In December 2010 uprisings in Tunisia, which lead to the ousting of long standing President Ben Ali, sparked a wave of revolt across the MENA region, including protests in Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman,Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Egypt.  These protests have come to be known as the ‘Arab Spring’.  Along with Tunisia, Egypt also experienced a complete revolution when President Mubarak abdicated after nearly 30 years in power. Libya spent 8 months mired in civil war.

At the height of the Egyptian uprisings the government took the drastic step of stifling internet access, in an attempt to curb national resistance, by shutting down its servers. Gaddaffi followed suit, and from the 3rd March 2011 until the 22nd August 2011 internet and mobile phone services were unavailable for most of those in Libya.

Communication Crisis is a blog running alongside ethnographic research into the ways in which people and organisations in political crisis situations are affected by limitations in communication and the ways and modes in which people bypass these limitations:  This might be because various forms of telecommunications are not present or are limited generally or it might be because telecommunications paths are cut or limited by states and authoritarian regimes.   The research will have special reference to the crisis in Libya, but will draw on experience from other crises.

The impetus for this research grew out of a dialogue with Gregg Swanson, Executive Director of Humaninet.  Since 2002, Humaninet has assisted hundreds of nonprofit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with mobile satellite communications.  Through this dialogue we identified the need to understand how people communicate through political crisis situations and the need to search out affordable and suitable telecommunications solutions.

This blog will be used to report on immediately relevant findings, so that people can draw immediate benefit from the research.  The blog will include case studies from ‘guest bloggers’ involved in communicating through political crisis.  I welcome anyone to contribute relevant articles, suggestions for links and/or any contributions to the research generally. To contribute content or suggestions for the blog contact Laura Morris: communicationcrisis@live.co.uk.  All content will be edited at my discretion.

Through this research I hope to ultimately provide a succinct and user friendly report on modern communications in crisis situations with special reference to the political crisis in Libya for interest groups and stakeholders, help to shed light on gaps in crisis communication & how and where they might be filled and help to identify culturally relevant and economical forms of ICT and ICT training for crisis situations.

The opinions expressed on this site are my own (or that of the individual authors) and do not necessarily represent the views of Gregg Swanson, Humaninet or the organisations Humaninet works to support.

  1. Hi Laura, I am a friend of Greg Swanson. Your idea is very good, well done. It has always been my feeling that some form of text messaging (tweeting perhaps) for disaster zones or communications shut down zones, that could be easily created, would help a lot. Perhaps people could buy cheap and cheerful relay stations, plug them into a car battery and become a mobile network, the messages could just jump from one car to another until they found the internet that was working. At the moment I am working on http://www.globalmapaid.org which is a group whose mission is to create a map or visualisation of where unemployment poverty exists and on the same map the solutions that could be created to solve unemployment. We have a very tight focus and I think that’s the key to our sort of work. Bests Rupert

    • Communication Crisis says:

      Hi Rupert, thanks for your positive feedback and interesting input – really good idea! Your work is certainly very interesting to me and I will be following it closely – as unemployment and long-term poverty can often be indicators of potential political unrest it would be interesting to know how your ‘development maps’ might used as early warning systems to help predict where provisions & preparations should be made for communicating through probable crises. Crisis-mapping article coming soon! Thanks again, Laura

  2. Am glad you feel inspired, I join you Laura !

    About the crisis mapping article, I have joined a group called ‘Crisis Mappers Net’. Do you know about them ? Apparently they appear to have 1,800 members in a network of sorts, and I’d love to help them. There is also MapAction which I conceived and founded, you might find inspiration at their website. Global MapAid would like to add you to our Informal Advisory Group, http://www.globalmapaid.org/advisory-group.html are you interested ? Bests, Rupert 🙂

  3. Communication Crisis says:

    I would love to be on Global MapAid’s Informal Advisory Group! Let me know how I can help.
    I am also a member of Crisis Mappers Net. It’s a worldwide ‘crowd-sourced’ group contributing ideas for mapping crises. I recommend you join the mailing list if you haven’t already. It’s the brain-child of Patrick Meier who worked on the original Ushahidi project. I’ll check out your MapAction too. Thanks Rupert.

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