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Skype

What it does: 

Computer to computer voice calls including video calls (if you have a webcam) can be made securely using a microphone and computer. If you buy skype credit, you can call land or mobile phone lines at a low-cost rate depending on your location. Others can also call you from a land or mobile phone line if you use SkypeIn, provided you are online. You can also send SMS texts to mobiles at a low cost and make conference calls with multiple skype users and landlines along with conference text based chats.

When to use it: 

Where you have a broadband connection.

When not to use it: 

If you have dial-up or slow connectivity.

Where: 

You can use skype anywhere in the world if you have an internet connection.

Strengths: 

You can have an IM chat in conference with as many people as you like. Conference calls for as may as 10 skype users. You can send low-cost SMS messages to mobile phones via skype. Text is kept as 'history' and can be used for a record of conversations.

Weaknesses: 

Can only talk freely to other Skype members. A total of 10 users permitted for conference calls. Making calls to phone-lines is getting increasingly expensive.

Suggested use: 

Coordinate and communicate between members of a geographically dispersed network.

Advocacy example: 

ActionAid set up a Skype connection at the HIV & AIDS conference in Toronto and provided activists in India, Nepal, Nigeria and Honduras with a Skype connection. People then had the opportunity to hear the concerns of the HIV activists and practitioners first hand even though they could npt afford or were not invited to be at the conference. It is part of an ongoing experiment to create real dialogue between decision makers and poor/ marginalised people. (http://www.actionaid.org.uk/100528/advo_casting_gives_activists_a_voice_...)

Your content: 

Communication is encrypted and not ever stored on Skype's servers.

Security concerns: 

Part of Skype's popularity is that it has point to point encrypted communication built in. However, this feature is disabled in China to comply with Chinese law WHILE Skype refuses to comply with U.S. Law allowing for wire tapping on digital phone networks. Also, the saved transcripts of chats are stored unencrypted on your computers hard-drive.

Further notes: 

Skype provides text based and saved transcripts of chats can be good for later reference and planning. Text based chat can be useful at times when there is insufficient bandwidth for voice communication.