Here are some highlights from the classroom of Marsha Guthrie, tutor, Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme:
The Use of Wireless Links by Government
I believe that wireless network can benefit Government departments in many ways (cost control, extensibility, flexibility, public safety and emergency response). Technologies such as Wi-MAX, Wi-Fi mesh and Free Space Optics (FSO) are license exempt and can be installed easily and with little technical expertise. However, there needs to be large consideration for the security aspects of wireless networking. For one, if locations are not federated under one common infrastructure standard, Government units need to assess on a case by case basis the risk profile of the different offices. This would determine what level of network protection is needed for the different units. However, the best approach would be to include clauses for wireless in the overall Information Security Policy, and buttress the policy with a Government-wide wireless standard (encryption level, port-based authentication, etc.). The standard must have violation/disciplinary consequences in order for it to have "teeth".
Telecom Infrastructure vs. Cyber Infrastructure
While the importance of the Telecommunications Infrastructure can not be denied in the Haiti earthquake, but i must remind you that the Telecom Infrastructure was solely meant for i.e Voice Communications, failed miserably, and this is normally the case in many disasters, where voice communications have been compromised.
Here you can see how an indirect network externality, such as the short messaging services (SMS) has now become an indispensable value added service for network providers.
SMS was developed to send alerts for individual mobile users e.g incoming voice calls. SMS was an accidental success for network providers, driven by a consumer- a grassroots revolution and for a very long time network providers did not react to its innovative uses. Now bear in mind that SMS is now a much more reliable way to communicate than voice phone calls in these times of crisis. So while Digicel can now boast about their network and services, SMS was never really a priority until after consumers started using it due to the extremely high cost of telecommunications.
In the case of Haiti, reports were sent via SMS to the Ushahidi platform and then volunteers were able to access the portal via the web to translate the message from Creole to English so that rescue workers could take action. Where SMS was not sent directly to the Platform, people sent SMS to their families and friends who in turn sent emails, sent tweets and entered the information into the Ushahidi Platform to assist.
While we acknowledge the contribution of the telecommunications infrastructure we can not deny the impact of the other elements of the cyber infrastructure being much more relevant in today's society. The whole issue of connectivity and convergence is really what is important.
I believe that technology neutrality is usually the right approach for a number of reasons. For one, technology standards will be forced to change in the future as technology evolves (especially in terms of frequency allocations and usage in the broadband wireless space). So in essence, likely applications today may not be likely applications tomorrow. Technology bias can also be perceived as favoring one service provider, and may be used as a barrier to market entry.