling examples, the ‘showcase’ applications of big data that involve study of the social world and social behavior?
  • To what end is such a research approach being put? What actions are being taken on the basis of findings from ‘big data’ analysis?
  • The data analytics discussion appears to be US-centric debate … how well are researchers grappling with the analysis of ‘big data’ when dealing with data collected from across heterogeneous, international populations?
  • How do ‘big data’ analysts connect data on behavior to the meaning/intent underlying that behavior? How do they avoid (or how do they think they can avoid) getting this wrong?
  • How might the analysis of ‘big data’ complement projects that are primarily ethnographic?

For good measure, she also provides a couple of interesting, probing takes on big data:

Jenna Burrell is an assistant professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley. Her book Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana is forthcoming with the MIT Press. She completed her PhD in 2007 in the department of Sociology at the London School of Economics carrying out thesis research on Internet cafe use in Accra, Ghana. Before pursuing her PhD she was an Application Concept Developer in the People and Practices Research Group at Intel Corporation. Her interests span many research topics including theories of materiality, user agency, transnationalism, post-colonial relations, digital representation, and especially the appropriation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by individuals and social groups on the African continent.

9 April 2012

From banker to service designer

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Olga Morawczysnki, project Manager of Grameen Foundation’s AppLab Money Incubator (a CGAP-sponsored new initiative that develops mobile financial products for the poor) and Jan Chipchase, executive creative director of global insights at frog, argue that large scale adoption of (mobile) financial services by the poor will only happen if providers in this sector approach the problem of financial inclusion like service designers, and look at the current experience of banking in poor communities.

“Imagine if a banker approached the problem of financial inclusion from the perspective of a service designer. For starters, the banker would leave his comfortable air-conditioned office and drop his assumptions about the poor. He would spend time in the villages, travelling by overcrowded shared taxis, to learn about the lives of this segment. He would look at the drivers of financial behaviors, and build a richer understanding of why particular financial habits exist. He would also quickly recognize that “the poor” are not a homogeneous group, and that ample opportunities exist for creating segments, such as traders, cash-crop farmers, mechanics and shopkeepers.”

Read article

A longer and more thorough reflection on the same matter can be found in the paper “Mobile Banking: Innovation for the Poor” by Tashmia Ismail and Khumbula Masinge of the University of Pretoria’s Gordon School of Business Science (GIBS).

Access to, and the cost of, mainstream financial services act as a barrier to financial inclusion for many in the developing world. The convergence of banking services with mobile technologies means however that users are able to conduct banking services at any place and at any time through mobile banking thus overcoming the challenges to the distribution and use of banking services (Gu, Lee & Suh, 2009). This research examines the factors influencing the adoption of mobile banking by the Base of the Pyramid (BOP) in South Africa, with a special focus on trust, cost and risk including the facets of risks: performance risk, security/privacy risk, time risk, social risk and financial risk. The research model includes the original variables of extended technology acceptance model (TAM2) (Venkatesh & Davis, 2000).

Data for this study was collected through paper questionnaires in townships around Gauteng. This research has found that customers in the BOP will consider adopting mobile banking as long as it is perceived to be useful and perceived to be easy to use. But the most critical factor for the customer is cost; the service should be affordable. Furthermore, the mobile banking service providers, both the banks and mobile network providers, should be trusted. Trust was found to be significantly negatively correlated to perceived risk. Trust therefore plays a role in risk mitigation and in enhancing customer loyalty.

17 March 2012

An update on the use of e-readers in Africa

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What does it take to introduce e-books and e-readers into communities in low income countries — and is this a good idea, asks Michael Trucano on EduTech, a World Bank blog on ICT in education.

“Judging by the increasing number of inquiries we receive here at the World Bank on this topic, we are not alone in asking such questions.

If you want help in trying to answer these and related queries based on evidence from pioneers in this area, you will most likely find yourself at some point in contact with the folks at the Worldreader NGO. Co-founded by one of the former senior executives at Amazon, Worldreader is working with its partners to “bring millions of books to underserved children and families in the developing world”.

Jonathan Wareham, a professor at ESADE in Barcelona who serves on the Worldreader – Spanish Foundation Board and collaborates with the organization on various research activities into the use of e-readers and e-books, recently stopped by the World Bank to talk about what Worldreader is learning from its work in Africa.

Read article

17 March 2012

Exploring mobile-only Internet use (South Africa)

 

Exploring mobile-only Internet use: results of a training study in urban South Africa

Using an ethnographic action research approach, the study by Jonathan Donner (Microsoft Research India) and Shikoh Gitau and Gary Marsden (University of Cape Town) explores the challenges, practices, and emergent framings of mobile-only Internet use in a resource-constrained setting.

“We trained eight women in a nongovernmental organization’s collective in South Africa, none of whom had used a personal computer, how to access the Internet on mobile handsets they already owned. Six months after training, most continued to use the mobile Internet for a combination of utility, entertainment, and connection, but they had encountered barriers, including affordability and difficulty of use. Participants’ assessments mingled aspirational and actual utility of the channel with and against a background of socioeconomic constraints. Discussion links the digital literacy perspective to the broader theoretical frameworks of domestication, adaptive structuration, and appropriation.”

The study was published in the International Journal of Communication.

Download paper (MobileActive.org)

14 March 2012

UNDP Mobile Technologies and Empowerment report

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A report, recently published by UNDP, on mobile technologies and human development, “Mobile Technologies and Empowerment: Enhancing Human Development through Participation and Innovation”, does a good job of summarizing the many ways in which mobile technologies are being used successfully as tools for stimulating development.

It’s intended to provide information and ideas for development practitioners on how mobile technologies and applications can be used appropriately and effectively in international development projects.

The aim is not to employ technology-based solutions as an end in themselves, but rather as the means to achieving desired development outcomes.

- Read review (MobileActive)
- Executive summary
- Download report

10 March 2012

Striving and Surviving: exploring the lives of women at the Base of the Pyramid

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On International Women’s Day, the GSMA mWomen Programme released a study called “Striving and Surviving – Exploring the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid,” reports MobileActive.org.

Drawn from 2,500 interviews with women (aged 16-64 in both rural and urban areas) living on less that $2 a day in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda, the report looks at how mobile technology influences the way women approach health, economic development, and family relationships, and what mobile operators can do to reach more low-income women.

The report is divided into three parts; part one looks at the social, cultural, and economic factors that women at the base of the economic pyramid face in their daily lives, part two looks at the role of mobile technology in their lives, and part three looks at how technology can be used to further reach low-income women.

Some of the statistics pulled from the report show that when asked what the key benefits of mobile would be: [quoted from report]

  • 80% reported being connected to friends and family
  • 58% said it would be useful in an emergency
  • 40% said it would cut down on travel time
  • 15% believed it would help them feel secure
  • 93% reported that mobile phones made them feel safer, while the same proportion particularly valued being connected to friends and family.
  • 41% reported that owning a mobile had helped them increase their income or their professional prospects
  • 85% of mobile owners reported a greater feeling of independence

The study found that despite general positive feelings toward mobile technology, there are many challenges to getting mobile technology into the hands of low-income women. Gender imbalances were a major issue, as although some women had access to mobile phones through friends or family, few owned their own mobile phone. Another major issue was technical ability, as “while 77% of BoP women have made a mobile phone call, only 37% have sent an SMS, regardless of literacy levels.” Among women who were surveyed, 22% who reported not wanting a mobile phone said their reason was because they would not know how to use it.

Other concerns women listed for using mobile phones were a lack of regular access to electricity to keep the phone charged, concerns about theft, and concerns about ownership and usage costs. Furthermore, family pressure was a large influence on women’s view of technology as the report states: “In addition to doubts about the cost/benefit analysis of mobile ownership, 64% of married women who do not wish to own handsets cited the disapproval of their husbands as a principle reason for not wanting to own a phone.”

“Striving and Surviving” also examines how mobile operators can increase their outreach to women at the base of the pyramid by addressing women’s concerns. By developing family plans and reaching out to male and female customers by highlighting security and family connectivity available through mobile technology, mobile operators can broaden their customer base while getting technology into the hands of women who need it.

An interesting aspect of the report is the Portraits series, a fictionalized account of eight women from the base of the pyramid who use mobile technology and explain how that technology fits into their everyday lives. The stories are interspersed throughout the final report, but are also collected in a separate paper called “Portraits: A Glimpse into the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid.”

Although the accounts are fictionalized, they are drawn from the research that went into creating “Striving and Surviving – Exploring the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid.” The reports look at the lives of everyday women and how they use and view mobile technology.

Because the data for the report is drawn from only four countries, the GSMA mWomen Programme has made all of the research tools used to create this report publicly available at www.mwomen.org to inspire further research.

- Executive summary
- Report download
- Portrait series
- Research tools

3 March 2012

Do m-health tools really work? Testing the impact of mobile technology on maternal and child healthcare

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MobileActive has posted an in-depth new case study that focuses on evaluating mobile health interventions.

Written by Kate Otto, the case study looks at testing the efficacy of using mobile phones in health care in Ethiopia. A team of researchers from The World Bank and Addis Ababa University developed a mobile tool that enables rural community health workers to improve antenatal care and delivery services, improve vaccination coverage, and facilitate emergency referrals. The team is taking the evaluation process beyond the usual survey method and are instead rigorously testing the mobile phone effects through more rigorous research.

The researchers randomly selected three Ethiopian districts and applied the tool in three ways:

  • Treatment 1: All Health Extension Workers (HEW) received mobile phones equipped to perform the three use cases (improving antenal care/delivery, vaccination coverage, and emergency referrals).
  • Treatment 2: All HEWs and two Volunteer Community Health Workers (VCHW) within each district received mobile phones; HEW phones are software-equipped for the three use cases, while VCHWs received dumbphones intended to make missed calls only.
  • Control: No mobile phones distributed.

The test is on-going, but the results will be applicable to organizations that are considering deploying mobile tools into their work. The research is not looking at developing a scalable mobile tool, but is rather examining how mobile tools are used and how they compare to existing methods

Read case study

11 August 2011

Mobile Learning Toolkit published

Mobile Learning Toolkit
The mobile phone is now a ubiquitous item even among the world’s poorest, and in fact over 70% of the mobile phones on the planet are in developing countries.

With this in mind, a new Mobile Learning Toolkit has been launched to empower trainers in developing contexts to integrate mobile learning into their teaching.

The 98‐page toolkit contains 15 mobile learning methods divided into 4 categories that trainers can choose from depending on their needs – whether they’re looking deliver content; assign tasks; gather feedback; or provide support to their training participants.

These methods have been designed to be as inclusive as possible, with most requiring only low end devices (basic mobile phones with voice calling and SMS capability), allowing interactive learning experiences to be delivered right to the Base of the Pyramid.

In addition to the methods, an overview of mobile learning is included in the beginning of the guidebook and a set of practical tools that allow the methods to be immediately put into practice.

The Mobile Learning Toolkit was developed by the young designer Jenni Parker as part of her master thesis on Mobile Learning for Africa and during her internship with the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC‐ILO) of the United Nations in Italy (with some additional support by Experientia).

As well as a general guide, the toolkit includes recommendations for customising the methods for the delivery of a specific training course called “my.coop”, a programme currently being launched by the International Labour Organization to teach the principles of managing agricultural cooperatives in developing regions worldwide.

However, the Mobile Learning Toolkit has been designed to have a value not only within the context of this training programme, but for use in the delivery of all kinds of training within any developing context. Anyone can pick up the toolkit and be inspired to use mobile learning.

The toolkit is an open source resource that can be downloaded for free at http://jenniferparker.posterous.com/mobile-learning-toolkit.

26 June 2011

Activate 2011: Technology powered by people

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Ken Banks, founder of kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS, reports on how Activate 2011, the one-day conference in London on technology and development, made clear it’s not just about technology, but who uses it and how.

“As the day drew to a close, I was left with one lingering thought as I headed to catch my train home. Technology is most interesting when it’s powered by people, not the other way round. Let’s keep it that way.”

Read article

OTHER ACTIVATE 2011 CONTENT

Activate 2011: Mobiles look set to play a big role in Africa’s development
A race is on to find what mobiles can do in areas such as public health, governance and education as they are likely to be the only internet connection for most Africans for years to come

Hillary Clinton adviser compares internet to Che Guevara
Alec Ross says ‘dictatorships are now more vulnerable than ever’ due to protest movements on Facebook and Twitter

Video: World Bank Institute: We’re also the data bank
Aleem Walji, practice manager for innovation at the World Bank Institute, which assists and advises policy makers and NGOs, tells the Guardian’s Activate summit in London about the organisation’s commitment to open data.

Video: Google’s Africa policy manager: ‘Africans enjoy technology’
Ory Okolloh, Google’s policy manager for Africa and a Kenyan lawyer and activist, tells the Guardian’s Activate summit in London that Africans don’t view technology simply as a tool of development.

Video: Hillary Clinton adviser: internet weakens dictators
Speaking at the Guardian’s Activate 2011 conference in London, Alec Ross, Hillary Clinton’s senior adviser for innovation at the US state department, discusses the role of social media in the Arab Spring.