Since the violence escalated on July 7, there have been 209 Palestinian casualties to a single Israeli killed by mortar shrapnel. (The Palestinian equivalent to something like Red Alert would make your phone vibrate consistently but softly—enough that it can’t be ignored, but at a volume inaudible to everyone around you.)
None of this is meant to detract from the danger that the rockets pose to Israelis who live within firing range, as their fear is real. For the Israeli families in Sderot, Ashkelon, or Be’er Sheva (where I once lived), Red Alert is palliative.
But Red Alert commodifies the pain of war, and helps render invisible its toll on Palestinians. It turns the conflict into a monetized app, with Google-powered ads scrolling at the top of the screen and furious, scattershot comments crowding at the bottom. Red Alert, in addition to assisting Israelis on the ground and gathering advertising dollars, serves the purpose of a government that has the privilege of being able to sufficiently protect its citizens. The people of Gaza have no such luxury.
Let me be even more clear: The Internet already exists in Africa! With few exceptions, no matter where I went in Ghana, I got wireless service – and was even able to tether my laptop to my BlackBerry. All of these experiences, as well as quickly signing up for a pre-paid wireless service in nearby Nigeria, make me deeply skeptical about the much-hyped attempts by massive Western corporations to “bring” Internet service to Africans. Google is planning on floating balloons over unconnected parts of the continent. And now Facebook, according to Techcrunch, is looking at buying a drone company called Titan Aerospace to do much the same thing: Toss up solar-powered unmanned flying craft that will beam down Internet to remote areas – like something out of a remake of The Gods Must Be Crazy.
According to a BBC News report, data from pedestrian signal buttons may or may not have any real effect on SCOOT-controlled crossing timings, depending on their location and the time of day, and some junctions may be completely automated, with push-buttons which do not have any effect at all, effectively acting as placebo buttons. However, the same report quotes a Transport for London source as stating that the majority of pedestrian junctions in London do respond to the pedestrian signal button.