Skip to main content
Welcome to the WebCam War

It’s bizarre, the contrast between two worlds. The one, where CNN has a Webcam streaming footage from a 7th cavalry Bradley fighting vehicle dashing through he desert towards Baghdad and the other, an Iraqi news conference, complete with Mohammed Diyab Al Ahmed, the AK47 toting Interior Minister, issuing a long monologue, claiming that the American ‘mercenaries’ are fleeing from Iraqi forces.

As predicted, this is the first true Web-war and and 'The Mother of all WebCams'. Some sites have been straining under the load. The BBC, always like watching paint dry, is slower than ever and the Home Office is finding it hard to keep-up with the interest on how one should protect oneself from the threat of terrorism and why chicken soup is a traditional remedy against anthrax.

Of course, CNN and the BBC and the army of journalists who think they may be in Iraq, may be the victims of an elaborate confidence trick. After all, we know that man never landed on the moon and in fact the footage was shot in a studio in Burbank, California. But for the first time in history, being able to watch the military’s progress in real-time, does illustrate the contrast between one society which has no true sense of the influence and reach of technology and the other, which can, from the CNN website, watch the progress of the advance, as General Custer’s armoured cavalry – remember ‘Apocalypse Now’ - looks for an enemy to fight or a beach to surf from.

The irony, as in the last Gulf war, is that the Iraqi government are forced to watch CNN to find out what’s happening in their own country, whether they believe what they see or not.

From a technology perspective, this war, regardless of its justification and validity, marks the end of one technology era and the beginning of another. Until now, we have lived in the early years of the Internet revolution. Like the industrial revolution that preceded it and the printing revolution before that, the transition period was one of rapid and dramatic innovation, characterised by the Internet ‘Bubble’ effect. Today, in many parts of the developed world, the technology has achieved and moved beyond critical mass and is increasingly pervasive. This can be illustrated only too well as I write this column, while simultaneously watching a fully-laden B52 departing from RAF Fairford on BBC News 24 and the CNN Webcam of the 7th cavalry advance along the Euphrates valley.

This ability to deliver information to an individual is unprecedented and illustrates how much our world has changed since the last Gulf war. When you consider that US troops are also using Instant Messaging and the Internet for real-time information then the violent collision of two worlds, the post-industrial and the post-Internet becomes visible, setting an agenda which will spread ripples of unrest across the region for years to come.

A one-time Royal Marine and UK Technology ‘Ambassador’ to the Gulf in 2002, Dr Simon Moores is the editor of an egovernance information resource for Middle-eastern governments.


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …