The idea that ordinary people might contribute to verification of arms control treaties is not new; abstract discussions of the concept date back decades. But powerful and portable electronic devices have spread so widely in recent years that societal verification now seems an imminent reality. Motivated individuals might, for instance, collect treaty-relevant data through onboard sensors that smartphones can carry and then transmit the information to multilateral verification bodies or, as is already happening, share it online with global communities that subject it to crowdsourced analysis. But will societal verification generate enthusiasm in the developed and developing worlds alike? What legal protections must be established for participants? And will information gathered through societal verification ultimately prove useful and trustworthy? Below, Jamal Khaer Ibrahim of Malaysia, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan of India, and Ibrahim Said Ibrahim of Egypt grapple with this question: As handheld devices increasingly penetrate the developing world, how might individuals in developing countries be empowered to contribute to nonproliferation efforts and nuclear, biological, and chemical treaty verification?
Editor's note: This Development and Disarmament Roundtable was inspired by a Global Forum feature in the May/June 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that includes articles by Lassina Zerbo, Nima Gerami, and Jamal Khaer Ibrahim.