Building upon previous lessons, the geospatial intelligence questions become:
- Where might the Arab Spring events be replicated?
- Is a sub-Saharan spring a possibility?
- Is there a way to predict where and/or when?
By looking at the timing of the adoption of certain technologies in the Mahgreb, a pattern emerges. Before 2008-2009, there were several pieces in place and certain trends occurring. Just prior to 2009, all the critical enabling technologies were in place and were force multipliers.
The first technology is GPS. The technology is free to anyone with a receiver, and it is one piece that helped transform the Mahgreb. The second piece piece of ICT infrastructure is the sheer amount of bandwidth available due to the dramatic increase in undersea fiber optic cables. The third piece of technology becoming more available to Africans continent wide is mobile phone use. At the beginning of 2000, the penetration rate as measured by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was very low but increased exponentially in North Africa in particular over the period 2000-2011. As seen in Figure 32 below, in the period when there was steady adoption of mobile phone technology in the US, the rate of adoption in the North African/Middle Eastern market was much faster in a shorter period of time. The ability of the ordinary person on the street to self-organize has been touted as an example of the possibilities of change enabled by the increases in ICT infrastructure put in place.
The second technology is based on subsea cables. Another piece of ICT infrastructure that became available to North Africa in abundance after 2009 was the Internet. The sheer amount of bandwidth available due to a dramatic increase in subsea fiber optic cables being installed was another factor as seen in the Figure below. As these cables have come online, more and more the transactions costs have come down. Infrastructure increases in Africa have led to increases in information flow, and associated increases in relational aspects between distant points. What could formerly be characterized as “Terra Incognita” is changing with increases in infrastructure. Would the “Arab Spring” have been possible in 2009? The lack of infrastructure makes it doubtful. At the time of this graphic, Africa’s total bandwidth increased from 6 terabytes/second (tbps) to more than 34tbps, and more cables have been laid down and are still in planning stages. Currently, there are over half a billion Africans connected to the global system through cell phones and the Internet, and this number will increase. The geopolitical potential for change is being established.
Figure 30: Low-cost, abundant, easily distributed information lowers transaction costs, which affects the nature of institutions and organizations. Connectivity has increased exponentially since 2000.
The third piece of technology becoming more available to Africans continent wide is mobile phone use. At the beginning of the 2000, the penetration rate as measured by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), was very low but increased exponentially in North Africa in particular over the period 2000-2011. As seen in the graph below, in the period when there was steady adoption of mobile phone technology in the US, the rate of adoption in the North African/Middle Eastern market was much faster in a shorter period of time. The ability of the ordinary man on the street to self organize has been touted as an example of the possibilities of change enabled by the increases in ICT infrastructure put in place.
Figure 31. Mobile-Cellular Subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. The growth of mobile phone technology in the period from 2000-2017 in countries where the “Arab Spring” took place. The US, UK, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria are included as a reference for comparison.Original analysis results by M. Thomas.
The fourth piece of technology in the process of being fielded is a satellite constellation called "OB3," or "Other 3 Billion" referring to the other 3 billion currently not connected to the Internet. On Jun 27, 2013, the first 4 satellites were launched into Middle Earth Orbit at an altitude of approximately 8000 km, eight more in 2014 (four satellites on 10 July 2014 and four on 18 December 2014), and four more on 9 March 2018. The constellation will grow to twenty satellites in 2019. The current plan is for a full set of 16 satellites providing satellite based Internet connectivity for the zone between N45-S45 degrees. At such a low orbit, the lag time is less, the cost is less, and the connectivity is ubiquitous due to the number of satellites in orbit. The launch was reported at Extreme Tech and a full description of the capabilities is available at the company homepage at O3B Networks. In Sept2017, SES announced the next generation of O3b satellites and placed an order for an initial seven from Boeing Satellite Systems using a new satellite platform based on Boeing’s 702 line of scalable buses. Expected to launch in 2021, the O3b mPower constellation of MEO satellites for broadband internet services will "be able to deliver anywhere from hundreds of megabits to 10 gigabits to any ship at sea" through 30,000 spot beams.
FIgure 32. O3b satellite constellation showing visibility of ring of MEO satellites around the equator. Rendered using the SaVi Satellite constellation Visualization package by Lloyd Wood, author of SaVi.
The fifth piece of technology is centered around content. Content from "traditional" sources has been supplemented with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. All played a part in execution of the Arab Spring and will be discussed later. Measuring their impacts will be as well. Tools to acurately detect and measure content abound. The focus of one such tool - NodeXL Pro - will be what we use for the remainder of the class.
Various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) supply data that offers additional insight. These include:
- The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices to rank countries into four tiers of human development. It was created by economist Mahbub ul Haq, followed by economist Amartya Sen in 1990, and published by the United Nations Development Program.
- First launched in 1995, the Corruption Perceptions Index has been widely credited with putting the issue of corruption on the international policy agenda. Each year countries are scored on how corrupt their public sectors are seen to be. The Corruption Perceptions Index sends a powerful message and governments have been forced to take notice and act.
- The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders based upon the organization's assessment of the countries' press freedom records in the previous year. It reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations, and netizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom. Reporters Without Borders is careful to note that the index only deals with press freedom and does not measure the quality of journalism nor does it look at human rights violations in general.
|Country||Cell Phone Rate/100||Human Development Index (HDI)a||TI Corruption Index||Reporters without Borders Freedom Index 2010|
The question becomes one of whether an association can be drawn between the various measures and the existence of the ICT infrastructure increases that have taken place in the last decade. Using correlation analysis (available in Excel), offers a surprising insight as shown in Figure 33. What stands out is the high degree of correlation between the cell phone penetration rate in a country and two of the three other measures: the HDI at 0.98, the Freedom Index at 0.48, and the corruption index at -0.69, all with alpha at 0.05. Corruption in the police force in Tunisia is widely regarded as being the spark that set off the Arab Spring. The high correlation between the cell phone rate and the three NGO indices may act as a significant predictor of geopolitical change.
|-||Cell Phone Rate/100||Human Development Index (HDI)a||TI Corruption Index||Reporters without Borders Freedom Index 2010|
|Cell Phone Rate/100||1.00|
|Human Development Index (HDA)a||0.98||1.00|
|TI Corruption Index||-0.69||-0.53||1.00|
|Reporters without Borders Freedom Index 2010||0.48||0.65||0.30||1.00|
The premise is that ICT infrastructure increases offer intelligence insights. The details of the Undersea cable architecture are worth reviewing. From the website http://www.submarinecablemap.com/#, the geography of all individual cables can be viewed. Using Libya as an example, two interesting features can be noted:
- The undersea cables had multiple points of entry into the country all along the Mediterranean coast.
- The cables linked into points north – into Europe.
What is prominent, is that all of the countries in North Africa exhibit the same feature. Outward connections are mainly with Europe, not with neighboring countries in the region. There are few direct connections between north-African countries. Sub-Saharan Africa tells a different story for terrestrial connectivity.
This model may be extendable throughout Africa. Many parts of the continent have either a recent violent past or are still in the midst of conflict. ICT technology increases tend to occur more prominently in areas near the coast—driven in part by the availability of connectivity outside of Africa. This is not a new trend, as intra-African trade and contact has always been dwarfed by external trade. It should not be surprising that this also extends to the information domain. It is based upon the geography of Africa - few large navigable rivers, along with the bulk of the interior in sub-Saharan Africa being a plateau. Smart phone use throughout sub-Saharan Africa has been projected by some analysts to increase almost 40%/year through 2017.
Listen to the Experts (Optional Talk)
Tech communities are booming all over Africa, says Nairobi-based Juliana Rotich, cofounder of the open-source software Ushahidi. But it remains challenging to get and stay connected in a region with frequent blackouts and spotty Internet hookups. So Rotich and friends developed BRCK, offering resilient connectivity for the developing world (9:33).