Blackberries and Wireless Networks in Baghdad

This could be filed under Friday morning light news or it could be a sign of improving conditions in Baghdad, but Sean McCormack, State’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, notes that Blackberries now work in Iraq’s capital. Let's hope the network will be accessible to locals to rebuild the economy, local accountability and governance, and enhance security, all of which are standard aims of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D). 

After getting to the first meeting site at Prime Minister Maliki’s residence, I asked one of the embassy personnel with us what had happened. They said that IRAQNA (Orascom Telecom Iraq Corporation) had happened and that they now had the pleasure of having to answer yet another question from Washington at 2:30 AM in Baghdad just because their Blackberries worked at home. (My first thought was to mention that answering e-mails at obscene hours will only beget more such e-mails but quickly decided my colleague could either figure that out for himself or continue to live a sleepless existence). Baghdad Blackberries had worked for about two months. In celebration and cost savings, our embassy was getting rid of the ubiquitous cell phones with a U.S. area code that served as the only means of mobile communication for civilians. The second surprise awaiting me in Baghdad was a wireless network at the Prime Minister’s office building, which I used to send a blog post to my colleagues in Washington. The journalists traveling with us shared in the good fortune, using the network to file their initial stories from Baghdad without traveling either to our embassy or to a press filing center.

Neither of these small changes will change much in Iraq nor change many opinions for that matter. But for some reason, they struck me as worth sharing. Perhaps it was because the road in Iraq has been such a costly and difficult one, and maybe because progress on big issues has come only recently. However, both of these minor technological advances reinforced the perception formed during the past few trips there that Iraq is moving forward in large and small ways -- though there is a long way to go.

Any chance this will enhance media coverage of Iraq?

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