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Leonid Bershidsky

How to Predict the Next Revolution

A British academic predicted the Ukrainian revolution by arguing that a high level of both outrage and Internet freedom is the ultimate explosive mix.
If Ukraine's protesters needed anything, they only had to ask on Facebook and it would appear. Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
If Ukraine's protesters needed anything, they only had to ask on Facebook and it would appear. Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

It is so 2011 to talk about social networks' role in fomenting unrest. Perhaps that is why few people noticed an April 2013 blog post by British academic Richard Heeks, who is director of the University of Manchester's Center for Development Informatics. In that post, Heeks predicted the Ukrainian revolution.

A e-government expert, Heeks devised his "Revolution 2.0" index as a toy or a learning tool. The index combines three elements: Freedom House's Freedom on the Net scores, the International Telecommunication Union's information and communication technology development index, and the Economist's Democracy Index (reversed into an "Outrage Index" so that higher scores mean more autocracy). The first component measures the degree of Internet freedom in a country, the second shows how widely Internet technology is used, and the third supplies the level of oppression.