With smartphones, it's never been quicker or easier to share with the world the scale of Occupy Central.
As Occupy Central enters its fifth day, let’s take a look at some of the technologies that have made the protest more effective:
Social networks: This has already proven to be an integral tool for spreading information, images, and requests for help/donations, and helping overall with coordinating protests. Apps like WhatsApp and WeChat are also used extensively for quick communication between groups and protesters. Websites like FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, have been crucial in providing support to protesters by broadcasting messages throughout the world at speeds that no news outlet could. Getting information onto the net faster than traditional media is probably technology’s biggest benefit to organisers
But with suspicions that these networks, apps, and websites are being monitored by the government and police, protesters have turned to free and secure chat app called Telegram. Telegram uses point to point encryption to keep its messages private from prying eyes. On Monday, Telegram experienced a massive 150GB/s DDOS attack, causing the app to crash. This brings us to the next technology …
Mesh networks: With the fear that network outages would spread across Hong Kong, and the fear of being monitored on social media by the police, protesters have been installing a mesh network app called Firechat. Since last Friday there have been more than 100,000 downloads in Hong Kong. A mesh network works without a connections to a mobile network (3G, LTE, HSPA+). It works by connecting directly with other users over Wi-fi or Bluetooth, creating what’s known as an adhoc network. This allows users to totally bypass mobile phone carriers, and communicate directly with each other.
Local programmers have also been busy creating new apps that help protesters communicate to each other more securely, and these can be found on sites such as CODE4HK and Hackfoldr. But be warned: some activist apps recently released by someone pretending to be from CODE4HK have been loaded with malware.
External batteries: one of the toughest challenges that the modern day protester faces is the lack of mobile power! As mobile devices are loaded with more functions, bigger screens and high resolution cameras; battery drain has become a major issue for mobile users. It’s almost impossible to find a phone that can last a full day without being connected to a charging point. Protesters in Mong Kok were lucky, as shop owners offered to charge protesters' phones for free. But other Hongkongers were not so fortunate, and had to depend on external batteries to charge their devices.
With out the extra juice of these external batteries, protesters would not be able to communicate for long periods of time or record their experiences with phone cameras. There are many external batteries to choose from, in a range of different weights and capacities. Some of the best right now use solar power to charge your phone with the power of the sun. Of course this won’t work as well on a cloudy day, but until fuel cell batteries are here, it’s the best option.
In addition to these three, simple techs like Google Maps, showing where important facilities such as toilets, drinking water, and first aid tents are, have been invaluable to protesters. All these new mobile advancements are making protests easier to organise and broadcast than ever before, but of course, the tech could always be better.
What do you think? Do you have a tech solution that will help protesters (and reporters) out where the action is? Leave a comment and let us know.