I’m fortunate to be a member of a local Lutheran congregation that spends a lot more of its time looking outward than looking inward. That is, what is important to me about “being religious” has a lot less to do with defining who I am, or what I or others believe, and a lot more to do with what my role in the world is and where opportunities are for me to make a positive difference.
This is all context for some thoughts this morning as they pertain to the web, because a presentation I heard at my church really jolted me out of my daily focus. It reminded me that there are still places in the world where the web, and especially the mobile web, are no more real to people than jet-packs and time-travel. Simply put, the web doesn’t exist and therefore doesn’t matter.
One of those places is North Korea. Did you know that people in North Korea need to be licensed to own a personal computer? And guess how easy it is to get licensed? That’s right, it’s really only an option for elite members of the country’s ruling communist party. Everyone else gets to wait in line and use a computer in a public computing center (and guess what: there’s not a lot of world wide web access in North Korea’s public computing facilities).
Of course, this is the least of the average North Korean’s problems. Higher on that list are other forms of political oppression, social isolation, starvation, and — for hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens — a life assigned to Stalinist work camps that the rest of the world thinks went out of style last century. But oh no, Stalinist work camps are still very much in vogue in North Korea, in this, the 21st century.
So there’s a lot for the world to fix in North Korea. But even for people who are troubled by this and interested to help, there’s not a lot that the web can do to directly intervene. We web and mobile strategistas like to think that we’re on the leading edge of helping to solve a lot that inconveniences or ails the world, and in some cases we are. So it’s sobering to be confronted with a situation where it seems that the web can’t make much of a difference.
There’s simply not going to be a North Korean version of the web- and social media-driven Arab Spring any time soon.
Yet this is where content strategy shines much brighter than the various technologies on which it works. Because the presentation that we heard this morning, in a church basement on a snowy morning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was organized by Amnesty International. And this is an organization that mastered content (and social) strategy well before the web and mobile even entered the world scene.
Of course, the internet — web, email, mobile apps — can certainly still play an important role in people networking about human rights issues. But when it comes to places like North Korea, the real work involves sitting down face to face, understanding the situation, and then doing more about it via letter writing or phone calls. Or just more conversations.
Because as Jack Rendler from Amnesty explained to us this morning, the human rights movement grew and has made enormous, positive impacts on human history over the past 30 years. But hardly any of those advances involved web or internet technologies. It all started with meetings in church basements, coffee shops, on college campuses, and in people’s living rooms.
“In Real Life”, as we like to call it today.
Driving this success, and what we can continue to do today and tomorrow, is a shining example of organizational effectiveness and tightly managed content strategy. Whether online or in-person, Amnesty International’s success is driven by getting their human stories and calls to action out to people all around the world, in any and all media.
With or without the web.