The impact of communication technologies in the Arab Revolution has encouraged the Obama administration to heavily invest in developing communication technologies that will enhance the ability of the US to influence public opinion in repressive nations around the world. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:
We see more and more people around the globe using the Internet, mobile phones and other technologies to make their voices heard as they protest against injustice and seek to realize their aspirations…There is a historic opportunity to effect positive change, change America supports…So we’re focused on helping them do that, on helping them talk to each other, to their communities, to their governments and to the world.
The US strategy seeks to create communication pathways beyond the control of governments who are able to shut down their own internet and mobile services infrastructure. The strategy involves creating independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, the creation of stealth wireless networks, an independent cellphone network in Afghanistan, and the striking development of new hardware called “Internet in a suitcase”. Sascha Meinrath who is leading the “Internet in a suitcase project” and is a director of the Open Technology Initiative at the New America Foundation said:
We’re going to build a separate infrastructure where the technology is nearly impossible to shut down, to control, to surveil…The implication is that this disempowers central authorities from infringing on people’s fundamental human right to communicate.
The initiative brings together an eclectic group of people:
It has brought together an improbable alliance of diplomats and military engineers, young programmers and dissidents from at least a dozen countries, many of whom variously describe the new approach as more audacious and clever and, yes, cooler.
The US has invested $2 million into the “Internet in a suitcase” project and it is expected that the US will have spent around $70 million by the end of 2011 in developing ‘liberation’ technologies.