Text messages driving activism at concerts

Oxfam International is giving Coldplay fans a chance to use text messaging to sign a petition advocating changes in trade laws.

Oxfam International will give Coldplay fans at a Mountain View, California, concert on Friday a chance to use text messaging to sign a petition advocating changes in trade laws.

Prior to the concert, Oxfam will show a video featuring Chris Martin, Coldplay's lead singer and an Oxfam spokesman, and the international anti-poverty organisation will encourage concert-goers to sign onto Oxfam's Big Noise petition by immediately texting their e-mail addresses to "TRADE" (87233) on their cell phones.

The addresses will be captured and cataloged, and through a system based on Sun Microsystems technology, Oxfam can send reply e-mail messages to those who participated in the text messaging. That will let Oxfam set up a direct e-mail dialogue with them so they can get further involved with Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign.

The campaign aims to create fair trade laws to help poor countries grow their economies, said Najat Elsayed, Coldplay tour volunteer coordinator for Oxfam America. Elsayed said that Oxfam has found a direct link between unfair trade laws and poverty in nations where farming is a big source of income for local population.

The text-messaging event is happening throughout Coldplay's world tour, which lasts through November. Encouraging concert-goers to text message will help Oxfam garner more participation in Make Trade Fair then it would have generated by just providing information at shows, Elsayed said. Oxfam also will have booths set up to sign up attendees at the concerts.

Sun is providing Sun Fire v20z and v40z servers running the Solaris 10 operating system and Java Enterprise System software as the infrastructure that enables the text-messaging and e-mail responses. The platform is part of Sun's "Share the Opportunity" initiative, which uses technology to call tech-savvy young people to social action, said Rhodes Klement , director of global brand and advertising for Sun.

"Technology is allowing people to participate and get involved in world-changing events," Klement said. "We want to build the infrastructure that makes that possible."

Sun held similar events using this text-messaging platform to support charitable organizations during Irish rock band U2's world tour earlier this year, and at Live 8 concerts in Philadelphia and Edinburgh, Scotland, he said.

Oxfam hopes to have 10 million signatures on the Big Noise petition when the group delivers it to the World Trade Organisation leaders at its meeting in Hong Kong in December, Elsayed said.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
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