According to The Guardian, a mobile phone app originally built to help authorities in Pakistan hunt down disease-spreading mosquitoes was to be used extensively during Saturday's general election to deter cheating at the polls.
The hi-tech solution will largely be restricted to Punjab, the country's most populous province, where more than half of the national assembly seats are up for grabs.
More than 15,000 smartphone wielding election observers will be able to send instant reports and photographs of any irregularities they encounter to a hi-tech control room.
Pakistanis have voted in landmark election set to mark the first transfer of power between two elected civilian governments in its history. (BBC)
The Punjab Government has decided to set up helpdesks on the election day at a distance of 400 meters from the polling stations where arrangements will be made for safekeeping of mobile phones of voters. The Election Commission of Pakistan has imposed a ban on carrying of mobile phones into the polling stations and the decision to set up helpdesks has been taken to ensure its implementation.
It was supposed to be the most modern election in African history. Biometric identification kits with electronic thumb pads, registration rolls on laptops at every polling station, and an SMS-relayed, real-time transmission of the results to the National Tallying Center in Nairobi. npr reports.
Ambitious? Of course. Only 23 percent of the country has access to electricity.
... Among Kenya's wired middle class, the going wisdom was that politics was stuck in the past — hopelessly mired in tribalism and corruption — but that technology would breathe fairness and transparency into the process.
And then came Election Day and the triumph of Murphy's Law.
-- First the laptops ran out of battery power. Organizers had failed to consider that African school buildings, where many of the polling stations were situated, don't have electric outlets.
-- Then the biometric identification kits started to crash. Poll workers didn't have the PIN numbers and passwords they needed to restart the software. Paper ballots were rolled out and voter lines slowed to a crawl, forcing some voters to wait seven to nine hours in the hot sun to cast their ballots.
Voting concluded on Monday, but the tech hiccups did not. A bizarre computer bug multiplied the number of disqualified ballots by a factor of eight, leaving Kenyans livid and demoralized for several days in the belief that more than a quarter-million votes had been summarily tossed out in the incredibly tight race. The SMS-relay system overloaded, too, forcing election officials to airlift poll workers to Nairobi by helicopter to hand deliver the results.
The breakdown of the system delayed the announcement of a winner, creating more anxiety with each passing day in a country that experienced massive post-election violence in 2007.
Kenyans turned out in record numbers this week to vote for their fourth president. Voting was a largely peaceful affair, despite people lining up in the blazing heat for up to nine hours to cast their votes. Security was ratcheted up, with the government deploying nearly 100,000 police officers at polling stations and armed paramilitaries to certain locations. [via Quartz]
With nearly 14.4 million of 44 million Kenyans registered to vote, turnout was estimated to be at over 70%. Along with a host of civic education messages, nonprofit Sisi Ni Amani sent out SMSes across the country over the last two days, to encourage peace and calm, and thank people for their patience.
-- Let us not be left behind. Let us take pride in our right to vote and to vote peacefully. Peace is you and me.
-- We the people of Mathare, we stand together proud of maintaining peace and patience as we participate in this historic election. Tuendelee kudumisha amani Mathare!
Anti-regime activists who tried to plan a public protest over the water supply in the Yazd province had been arrested, the Yazd governor Mohammad Reza Falahzadeh has told state-run television. ncr-Iran reports.
Falahzadeh said on Saturday evening that in recent days activists had been caught sending SMS messages in a bid to organise a demonstration, but these 'provokers' had now been arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
Foreigners visiting North Korea can now take their own mobile phones into the country, Chinese state media Xinhua has reported via News.com.au.
Highly secretive North Korea has a domestic Intranet service with a limited number of users. Analysts say access to the Internet is for the country's super-elite only, meaning a few hundred people or maybe 1000 at most.
... Foreigners need to fill out a form to provide their phone's IMEI - International Mobile Station Equipment Identity - number with North Korea's customs agency to bring in their personal device.
Previously, foreigners were required to leave their phones with customs and pick them up when leaving the country, the report said.
The technician also told Xinhua that foreigners using a phone based on the WCDMA 3G mobile standard can buy a SIM card in North Korea from Koryolink for 50 euros ($A63) and make international calls.
Denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements. Al Arabiya News reports.
Since last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.
“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Women are not allowed to leave the kingdom without permission from their male guardian, who must give his consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or border.
Why can't American vote by mobile phone? Bits finds out what's holding the government back.
... That’s because, security experts say, letting people vote through their phones or computers could have disastrous consequences.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Barbara Simons, a former I.B.M. researcher and co-author of the book “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?”
Ms. Simons then ran through a list of calamitous events that could occur if we voted by Internet. Viruses could be used to take over voters’ phones; rogue countries like Iran could commandeer computers and change results without our knowledge; government insiders could write software that decides who wins; denial-of-service attacks could take down the Internet on Election Day.
“It’s a national security issue,” Ms. Simons said. “We really don’t want our enemies to be able to determine our government for us — or even our friends for that matter.”
The ability for supporters to donate via cell phones is having a significant impact on the campaign finances of both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama during the final months of the Presidential race. Forbes reports.
Democratic donors are much more likely to donate in this manner than Republicans. The study found 15 percent of Democratic donors made donations with their mobile device compared to 6 percent of Republicans.
In a move is intended to prevent parties from sending out hate messages during next year's elections, Kenya's political parties have been banned from sending any bulk text messages to voters without the approval of state regulators, reports the BBC.
More than 1,000 people were killed in ethnic violence that hit Kenya after the 2007 disputed elections.
Some analysts say hate-filled text messages helped fuel the conflict.
Registered voters are increasingly using their cellphones for political information and activities, according to a Pew Center study released Tuesday, report The Hill.
The study found that 27 percent of registered voters who own a cellphone have used it during the 2012 campaign to keep up with political news.
Among voters who use text messaging, 19 percent said they have sent messages about the campaign. Five percent said they have signed up to receive text messages from a candidate or political group, and 5 percent said they have received political messages they did not want.
Syrian authorities on Thursday sent text messages over cell phones nationwide with a message for rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's regime: "Game over." CBS News reports.
The messages signed by the Syrian Arab Army also urged the rebels to surrender their weapons and warned the countdown to evict foreign fighters has begun. The texts appear to be part of the regime's psychological battle against the rebels, but are highly unlikely to have any effect on fighters intent on toppling Assad.
People with cellular subscriptions received the messages while those with prepaid phones did not, residents in the Syrian capital said.
Although the FCC has clearly stated that unsolicited automated text messages are against the law, some political advertising firms have found a way around the ban. The Los Angeles Times reports.
...Instead of sending text messages the traditional way -- from one phone number to another -- these firms send emails to people's cellphones, which produce messages that appear much like text messages.
The messages may originate as emails, but the phone companies consider them incoming text messages, which can come with a charge if the cellphone owner does not subscribe to a text messaging plan.
Iran's currency plunged nearly eight percent to a new record low against the dollar on Monday, but the dramatic drop was being suppressed within the country on mobile phone text services and some exchange websites. Middle East Online reports.
Text messages that included the word "dollar" in English or in Farsi were censored, with the message not being received, AFP noted. The Farsi word for "foreign money" was also blocked.
But text messages containing the words "USD", "euro" or the $ symbol were all transmitted and received normally.
Such text blocks on the word "dollar" were implemented before in Iran, on January 10, when the rial also dived precipitously. The country's two main mobile phone service providers, MCI and Irancell, claimed at the time they were not filtering messages.
Marking the beginning of what could be a revolution in U.S. campaign finance, the Obama campaign said on Thursday it is wrapping up agreements with Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp, U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile USA to open the floodgate for donations by text this week.
In the coming days, voters are likely to start seeing a message on video screens at Obama rallies, at the end of ads or on fliers, encouraging them "to contribute $10 to Obama for America, text GIVE to 62262."
The campaign of Republican Mitt Romney, Obama's rival in the November 6 election, has supported the notion of text donations in the past. It is expected to follow suit for its own short code of 466488, although has not made any announcements yet.
A plea to text “donate” to 62262 (that’s O-B-A-M-A) may be coming to a political ad near you. The Washington Post reports.
The Federal Election Commission announced Wednesday that it has approved legal guidance that will allow small political donations to be added to cellphone bills when a campaign supporter sends a specific text message.
The agency unanimously approved two opinions spelling out technical details of how the proposals from Republican and Democratic firms would comply with the complex requirements of campaign finance law. It was an unusually swift move from an agency that’s known for foot dragging and partisan gridlock.
According to Reuters, wireless carriers are balking at U.S. regulators' move to allow political donations by text message, a plan that could reshape the nation's campaign finance system by giving cell-phone users the ability to make instant contributions.
The carriers - who account for about 90 percent of the more than 330 million wireless subscriptions in the United States - are worried about an array of liability and regulatory issues they could face in handling contributions to presidential and congressional candidates.
The carriers are asking the FEC for more guidance on how they should implement a donations-by-text program, according to four industry sources.
One sticking point is that the carriers want to make sure they will not be held liable for determining donors' eligibility to contribute to a campaign, industry sources said.
That means ruling out that a donor is a corporation, foreign citizen or underaged American who is not allowed to contribute, or whether the donor has met various limits for donations to a campaign.
About a decade ago, the Internet revolutionized political fundraising. Could text messages be poised to repeat the feat? The Atlantic reports.
The FEC's decision last week to allow fundraising solicitations via text message is a critical money-raising permutation for candidate scrambling for cash.
... Text-message solicitations have the potential to not only tap into a deep pool of small donors, political consultant from both parties say, but also cultivate a community of supporters who otherwise wouldn't be involved in the race.
"It's a sea change in campaign finance; at least it could be," said Mark Armour, a Democratic strategist whose political-consulting firm proposed the change to the FEC. "The challenge is to operationalize it."
Raising money with text messages isn't a new phenomenon outside of politics: After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, donors contributed tens of millions of dollars using the phone service. Everyday consumers use the technology to buy services on their smartphones: It amounts to about $2 billion in transactions annually, according to Alan Sege, vice president of m-Qube, a company that serves as a messaging and billing gateway for phone carriers.
In a related article, Bloomberg specifies that the final FEC ruling would limit the total amount of any text-message contributions to $50 per phone number in a monthly billing cycle.
Rock the Vote, the nonprofit group focused on engaging young voters, is kicking off a joint effort with PromoJam, a Los Angeles-based social media promotions startup, with the goal of registering 1.5 million new voters for this fall’s presidential race - and challenging restrictions on voter registration. ReadWriteWeb.
The mobile-focused campaign, which starts today, will enable anyone with a smartphone to fill out an entire voter registration form directly from their device. At the same time, that new voter can email themselves a copy of their registration, then print it out, sign it and send it to their local elections office.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the FEC gave the go-ahead Monday evening to using text messages to donate money to federal candidates and committees, a move advocates hope will boost the participation of small contributors and counterbalance the influx of massive donations.
In a rare instance of bipartisan agreement, the six-member panel unanimously approved a proposal by two political consulting companies – one Republican and one Democratic – to work with a third-party aggregator to collect donations by text. The decision means that campaigns can begin accepting donations via text messages on cellphones, a potentially lucrative new avenue.
According to The Wall Street Journal, federal campaign-finance officials are close to approving a plan to allow political donations via text message.
Several Federal Election Commission commissioners signaled their interest in approving a plan from two political consulting firms to allow campaigns to accept donations via text message at a meeting Thursday.
The FEC rejected a similar wireless industry proposal to allow text message donations two years ago but say the new plan appears to satisfy federal campaign-finance rules.
A vote on the plan could happen as soon as Friday.
In the late 1970s, the cutting edge of communications technologies was the autodialer, a machine capable of calling up scores of people in one shot, with little human involvement. It was innovative, and annoying. By the early ’90s, Congress had had enough. “Computerized calls,” railed South Carolina Democrat Fritz Hollings from the Senate floor, “are the scourge of modern civilization.” Reuters reports.
And so, Congress legislated. But the focus was on commercial calls. Mindful of the free flow of speech and – let’s be honest – interested in self-preservation, lawmakers exempted political calls from its Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act. But Congress decided that some phones were too sensitive to get even autodialed political calls: those in hospitals, those designated for emergency purposes – and those in our pockets.
But here we are, some two decades later, and voters across the country are getting political text messages they never asked for.
... These text messages aren’t actually, technically text messages as we normally think of them. They’re more like emails that show up as texts. And that introduces a loophole through which these texts are arriving.
There’s an another way to deliver text to a phone that most of us don’t use: sending an email to an address made up of a cell phone number and what’s called an SMS gateway, like @txt.att.net. To the person getting the message, it looks much like a text. To the person sending it, though, it feels like an email. And if it’s the latter, the rules are different.
A Thai man in his 60s who became known as “Uncle SMS” after he was convicted of defaming Thailand’s royal family in mobile phone text messages has died while serving his 20-year prison term, his lawyer said Tuesday. The Independent reports.
The case of Amphon Tangnoppakul, a grandfather who had suffered from mouth cancer, drew attention to Thailand’s severe lese majeste laws last November when he received one of the heaviest-ever sentences for someone accused of insulting the monarchy.
Amphon’s cause of death was not immediately known, but he had complained of stomach pains on Friday and was transferred to a correctional department hospital, his lawyer Anon Numpa said.
Amphon was arrested in August 2010 and accused of sending four text messages to a government official that were deemed offensive to the queen. He denied sending them, however, and said he didn’t even know how to use the SMS function on his telephone to send texts.
He wept during his court proceedings, saying, “I love the King.”
The sentence was believed to be the heaviest ever received in a lese majeste case because of additional penalties issued under a related law, the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.
According to an article in The Hill, two political consulting groups and an “aggregator” have asked the FEC to approve anonymous political contributions through text messages.
Law firm Arent Fox submitted an advisory opinion request on the text donations to the FEC for clients Red Blue and ArmourMedia. The “merchant billing aggregator” m-Qube, which would be “party to these transactions,” was also included on the request.
The Democratic and Republican firms said their clients want to “engag[e] in, and advertis[e] for, the solicitation of political contributions by text messaging,” according to the documents.
A set of images from the Tumblr Texts From Hillary that depicts Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, posted on April 6, 2012.
The above image was actually taken by Diana Walker on assignment for TIME back in October 2011.
The original photo that started the meme was taken on October 18, 2011 by Diana Walker at the start of a week long trip through the middle east. In the photo Hillary Clinton checks her PDA, in her sunglasses, upon departure in a military plane from Malta, bound for Tripoli.
Text messaging is posing both new opportunities and dangers for America's political campaigns. Business Week reports.
The most widely used form of mobile communication, it has become one of the most effective ways for campaigns to reach supporters, using 160-character messages to encourage last-minute donations or provide information such as where to vote. And strict federal rules prohibit such texts from going to anyone who does not "opt in" to receive them.
But some groups have found their way around that requirement, using email -- rather than the SMS "short code" that telemarketers normally use -- to send unsolicited, anonymous and often negative messages to cellphone lists they purchase through brokers.
That texting practice has angered voters, who are forced to pay if they don't have flat-rate messaging plans. And it's alarmed campaign strategists, who fear political texting will be weakened by the introduction of what amounts to spam texting.
"They've taken a tool and technology we used to help people get voter information and turned it into a very sophisticated way to do voter suppression tactics and annoy people with false and misleading information," said Scott Goodstein of Revolution Messaging, a Democratic-leaning mobile communications firm. "Worse yet, people are being charged to receive these messages."
The Obama campaign fundraising machine has debuted a new text message tool with encouraging results for the President’s bean counters. TIME reports.
On Wednesday, the Obama campaign sent out an SMS message to cell phones and smart phones of tens of thousands of previous donors asking them to give more money. “Support Pres Obama in less than a minute,” the message read, “using our new secure system: just reply with the amount you want to give and we’ll charge your saved credit card.”
There is nothing new about asking for money via text message, but the technology behind collecting the money was a first for a presidential campaign. All potential donors had to do to give more money was to type a number into their phone. Write “25,” or “10″ and that amount of dollars was immediately drawn from their credit cards into the campaign’s coffers.
... A person familiar with Wednesday’s ask said that the response rate was more than 20 times greater than any text message solicitation Obama has sent out before. And the reason is simple: Even with an iPhone, it remains an arduous hassle to enter all the information that is typically required to buy anything online with a credit card.