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The Future of


It’s now eminently clear how technology can be used to turn societies upside down and even tear them apart, but what about putting them back together? Reconstruction after a conflict or a natural disaster is a long and arduous process, hardly something a flash mob or viral video campaign can carry out. But while communication technologies alone can’t rebuild broken societies, political, economic and security efforts can all be enhanced and accelerated because of technology. Tools that we use for casual entertainment today will find new purpose in the future in

postcrisis countries, and populations in need will find more information and more power at their fingertips. Reconstruction efforts will become more innovative, more inclusive and more efficient over time, as old models and methods are either updated or discarded. Technology cannot thwart disaster or halt a civil war, but it can make the process of putting the pieces back together less painful.

Just as future conflicts will see the addition of a virtual front, so too will reconstruction efforts. We will still see cranes and bulldozers restoring roads, rebuilding bridges and resurrecting destroyed buildings, but we will also see an immediate and simultaneous focus on key functions that in the past have often come later in the process. Getting

communications up and running, for example, will enable the rebuilding of the physical

infrastructure and the economic and governance infrastructure at the same time. Here we will outline how we envision the approach future reconstruction planners will take to a postcrisis society, discuss the wave of new participants that connectivity will spur to action and offer a few ideas for innovative policies that can put societies on a faster path toward recovery.

Communications First

For societies emerging from a man-made or natural disaster,

reconstruction is a daunting task. From rebuilding roads and buildings to reconnecting the population to the services it needs, these challenges require immense resources, different types of technical expertise and, of course, patience. Modern technology can aid these processes significantly if employed in the right ways, and we believe that successful reconstruction efforts in the future will rely heavily on communication technologies and fast

telecommunications networks.

There will be a reconstruction prototype: a flexible and segmentary set of adaptable practices and models that can be tailored to fit particular

postcrisis environments. Technology companies use prototypes and “beta” models to allow room for trial and error—the underlying philosophy being that early-stage feedback for an imperfect product ultimately yields a better result in the end. (Hence the tech entrepreneur’s favorite aphorism: Fail early, fail often.) A prototype-like approach to reconstruction efforts will take some time to develop, but ultimately it will better serve the communities in need.

The main component of a reconstruction prototype—and what distinguishes it from, say, more traditional reconstruction efforts—is a communications-first, or mobile-first, mentality. The restoration and upgrading of communication networks have already become the new cement in modern reconstruction efforts. Looking ahead, upgrading broken societies to the fastest and most modern version

of telecommunications infrastructure will be the top priority of all reconstruction actors, not least because the success of their own work will depend on it. Even in the last decade we’ve witnessed such a shift.

As recently as the early 2000s, post-conflict reconstruction wasn’t so much about telecommunications revival as it was telecommunications installation. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq had any semblance of a mobile network prior to regime change. The Taliban government violently opposed almost every form of consumer technology (although it had a small GSM

[Global System for Mobile Communications] network limited to government officials) and Saddam Hussein banned mobile phones entirely in his totalitarian state. Once those regimes fell, the populations were left with virtually no infrastructure or modern devices; combatants in the ensuing conflicts were the only ones with some form of portable communications (typically radios).

When American civilian
reconstruction teams entered Iraq in 2003, they found themselves in a telecommunications desert, and initial efforts to use satellite phones floundered as they discovered that the phones worked only if both users stood outside—needless to say, an inconvenient feature for a war zone.


As a quick fix, the allies’

Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) gave

MTC-Vodafone, a regional telecom company, a contract to install cell towers and establish services in the south of the country, while another telecom,

MCI, got the nod in Baghdad. According to one former senior CPA official we spoke with, the towers were put up all over the country literally overnight, with officials and U.N. staff receiving thousands of mobile phones to distribute to important local political players. (Oddly enough, all the phones sported a “917” area code, sharing that distinction with New York’s five boroughs.) These efforts jump-started a moribund telecommunications industry in Iraq by building the physical infrastructure required, and within a few years, the sector was booming.

In Afghanistan, where the U.N. established a mobile network soon after the fall of the

Taliban (with free service as an incentive for users), the mobile market has grown significantly in the past decade, thanks largely to the Afghan government’s decision to issue licenses to private mobile operators. By 2011, there were four major operators in Afghanistan, claiming some 15 million subscribers among them. The reconstruction teams who arrived in Iraq and Afghanistan found a blank canvas: poor infrastructure, no subscribers and dubious commercial prospects. Given the rate of mobile adoption around the world and how the telecommunications industry is expanding, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever encounter a similar blank slate again.


Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, the primary communications task was not installation but widespread restoration of a badly damaged telecommunications infrastructure. Despite the devastation throughout the country, getting its communications networks up and running was a relatively fast process. The mobile infrastructure was badly damaged by the earthquake and aftershocks, but due to quick thinking and cooperation between local telecoms and the U.S. military, the carriers were able to restore functionality within only a few days. Ten days after the earthquake, the two largest mobile phone operators,

Digicel and

Voilà, reported that they were able to operate at 70 to 80 percent of their pre-earthquake capacity.

Jared, who was then with the

State Department, remembers reaching out to the U.S. ambassador to

Indonesia shortly after the Haitian earthquake for a debriefing on lessons learned after the 2004

tsunami that killed 230,000 people in fourteen countries in Southeast Asia. The message was clear: Get the towers up, get them running and overrule the people who think that telecommunications are secondary to emergency rescue. Fast networks aren’t secondary; they’re complementary.

Because the vast majority of cell towers in Haiti, even prior to the earthquake, relied on generators instead of electricity for power, maintaining coverage was often more a question of fuel than infrastructure. Donated cell towers had to be guarded lest desperate people try to steal their fuel. Still, the ability to maintain service despite the destruction and chaos proved vital in coordinating and sending aid organizations to areas and people who needed help most, as well as providing a way for friends and family to contact each other within and beyond Haiti. Some of the first images to come out of the country after the disaster were indeed taken and sent by Haitians using their mobile phones. Everyone involved in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake recognized how crucial working communications were in the midst of widespread physical destruction and human suffering.

The uprisings in the Arab world that began in 2010 represent another recent example of the advantages of a communications-first perspective.

Vodafone’s speedy restoration of service in Egypt just before

Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president foreshadows a more agile and shrewd telecom sector. Vodafone’s
Vittorio Colao told us, “

We had people sleeping in the network centers in order to make sure that we could be the first to offer service once the shutdown ended. We had food and water; we’d rented rooms in nearby hotels and we protected our premises, to make sure nobody could come and [disable] the network.” As a result of its efforts, Vodafone was the first operator to resume service—an important “first” for a company trying to reach a large Egyptian market that suddenly had a lot to talk about. Colao described a smart and empathetic strategy on the part of Vodafone to demonstrate value to its Egyptian customers: “We gave credit to our Egyptian customers so that they could call people at home, as a giveaway.” Vodafone also shaped the traffic load (that is, freed up space on the network for Egyptian users), “so that when the network came back up, we could make sure the first people using it could [make] twenty euros’ worth of calls to let relatives know [they were] safe.”

Today’s reliance on telecommunications is a reflection of how important this technology has become in even the poorest societies. In most cases today, when we talk about restoring the network, we’re specifically talking about voice and text services—not Internet connectivity. This will change in the next decade, as people everywhere begin to rely more on data services than on voice communications. After a crisis, the pressures to restore Internet connectivity will dwarf what we see today with voice and text, both for the sake of the population and because a fast data network will help reconstruction actors achieve their goals. If necessary, aid organizations will deploy portable

4G towers meshed together into a low-bandwidth

ISP. Data can hop from a mobile device to the nearest tower, then from tower to tower until it reaches a fiber-optic cable connecting to the broader Internet. Browsing speeds will be slow, but such portable deployments will provide enough connectivity to accelerate rebuilding.

Dedicated leadership by the telecommunications industry will be a feature of the reconstruction prototype, with telecoms leading the way as nationalized entities or coalition partners if they are in the private sector. Today,

Bechtel and other engineering corporations are often tasked with rebuilding physical infrastructure through government contracts, but as the world adopts a communications-first outlook, the telecoms will be first in—and, like others, they’ll come to make money. In

postcrisis societies, solid networks are needed as soon as possible to coordinate search-and-rescue efforts; engage with the population; preserve the rule of law; organize and facilitate aid-distribution efforts; locate missing people; and help those who have been internally displaced navigate their new environment. Telecom companies will have clear and valid commercial motivations to invest their resources in building and maintaining a modern communications network. If the telecom sector is properly regulated from the beginning, the collective benefit for all parties will be quite high: The companies will earn revenue, the

reconstruction actors will have faster and better tools, and the population at large will be able to access service that is reliable, fast and cheap (particularly if the sector is competitive from the outset).

The long-term benefit of a healthy telecommunications sector is that it promotes and facilitates the growth of the economy, even if the stability is slow to return. In general, direct investments in infrastructure, jobs and services offer more to the economy than short-term aid programs, and telecommunications is among the most universally lucrative and sustainable enterprises in the commercial world.

Afghanistan’s largest mobile operator,

Roshan, is also the country’s biggest investor and taxpayer. Roshan employs thousands in Afghanistan and provides nearly 5 percent of the Afghan government’s overall domestic revenue. This is true despite substandard infrastructure, low incomes and more than a decade of continuous war. In the future, smart actors in reconstruction efforts—governments, multinational organizations and aid groups—will recognize the telecoms’ value immediately and prioritize network building accordingly, rather than considering telecoms to be competitors or afterthoughts.

Because telecommunications is a profitable business (and never more so than after a crisis, when activity levels are unusually high), there will be ample opportunity for local and transnational entrepreneurs to participate. Talented local engineers will use

open-source software to build their own platforms and applications to help the nascent economy, or they will collaborate with outside companies or organizations and contribute their skills. Much of the investment in the telecommunications space will be straightforward transactions and efforts to provide helpful services to the population, but there is some risk that the business leaders who emerge will come to constitute a new digital oligarchy. They might be well-connected local businessmen, taking advantage of the post-disaster environment to capture a key industry, or foreign executives looking to expand their empire. Regulation, again, will be key: As with all reconstruction efforts, those in charge will have to be wary of such maneuvers in a chaotic and highly malleable environment, and use their oversight effectively.

Mixed with entrepreneurs and digital oligarchs will be another group of foreign investors, members of the country’s diaspora and others whose interests are personal rather than simply financial. In the future, investors looking to connect with new countries will find that global connectivity produces a much deeper and more multifaceted type of engagement. Real-time news alerts, active social networks and instant language translation will enable investors to feel much closer to the countries they operate in, akin to the deep knowledge possessed by diasporic communities around the world. This will lead to better and longer investments and a more fruitful relationship for both the investors and the societies with which they interact.

Few understand this better than

Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecom magnate and currently the world’s richest person. Slim is also a part of the fifteen-million-strong Lebanese diaspora—his father emigrated to Mexico from

Lebanon in 1902, fleeing the conscription of the

Ottoman Empire army. Today, through a variety of companies, Slim maintains business interests around the world (including an 8 percent stake in The
NewYorkTimes). He described to us how his experience as a child of immigrants has shaped his perspective. “

I think that more than feeling just Lebanese, I feel I am part of the world altogether,” he said. “Today, I feel I am a compromise between being Lebanese and relating to the challenges there, but also being a businessman in Latin America and with the responsibility I feel towards countries where I am doing business.”

His experience is not unique, he explained, and in the future he predicted that everyone will become “more global and more local,” with overlapping regional interests born from personal heritage, business opportunities and plain curiosity. He described himself as part of a new group that he calls the “business diaspora,” where, as a transnational businessman, he believes, “We are not going to countries just to put money in and pull it out. We are making business to stay and be part of the development of the country.” You can look at this as something “romantic,” he added, but it’s also smart business: “The reality is that business gets better if you grow the market, the demand, the customers and the possibilities.”

As entry barriers lower for business in an increasingly interconnected world, the experience of being a member of the “business diaspora” will not just be reserved for those with the means to invest large amounts of capital. Imagine, for example, that a computer-science student in Indiana develops a game for a popular social-networking site that suddenly takes off among users in Sri Lanka. The student and aspiring entrepreneur might not even have a passport (much less know anything about Sri Lanka), yet his game becomes highly profitable, whatever the reasons. His curiosity piqued, the student adds Sri Lankan friends on Facebook and Google+, follows local news on Twitter and begins to learn about, and travel to, the country. In short order, he develops a digital kinship with the country, which will last for years to come. Millions of entrepreneurs, apps developers and businessmen will experience something similar in the future, because the markets online will be bigger and more diverse than anyone truly anticipates.

In a

reconstruction setting, this outlook is of course encouraging, but even the most organized and well-meaning telecom companies will never supplant the heavy-duty work of governing institutions. There are basic goods and social services that only a government can provide to its population, like security, public-health programs, clean water supplies, transport infrastructure and basic education.

Connectivity and telecommunications will improve the efficacy of these functions but only in partnership with institutional actors on the ground, as the following example shows.

With its initial collapse, in 1991,

Somalia became the world’s premier failed state. Famines, clan warfare, external aggression, terrorist insurgencies and regional fragmentation have foiled transitional government after transitional government. Over the past several years, the growth of mobile phones in Somalia has been one of the few success stories to emerge amid this anarchy. Even in the absence of security or a functioning government, the telecommunications industry has come to play a critical role in many aspects of society, providing Somalis with jobs, information, security and critical connections to the outside world. In fact, the telecoms are just about the only thing in Somalia that is organized, that transcends clan and tribal dynamics, and that functions across all three regions: South Central Somalia (Mogadishu), Puntland in the northeast and Somaliland in the northwest. Only one commercial bank exists in Somalia (founded in May 2012), and until there were mobile phones, in order to move money Somalis had to rely on informal hawala networks, in which no transaction records are kept. Today, mobile money-transfer services allow hundreds of thousands of Somalis to move money around inside the country and receive remittances from abroad.

SMS-based platforms allow subscribers to use e-mail and receive stock tips and weather information.


NGOs and companies regularly launch mobile-technology pilot projects to improve the prospects for the Somali population in small ways; we’ve seen attempts to build SMS-based job-matching platforms and remote-diagnosis mobile health-care systems, among others. Yet most are unsuccessful in establishing a foothold—unsurprising, given the exceptionally hostile security and business environment. So most of the innovation that comes from Somalia today comes from the Somalis themselves; in this as elsewhere in the developing world, the most creative solutions emerge at the local level, driven by necessity more than anything else.

The absence of government in Somalia has meant that the telecommunications sector is unregulated, which drives down prices because entrepreneurs can step in and build a network if they see an opportunity (and have a sufficient appetite for risk). This is a common pattern when a government stops functioning. In the weeks after the fall of
Saddam Hussein, a

Bahraini telecom tried to expand into southern Iraq and capitalize on sectarian ties between that area, which is largely

Shia, and Bahrain, which has a Shia majority, to win new customers. The occupying military forces, concerned about inflaming sectarian tensions, ultimately blocked the telecom’s venture.

The extreme laissez-faire business environment in Somalia has produced some of the cheapest local, international and Internet rates in Africa, making mobile usage far more possible for a deeply impoverished population. When members of the Somali diaspora in the United States call their family back home, their relatives will often hang up and call them back. Without a government demanding taxes, charging for licenses or imposing regulatory costs, telecoms can keep costs low to expand their subscriber base while still turning a profit. Somalia’s mobile penetration is much higher than one might expect, hovering somewhere between 20 and 25 percent. The four main telecom operators offer voice and data service across the country, and sixty to seventy miles into neighboring

Kenya as well.

Despite these achievements in communications, Somalia remains an exceptionally insecure country, and insurgents have used the country’s connectivity to further this volatility.

Al-Shabaab Islamist insurgents send threatening calls and messages to

African Union peacekeepers. Islamist radicals impose bans on mobile banking platforms and sabotage telecommunications infrastructure. Pirates on the Somali coast use local telecom networks to communicate because they worry their satellite phones can be tracked by international warships. In a February 2012 report, the

United Nations Security Council added the head of Somalia’s largest telecom,

Hormuud, to its list of individuals subject to a travel ban after identifying him as one of al-Shabaab’s chief financiers. (The report also said the man,

Ali Ahmed Nur Jim’ale, set up Hormuud’s mobile money-transfer system in order to facilitate anonymous funding to al-Shabaab.)

Certainly, the situation in Somalia is complex. But should the country emerge from its cocoon of instability anytime soon, the new government will surely find willing partners in the national telecom operators.

Ideally, reconstruction efforts strive not only to re-create what existed before, but to improve on the original and develop practices and institutions that reduce the risk of repeated disasters. The majority of

postcrisis societies, while diverse in detail, have the same basic needs, roughly analogous to the basic components of state-building. These include administrative control of territory, a monopoly on the means of violence, sound management of public finances, investment in human capital, ensuring the provision of infrastructure and creating citizenship rights and duties.


Efforts to meet these needs, while heavily dependent on the international community (financially, technically and diplomatically), must be led by the postcrisis state itself. If reconstruction is not seen as homegrown or at least consistent with the political and economic aims of the society, the likelihood of failure increases dramatically.

Technology will help protect

property rights, safeguarding virtual records of real assets so that those assets can be quickly reclaimed when stability returns. Investors are not likely to put their money into a country where they feel insecure about the safety and ownership of their property. In post-invasion Iraq, three commissions were created to allow local people and returning exiles to reclaim or receive compensation for property seized during

Saddam Hussein’s regime. A parallel authority was set up to resolve disputes. These were important steps in the reconstruction of Iraq, serving as a moderating factor to the exploitation of post-conflict instability and instances of claiming property by force. But despite their good intentions (more than 160,000 claims were received by 2011), these commissions were hampered by certain bureaucratic restrictions that trapped many claims in complicated litigation. In the future, states will learn from this Iraqi model that a more transparent and secure form of protection for property rights can forestall such hassles in the event of conflict. By creating

online cadastral systems (i.e., online records systems of land values and boundaries) with mobile-enabled mapping software, governments will make it possible for citizens to visualize all public and private land and even submit minor disputes, like a fence boundary, to a sanctioned online arbiter.

In the future, people won’t just back up their data; they’ll back up their government. In the emerging reconstruction prototype,

virtual institutions will exist in parallel with their physical counterparts and serve as a backup in times of need. Instead of having a physical building for a ministry, where all records are kept and services rendered, that information will be digitized and stored in the cloud, and many government functions will be conducted on online platforms. If a tsunami destroys a city, all ministries will continue to function with some competence virtually while they are reconstituted physically.

Virtual institutions will allow new or shell-shocked governments to maintain much of their effectiveness in the delivery of services, as well as keep those governments an integral part of all reconstruction efforts. Virtual institutions won’t be able to do everything that they might otherwise do, but they will be of enormous help. The department of social services, charged with allocating shelter, still needs physical outposts to interact with the population, but with more data it will be able to allocate beds efficiently and keep track of the resources available, among other things. A virtual military can’t instill the rule of law, but

it can ensure that the military and police are paid, which will assuage some fears. While governments will still be somewhat wary of entrusting their data to cloud providers, the peace of mind that backed-up institutions ensure will still be enough to justify their creation.

These institutions will offer a safety net for the population too, guaranteeing that records are preserved, employers can pay salaries, and databases of citizens both in the country and in the diaspora will be maintained. All of this will accelerate local ownership of the reconstruction process and help limit the waste and corruption that typically follow a disaster or conflict. Governments may collapse and wars can destroy physical infrastructure, but virtual institutions will survive.

Governments in exile will be capable of functioning far differently from the


Belgian and French governments that were forced to operate from London during

World War II. Given how well virtual institutions will function, future governments will operate remotely with a level of efficiency and reach that is unprecedented. This will be a move born of necessity, because of either a natural disaster or something more prolonged, like civil war. Imagine if Mogadishu suddenly became inoperably hostile for the beleaguered Somali government, perhaps because

al-Shabaab insurgents captured the city or because clan warfare rendered the environment uninhabitable. With virtual institutions in place, government officials could relocate temporarily, inside or outside the country, and retain some semblance of control over the civil administration of the state. At a minimum, they could maintain a level of credibility with the population by arranging for salaries to be paid, coordinating with aid organizations and foreign donors, and communicating with the public in a transparent manner. Of course, virtual governance done remotely would never be anything but a last resort (surely, the distance would alter how accountable and credible the government would appear to its citizens), and certain preconditions must be in place for such a system to work, including fast, reliable and secure networks; sophisticated platforms; and a fully connected population. No state would be ready to do this today—Somalia least of all—but if countries can begin building such systems now, they will be ready when they are needed.

The potential for remote virtual governance might well affect political exiles. Whereas public figures living outside their homelands once had to rely on back channels to stay connected—the
Ayatollah Khomeini famously relied on audiocassette tapes recorded in Paris and smuggled into Iran to spread his message in the 1970s—there are a range of faster, safer and more effective alternatives today. In the future, political
exiles will have the ability to form powerful and competent virtual institutions, and thus entire shadow governments, that could interact with and meet the needs of the population at home.

It’s not as far-fetched as it might sound. Thanks to connectivity, exiles will be far less estranged from the population than their predecessors. Acutely attuned to the trends and moods at home, they’ll be able to expand their reach and influence among the population with targeted messaging on simple, popular devices and platforms. Exile leaders won’t need to be concentrated in one place to form a party or movement; the differences between them that matter will be ideological, not geographic. And when these exiles have a coherent platform and vision for the country, they’ll be able to transmit their plans to the population at home without ever stepping foot inside the country, quickly, securely and in so many million copies that the official government will be unable to stop the flow.

To buttress their campaign for public support, exiles will use the virtual institutions they control to win the hearts and minds of the population. Imagine a shadow government that pays and deploys an in-country security force comprising various foreign nationals to protect community strongholds, while providing e-health benefits from Paris (independent hospital administrations, coordinating free vaccination campaigns, extending virtual health-insurance plans, coordinating a network of remote doctors available for diagnostic work) and running online schools and universities from London. This government-in-exile could elect its own parliament, with campaigns and voting taking place entirely online, members drawn from several countries and sessions conducted over live-streaming video channels that can be watched by millions around the world. Even the semblance of a functioning shadow government might be enough to sufficiently sway the population at home to transfer their support from the official government to the one built and operated remotely by the exiles.

The remaining distinguishing feature of a reconstruction prototype will be close engagement with the

diaspora communities. Governments-in-exile often draw from the intellectuals in the diaspora, but the role of external communities will not only be political or financial (in the form of remittances). Connectivity means that these groups will be able to work more closely together on a much wider range of issues. The insight and depth of knowledge relevant to reconstruction possessed by members of diaspora communities is invaluable, so with greater access to communication technologies,

postcrisis societies will be able to tap into those reserves of human capital in a significant way. We’ve already seen signs of this in some of the world’s recent crises. The

Somali diaspora actively used tools like

Google Map Maker to identify areas affected by the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa, using their local knowledge and connections to compile more accurate reports than outside actors could.

In the future, we will see the creation of diaspora reserve corps, with those living abroad organized by trade: doctors, police officers, construction workers, teachers and so on. States will have an incentive to organize their diaspora communities—assuming those communities are not all political exiles hostile to the state—so that they know who possesses skills that might be required in a country’s time of need.

Today, several diaspora communities are far more successful than the population living back home (this includes the


Cuban and

Lebanese diasporas, but also smaller groups like the Hmong and Somalis). But only portions of these communities are still connected to their native lands; many have, by choice or as a consequence of time, embraced their adoptive countries for the opportunities, security or quality of life they provide. As connectivity spreads, the gap between diaspora and home communities will shrink, as communication technologies and social media strengthen the bonds of culture, language and perspective that connect these distant groups. And those who leave their country as part of a brain drain will be leaving countries far more connected than today, even if those places are poor, autocratic or short on opportunities. Members of the diaspora, then, will be able to create a knowledge economy in exile that leverages the strong educational institutions, networks and resources of developed countries and channels them back constructively into their home countries.

Opportunism and Exploitation

In the aftermath of every major conflict or natural disaster, new actors flood the space: aid workers, journalists, U.N. officials, consultants, businessmen, speculators and tourists. Some come to offer their services, while others are hoping to exploit the crisis environment for political or economic gain. Many do both, and rather effectively so.


Even those who don’t seek financial gain have reasons beyond altruism to get involved. A postcrisis country is a great proving ground for nascent

NGOs, and a platform for established nonprofit organizations to demonstrate their value to their donors. This rash of new participants—altruists and opportunists alike—can do great good, and tremendous damage. The challenge for reconstruction planners in the future will be finding ways to balance the interests and actions of all these people and groups in a productive manner.

Generally speaking, connectivity encourages and enables altruistic behavior. People have more insight and visibility into the suffering of others, and they have more opportunities to do something about it. Some scoff at the rise of “slacktivism”—slacker activism, or engaging in social activism with little or no effort—but transnational, forward-thinking organizations like


Kickstarter and

Samasource represent a vision of our connected future. Kiva and Kickstarter are both crowd-funding platforms (Kiva focuses on micro-finance, while Kickstarter focuses mostly on creative pursuits), and Samasource outsources “micro-work” from corporations to people in developing countries over simple online platforms. There are other, less quantifiable ways to contribute to a distant cause than donating money, like creating supportive content or increasing public awareness, both increasingly integral parts of the process.

As more people become connected around the world, we’ll see a proliferation of potential donors and activists ready to contribute to the next high-profile crisis. With real-time information about conflicts and disasters around the world increasingly accessible and available, spread evenly across different platforms in different languages, a crisis in one country can reverberate across the world instantly. Not everyone receiving the news will be spurred to action, but enough people will so that the scale of participation will rise dramatically.

Examining the aftermath of the

Haiti earthquake once again will give a good indication of what the future holds. The level of destruction near the capital in Haiti, a densely populated and immensely poor country, was overwhelming: homes, hospitals and institutional buildings collapsed; transportation and communications systems were devastated; hundreds of thousands were killed and 1.5 million more made homeless.


Within hours, neighboring governments sent in emergency-services teams, and within days many countries around the world had pledged or already delivered aid.

The response from the humanitarian community was even more robust. Within days of the earthquake, the

Red Cross had raised more than $5 million through an innovative “

text to donate” campaign in which mobile users could text “HAITI” to a special short code (90999) to donate $10, automatically charged to their phone bill. In all, some $43 million in aid passed through mobile donation platforms, according to the

Mobile Giving Foundation, which builds the technical infrastructure many

NGOs used.

Télécoms Sans Frontières, a humanitarian organization that specializes in emergency telecommunications, deployed on the ground in Haiti one day after the earthquake to establish call centers to allow families to reach loved ones. And just five days after the earthquake, the

Thomson Reuters Foundation’s

AlertNet humanitarian news service set up the

Emergency Information Service, the first of its kind, which allowed Haitians free SMS alert messages to help them navigate the disaster’s impact.

Emergency relief efforts turned into longer-term reconstruction projects, and within months there were tens of thousands of NGOs working on the ground in Haiti. It’s hard to imagine tens of thousands of aid organizations working efficiently—with clear objectives and without redundancy—in any one place, let alone a country as small, crowded and devastated as

Haiti. As the months dragged on, unsettling reports about inefficient aid distribution began to surface. Warehouses were full of unused pharmaceuticals left to expire because of poor management.

Cholera outbreaks in the sprawling informal settlements threatened to wipe out many of the earthquake survivors. The delivery of funding from institutional donors, mostly governments, was delayed and difficult to keep track of; very little of the funding ever reached the Haitians themselves, having been utilized instead by any number of foreign organizations higher up on the chain. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians were still in unsanitary tent cities a year after the earthquake, because the government and its NGO partners had not yet found a way to otherwise house them. For all the coverage, the fund-raising, the coordination plans and the good intentions, Haitians were not well served in the post-earthquake environment.

People well qualified to say what transpired in Haiti have examined this fallout with great acumen—including Paul Farmer in his book HaitiAftertheEarthquake—and the consensus seems to be that this was an unfortunate confluence of factors: extensive devastation meeting bureaucratic inefficiency amid a backdrop of deeply entrenched preexisting challenges. Communication technologies could not have hoped to ameliorate all of Haiti’s woes, but there are many areas where, if correctly and widely utilized, coordinated online platforms can streamline this process so that a future version of the Haitian earthquake will produce more good results and less waste in a faster recovery period. Throughout this section we will present a few of our own ideas, knowing full well that the institutional actors in reconstruction settings—the large

NGOs, the foreign government donors and all the rest—may be unwilling to take these steps for fear of failure or loss of influence in the future.

As we look ahead to the next wave of disasters and conflicts that will occur in a more connected age, we can see a pattern emerging. The mixture of more potential donors and impressive online marketing will create an “NGO bubble” within each

postcrisis society, and eventually that bubble will burst, ultimately leading to a greater decentralization of aid and a rash of new experiments.

Historically, what has differentiated established aid organizations is less their impact than their brand: catchy logos, poignant advertisements and prominent endorsements go much further toward attracting public donations than detailed reports about logistics, antimalarial bed nets or incremental successes. There is perhaps no better recent example of this than the now infamous

Kony2012 video, produced by the nonprofit organization Invisible Children to generate awareness about a multi-decade-long war in northern Uganda. While the NGO’s mission to end atrocities by a Ugandan militant group, the

Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was noble, many who were intimately familiar with the conflict—including many Ugandans—found the video misleading, simplistic and, ultimately, self-serving. Yet the video amassed more than 100 million views in under a week (making it the first viral video to do so), largely thanks to endorsements from prominent celebrities with millions of followers on

Twitter. Early criticism of the NGO and its operations—like its 70 percent overhead in “production costs” (basically, salaries)—did little to stem the swelling movement, until it was abruptly ended by a very public and bizarre detention of one of the organization’s cofounders after he exposed himself in public.

As we have already said, we will see a more level playing field for marketing in the digital era. Anyone with a registered NGO or charity (and perhaps not even that) can produce a flashy online platform with high-quality content and cool mobile apps. After all, this is the fastest and easiest way for an individual or group to make its mark. The actual substance of the organization—how robust or competent it is, how it handles finances, how good its programs might or might not be—matters less. Like certain start-up revolutionaries who value style over substance, new participants will find ways to exploit the blind spots of their supporters; in this case, these groups can take advantage of the fact that donors have little real sense of what it’s like on the ground. So when a disaster strikes and NGOs pour into the space, the established ones will find themselves shoulder to shoulder with NGO start-ups, groups that have a strong online presence and starter funds but that are generally untested. Such start-ups will be more targeted in their mission than traditional aid organizations, and they’ll appear equally if not more competent than their established counterparts. They’ll attract attention but they’ll deliver less of what is needed by those they are trying to help; some might be capable but most won’t be, as they will lack the networks, the deep knowledge and the operational skills of professional organizations.

This mismatch between the start-ups’ marketing and delivery will infuriate the established players. Start-ups and institutional NGOs will compete for the same resources, and the start-ups will use their digital savvy and knowledge of different online audiences to their advantage to siphon off resources from the older organizations. They’ll depict the large institutional actors as lumbering, inefficient and out of touch, with high overheads, large staffs and impersonal qualities, promising instead to bring donors much closer to the recipients of aid by cutting out the middlemen. For new potential donors looking to contribute, this promise of directness will be a particularly attractive selling point since connectivity ensures that many of them will feel personally involved in the crisis already.

The concerned and altruistic young professional in Seattle with a few dollars to spare will not just “witness” every future disaster but will also be bombarded with ways to help. His inbox,

Twitter feed, Facebook profile and search results will be clogged. He’ll be overwhelmed but he will comb through the options and attempt to make a fast but serious judgment call based on what he sees—which group has the best-looking website, the most robust social-media presence, the highest-profile supporters. No expert, how is he to decide which organization is the right one to donate to? He’ll have to rely on the trust he feels for a certain group, and in this, organizations with strong marketing skills that can pitch to him (or his profile) directly will have the edge.

There is a real risk of the traditional NGOs being crowded out by these start-up organizations. Some start-ups will be genuinely helpful, but not all will be genuine. Opportunists will take advantage of the new possibilities for direct marketing and the lower bar to entry. When those groups are eventually held to account, it will weaken donor trust (and probably generate momentum to expose more fraudulent participants). There will also be an oversupply of vanity projects from known celebrities and business leaders, whose high-wattage campaigns will only further distract attention from the real work needed to be done on the ground. In all, the result of turning “doing good” into a marketing competition means more players but less real help, as established organizations are pushed aside.

Intervention, as we’ve said before, requires expertise. Coordinating aid, enabling government oversight and setting realistic expectations all become harder as the field becomes more crowded. Technology can help with this. The government could keep a centralized database of all NGO actors and then register, monitor and rank each one on an online platform with the help of the public. There already are monitoring and rating systems for NGOs—
Charity Navigator,

One World Trust’s civil-society organizations (CSO) database, and

NGO Ratings—but these have mostly been NGOs themselves, even if they are helping to impose accountability, and beyond shining a spotlight on bad practices, they have no real enforcement abilities. Imagine an AAA-rating system for NGOs, where data about organizations’ activities, finances and management, along with reviews from the local community and aid recipients, is used to generate a ranking that can help guide donors and their investments. The ratings would have real-world implications, including NGOs’ losing eligibility for government funding if they fall below a certain score, or facing additional government scrutiny and processes. Without an integrated, transparent rating-and-monitoring system, governments and donors will come under a deluge of appeals from different aid organizations and they will have limited means to discern the legitimate and competent ones.

In the end, like all bubbles, this one will burst, as processes become delayed and institutional donors lose faith in reconstruction efforts. When the dust settles, those organizations left standing will be well-positioned NGOs with a targeted focus, strong donor loyalty and the ability to demonstrate a history of efficient and transparent operations. Some will be established aid groups and others will be new, but they will share certain characteristics that make them well suited for reconstruction work in the digital age. They will run solid programs with data-generating results, and pair their efforts on the ground with savvy digital marketing that both showcases their work and allows for responsive feedback from donors and aid recipients alike. The appearance of accountability and transparency will count for a lot.

The trend toward more direct engagement between donors and recipients on the ground will survive as well. NGOs will adopt new methods that aim to satisfy the desire to provide more intimate relationships, and in doing so they will accelerate another long-term trend visible today: the decentralization of aid distribution. By this we mean the move away from several key nodes (a few large, institutional NGOs) to networks of smaller conduits. Rather than donating to the main office of the

Red Cross or

Save the Children, increasingly, informed and involved donors will seek out special and specific programs that speak to them directly, or they will take their donations to smaller start-up NGOs that promise equivalent services. Smart, established NGOs will astutely reshape their function to serve more as aggregators than top-down directors, reimagining their role as one of linking donors directly to the people they fund—providing the right personal “experience,” such as connecting doctors in a developed country with those in a country affected by an earthquake—while still retaining complete programmatic control. (To be sure, not all donors will seek such intimate knowledge of the organizations and individuals they support. For them, it will be easy enough to “opt out” of such engagement.)

And we cannot discount the role that individuals in countries suffering disasters or conflict will play in the newly digital aid ecosystem. Connectivity will influence how one of the biggest and most common problems that

postcrisis societies face—internally displaced persons

(IDPs)—will be helped. Little can be done by outsiders to prevent the conditions that lead to internal displacement within a country—war, famine, natural disaster. But

mobile phones will change the future for their victims. Most dislocated people will own handsets, and if they do not (or if they have to leave them behind), relief organizations will distribute phones to them. Refugee camps will be wired with

4G hot spots that allow callers to communicate with each other easily and inexpensively, and with mobile phones, the registration of IDPs will never be easier.

Most IDPs and refugees say that among their greatest challenges is lack of information. They never know how long they’ll be in one place, when food will arrive or how to get some, where they can find firewood, water and health services, and what the security threats are. With registration and specialized platforms to address these concerns, IDPs will be able to receive alerts, navigate their new environment, and receive supplies and benefits from international aid organizations on the scene. Facial-recognition software will be heavily used to find lost or missing persons. With

speech-recognition technology, illiterate users will be able to speak the names of relatives and the database will report if they are in the camp system. Online platforms and mobile phones will allow

refugee camps to classify and organize their members according to their skills, backgrounds and interests. In today’s refugee camps, there are large numbers of people with relevant and needed skills (doctors, teachers, soccer coaches) whose participation is only leveraged in an ad hoc manner, mobilized slowly through word-of-mouth networks throughout the camps. IDPs in the future should have access to a skills-tracker app, through which they can submit their skills or search a database for what they need, leaving no skill unused or willing participant excluded.

Widespread use of mobile phones will present new opportunities for people looking to shake up the existing model of aid distribution. A few enterprising individuals with a bit of technical know-how will be able to build an open platform where potential aid recipients like themselves can list their needs and personal information, send it to the cloud and then wait for individual donors to select them and send aid directly. This is not unlike the platform that

Kiva uses for micro-finance funding, except that it would be broader in scope, more personal in nature and focused on donations instead of loans. (Naturally, a platform like this would encounter a series of mechanical and legal issues that would need to be addressed before it functioned correctly.)

Now imagine if this platform partnered with a bigger organization that could promote it to a much wider audience around the world while providing some measure of verification to assuage skeptical users. In the West, a mother could take a break from watching her child’s soccer game to explore a live global map (interactive and constantly updated) on her iPad, displaying who needed what and where. She would be able to independently decide whom to fund on the basis of individuals’ stories or perceived need levels. Using mobile money-transfer systems already available, that mother could transfer cash or mobile credit to the recipients directly, as quickly and casually as sending a text message.

The challenge with this type of platform is that the onus of marketing falls directly on the aid recipients themselves. Life is hard enough in a refugee camp without having to worry if one’s online profile is sufficiently need-worthy, and the stark competition for resources that such a platform would cause recipients is distasteful in and of itself. There is also the risk of donors who lack good judgment or familiarity with the situation on the ground disproportionately supporting people who have the best marketing campaigns (or who have gamed the system) instead of those who need it most. The consequence of going around established aid organizations is the loss of those groups’ ability to discern levels of need and distribute their resources appropriately. With those controls gone, the free-for-all of direct donations would almost certainly lead to a less equitable division of those resources. An analysis of peer-to-peer lending through

Kiva’s website conducted by researchers in Singapore reported that lenders tend to discriminate in favor of attractive, lighter-skinned and less obese borrowers.

Moreover, the emergence of a platform like this assumes that the desire for a closer connection is reciprocated. Aid recipients would have to want to engage in such a connection, and that would strike many who have worked in development as a nonstarter. To be sure, some people in

postcrisis countries (as well as developing nations) might embrace the opportunity to directly market themselves if it meant a more reliable source of funding. But the majority will not. Unlike with Kiva, whose recipients are requesting loans, these recipients would be asking for charity—publicly. Pride is a universal human quality, and often when people have little else, they value their pride all the more. It’s hard to imagine that, even if such an open-funding platform were available to them, refugees,

IDPs and other recipients would willingly advertise their needs to a global audience. One important function of established aid organizations is the distance they provide between recipients and their funders. So amid all of the changes we have described above—start-up

NGOs, micro-targeted programs, decentralized aid—it is worth remembering the reasons certain aspects of the development-and-aid world are as they are, and why they work.

Room for Innovation

If the destruction of institutions and systems caused by upheaval has a silver lining, it’s that it clears the path for new ideas. Innovation exists everywhere, even in the labored and intricate work of reconstruction, and it will be enhanced with a fast network, good leadership and plentiful devices, meaning

smart phones and


We’re already seeing how Internet tools are being refashioned to serve in a

postcrisis environment.

Ushahidi (the name means “testimony” in Swahili), an open-source crisis-mapping platform that aggregates crowd-sourced data to build a living information map, demonstrated this to great effect after the 2010

Haitian earthquake. Using a basic mapping platform, Ushahidi volunteers in the United States built a live crisis map just one hour after the earthquake struck, with a designated short code (4636) for people on the ground to text information to; it was subsequently publicized on national and local Haitian radio stations. Engineers outside Haiti added the data that was collected to an interactive online map that aggregated reports of destruction, needed emergency supplies, trapped people and violence or crime. Many of the text messages were in Creole, so Ushahidi worked with a network of thousands of Haitian-Americans to translate the information, cutting translation time to just ten minutes. Within a few weeks, they’d mapped some 2,500 reports;

Carol Waters, Ushahidi-Haiti’s director of communications and partnerships, said that many of those messages simply read, “

I’m buried under ruble [sic], but I’m still alive.”

Ushahidi’s quick thinking and quick coding saved lives. In the future, crisis maps like these will become standard and their creation will probably be government-led. By centralizing the information with an official and trusted source, some of the problems that Ushahidi faced (like other

NGOs not knowing about the platform) could be avoided. Of course, there is the risk that a government-led project would fall victim to bureaucracy or legal restrictions that would prevent it from keeping up with non-state actors like Ushahidi. But if the response were immediate, there is tremendous potential for a government-led crisis map because it could grow to encompass much more than emergency information. The map could stay active throughout the reconstruction process, and it could serve as a platform through which the government shared and received information about the various reconstruction projects and environments it managed.

For any postcrisis society, citizens could be told where known safe zones (i.e., free of mines or militia) in their neighborhoods were, where the best mobile coverage was or where the largest investments in reconstruction efforts had been made. Citizen reporting on incidents of crime, violence or corruption would keep the government informed. An integrated system of crisis information like this would not only keep the population safer, healthier and more aware, it would also cut some of the waste, corruption and redundancy that reconstruction efforts always generate. Not all postcrisis governments will be interested in such transparency, to be sure, but if the population and the international community were widely aware of the model, there might be sufficient public pressure to adopt it anyway. The delivery of foreign aid could even be made contingent on it. And no doubt there would be many willing non-state partners and volunteers ready to participate in the process.
But the first priority for a postcrisis state is, usually, managing the fragile security environment. Interactive maps can help with that, but they won’t be enough. Those early moments when a conflict ends are the most delicate, because the interim government must demonstrate that it is in control and responsive to the people, or else it risks being chased out by the same population that installed it. In order for daily life to resume, citizens must feel safe enough to reopen businesses, rebuild homes and replant crops, so mitigating the volatility in the environment is vital for building citizen trust in the reconstruction process. Smart uses of technology can help the state reassert the rule of law in important ways.

By virtue of their functionality,

mobile phones will become key conduits and valuable assets as the state works to manage the security environment. For countries with a functional military, the question of whether its members will uphold the rule of law—as opposed to defecting, committing criminal acts or seizing power for themselves—will depend less on personal motives than on their faith in the competency of the government. Put simply, for most people in uniform it will come down to whether they receive a paycheck reliably and relatively free of graft; they need to know who is in charge.

Future technology platforms will assist

law enforcement in this process by equipping every police and army officer with a specialized handset device that contains several distinct (and highly secure) apps. One app will handle salaries and serve as the interface between officers and the ministry that pays them. In Afghanistan, the telecom Roshan has launched a pilot program to pay Afghan national police officers electronically through a mobile banking platform—a bold move geared toward ending the rampant corruption that cripples the country’s finances. On these specialized phones, another app could require officers to report their daily activities, as they might in a logbook, storing that information in the cloud that commanders could later mine for metrics on efficiency and impact. Other apps could offer training tips or virtual mentors for newly integrated officers—as in the case of Libya, where many of the militia fighters were integrated into the newly created army—and they could provide secure online spaces for anonymous reporting of corruption or other illegal activities by other officers.

Citizen reporting over mobile platforms would strengthen the state’s ability to maintain security, should the two sides choose to work together. Every citizen with a mobile device is a potential witness and investigator, more widely dispersed than any law-enforcement body and ready to document evidence of wrongdoing. In the best cases, citizens will choose to participate in these mobile vigilance activities, out of national sentiment or self-interest, and together with the state they will help build a safer and more honest society. In the worst cases, where large portions of the population distrust the government or favor the ex-combatants (like those who fought the battle against Gadhafi), those citizen-reporting channels could be used to share false information and waste police time.

Citizen engagement will be crucial beyond initial security issues, too. With the right platforms and a government inclined toward transparency, people on the ground will be able to monitor progress, report corruption, share suggestions and become an integral part of the conversations between the government,

NGOs and foreign actors—all using mobile phones. We spoke with the Rwandan president

Paul Kagame, who remains among the most tech-savvy leaders in Africa, and asked how mobile technology is transforming the way citizens address local challenges. “

Where people have needs—economic, security and social—they will turn to their phones,” he said, “because their phones are the only way to protect themselves. People who need immediate help can now get it.” This, he explained, was a game-changer for populations in developing countries and particularly for people emerging from conflict or crisis. Building trust in the government is a crucial task, and by leveraging citizen participation through open platforms, this process can be much quicker and more sustainable: “In Rwanda, we have built a community policing program, where the community passes on information,” Kagame said, stressing that it was made much more efficient by the use of technology.


crowd-sourcing becomes a defining feature in the future of the rule of law—at least in the aftermath of conflict or disaster—a culture of

accountability will slowly emerge. Fears of violence or looting will remain, but societies in the future will have all of their personal possessions and their historical artifacts documented online, so there won’t be a question of what’s missing when security returns. Citizens will be rewarded for sending in photos of thieves (even if they’re police) that show their faces and their loot. The risk of retaliation would be real, but evidence suggests that despite their fear there is almost always a critical mass of people willing to take that risk. And the more people there are willing to report crime, the more the risk to the individual is reduced. Imagine if the ransacking of Iraq’s celebrated

Baghdad Museum in 2003 had occurred twenty years later: How long would those thieves have been able to hide their treasures (let alone try to sell them) if their theft had instantly been recorded and broadcast across the country, and other citizens were highly motivated to inform on them?

Lost artifacts damage a society’s dignity and the preservation of its culture, but lost weapons constitute a far greater danger to a country’s stability. Weapons and small arms routinely disappear after conflicts and find their way onto the black market (an estimated $1 billion annual business), later appearing in the hands of militias, gangs and armies in other countries.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) chips could represent a solution to this challenge. RFID chips or tags contain electronically stored information and can be as small as a grain of rice. They are ever present today, in everything from our phones and passports to the products we buy. (They’re even in our pets: RFID chips embedded under the skin or on an ear are used to help identify lost animals.) If major states signed treaties that required weapons manufacturers to implant unremovable RFID chips in all of their products, it would make the hunt for arms caches and the interdiction of arms shipments much easier. Given that today’s RFID chips can be easily fried in a microwave, the chips of the future will need a shield that protects them against tampering. (We assume there will be a technological cat-and-mouse game between governments who want to track the weapons with RFID chips and arms traffickers who want to deal the weapons off the grid.) When weapons with RFID chips were recovered, it would be possible to trace where they’d been if the chips themselves were designed to store location data. This wouldn’t stop the trafficking of arms but it would put pressure on the larger actors in the arms trade.

States that donate weapons to rebel movements often want to know what happens to those arms. With RFID chips, such investments could be tracked. The

Libyan revolutionaries were an unknown quantity to almost everyone, so in the absence of any tracking capability, governments that distributed arms to them had to weigh the benefit of a successful revolution with the possible consequences of those weapons going underground. (In the beginning of 2012, some of the weaponry that Libyan militias used wound up in

Mali with disgruntled

Tuareg fighters. This, combined with the return of the Tuareg contingent of

Gadhafi’s army, led to a violent antigovernment campaign that created the conditions for a military coup.)

Electronically traceable arms distribution will have to overcome hurdles. It will cost money to design weapons that include the RFID; arms manufacturers profit from a large illicit market for their products; and states and arms dealers alike rather enjoy the anonymity of weapons distribution today. It’s hard to imagine any superpower willingly sacrificing its ability to have plausible deniability regarding arms caches or covertly supplied arms for some long-term greater good. Moreover, states might claim that falsely planting another country’s weapons in a conflict zone would point to their involvement and lead to even more conflict. But international pressure might make a difference.

Luckily, there are myriad other ways the RFID technology can be used in the short term in reconstruction efforts. RFID tags can be used to track aid deliveries and other essential supplies, to verify pharmaceuticals and other products as legitimate, and to generally limit waste or graft in large contracting projects. The

World Food Program (WFP) has experimented with tracking food deliveries in

Somalia, using bar codes and RFID chips to determine which suppliers are honest and deliver food to the target area. This type of tracking system—inexpensive, ubiquitous and reliable—could demonstrably help streamline the serpentine world of aid distribution by enhancing accountability and providing data that can be used to measure success and effectiveness, even in the least-connected places.

• • •

Another innovative use of mobile devices for a post-conflict government involves handling former combatants. Trading in weapons for handsets may become a key feature of any

disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program.

Paul Kagame’s government, while controversial in human rights and governance communities, has overseen the demilitarization of tens of thousands of former fighters through the

Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Project. “

We believe that we need to put tools in the hands of ex-combatants to transform their lives,” he explained. In packages handed out to ex-combatants, “We gave them some money, but we also gave them phones so they could see what the possibilities are.” Most ex-combatants coming through the still ongoing program in Rwanda also receive some form of training that will prepare them for reintegration into society. Psychological treatment is an important component as well. We’ve seen these programs in action, and they resemble summer camps, with classrooms, dorms and activities—fitting, since so many of the ex-combatants in Rwanda are practically children. The key is to start them off with hundreds of others who have a shared experience, and then build their confidence that there is a good life on the other side of combat.

Kagame’s words indicate that we are not far away from more countries trying this. In the aftermath of every conflict, the disarmament of former combatants is a top priority. (Disarmament, sometimes referred to as demilitarization or weapons control, is the process of eliminating the military capacities of warring factions, whether they are insurgents, civil enemies or army factions left over from a previous regime.) In a typical DDR program, weapons are transferred from warring parties to peacekeeping forces over a prescribed period of time, often with some form of compensation involved. The longer the conflict, the longer it takes to complete the process. It took years of prolonged fighting between the northern and southern sides in

Sudan to produce the state of South Sudan (which we had the opportunity to visit in January 2013), so the urgent need for a comprehensive DDR program was recognized immediately by the new South Sudanese government and the international community. With more than $380 million in aid from the

United Nations,

China, Japan, Norway and the

United States, the Sudanese on both sides of the border agreed to disarm some two hundred thousand former soldiers by 2017. Two neighboring countries,

Uganda and

Kenya, concerned about the possible spread of combatants-turned-mercenaries and the illegal transport of arms across borders, also pledged their support in order to reinforce regional security—a critical element of the plan. However, there are few regions as unpredictable and conflict prone as the Great Lakes, so pledges must be taken with a grain of salt.

Most post-conflict environments contain armed ex-combatants who find themselves without work, purpose, status or acceptance by society. Unaddressed, these problems can lead former fighters to return to violence—as criminals, militia members or guns for hire—especially if they still have their weapons. As governments seek to create incentives for ex-combatants to turn in their AK-47s, they will find that the prospect of a smart phone might be more than enough to get started. Former fighters need compensation, status and a next step. If they are made to understand that a smart phone represents not just a chance to communicate but also a way to receive benefits and payment, the phone becomes an investment that is worth trading a weapon for.

Each society will offer slightly different packages in this initiative, depending on the culture and the level of technological sophistication, but the essentials of the process have a universal appeal: free top-of-the-line devices, cheap text and voice plans, credit to purchase apps, and data subsidization that allows people to use the Internet and e-mail inexpensively. These smart phones would be of a better quality than much of the population’s and cheaper to use, as well. They could be front-loaded with appealing vocational applications that would provide some momentum for upwardly mobile ex-combatants, like English-language instruction or even basic literacy education. A former child soldier in a South Sudanese refugee camp, who had been forced to leave his family at a young age, could have access to a device that connected him not only to local relatives, but also to potential mentors from the Sudanese diaspora abroad, perhaps young men who had successfully sought asylum in the United States and built wholly new lives for themselves.

Donor nations would likely pay for a program like this in its initial stages, then transfer the cost and control to the state in question. That would allow the government to maintain some leverage over the ex-combatants in its society. There could be software preloaded on the phone that allowed the state to track ex-combatants or monitor their browsing history for some period of time; ex-combatants would risk losing the data plan or the phone if they didn’t follow the rules of the program. A state would be able to institute a three-strike policy tied to the geo-location data on these phones: The first time an ex-combatant failed to check in with his equivalent of a probation officer at a prescribed time, he would receive a short video warning; the second failure would result in the data plan being suspended for some length of time, and the third failure would lead to the cancellation of the data plan and the repossession of the device.

Of course, enforcement would be a challenge, but the state would at least have more leverage than it would from a one-time cash payment. And there are ways to make this program desirable beyond useful apps and status-symbol phones. Ex-combatants will likely rely on pensions or benefits to provide for their families, so integrating those payments into a mobile money system is a smart way to keep the former fighters on the right path.

In order for this arms-for-phones project to work, however, it would need to be tied to a comprehensive and successful program—mobile phones alone would not get thousands of former fighters reintegrated in any sustainable way. As part of the reintegration and accountability programs, some ex-combatants would receive cash or special features for their device in exchange for photographs of arms caches or mass graves. Ex-combatants would have to feel fairly treated and adequately compensated to surrender both their guns and their sense of authority; programs that included counseling and classes in job skills would be important for helping these individuals transition into civilian life.


Colombia, a largely successful DDR program to reintegrate former guerrilla fighters into society involved a wide network of support centers for ex-combatants, offering them educational, legal, psychosocial and health services. Unlike many other DDR programs, which are run far away from city centers, the government of Colombia made the bold move of placing many of the reintegration houses in the middle of the city. The government identified a need early on to build confidence in the program, both on the ex-combatant side and within society. Set up much like homes for runaway teens, these houses eventually became part of the community, with neighbors and other locals getting involved. The government used ex-combatants as spokespersons for why Colombians should not turn to violence. They spoke at universities, addressed former members of the

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—a forty-eight-year-old Colombian terrorist organization—and conducted community roundtables.

It’s unclear whether communication technologies will help or hinder the reconciliation process for noncombatants. On one hand, the ubiquity of devices during a conflict will help empower citizens to capture evidence they can use to seek justice in the post-conflict environment. On the other hand, with so much violence and suffering caught on digital tape (stored in perpetuity, and shared widely), it’s possible that the social or ethnic divisions that engendered the conflict will solidify when the volume of data is brought to light. The healing process for societies torn apart by civil or ethnic conflict is painful enough, and it requires a certain collective memory loss. With much more evidence, there will be much more to forgive.

In the future, technology will be used to document and record the implementation of various transitional justice processes, including reparations, vetting (like de-Baathification efforts), truth-and-reconciliation commissions, and even trials, making each of them more accessible and transparent. There are good and bad aspects to this shift. The televised trial of

Saddam Hussein was cathartic for many Iraqis, but it also gave the late dictator and his supporters a stage on which to perform. Then again, as
Nigel Snoad, a former senior U.N. aid worker now at

Google, predicted, “

Human-rights and justice groups can build a system for people to create memorials and to tell the story of those killed and who disappeared in the conflict.” Using these testimonials and memorials, he said, groups could “bring together stories from both sides, and despite conflicting accounts and occasional online flame wars (character bashing over the Internet through discussion lists and comments), create a space for apologies, truth-telling and an emerging reconciliation.”

The slow, painful mechanics of reconciliation will not be eliminated by Internet technology, nor should they be. Public admissions of guilt, sentencing and punishment, and gestures of forgiveness, are all cathartic for a society recovering from conflict. Today’s models for criminal prosecution at the international level—for crimes against humanity—are slow, bureaucratic and prone to corruption. Dozens of criminals sit in the

International Criminal Court (ICC)—more casually referred to as The


for many months before their trials even start. In today’s post-conflict environments, local court systems and indigenous local bodies are frequently preferred over the international institutions that lag behind.

The spread of technology is likely to exacerbate this trend. The sheer volume of digital evidence of crimes and violence will raise expectations that justice must be done, yet the glacial pace displayed by international judicial bodies like the ICC will limit how quickly such bodies adapt to these changes. For example, the ICC is unlikely to ever accept unverified videos captured on a mobile phone as evidence in its highly procedural trials (although organizations like Witness are trying to challenge this), but local judicial systems, with fewer legal constraints and a more flexible attitude, might be more open to developments in digital watermarking that will allow firsthand videos to be effectively authenticated. People will increasingly show their preference for these judicial avenues.

A local setting means that adjudicators, whether they are formal judges, tribal chiefs or community leaders, must have an intimate and expansive knowledge of the society—internal dynamics, main actors, major villains and all the nuances that international or distant bodies struggle to understand. When presented with digital evidence, the need for verification is lower, because the people and places are already familiar. In a postcrisis setting, there is also a distinct pressure from the community to mete out justice quickly. Whether these courts would be more or less fair than their international counterparts is a matter of debate, but they’ll surely move faster.

This trend could be manifested in future truth-and-reconciliation committees, or in temporary judicial structures after a major conflict. After the Rwandan genocide, the country’s new government rejected the South African truth-and-reconciliation model, arguing that reconciliation would take place only when the guilty were punished. But the formal judicial system took too long to process alleged genocidaires; more than a hundred thousand Rwandans sat in jail for several years waiting for their time in court. So a new system of local courts was built, taking inspiration from a grassroots, community-based conflict-resolution process known as “gacaca. Under gacaca tribunals, the accused were confronted by the community and offered a commuted sentence if they confessed their crimes, shed light on what happened or identified the remains of those they killed. Despite being based in village justice, the gacaca tribunal system was a complex structure, involving different phases for judgment. The first phase was referred to as the cell level; in it the accused were brought before a tribunal of people in the community where the crime was committed. This tribunal determined the severity of the crime—whether the accused should be tried at the sector, district or province level, all three of which deal with appeals. The gacaca system was far from perfect. It came with the full panoply of traditional cultural prejudices, including the exclusion of women as judges and a failure to prosecute crimes committed against women with the same ferocity as those against men. These caveats aside, justice was fast, and the participating community generally felt satisfied with the process. Subsequent postcrisis governments elsewhere in the world have looked at adopting this model given how effective it was at advancing numerous reconciliation goals.

Whether citizens in the future choose to take their digital evidence to The Hague or to local judicial bodies, they will certainly have more opportunities to participate in the transitional justice-and-reconciliation process. They can instantly upload documents, photos and other evidence from a conflict or a former repressive regime to an international cloud-based data bank that will categorize and add the information to the relevant open files, to be used later by courts, journalists and others. Participatory memorials and inclusive feedback loops that allow populations to express their grievances in an organized manner—perhaps communities will use algorithmic argument mapping to aggregate the most prescriptive feedback—will help retain the confidence of groups that, once a conflict is over, might begin to feel neglected. Citizens will be able to watch the justice process unfold in real time, with live-streaming trials of major figures halfway across the world available on their phones, and a wealth of information about each stage of the process at their fingertips. Documenting the crimes (both physical and virtual) of a fallen regime serves a broader purpose beyond prosecution: Once every dirty secret of the former state is published online, no future government will be able to do quite the same things. Political observers always worry about a post-conflict state’s slide back into autocracy and watch keenly for signs of such a return; the full exposure of the former regime’s wrongdoings—how exactly it brutalized dissidents, how it spied on citizens’ online activities, how it hid money out of the country—will help forestall such possibilities.

Among all of the topics we’ve covered, the future of

reconstruction is perhaps where the greatest share of optimism belongs. Little can be more devastating to a country and a population than natural disaster or war, or both, and yet we see a clear trend of postcrisis transitions occurring in shorter time periods with more satisfactory results. Unlike many avenues in geopolitics, the world does learn from each reconstruction example what works, what doesn’t and what can be improved upon. Clever applications of communications technology and widespread

connectivity will accelerate rebuilding, inform and empower the people, and help forge a better, stronger and more resilient society. All it takes is a bit of creativity, plenty of bandwidth and the will to innovate.


These difficulties were compounded by the fact that the United States set up operational headquarters in

Saddam Hussein’s former palaces, which had been turned into electronically shielded bunkers by the paranoid dictator.


We take these duties from a list of the ten functions of the state in the book

FixingFailedStates, by

Clare Lockhart and

Ashraf Ghani, the founders of the Institute for State Effectiveness.


The journalist

Naomi Klein famously called these actors “disaster capitalists” in her provocative book The

ShockDoctrine. Klein argues that neo-liberal economics advocates seek to exploit a postcrisis environment to impose free-market ideals, usually to the detriment of the existing economic order. Like psychological shock therapy, this free-market fundamentalism uses the appearance of a “blank slate” to violently reshape the economic environment.


Estimates on the death toll of the Haitian earthquake vary widely. The Haitian government believes 316,000 people were killed, while a leaked memo from the U.S. government put the figure somewhere between 46,190 and 84,961.


As we look into the future—its promises and its challenges—we are facing a brave new world, the most fast-paced and exciting period in human history. We’ll experience more change at a quicker rate than any previous generation, and this change, driven in part by the devices in our own hands, will be more personal and participatory than we can even imagine.

In 1999, the futurist Ray Kurzweil proposed a new “
Law of Accelerating Returns” in his seminal book TheAgeofSpiritual
Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. “

Technology,” he wrote, “is the continuation of

evolution by other means, and is itself an evolutionary process.” Evolution builds on its own increasing order, leading to exponential growth and accelerated returns over time. Computation, the backbone of every technology we see today, behaves in much the same way. Even with its eventual inevitable limitations,

Moore’s Law promises us infinitesimally small processors in just a matter of years. Every two days we create as much digital content as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003—that’s about five exabytes of information, with only two billion people out of a possible seven billion online. How many new ideas, new perspectives and new creations will truly global technological inclusion produce, and how much more quickly will their impact be felt? The arrival of more people in the virtual world is good for them, and it’s good for us. The collective benefit of sharing human knowledge and creativity grows at an exponential rate.

In the future, information technology will be everywhere, like electricity. It will be a given, so fully a part of our lives that we will struggle to describe life before it to our children. As

connectivity ushers billions more people into the technological fold, we know that technology will soon be intertwined with every challenge in the world. States, citizens and companies will make it part of every solution.

Attempts to contain the spread of connectivity or curtail people’s access will always fail over a long enough period of time—information, like water, will always find a way through. States, citizens, companies,

NGOs, consultants, terrorists, engineers, politicians and hackers will all try to adapt to this change and manage its aftereffects, but none will be able to control it.

We believe the vast majority of the world will be net beneficiaries of connectivity, experiencing greater efficiency and opportunities, and an improved quality of life. But despite these almost universal benefits, the connected experience will not be uniform. A digital caste system will endure well into the future, and people’s experience will be greatly determined by where they fall in this structure. The tiny minority at the top will be largely insulated from the less enjoyable consequences of technology by their wealth, access or location. The world’s middle class will drive much of the change, as they’ll be the inventors, the leaders in diaspora communities and the owners of small and medium-sized enterprises. These are the first two billion who are already connected.

The next five billion people to join that club will experience far more change, simply because of where they live and how numerous they are. They’ll receive the greatest benefits from connectivity but also face the worst drawbacks of the digital age. It is this population that will drive the revolutions and challenge the police states, and they’ll also be the people tracked by their governments, harassed by online hate mobs and disoriented by marketing wars. Many of the challenges in their world will endure even as technology spreads.

So, what do we think we know about our future world?

First, it’s clear that technology alone is no panacea for the world’s ills, yet smart uses of technology can make a world of difference. In the future, computers and humans will increasingly split duties according to what each does well. We will use human intelligence for judgment, intuition, nuance and uniquely human interactions; we will use computing power for infinite memory, infinitely fast processing and actions limited by human biology. We’ll use computers to run predictive correlations from huge volumes of data to track and catch

terrorists, but how they are interrogated and handled thereafter will remain the purview of humans and their laws. Robots in combat will prevent deaths through greater precision and situational awareness, but human judgment will determine the context in which they are used and what actions they can take.

Second, the virtual world will not overtake or overhaul the existing world order, but it will complicate almost every behavior. People and states will prefer the worlds where they have more control—virtual for people, physical for states—and this tension will exist as long as the Internet does. Crowds of virtually courageous people might be sufficient to start a revolution, but the state can still use brutal tactics in crackdowns on the street.

Minority groups might pursue virtual statehood and cement their solidarity in the process, but if the venture goes badly, participants and their cause could end up worse off in both the physical and the virtual world as a result.

Third, states will have to practice two foreign policies and two domestic policies—one for the virtual world and one for the physical world—and these policies may appear contradictory. States will launch cyber attacks against countries they wouldn’t dream of targeting militarily. They’ll allow for the venting of dissent online, but viciously patrol the town square looking for vocal dissidents to crack down on. States will support emergency telecommunications interventions without even considering putting boots (or bots) on the ground.

Finally, with the spread of connectivity and mobile phones around the world, citizens will have more power than at any other time in history, but it will come with costs, particularly to both privacy and security. The technology we talk about collects and stores much personal information—past, present and future locations as well as the information you consume—all stored for a time for the systems to work. Such information has never been available before, and there is always the potential that it could be used against you. Nations will legislate much of this and their policies will differ, not just from democracy to autocracy, but even within countries that have similar political systems. The risk that this information may be released is increasing, and while the technology to protect it is available, human error, nefarious activity and the passage of time means that it will become only more difficult to keep information private. The companies responsible for storing this data have a responsibility to ensure its security, and that will not change. While the protection of individual privacy is also their responsibility, it is one that they share with the users.

We need to fight for our privacy or we will lose it, particularly in moments of national crisis, when security hawks will insist that with each terrible crime, governments are entitled to access more private, or formerly private, information. Governments have to decide where the new privacy line is, and stick to it. Fa


recognition, for example, will keep people safe and ensure that they count in everything from a census to a vote, by making it easier to catch and capture illicit actors, discouraging would-be

criminals and promoting public safety. But it can also empower governments to exercise greater surveillance of their people.

And what of the prospects for keeping secrets in the future, something equally important for the proper functioning of people and institutions? New abilities to encrypt secrets and spread pieces of information among people will lead to some unusual new problems. Separate groups—ranging from criminals to

dissidents—will soon be able to take a secret (perhaps a set of codes or classified documents), encrypt it and then divide up the secret by allocating one part of the encryption key to each group member. A group could then consent to a mutually assured publication pact—that is, under certain circumstances, everyone combines his partial key to release the data. Such an agreement could be used to discipline governments or terrorize individuals. And if groups like

al-Qaeda get their hands on sensitive encrypted data—such as the names and locations of undercover CIA agents—they could distribute copies to their affiliates with a common key and threaten to release the information if any one of their groups is attacked.

What emerges in the future, and what we’ve tried to articulate, is a tale of two civilizations: One is physical and has developed over thousands of years, and the other is virtual and is still very much in formation. These civilizations will coexist in a more or less peaceable manner, with each restraining the negative aspects of the other. The virtual world will enable escape from the repression of state control, offering citizens new opportunities to organize and revolt; other citizens will simply connect, learn and play. The physical world will impose rules and laws that help contain the anarchy of virtual space and that protect people from terrorist hackers, misinformation and even from the digital records of their own youthful misbehavior. The permanence of evidence will make it harder for the perpetrators of crimes to minimize or deny their actions, forcing accountability into the physical world in a way never before seen.

The virtual and physical civilizations will affect and shape each other; the balance they strike will come to define our world. In our view, the multidimensional result, though not perfect, will be more egalitarian, more transparent and more interesting than we can even imagine. As in a social contract, users will voluntarily relinquish things they value in the physical world—privacy, security, personal data—in order to gain the benefits that come with being connected to the virtual world. In turn, should they feel that these benefits are being withheld, they’ll use the tools at their disposal to demand accountability and drive change in the physical world.

The case for

optimism lies not in sci-fi gadgets or holograms but in the check that technology and connectivity bring against the abuses, suffering and destruction in our world. When exposure meets opportunity, the possibilities are endless. The best thing anyone can do to improve the quality of life around the world is to drive connectivity and technological opportunity. When given the access, the people will do the rest. They already know what they need and what they want to build, and they’ll find ways to innovate with even the meagerest set of tools. Anyone passionate about economic prosperity, human rights, social justice, education or self-determination should consider how connectivity can help us reach these goals and even move beyond them. We cannot eliminate inequality or abuse of power, but through technological inclusion we can help transfer power into the hands of individual people and trust that they will take it from there. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.


This book is the product of nearly three years of collaboration, but it would not have been possible without the incredibly generous commitments made by close friends, family and colleagues.

First and foremost, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sophie Schmidt, who served as our internal editor on the book for ten months and was a critical partner in its writing. Sophie’s gifted mind, strategic insights and analytical heft helped make the ideas come alive. Her grasp of both the political and the technological worlds uniquely positioned her to help ensure that the book had the right rigor and appropriate balance between tech and foreign policy on the one hand, and present-day analysis and futuristic speculation on the other. Sophie also joined us as part of a traveling trio to a number of the global hot spots that we write about.

We also owe a big thanks to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), who first suggested that we write a piece together for ForeignAffairs in the summer of 2010. That article inspired conversations that led to this book. Special thanks to Richard Haass and the other CFR executives.

We are grateful to our friend Scott Malcomson, who in the early days of the manuscript proved to be an indispensable partner and editorial advisor. Before engaging Scott, we were both admirers of his work as a journalist, foreign-policy thinker and author. His deep generalist knowledge, expertise on the international system and appreciation for the disruptive nature of technology made him the perfect advisor and editor during the critical early drafting stages. What we are most grateful for, however, is the friendship we built with such a wonderful and brilliant person throughout this process.

A special thanks to our first readers of the manuscript: Robert Zoellick, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Michiko Kakutani, Alec Ross and Ian Bremmer. Each of them took time out of his or her very busy schedule to give in-depth feedback and professional perspectives.

We had several research associates, without whom this book would not have been possible. Special thanks to Kate Krontiris, who helped ensure that our boldest claims were rooted in proper quantitative data. We also want to thank Andrew Lim, who was tireless in the research he did, which proved to be relevant to every chapter. Andrew’s ability to conduct thorough research almost overnight impressed both of us. We also want to thank Thalia Beaty, who joined us toward the end and was hugely helpful on some of the final research.

Personal interviews proved invaluable, and we want to thank in particular former secretary of state Henry Kissinger; President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia; Mexico’s former president Felipe Calderon; the Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal; Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army; Shaukat Aziz, former prime minister of Pakistan; WikiLeaks’ cofounder Julian Assange; Mongolia’s former prime minister Sukhbaatar Batbold; the Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helú; Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of Tunisia; the former DARPA administrator turned Googler Regina Dugan; Android’s senior vice-president Andy Rubin; Microsoft’s chief research officer, Craig Mundie; Vodafone’s CEO, Vittorio Colao; the Brookings senior fellow Peter Singer; former Mossad chief Meir Dagan; Taj Hotels’ CIO, Prakash Shukla; and the former Mexican secretary of the economy Bruno Ferrari.

We had a number of friends, colleagues and family who allowed us to impose on them at various stages of the writing process. We’d like to thank Pete Blaustein, a rising star in the field of economics, whose insights proved essential to several chapters of this book; Jeffrey McLean, who offered invaluable strategic insights into the future of combat and conflict; Trevor Thompson, who helped us better understand the future battlefield; and Nicolas Berggruen, who was one of our early motivators in the development of this book and who read some of our earliest drafts.

Knopf is an amazing publisher, and it is easy to see where its reputation comes from. Its leader, Sonny Mehta, encouraged us to be bold, think big and write something that would look forward. Jonathan Segal more than lived up to his reputation, helping us take the manuscript in directions that made it much stronger. His creativity and vision as an editor were critical to making the book possible. Our thanks to Paul Bogaards, Maria Massey and Erinn Hartman, consumate professionals all.

Our agent, Mel Parker, ensured that we found a publisher who shared our vision in tackling these difficult issues. We would also like to thank the many people at Google who offered their important insights at various stages in the writing process. Google’s cofounders Larry Page (also CEO) and Sergey Brin are a constant source of inspiration for both of us. Justin Kosslyn, a product manager at Google Ideas and a product visionary, helped us shape several of our future predictions. Justin is undoubtedly going to be someone to watch in the future. Lucas Dixon, an associate on the Google Ideas team and a brilliant engineer, helped us work through some of the more technical aspects of the book. We also benefited from conversations with many current and former Googlers: CJ Adams, Larry Alder, Nikesh Arora, Jieun Baek, Brendan Ballou, Andy Berndt, Eric Brewer, Shona Brown, Scott Carpenter, Christine Chen, DJ Collins, Yasmin Dolatabadi, Marc Ellenbogen, Eric Gross, Jill Hazelbaker, Shane Huntley, Minnie Ingersoll, Amy Lambert, Ann Lavin, Erez Levin, Damian Menscher, Misty Muscatel, David Pressoto, Scott Rubin, Nigel Snoad, Alfred Spector, Matthew Stepka, Astro Teller, Sebastian Thrun, Lorraine Twohill, Rachel Whetstone, Mike Wiacek, Susan Wojcicki and Emily Wodd.

There are a number of people at Google who helped orchestrate many of the logistics and trips that helped make this book possible: Jennifer Barths, Kimberly Birdsall, Gavin Bishop, Kimberly Cooper, Daniela Crocco, Dominique Cunningham, Danielle “Mr. D” Feher, Ann Hiatt, Dan Keyserling, Marty Lev, Pam Shore, Manuel Temez and Brian Thompson.

Our gratitude to all our friends and colleagues whose ideas and thoughts we’ve benefited from: Elliott Abrams, Ruzwana Bashir, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Chris Brose, Jordan Brown, James Bryer, Mike Cline, Steve Coll, Peter Diamandis, Larry Diamond, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, James Fallows, Summer Felix, Richard Fontaine, Dov Fox, Tom Freston, Malcolm Gladwell, James Glassman, Jack Goldsmith, David Gordon, Sheena Greitens, Craig Hatkoff, Michael Hayden, Chris Hughes, Walter Isaacson, Dean Kamen, David Kennedy, Erik Kerr, Parag Khanna, Joseph Konzelmann, Stephen Krasner, Ray Kurzweil, Eric Lander, Jason Liebman, Claudia Mendoza, Evgeny Morozov, Dambisa Moyo, Elon Musk, Meghan O’Sullivan, Farah Pandith, Barry Pavel, Steven Pinker, Joe Polish, Alex Pollen, Jason Rakowski, Lisa Randall, Condoleezza Rice, Jane Rosenthal, Nouriel Roubini, Kori Schake, Vance Serchuk, Michael Spence, Stephen Stedman, Dan Twining, Decker Walker, Matthew Waxman, Tim Wu, Jillian York, Juan Zarate, Jonathan Zittrain and Ethan Zuckerman.

We also want to thank the guys from Peak Performance, particularly Joe Dowdell and Jose and Emilio Gomez, for keeping us healthy during the final stages of writing.

And to our families: From Jared, a very special thank-you to Rebecca Cohen, who during our writing process went from being a long-distance girlfriend to a wife. Throughout, she has been an intellectual partner, and served as one of our most helpful advisors. Her expertise and knowledge of the legal system brought up a number of provocative questions that ended up becoming defining features of several chapters. Also a special thanks to Dee and Donald Cohen, Emily and Jeff Nestler, Annette and Paul Shapiro, Audrey Bear, and Aaron and Rachel Zubaty for being such a supportive family. There is also a special debt of gratitude owed to Alan Mirken, who is a veteran of the publishing industry and in addition to being a great uncle (pun intended), is always insightful in his advice and guidance.

From Eric, a lifetime of thank-yous to Wendy Schmidt, who brought a sense of humanity and purpose to a dry technology executive. She bridges the human and technological worlds flawlessly.

—E.S., J.C., January 2013



The Internet is among the few things

: This quote is adapted from part of Eric Schmidt’s speech at the April 1997

JavaOne Conference in San Francisco. The original quote is “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.” We have adapted the quote to our current view, which is that it is not the first thing, but instead “among the few,” with others including nuclear weapons, steam power, and electricity.

it is the first that will make it possible

: The printing press, the landline, the radio, the television, and the fax machine all represent technological revolutions, but all required intermediaries.

50 million

: See figures for year 2000 in “Estimated Internet Users (World) and Percentage Growth,” ITU World Telecommunication Indicators (2001), referred to by Claudia Sarrocco and Dr. Tim Kelly, ImprovingIPConnectivityintheLeastDevelopedCountries, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Strategy and Policy Unit, 9, accessed October 23, 2012,

more than 2 billion

: See figures for year 2010 in “Global Numbers of Individuals Using the Internet, Total and Per 100 Inhabitants, 2001–2011,” International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ICT Data and Statistics (IDS), accessed October 8, 2012,

from 750 million to well over 5 billion

: See sums for years 2000 and 2010 in “Mobile-Cellular Telephone Subscriptions,” International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ICT Data and Statistics (IDS), accessed October 8, 2012,

projected eight billion

: See total for both sexes’ population in “World Midyear Population by Age and Sex for 2025,” U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base, accessed October 8, 2012,

many old institutions … reallocate the concentration of power

: This concept was something we had discussed for a while, but it wasn’t until a conversation with our good friend

Alec Ross that we were able to capture it in this way. He deserves shared credit for this concept. See Alec Ross, “How Connective Tech Boosts Political Change,” CNN, June, 20, 2012,

banned the use of mobile phones

: “Better than Freedom? Why Iraqis Cherish Their Mobile Phones,” Economist, November 12, 2009,

unreliable access to food, water and electricity

: “Iraq: Key Facts and Figures,” BBC, September, 7, 2010,

garbage hadn’t been collected in years

: Zaineb Naji and Dawood Salman, “Baghdad’s Trash Piles Up,” Environmental News Service, July 6, 2010, 1  OUR FUTURE SELVES

five billion more people

: TheWorldin2011: ICT Facts and Figures, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), accessed October 10, 2012, The above source shows that as of 2011 35 percent of the world’s population is online. We factored in population increase projections to estimate five billion set to join the virtual world.

Consider the impact of basic mobile phones

: This fisherwomen thought experiment came out of a conversation with
Rebecca Cohen, and while we put it in the context of the

Congo, the example belongs to her.

650 million mobile-phone users in Africa

: “Africa’s Mobile Phone Industry ‘Booming,’ ” BBC, November 9, 2011,

close to 3 billion across Asia

: See mobile cellular subscriptions, Asia & Pacific, year 2011, in “Key ICT Indicators for the ITU/BDT Regions (Totals and Penetration Rates),” International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ICT Data and Statistics (IDS), updated November 16, 2011,

The majority of these people are using basic-feature phones

: Ibid. Compare mobile cellular subscriptions to active mobile broadband subscriptions for 2011.

life expectancy is less than sixty years, or even fifty

: “Country Comparison: Life Expectancy at Birth,” CIA, World Fact Book, accessed October 11, 2012,

This will even be true

: One of the authors spent the summer of 2001 in this remote village, without electricity, running water, or a single cell phone or landline. During a return trip in the fall of 2010, many of the

Maasai women had crafted beautiful beaded pouches to store their cell phones in.

China’s expansive “shanzhai” network

: Nicholas Schmidle, “Inside the Knockoff-Tennis-Shoe Factory,” NewYorkTimesMagazine, August 19, 2010, Global edition,

machines can actually “print” physical objects: “The Printed World

: Three-Dimensional Printing from Digital Designs Will Transform Manufacturing and Allow More People to Start Making Things,” Economist, February 10, 2011,

a full-sized replica motorcycle

: Patrick Collinson, “Hi-Tech Shares Take US for a Walk on the High Side,” Guardian (Manchester), March 16, 2012,

“social robots” that can recognize human gestures

: Sarah Constantin, “Gesture Recognition, Mind-Reading Machines, and Social Robotics,” H+ Magazine, February 8, 2011,

In 2012, a team at a robotics laboratory in Japan

: Helen Thomson, “Robot Avatar Body Controlled by Thought Alone,” NewScientist, July 2012, 19–20.

Consider the twenty-four-year-old Kenyan inventor Anthony Mutua

: “Shoe Technology to Charge Cell Phones,” DailyNation, May 2012,

placed the chip in the sole of a tennis shoe

: Ibid.

Mutua’s chip is now set to go into mass production

: Ibid.

Khan Academy

: In the spirit of full disclosure: Eric Schmidt is on the board of Khan Academy.

replacing lectures with videos watched at home

: Clive Thompson, “How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education,” WiredMagazine, August 2011, posted online July 15, 2011,

In 2012, the MIT Media Lab tested

: Nicholas Negroponte, “EmTech Preview: Another Way to Think About Learning,” TechnologyReview, September 13, 2012,

distributing preloaded tablets to primary-age kids

: David Talbot, “Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves,” TechnologyReview, October 29, 2012,

one of the lowest rates of literacy in the world

: “Field Listing: Literacy,” CIA, World Fact Book, accessed October 11, 2012,

in 2012, Nevada became the first state to issue licenses to driverless cars

: Chris Gaylord, “Ready for a Self-Driving Car? Check Your Driveway,” ChristianScienceMonitor, June 25, 2012,

California also affirmed their legality

: James Temple, “California Affirms Legality of Driverless Cars,” TheTechChronicles (blog), SanFranciscoChronicle, September 25, 2012,

; Florida has passed a similar law. See Joann Muller, “With Driverless Cars, Once Again It Is California Leading the Way,” Forbes, September 26, 2012,

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first electronic pill in 2012

: Erin Kim, “ ‘Digital Pill’ with Chip Inside Gets FDA Green Light,” CNNMoney, August 3, 2012,

; Peter Murray, “No More Skipping Your Medicine—FDA Approves First Digital Pill,” Forbes, August 9, 2012,

pill carries a tiny sensor one square millimeter in size

: Ibid.

stomach acid activates the circuit

: Daniel Cressey, “Say Hello to Intelligent Pills: Digital System Tracks Patients from the Inside Out,” Nature, January 17, 2012,; Randi Martin

, “FDA Approves ‘Intelligent’ Pill That Reports Back to Doctors,” WTOP, August 2, 2012,

The patch can collect information

: Cressey, “Say Hello to Intelligent Pills,” Nature, January 17, 2012, and Martin, “FDA Approves ‘Intelligent’ Pill,” WTOP, August 2, 2012.

track what a person eats

: Randi Martin, “FDA Approves ‘Intelligent’ Pill That Reports Back to Doctors,” WTOP, August 2, 2012.

Tissue engineers will be able to grow new organs

: Henry Fountain, “One Day, Growing Spare Parts Inside the Body,” NewYorkTimes, September 17, 2012,

; Henry Fountain, “A First: Organs Tailor-Made with Body’s Own Cells,” NewYorkTimes, September 15, 2012,

; Henry Fountain, “Synthetic Windpipe Is Used to Replace Cancerous One,” NewYorkTimes, January 12, 2012,

doctors and disease specialists will have more information

: Gina Kolata, “Infant DNA Tests Speed Diagnosis of Rare Diseases,” NewYorkTimes, October 3, 2012,

; Gina Kolata, “Genome Detectives Solve a Hospital’s Deadly Outbreak,” NewYorkTimes, August 22, 2012,

; Gina Kolata, “A New Treatment’s Tantalizing Promise Brings Heartbreaking Ups and Downs,” NewYorkTimes, July 8, 2012,

due to change as the burgeoning field of pharmacogenetics

: “One Size Does Not Fit All: The Promise of Pharmacogenomics,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, Science Primer, revised March 31, 2004,

the “mobile health” revolution

: “mHealth in the Developing World,” m+Health, accessed October 23, 2012,

Mobile phones are now used

: Lakshminarayanan Subramanian et al., “SmartTrack,” CATER (Cost-effective Appropriate Technologies for Emerging Region), New York University, accessed October 11, 2012,

tiny microchip that uses low-radiation

: Kevin Spak, “Coming Soon: X-Ray Phones,” Newser, April 20, 2012,

how could a dog eat his cloud storage drive?

: A NewYorker cartoon by Tom Cheney in 2012 expressed a similar idea. Its caption read “The Cloud Ate My Homework.” See “Cartoons from the Issue,” NewYorker, October 8, 2012, 2  THE FUTURE OF IDENTITY, CITIZENSHIP AND REPORTING

While many worry about the phenomenon of confirmation bias

: Eli Pariser describes this as a “filter bubble” in his book TheFilterBubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You (New York: Penguin Press, 2011).

a recent Ohio State University study

: R. Kelly Garrett and Paul Resnick, “Resisting Political Fragmentation on the Internet,” Daedalus 140, no. 4 (Fall 2011): 108–120, doi:10.1162/DAED_a_00118.

famously dissected how ethnically popular names
: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (New York: William Morrow, 2005); their study showed that the names were not the cause of a child’s success or failure, but a symptom of other indicators (particularly socioeconomic ones) that do influence a child’s chances. See Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, “A Roshanda by Any Other Name,” Slate, April 11, 2005,

Wall Street bankers hired

: Nick Bilton, “Erasing the Digital Past,” NewYorkTimes, April 1, 2011,

Assange shared his two basic arguments on this subject

: Julian Assange in discussion with the authors, June 2011.

lightning rod, as Assange called himself

: Atika Shubert, “WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange Dismisses Reports of Internal Strife,” CNN, October 22, 2010,

“Sources speak with their feet”

: Julian Assange in discussion with the authors, June 2011.

WikiLeaks lost its principal website URL

: James Cowie, “WikiLeaks: Moving Target,” Renesys (blog), December 7, 2010,

“mirror” sites

: Ravi Somaiya, “Pro-Wikileaks Activists Abandon Amazon Cyber Attack,” BBC, December 9, 2010,

Alexei Navalny, a Russian blogger

: Matthew Kaminski, “The Man Vladimir Putin Fears Most,” WallStreetJournal, March 3, 2012,

; “Russia Faces to Watch: Alexei Navalny,” BBC, June 12, 2012,

donate toward its operating costs via PayPal

: Tom Parfitt, “Alexei Navalny: Russia’s New Rebel Who Has Vladimir Putin in His Sights,” Guardian (Manchester), January 15, 2012,

set of leaked documents

: “Russia Checks Claims of $4bn Oil Pipeline Scam,” BBC, November 17, 2010,

the Party of Crooks and Thieves

: Tom Parfitt, “Russian Opposition Activist Alexei Navalny Fined for Suggesting United Russia Member Was Thief,” Telegraph (London), June 5, 2012,

; Stephen Ennis, “Profile: Russian Blogger Alexei Navalny,” BBC, August 7, 2012,

arrested, imprisoned, spied on and investigated for embezzlement

: Ellen Barry, “Rousing Russia with a Phrase,” NewYorkTimes, December 9, 2011, Robert Beckhusen, “Kremlin Wiretaps Dissident Blogger—Who Tweets the Bug,” DangerRoom (blog), Wired, August 8, 2012, “Navalny Charged with Embezzlement, Faces up to 10 Years,” RT (Moscow), last updated August 1, 2012,

his name recognition

: Parfitt, “Alexei Navalny: Russia’s New Rebel Who Has Vladimir Putin in His Sights,”

banned from appearing on state-run television

: Kaminski, “The Man Vladimir Putin Fears Most,”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

: “Mikhail Khodorkovsky,” NewYorkTimes, last updated August 8, 2012,

; Andrew E. Kramer, “Amid Political Prosecutions, Russian Court Issues Ruling Favorable to Oil Tycoon,” NewYorkTimes, August 1, 2012, At the time of the publication of this book, Khodorkovsky remained in prison. There was some speculation that President Vladimir Putin might commute the thirteen-year prison sentence.

Boris Berezovsky

: Svetlana Kalmykova, “Oligarch Berezovsky Faces New Charges,” VoiceofRussia (Moscow), May 29, 2012,

badly doctored photograph

: “Russian Blogger Navalny Unmasks ‘Kremlin’ Photo Smear,” BBC, January 10, 2012,

formally charging him with embezzlement

: Ellen Barry, “Russia Charges Anticorruption Activist in Plan to Steal Timber,” NewYorkTimes, July 31, 2012,

The charges, carrying a maximum sentence

: Ibid.

150,000 Sony customer records released by the hacker group LulzSec in 2011

: Mathew J. Schwartz, “Sony Hacked Again, 1 Million Passwords Exposed,” InformationWeek, June 3, 2011,

Assange told us he redacted only to reduce the international pressure

: Julian Assange in discussion with the authors, June 2011.

“zero tolerance” approach

: Charlie Savage, “Holder Directs U.S. Attorneys to Track Down Paths of Leaks,” NewYorkTimes, June 8, 2012,

unknowingly live-tweeted the covert raid

: Reed Stevenson, Reuters, “Sohaib Athar Captures Osama bin Laden Raid on Twitter,” HuffingtonPost, first posted May 2, 2011, last updated July 2, 2011,

Among the tweets

: Ibid.; Sohaib Athar,

Twitter post, May 1, 2011, 12:58 a.m., (Five of the tweets Sohaib Athar sent the night of the

bin Laden raid: 1) “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)” (his first tweet on the matter). 2) “Go away helicopter—before I take out my giant swatter :-/.” 3) “A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S.” 4) “@m0hcin the few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani …” 5) “Since taliban (probably) don’t have helicopters, and since they’re saying it was not ‘ours,’ so must be a complicated situation #abbottabad.” See Rik Myslewski, “Pakistani IT Admin Leaks bin Laden Raid on Twitter,” Register, May 2, 2011,

Connectivity is relatively low

: See low mobile penetration of countries at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index such as Eritrea and North Korea in “Mobile-Cellular Telephone Subscriptions Per 100 Inhabitants,” International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ICT Data and Statistics (IDS), accessed October 15, 2012,

, and “Press Freedom Index 2011/2012,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF), accessed October 15, 2012,,1043.html.

Warlords operating: “ICC/DRC

: Second Trial of Congolese Warlords,” Human Rights Watch, News, November 23, 2009,

; Marlise Simons, “International Criminal Court Issues First Sentence,” NewYorkTimes, July 10, 2012,

Presidential Records Act

: “Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978,” National Archives, Presidential Libraries, Laws and Regulations, accessed October 12, 2012,

; “Presidential Records,” National Archives, Basic Laws and Authorities, accessed October 12, 2012,

Hamza Kashgari posted an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Muhammad

: Mike Giglio, “Saudi Writer Hamza Kashgari Detained in Malaysia over Muhammad Tweets,” DailyBeast, February 10, 2012,

deleted them within six hours of posting

: Asma Alsharif and Amena Bakr, “Saudi Writer May Face Trial over Prophet Mohammad,” Reuters, February 13, 2012,

creation of a Facebook group

: Liz Gooch and J. David Goodman, “Malaysia Detains Saudi over Twitter Posts on Prophet,” NewYorkTimes, February 10, 2012,

Kashgari fled to Malaysia but was deported

: Ellen Knickmeyer, “Saudi Tweeter Is Arrested in Malaysia,” WallStreetJournal, February 10, 2012,

; Nadim Kawach, “Malaysia Deports Saudi over Twitter Posts,” Emirates24/7, February 11, 2012,

charges of blasphemy

: “Saudi Writer Kashgari Deported,” Freedom House, News and Updates, accessed October 12, 2012,

; “Saudi Arabia: Writer Faces Apostasy Trial,” Human Rights Watch (HRW), News, February 13, 2012,

a subsequent August 2012 apology

: Laura Bashraheel, “Hamza Kashgari’s Poem from Prison,” SaudiGazette (Jeddah), last updated Tuesday, August 21, 2012,

murder of a prominent actress by a stalker

: “The Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) and the Privacy of Your State Motor Vehicle Record,” Electronic Privacy Information Center, accessed October 13, 2012,

leak of the late Judge Robert Bork’s video-rental information

: “Existing Federal Privacy Laws,” Center for Democracy and Technology, accessed October 13, 2012,

Texas lawsuit

: “Harris v. Blockbuster,” Electronic Privacy Information Center, accessed October 13, 2012,

; Cathryn Elaine Harris, Mario Herrera, and Maryam Hosseiny v. Blockbuster, Inc., Settlement, District Court for the Northern District of Texas Dallas Division, Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-217-M,

Syrian opposition members and foreign aid workers

: Ben Brumfield, “Computer Spyware Is Newest Weapon in Syrian Conflict,” CNN, February 17, 2012,

Information technology (IT) specialists outside of Syria

: Ibid.

One aid worker had downloaded a file

: Ibid.

crash of a high-speed train in Wenzhou

: “China Train Crash: Signal Design Flaw Blamed,” BBC, July 28, 2011,

posts on weibos

: Michael Wines and Sharon LaFraniere, “In Baring Facts of Train Crash, Blogs Erode China Censorship,” NewYorkTimes, July 28, 2011,

result of a design flaw

: Sharon LaFraniere, “Design Flaws Cited in Deadly Train Crash in China,” NewYorkTimes, December 28, 2011,

; “China Bullet Train Crash ‘Caused by Design Flaws,’ ” BBC, December 28, 2011,

government sent directives to the media shortly after the crash

: David Bandurski, “History of High-Speed Propaganda Tells All,” ChinaMediaProject, July 25, 2011,

In Somalia, telecommunications companies

: Abdinasir Mohamed and Sarah Childress, “Telecom Firms Thrive in Somalia Despite War, Shattered Economy,” WallStreetJournal, May 11, 2010,

“trespass to chattels” tort has in some cases already been applied to cyberspace

: Eric J. Sinrod, “Perspective: A Cyberspace Update for Hoary Legal Doctrine,” CNET, April 4, 2007,

using a mix of mobile money platforms and the traditional “hawala” money-transfer system

: Andrew Quinn, “Cell Phones May Be New Tool vs. Somalia Famine,” Reuters, September 21, 2011, Africa edition,

forged new opportunities

: Sahra Abdi, “Mobile Transfers Save Money and Lives in Somalia,” Reuters, March 3, 2010,

mobile adoption has vastly outpaced computer use

: Compare mobile cellular subscriptions to Internet subscriptions in 2010 for countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Niger, etc., in “Mobile-Cellular Subscriptions” and “Fixed (Wired) Internet Subscriptions,” International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ICT Data and Statistics (IDS), accessed October 13, 2012,

many people treat their phones like stereo systems

: Michael Byrne, “Inside the Cell Phone File Sharing Networks of Western Africa (Q+A),” Motherboard, January 3, 2012,

promise even richer wearable experiences

: Dena Cassella, “What Is Augmented Reality (AR): Augmented Reality Defined, iPhone Augmented Reality Apps and Games and More,” DigitalTrends, November 3, 2009,

Project Glass

: Babak Parviz, Steve Lee, Sebastian Thrun, “Project Glass,” Google+, April 4, 2012,

; Nick Bilton, “Google Begins Testing Its Augmented-Reality Glasses,” Bits (blog), NewYorkTimes, April 4, 2012,

and similar devices from other companies are on the way

: Todd Wasserman, “Apple Patent Hints at Google Glass Competitor,” Mashable, July 5, 2012,

; Molly McHugh, “Google Glasses Are Just the Beginning: Why Wearable Computing Is the Future,” DigitalTrends, July 6, 2012,

introducing bills that would force communications services

: Declan McCullagh, “FBI: We Need Wiretap-Ready Web Sites—Now,” CNET, May 4, 2012,

; Charlie Savage, “As Online Communications Stymie Wiretaps, Lawmakers Debate Solutions,” NewYorkTimes, February 17, 2011,

Napster, was shut down

: Matt Richtel, “Technology; Judge Orders Napster to Police Trading,” NewYorkTimes, March 7, 2001,

; Matt Richtel, “With Napster Down, Its Audience Fans Out,” NewYorkTimes, July 20, 2001,

capable of blocking the transfer of 99.4 percent of copyrighted material

: Matt Richtel, “Napster Appeals an Order to Remain Closed Down,” NewYorkTimes, July 13, 2001,

; Lawrence Lessig, FreeCulture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity

(New York: Penguin Press, 2004), 73–74,

Bluetooth-enabled phones to call and text complete strangers within range

: “Beware: Dangers of Bluetooth in Saudi …,” Emirates24/7, December 1, 2010,

; Associated Press (AP), “In Saudi Arabia, a High-Tech Way to Flirt,” MSNBC, August 11, 2005,

Etisalat sent nearly 150,000 of its BlackBerry users

: Margaret Coker and Stuart Weinberg, “RIM Warns Update Has Spyware,” WallStreetJournal, July 23, 2009,

; John Timmer, “UAE Cellular Carrier Rolls Out Spyware as a 3G ‘Update,’ ” ArsTechnica, July 23, 2009,

required update for “service enhancements”

: “UAE Spyware Blackberry Update,” DigitalTrends, July 22, 2009,

RIM, distanced itself

: George Bevir, “Etisalat Accused in Surveillance Patch Fiasco,” ArabianBusiness, July 21, 2009,

; see also, Adam Schreck, Associated Press (AP), “United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia to Block BlackBerry over Security Fears,” HuffingtonPost, August 1, 2010,

the U.A.E. and its neighbor Saudi Arabia both called for bans

: Margaret Coker, Tim Falconer, Phred Dvorak, “U.A.E. Puts the Squeeze on BlackBerry,” WallStreetJournal, August 2, 2010,

; Kayla Webley, “UAE, Saudi Arabia Ban the Blackberry,” Time, August 5, 2010,,28804,2008434_2008436_2008440,00.html

; “Saudi Arabia Begins Blackberry Ban, Users Say,” BBC, August 6, 2010,

India chimed in

: Bappa Majumdar and Devidutta Tripathy, “Setback for BlackBerry in India; Saudi Deal Seen,” Reuters, August 11, 2010, India edition,

resulted in five deaths

: Laura Davis, “The Debate: Could the Behaviour Seen at the Riots Ever Be Justified?,” Notebook (blog), Independent (London), August 8, 2012,

estimated £300 million ($475 million) in property damage

: John Benyon, “England’s Urban Disorder: The 2011 Riots,” PoliticalInsight, March 28, 2012,

; “A Little Bit of History Repeating,” InsideHousing, July 27, 2012,

called on BlackBerry to suspend its messaging service

: Sky News Newsdesk, Twitter post, August 9, 2011, 5:32 a.m.,

; Bill Ray, “Tottenham MP Calls for BlackBerry Messenging Suspension,” Register, August 9, 2011,

“when we know [people] are plotting violence”

: “PM Statement on Disorder in England,” Number 10 (official website of the British Prime Minister’s Office), August 11, 2011,

“give the police the technology”

: Rich Trenholm, “Cameron Considers Blocking Twitter, Facebook, BBM after Riots,” CNET, August 11, 2011,

; Olivia Solon, “Cameron Suggests Blocking Potential Criminals from Social Media,” WiredUK, August 11, 2011,

industry cooperation with law enforcement was sufficient

: “Social Media Talks About Rioting ‘Constructive,’ ” BBC, August 25, 2011,

: Bitcoin is the most successful experiment in digital currency today; it uses a mix of peer-to-peer networking and cryptographic signatures to process online payments. The value of the currency has fluctuated wildly since its inception; the first publicly traded Bitcoins went for 3 cents, and a little more than a year later they were valued at $29.57 apiece. Bitcoins are held in digital “wallets,” and are used to pay for a wide range of virtual and physical goods. At the illicit online market called the Silk Road, where people can use encrypted channels to buy illegal drugs, Bitcoins are the sole currency and generate approximately $22 million in annual sales, according to a recent study. See Andy Greenberg, “Black Market Drug Site ‘Silk Road’ Booming: $22 Million in Annual Sales,” Forbes, August 6, 2012,

; Nicolas Christin, “Traveling the Silk Road: A Measurement Analysis of a Large Anonymous Online Marketplace” (working paper, INI/CyLab, Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, PA, August 1, 2012),

“there is no clear mechanism”

: Bruno Ferrari in discussion with the authors, November 2011.

not democratic or democratic in name only

: Arch Puddington, FreedomintheWorld2012: The Arab Uprisings and Their Global Repercussions, Freedom House, accessed October 15, 2012,

among the least connected societies in the world

: See low percentages of mobile phone and/or Internet users of countries considered to be among the world’s most repressive societies, such as Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea and North Korea, in WorstoftheWorst2012: The World’s Most Repressive

Societies, Freedom House, accessed October 15 2012,

, “Mobile-Cellular Telephone Subscriptions Per 100 Inhabitants” and “Percentage of Individuals Using the Internet,” International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ICT Data and Statistics (IDS), accessed October 15, 2012,

“Today’s dictators and authoritarians are far more sophisticated”

: William J. Dobson, TheDictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy (New York: Doubleday, 2012), 4.

Dobson identifies numerous avenues

: Ibid.

“conscious, man-made projects”

: Ibid., 8.

the world’s autocracies will go

: See low Internet penetration rates of countries considered to be among the world’s most repressive societies, such as Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea and North Korea, in WorstoftheWorst2012: The World’s Most Repressive Societies, Freedom House, accessed October 15, 2012,

, and “Percentage of Individuals Using the Internet,” International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ICT Data and Statistics (IDS), accessed October 15, 2012,

A team at Carnegie Mellon demonstrated in a 2011 study

: Alessandro Acquisti, Ralph Gross, Fred Stutzman, “Faces of Facebook: Privacy in the Age of Augmented Reality,” Heinz College and CyLab, Carnegie Mellon University (presented at the 2011 Black Hat security conference, Las Vegas, NV, August 3–4, 2011),; Declan McCullagh, “Face-Matching with Facebook Profiles: How It Was Done,” CNET, August 4, 2011,

Constituted in 2009

: “UIDAI Background,” Unique Identification Authority of India, accessed October 13, 2012,

collectively called Aadhaar (meaning “foundation” or “support”)

: “Aadhaar Concept,” Unique Identification Authority of India, accessed October 13, 2012,

unique twelve-digit identity

: “What Is Aadhaar?,” Unique Identification Authority of India, accessed October 13, 2012,

a person’s biometric data, including fingerprints and iris scans

: Sunil Dabir and Umesh Ujgare, “Aadhaar: The Numbers for Life,” NewsonAir (New Delhi), accessed October 13, 2012,

bank account that is tied to his or her UID number

: Surabhi Agarwal and Remya Nair, “UID-Enabled Bank Accounts in 2–3 Months,” MintwiththeWallStreetJournal (New Delhi), May 17, 2011,

; “Reform by Numbers,” Economist, January 14, 2012,

less than 3 percent of the Indian population is registered to pay income tax

: “Salaried Taxpayers May Be Spared Filing Returns,” BusinessStandard (New Delhi), January 19, 2011,

Identity Cards Act of 2006

: “Identity Cards Act 2006,” The National Archives (United Kingdom), Browse Legislation, accessed October 15, 2012,

Britain’s newly elected coalition government scrapped the plan in 2010

: Alan Travis, “ID Cards Scheme to Be Scrapped Within 100 Days,” Guardian (Manchester), May 27, 2010,

; “Identity Cards Scheme Will Be Axed ‘Within 100 Days,’ ” BBC, May 27, 2010,

States must get the full and informed consent

: “Opinion 15/2011 on the Definition of Consent,” Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, European Commission, adopted July 13, 2011,

Member states are further required

: “EU Directive 95/46/EC—The Data Protection Directive: Chapter III Judicial Remedies, Liability and Sanctions,” Data Protection Commissioner,

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