The Revolution Will Be Tweeted – Saturday May Bring Change to Iran

June 19, 2009

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As we sleep tonight in America, there is history afoot. Never before has the social web been used to such an extent within a country to attempt to remove a leader and coordinate a political revolution. Tomorrow, Saturday, will be an important day in the history of Iran.

For the sake of this post and citizen journalistic integrity, I’ll try to be as objective as I can here as few of us outside of Iran can know enough to truly know what is accurate. This noted, the consensus of the digerati has been made known and it is clear. In the world of Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube–the crowdsourced view is behind the ‘Green Uprising.’

A tipping point may be reached after today’s day of prayer and Ayatollah Khameni’s speech which may only inflame protesters. The momentum behind a movement has begun and it won’t easily taper.

As I browse Twitter tonight, I see tweets like the following:

I am seeing Facebook Statuses tonight like this one:

  • Shervin Pishevar – please pray for Iran and the brave Iranian people. In 5 hours we meet our destiny. I will not be able to sleep.

The informative Green Brief is coming out nightly from an Afghan man named NiteOwl, sourced entirely from Tweets from inside Iran. There are instructions on “Anonymous Iran” on how to surf in Iran using proxies so one can access the social web. There is a tremendous set of Flickr photos of the protests on the Fhashemi Flickr account. There are 180 posters from protesters shown at Design for Iran.

In two days, hundreds of thousands of Twitter members have turned their avatar green in support of the Iranian protesters using a tool at

Here are some videos seemingly showing violent oppression of the protests:

There are so many ethical issues here that we must tread carefully on. We must be careful in the West to so naturally and quickly support this uprising simply because we tend to lean toward the beliefs and views of the more moderate candidate Mousavi. Here is a good article supporting Ahmadinejad’s win. There are folks on the Ahmadinejad/Khameni side who are claiming that the support for the “American led coup in Iran” is causing unneccessary blodshed. Here is an example:

  • @JimJones45 – 99% of tweets are from US backing a BLOODY revolution. People are dying. STOP destabilizing the Iranian state! #IranElection

This noted, others on Twitter seem to suggest these twitter accounts, most of which have no history before yesterday, are agents of the Iranian government.

To me, this doesn’t seem to be a Western-led coup. The pictures and videos of the hundreds of thousands of people in the street lay doubt to this claim.

Here is an excerpt of an email posted on Iran Fax Blog the that seemingly comes from an Iranian citizen:

Tomorrow, people will gather again in Valiasr Square for another peaceful march toward the IRIB building which controls all the media and which spreads filthy lies. The day before Yesterday, Ahmadinejad had hold his victory ceremony. Government buses had transported all his supporters from nearby cities. There was full coverage of that ceremony where fruit juice and cake was plenty. A maximum of 100,000 had gathered to hear his speech. These included all the militia and the soldiers and all supporters he could gather by the use of free TV publicity. Today, at least 2 million came only relying on word of mouth while reformists have no newspaper, no radio, no TV. All their internet sites are filtered as well as social networks such as facebook. Text messaging and mobile communication was also cut off during the demonstration. Since yesterday, the Iranian TV was announcing that there is no license for any gathering and riot police will severely punish anybody who may demonstrates. Ahmadinejad called the opposition as a bunch of insignificant dirt who try to make the taste of victory bitter to the nation. He also called the western leaders as a bunch of “filthy homosexuals”. All these disgusting remarks was today answered by that largest demonstration ever. Older people compared the demonstration of today with the Ashura Demonstration of 1979 which marks the downfall of the Shah regime and even said that it outnumbered that event. The militia burnt a house themselves to find the excuse to commit violence. People neutralized their tactic to a large degree by their solidarity, their wisdom and their denial to enage in any violent act. I feel sad for the loss of those young girls and boys. It is said that they also killed 3 students last night in their attack at Tehran University residence halls. I heard that a number of professors of Sharif University and AmirKabir University (Tehran Polytechnic) have resigned. Democracy is a long way ahead. I may not be alive to see that day. With eyes full of tear in these early hours of Tuesday 16th June 2009, I glorify the courage and bravery of those martyrs and I hope that their blood will make every one of us more committed to freedom, to democracy and to human rights. Viva Freedom, Viva Democracy, Viva Iran

On balance, to me the evidence seems to show that a reasonable person could come to the conclusion that this election may have been rigged. To avoid a revolution and further bloodshed, a new fair election must be held.

In an age of instant communication you cannot deceive your population for long. If you throw an election, it will get out. In an age of transparency, the days of leaders who don’t serve their people are numbered.

If you’re on Twitter, you can connect with me via @ryanallis.

The revolution will be Tweeted.

P.S. – Here is an interesting article on how protests were organized before the days of social media. – Opportunity International’s New Kiva-Like Site

April 23, 2009

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This is something really cool.

I had coffee this evening at the HW55 Starbucks in Durham with Sam Serio from Opportunity International. Opportunity International is a Christian microfinance organization that’s been around since 1971.

Opportunity International has launched a site called OptinNow allows you to make small loans directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Comparison to Kiva

OptInNow is similar to Kiva, with the exception that the loans made are contributions to Opportunity International and are re-loaned over and over again to entrepreneurs with microenterprises in developing countries instead of paid back directly to the lender. Another difference is that Opportunity International has a Christian affiliation whereas Kiva does not. is in the early stages, so the site does not yet have as extensive inventory of loans and projects as Kiva, but does allow loans to be made to entrepreneurs in Kenya, Ghana, the Philippines, and Mexico with many more to come soon.

Props to the folks at Opportunity International for creating a well-designed usable interactive site that will get a lot more visibility and unique donors for their organization.

Aid 2.0

As opposed to the old-school ‘top-down’ Easterly-criticized bi-lateral government-to-government aid model where funds were given to oft-unelected semi-corrupt dictators for cold-war geopolitical reasons that indebted the populace without providing much benefit to them while sometimes forcing the funds to be used to pay Western contractors (okay I’m being a bit harsh here but do read Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and Stiglitz’ Globalization and Its Discontents), OptInNow’s model is from the grassroots–from the bottom-up. It gives small amounts of funds that can make a world of good directly to the local entrepreneurs who know how to best use them. It’s market-based aid versus the top-down centrally controlled aid of the past.

Who Is It Run By?

Opportunity International is currently run by CEO Christopher Crane, an entrepreneur, YPO member, and Harvard MBA who took commercial real estate information provider COMPS InfoSystems to 450 employees and took it public in May 1999 before being acquired by CoStar (NASDAQ:CSGP) in February 2000. I haven’t met Christopher yet but look forward to meeting him soon.

Here’s a video about OptInNow. Spread the word!


About Opportunity International

Opportunity International, the largest not-for-profit microfinance organization in the world. OI began in 1971 and specializes in working with the poorest of the working poor, those who make less than $2 a day. OI has 1.2 million active loan clients in 28 countries and 85% of their clients are women. Here are some key facts.

Opportunity International 2007 Highlights
Current loan clients worldwide:
Value of current loan portfolio worldwide:
Number of loans made in 2007:
Value of loans made in 2007:
Average loan size:
$227 (excluding Eastern Europe)
Average first Trust Group loan:
$162 (excluding Eastern Europe)
Loans to women:
Loan repayment rate:


About OptInNow
Our mission is simple. We’re working to end global poverty. Faster. How? By providing those who live in chronic poverty with one vital thing they need to transform their lives: Opportunity. Along the way we hope to transform additional lives, like yours. That’s why we’ve made it so simple for good people everywhere to come together, to fund small loans, to witness big and lasting impact, and to truly change the world. That’s what we’re really about. We’re about every land becoming a land of opportunity. And with your help we’ll get there.

This Page May Contain Content That is Not Consisent With the Moral Cultural, or Social Values of the UAE

June 23, 2008

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I was in Dubai for a night two weeks ago on my way to Uganda and tried from my Holiday Inn Express in Dubai Internet City home of the Middle East campuses of Sun Microsystems, Cisco, and EMC and to access a blog called Secret Dubai Diary. The site came up in a Google search for Dubai nightlife. When I tried to access the site, I got the lovely “Surf Safely” message above, indicating that this site was “inconsistent with the moral, cultural, or social values of the UAE.” Unfortunately for the government censors in the United Arab Emirates, they didn’t think to block the Google Cache version of the page.

It was very reassuring that UAE recognizes the Internet as a “powerful medium of communication, sharing and serving our daily learning requirements.”

If you wish, you can send an email to “safesurf[at]” to share your view of Internet censorship.

$1M Prize for Best Developing Country Technology Innovation

March 23, 2008

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width=125Legatum Group, founded by Chris Chandler and based in Dubai, has announced today at Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Half Moon Bay, California a $1 million prize for the best technology innovation from a for-profit company in the developing world. I will update this blog when they post details on how to enter.

I wanted to write this post as from all appearances, Legatum seems to be making a concerted effort to invest in long-term sustainable development in developing countries and putting their money where their mouth is. They are a sponsor to the Fortune conference here, and are mostly unheard of. Even their original company Sovereign Global, is nearly unheard of. Yet they manage over $4B in capital invested in India alone.

Legatum is the donor to the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT. They invested $50M in the Center to obtain naming rights. Here is a short video I took this afternoon of Iqbal Quadir who is the founder and Director of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT.

Although Dubai-based, the group is made up strictly of Westerners, mainy of whom previously worked at Chris Chandler’s Sovereign Global. They claim a 40% CAGR over the lifetime of thier original fund started in 1986. The President of Legatum, Mark Stoleson, attended Occidental College and Duke. The other chief team members attended Wharton, London Business School, Babdon, Oxford, and University of Brisbane and has worked at law firms, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and PWC.

I do wonder if most of these individuals are based at the head office in Dubai, which is slowly on its way toward challenging London and New York for the global capital headquarters. If you can find any statistics on capital under management for equity investment firms based in New York, London, Hong Kong, and Dubai please let me know.

Legatum Group is also the creators of the Africa Prize, which gave away $450,000 in 2007 to the most innovative businesses in Africa. Their philosophy is simply that for-profit businesses are more efficient at creating positive social improvement than bi-lateral foreign aid which in their Easterlyan-like view too often has created dependency.

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