Guest Blogger Babar Bhatti on Mobiles in Protests in Pakistan

Guest writer Babar Bhatti from State of Telecom Industry in Pakistan writes about SMS and mobile use for organizing in the recent turmoil in Pakistan:

Activists in Pakistan are leveraging technology to organize and support their campaign against the martial law in Pakistan. Using the tools of mobile phones, SMS, Wikis, social networking and blogging, the activists have stepped up to fill the gap left behind by the absence of news and TV channels. I reported about the rising trend of mobile activism in the world in July and I asked a question that if this is something we will see in Pakistan in the short term. The recent turn of events has made mobile activism a sucessful reality in Pakistan. See other posts about mobile activism in Pakistan here and here.

Due to the low number of Internet users and the very limited broadband in Pakistan, blogs and other Internet based tools are not within the reach of the masses. Text messaging on the other hand has been very popular and with the 70 million plus mobile subscribers, this is a medium which is widely spread in Pakistan. Bloggers report that Saturday 3rd November saw the highest ever number of SMS sent with an average of 10 text messages being sent across the networks per subscriber.

Business Week reports about this Bloom of E-Resistance in Pakistan:

Relying on Text Messages
Indeed, for ordinary Pakistanis, the cell-phone text message has proved a saving grace, one not yet withdrawn by Musharraf. Internet penetration in Pakistan is low, but Pakistan is one of the world’s fastest-growing cell-phone markets, with user numbers growing 73% this past year. The country of 160 million currently has 67 million cellular subscribers, and, according to Pakistan watchers, in the past week many Pakistanis have been sending and receiving at least 10 text messages a day from relatives overseas who watch the international news on Pakistan and feed the information back home. A conservative estimate of 500 million text messages a day is a bonanza for cell-phone operators.

Along with writing on blogs and posting on wikis, bloggers are also making use of sms to report updates and send alerts. The blog by Teeth Maestro is using SMS2Blog technology as explained here:

We have enabled LIVE SMS-2-BLOG services allowing citizen reporters in Pakistan to directly update this blog by sending this blog, readers shall now be given live updates from the field as it happens. Join this blog’s Twitter Channel at:

See this report from News which talks about Aurat Foundation’s plans to setup a sms based system for activism:

However, keeping in mind the fact that a majority of the population does not have access to the internet, members at a meeting held at the Aurat Foundation’s office decided to circulate their message of protest through text messages and work towards the restoration of human rights, the judicial system and the removal of the media blackout amongst other issues.

On the other hand, hundreds of people have also been registering their protests at, and

All of this is promising - it shows the resolve of the people and their determination to share information and make the best use of available tools.

Crossposted by permission.


Mobile Technology for Social Impact
October 13-15, 2008 Johannesburg, South Africa

We are sold out! Please visit MobileActive08 for coverage at the event.

MobileActive Directory
Find a mobile project.
Find a tool or vendor.
Add your mobile tool, project, or company.
Wireless Technology for Social Change
Read the new report on trends in mobile use by NGOs:
Wireless Technology for Social Change.

The report was commissioned by the UN Foundation/Vodafone Group Foundation Partnership and written by Katrin Verclas and Sheila Kinkade.