Is Kindle the New Voice of America?

In High Tech Diplomacy (Newsweek) Evgeny Morozov writes that Silicon Valley tech firms could be a good conduit for public diplomacy.

Distributing Kindles to the four corners of the world would not only be a good gesture from Amazon, it would also help promote free speech. Kindle could end an era when visiting foreigners have to smuggle samizdat books in and out of authoritarian countries. It is a dream device for dissidents, all for $299.
In 1963 Voice of America, the primary public diplomacy arm of the U.S. Department of State, translated and broadcast Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream Speech' behind the Iron Curtain, giving many people access to one of the most vivid narratives of the promise of democracy. However, American diplomats, and their counter-parts overseas, have yet to get public diplomacy right in a digital age.

Towards the end of the Bush era, a small amount of State money went towards studying the effect of Internet on democracy, including mapping of the blogospheres in repressive regimes like Iran and presenting narratives of moments when the Internet proved important for democracy. While this continues to yield a great deal of knowledge, its unclear that US government involvement in creating and distributing knowledge in repressive regimes will be effective. Cheap hardware could be part of the answer.



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