x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The Revolution Will Be Digitised: follow the bytes to find corruption

The activist Heather Brooke examines the battle to expose institutionalised corruption and secrecy.

The Revolution Will Be Digitised
Heather Brooke
William Heinemann
 Dh85
The Revolution Will Be Digitised Heather Brooke William Heinemann Dh85

With a clenched fist on its cover, Heather Brooke's book promises a report from the frontline of the battle to expose institutionalised corruption and secrecy.

Instead, her opening chapters leap disjointedly from the hackerspaces of Boston and Iceland to military camps in Iraq, while Brooke, an award-winning writer and activist, flits irrationally between narrative and journalistic prose, present and past tenses.

She only gets into her stride when describing WikiLeaks' exposure of US government documents relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When she is not being self-congratulatory (she claims credit for exposing Britain's MPs expenses scandal), her account of a growing trend by authorities to control information is illuminating, while her portrayal of Julian Assange as an egotistical eccentric is equally fascinating.

Yet despite its bold title, she only briefly touches on the Arab Spring - surely one of the best examples of our time of the internet uniting common people in a mass uprising - and ultimately is ill-equipped to conclude any more than "the greatest achievement isn't in producing technology, but using it to redefine the boundaries of what is possible".