A World Text Organization rises (WTO2)

TORONTO, CANADA – It has been three days of learning, listening, contemplating here at Toronto which is a perfect meeting place because, as I have read in a site, the city’s name originates to an old word meaning “meeting place”.

Barring jetlag, we’ve met with an incredible bunch of people from the US, England, Canada, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Congo and Argentina, in a oftentimes funny, sometimes provoking and at most times very interesting story-telling.

The subject? What else but the killer ap for activists today: mobile phones and SMS.

The stories have been varied. But from what I have been able to gather, a singular theme emerges in the use of mobile phones and SMS. That is, using such tools to advance social causes, tools to strengthen organizations.

For example, in Congo, mobile phones are used to report human rights violations from far-away areas to an office in the city, enabling organizations to rapidly respond and rescue the victim/s. Only one or two mobile phones are now available to one single community of thousands.

Elsewhere in Africa, SMS has been used to obtain mass support for anti-poverty campaigns, with SMS being the de rigeur way for people to sign petitions, complete with integration to a fantastic website.

In the US and Canada, there have been efforts to mobilize young people towards registering for the polls. SMS was of course a tool, along with fun websites, handouts and postcards, stickers, and even undies.

We have also learned about Asterisk, this open-source thing, allowing people to maximize phone lines, route phone calls, make conference calls, and the like. This would certainly be a boon to Filipino organizations engaged in mass organizing and mobilizing efforts.

Of course, we had the opportunity to share our experience with Hello Garci and previous TXTPower campaigns.

There are tons of stuff arising or is set to arise following this meeting: a how-to handbook/workbook, a wiki everyone and anyone could visit and use for, hopefully, pro-people purposes, perhaps a curricula for techies and non-techies alike on how to max up on SMS and even a Toronto Declaration that encapsulizes how we envision using SMS as a tool for social activism, for social change across the world.

The meeting made us feel humbled and proud at the same time. Humbled by the string of new ideas and splendid experiences from other countries, made proud by the praises our people continue to reap for the use of SMS for consumer rights and for political causes.

I presume that everyone here looks forward to MobileActive Convergence Part 2, when we would be able to gather again, share more experiences and help advance peoples’ causes.

In Toronto, by the way, there’s a street called Yonge, which is said to be the world’s longest. Yonge may symbolize the long struggle ahead, but with people and their organizations militantly and creatively fighting for change, the seemingly arduous effort may be made lighter and easier to bear.