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UNESCO Supports Asia Media Summit through Public Media Workshops
The Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) in collaboration with UNESCO and other international organizations is organizing the Asia Media Summit from 9 to 11 May 2005 in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur.
The Summit will provide a unique opportunity for broadcasters and other media professionals, as well as decision makers and academics around the globe to share their knowledge and thoughts on issues concerning information and broadcasting.
Around 300 decision makers, media professionals, scholars, and stakeholders of news and programming from Asia, Pacific, Europe, North America, Middle East, and Africa will participate in the conference that will also provide a platform for broadcasters to put forth their recommendations for the second meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in Tunis, in November.
newsnode 10:35 AM - [Link]
Tunisia jails lawyer for 3 yrs on Internet writings
Fri April 29, 2005
TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian court jailed lawyer and human rights activist Mohamed Abbou for three-and-half years after convicting him of charges related to articles he had published on the Internet, lawyers said Friday.
He went on trial on Thursday charged with "incitement of the population to infringe the laws", "spreading false information" to disturb public order and "violence" against a female lawyer.
Abbou, 39, has been detained since his arrest on March 1.
More than 300 lawyers lined up for his defence, arguing that the government was using the judiciary to punish dissidents for expressing opinions. The verdict came in early on Friday.
"The sentences were two years for violence and one-and-half year for the Internet articles, so he will be jailed for three-and-half years," lawyer Radhia Nasraoui told Reuters.
newsnode 10:33 AM - [Link]
UAE readies for WSA at WSIS
Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Dubai Knowledge Village today announced the launch of the UAE Contest for eContent, a national contest to select the best e-content applications that will represent the UAE in the World Summit Awards (WSA).
The World Summit Awards (WSA), a global competition backed by the United Nations, seeks to select the world's most innovative and creative e-content applications. The Awards were initiated by UN member states in cooperation with the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), a summit endorsed by the UN and organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to help move towards a common global vision on the Information Society.
The UAE Contest for eContent is open to all e-content producers - both individuals and companies without discrimination in terms of language, technological platform or nationality. Products can be submitted in any of eight Award categories: e-learning, e-culture, e-science, e-government, e-health, e-business, e-entertainment and a special category: e-inclusion. The UAE contest will be judged by an eminent panel of UAE-based experts. The deadline for submission is 30th May, 2005. Further details of the contest are available in a specially constructed website: www.uae-econtent-contest.com. Contestants can enter the competition by registering on this website.
National e-content contests are being held in UN member nations across the world to select nominees for the World Summit Awards (WSA). The winners of the UAE contest will join other national winners in a global competition to select the winners of the WSA.
newsnode 10:31 AM - [Link]
CTO to host commonwealth ICT ministers Conference
The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) will host a major high-level conference of Commonwealth information and communication technologies (ICT) ministers in Cameroon in September. The meeting was decided as part of this year's Commonwealth Action Programme for the Digital Divide (CAPDD) in view of the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM, Malta, November 2005) and also in preparation for the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS-II, Tunisia, November 2005).
The decision was reached following the second meeting of CAPDD Coordinating Committee held in London where several proposals for organising the high-level meeting were presented. The ministers' meeting will coincide with a week of important activities organised by the CTO in Cameroon, including its annual business forum (CTO Forum 2005) and its 45th Annual Council meeting (CTC-45).
Commenting on the decision of the Commonwealth institutions that are partners in the CAPDD to entrust the CTO with this important assignment, the CEO of CTO, Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah said: "This is a year for ICTs. It is a year during which the global community will be gathering in Tunis for the second and final phase of the World Summit on the Information Society. It is also a year in which Commonwealth Heads of State have chosen as the theme for their bi-annual consultations the subject of 'Networking in the Commonwealth', which has clear implications for the use of ICTs to promote the development objectives of member countries."
newsnode 10:26 AM - [Link]
NEPAD Council Holds First International Trade and Investment Conference
April 7, 2005 -- With speakers such as Prof. Wiseman Nkuhlu, chairperson of the NEPAD Steering Committee, the Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela, The South African National Minister of Sport, Makhenkesi Stofile, the National Minister of Science and Technology, Mosibudi Mangena, the CEO of South African Tourism, Moeketsi Mosola and the CEO of the South African semi state transport giant Transnet, Maria Ramos, already confirmed, the conference promises to be one of the most important for business practitioners, existing and potential investors in Africa and local and international academics and researchers. Other invited speakers include John Ritchter, Rgional Director for Africa- Ex-Im Bank, USA - Ned Cabot, Rgional Director for Africa - United States Trade Development Agency and Dr. Gideon Gono, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
newsnode 10:24 AM - [Link]
BTA urges media to fully utilise ICT
04 April, 2005
GABORONE - Botswana Telecommunication Authority (BTA) chief executive officer Moses Lekaukau says his organisation intends to form a long partnership with the media fraternity to help them de-mystify information communication technology (ICT) issues.
Officially opening a two-day BTA/MISA workshop on the media's role towards de-mystifying ICTs on Friday, Lekaukau said that a lot was happening in the ICT world that the local media may not be aware of and "consequently there may be a missing link in our society." He said society needed to be up to date with ICT because information had become a major commodity on which global trade was based.
"There is a lot that goes on almost every week owing to the dynamism of the ICT," said Lekaukau.
The BTA chief urged media practitioners to use the BTA website and others such as the ITU and Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation to deepen their understand of ICT issues.
"Through the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process, the world reconfirmed and emphasised the media's role as an important partner in building the information society." Lekaukau said that BTA organised the workshop as a first step in a series of events that it intends to undertake to teach Batswana about the subject of telecommunications regulation and how it should benefit them as consumers of telecommunications services.
"We realised that for us to effectively achieve this task, it is important that the media's role as a partner in the information society is properly recognised and enhanced." Lekaukau further said that BTA intended to intensify efforts to ensure improved customer service by all telecommunications service providers. "To this end, the authority is working on modalities to address customer complaints." Lekaukau mentioned that the authority is in the process of establishing a database of complaints as well as forms for lodging complaints, tracking progress in addressing complaints, and reporting back to complainants the outcome of such complaints.
In an interview with BOPA Lekaukau confirmed that the re-merging of BTA and National Broadcasting Board (NBB) should take place in a not too distant future.
He said BTA and NBB separated when other countries, such as United Kingdom and South Africa, were merging their organisations.
He, however, said that although the BTA and the NBB were separated they never stopped working together.
Lekaukau said that regulation "occurs when the market is imperfect," adding that in the case of Botswana where the market was still young the situation called for intervention instead of regulation.
" When you think the market has grown you reduce the intervention," said Lekaukau. The BTA chief executive said that once the two organisations were merged there would be no more separate financing.
He said that investors should be aware of the separate roles of the government, BTA and service providers, adding that there must be no government intervention.
"Investors hate uncertainty," said Lekaukau some media. Meanwhile, some media practitioners who attended the workshop admitted that the media were reporting very little on ICT issues.
They acknowledged that practitioners they lacked understanding of basic ICT terms and concepts.
Media practitioners also raised the need for constant interaction with the telecommunications industry from informed position. They admitted that there is also lack of research by journalists.
Media practitioners were also concerned about the lack of a platform to share new ideas and concepts and challenged ICT experts to introduce columns that would address IT issues. BOPA
newsnode 10:20 AM - [Link]
A BRIEF HISTORY OF UN CONFERENCES AND SUMMITS AND THEIR FOLLOW-UP
A key element of the United Nations strategy to address global economic, social and environment challenges has been the hosting of UN Conferences and Summits dedicated to developing global plans of action to move the world towards a more sustainable future and addressing a broader development agenda encompassing poverty reduction, social development and environmental sustainability. The Conferences of the early 1990s addressed issues of children (1990), environment and development (1992), human rights (1993), small island developing States (1994), population and development (1994), disaster reduction (1994), social development (1995), women (1995), human settlements (1996), and food security (1996). Many of these Conference and Summits ushered in a period of heightened international commitment to poverty eradication and sustainable development. Among the issues addressed included: a stable macroeconomic policy framework conducive to development; external debt and finance for development; international trade and commodities; science and technology; access to productive occupational opportunities, full employment and family incomes; gender equality, equity and empowerment of women; basic social services for all; environment and natural resources; Africa and other special categories of countries; and participation, democracy, human rights, accountability and partnership with Major Groups and non-governmental organizations.....
THE WORLD SUMMIT ON THE INFORMATION SOCIETY: The first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) took place from 10-12 December 2003, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Summit adopted a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action. The second phase of WSIS will take place in Tunis hosted by the Government of Tunisia, from 16 to 18 November 2005....
newsnode 12:00 AM - [Link]
Morocco gives 300,000 euros to the world digital solidarity fund
Morocco is contributing 300,000 euros to the World Digital Solidarity Fund, launched Monday in the Swiss capital city in the presence of several African leaders, said MAP.
Moroccan Foreign Minister, Mohamed Benaissa, announced, during the launching ceremony, the decision of HM King Mohammed VI to “make Morocco a founding member” of the fund.
In his presentation, Benaissa stressed Morocco is keenly interested in the efforts made since the Geneva summit on the Information Society of December 2003 to reduce the digital gap and allow greater access to communication means.
The Moroccan diplomat said that Morocco's participation in the opening ceremony is evidence of its support of the initiative that is helping materialise one of the main goals NEPAD (New African Partnership for Development).
The digital solidarity fund will help third world countries access information technologies, which have become a “legitimate right since it is part of the UN Millennium Declaration,” said Benaissa.
The fund is an African initiative presented by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, in his quality of Head for new information and communication technologies (ICTs), within the New Partnership for Development in Africa (NEPAD).
On the occasion of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which was held in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003, an initiative committee decided to establish the Digital Solidarity Fund.
The new fund has been established in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Millennium Declaration, the Johannesburg Declaration and the “Monterrey Consensus”.
It aims at turning the digital divide into digital opportunities to promote peace, sustainable development, democracy, transparency and good governance.
newsnode 12:00 AM - [Link]
Upcoming WSIS Events as seen on the Digital Divide Network
4 - 8 Mar del Plata, Argentina, ICANN Meeting [Internet Governance]
11-22 New York, USA, Commission on Sustainable Development
13-15, Dublin, Ireland, UN ICT Task Force, 8th Meeting
18-20 Conakry, Guinea, Africa Civil Society for the Information Society - ACSIS and the Government of Guinea.
18-20 Third Meeting of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG)
24-25 Tunis, Tunisia - NGO Forum for WSIS
Organized by: UN NGO Section DESA, Association of Tunisian Mothers
In preparation for the 2nd phase of the World Summit on Information Society - Tunis 2005, to take place in Tunis from 16-18 November 2005, and in celebration of the National Day of NGO, the NGO section of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs / ECOSOC and the Association of Tunisian Mothers, coordinator of the Informal Regional NGO Network for Africa (UN-NGO-IRENE / Africa), coordinate the NGO Forum devoted to the theme â€œFor an Inclusive, People Centered, Development Oriented and Knowledgeable Information Society for All.â€
2-3, Cairo, Egypt, GKP Membership Committee Meeting
3, Cairo, Egypt, GKP Executive Committee Meeting4-6 Cairo, Egypt, Global Knowledge Partnership Annual Meeting 6-7 May 2005, Bamako (Mali), UNESCO - Multilingualism for Cultural Diversity and Participation of All in Cyberspace
7-8, Cairo, Egypt, GKP Gender Evaluation Methodology Capacity Building Workshop
8-10 May 2005, Cairo (Egypt), WSIS Sub-Regional: Towards WSIS Phase II; an Arab Regional Dialogue
http://www.wsis-egypt.gov.eg/main.asp10-11 May, Summit of South American and Arab Countries, Brasilia, Brazil
- Ministerial preparatory meeting took place in Marrakech, 25-26 March
Details @ http://www.maec.gov.ma/preparatory/FR/default.htm
11-13 May 2005, Paris (France), UNESCO and the Club of Rome - World Conference on ICT for Capacity-Building: Critical Success Factors
16-17 May 2005, Tokyo (Japan), WSIS Thematic: Government of Japan/ITU/UNU - Tokyo Ubiquitous Network Conference
17-18 May 2005, Saint-Petersburg (Russian Federation) - "UNESCO between two Phases of the World Summit on the Information Society"
25 May London, UK - The UK input to the World Summit and the UK Consultative Day
A UK consultative day which will bring together a variety of views concerning the future of the Information Society, will take place on Tuesday 24 May 2005 at The Lowry Hotel in Manchester. This invitation-only event will see representatives drawn from the media, government, civil society, academia and business and will be hosted by the British Council.
29 - 1 June, MontrÃ©al, Canada, Forum International Montreal conference "Civil society: visions and strategies towards global democracy."
29- 2 June, Tehran, Iran , Asia Pacific High Level Ministerial Meeting on WSIS
organized by UN ESCAP 29- June 3, Peru, APEC Telecommunications and Information - Ministerial
2-3, 2005, Vienna, Austria, WSIS Contributory Conference on ICT & Creativity. Initiated by the Austrian Government and the World Summit Award
8-10 June, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), WSIS Regional - Latin America and the Caribbean Regional meeting.
9-10 June 2005, Seoul (Korea), Government of Republic of Korea (MIC/KADO)/ITU - Thematic Meeting on "Multi-stakeholder partnerships for Bridging the Digital Divide"
14-17, Fourth Meeting of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG)
23-24, New York, USA, UN General Assembly Hearings with Civil Society in preparation for Millennium+5 Summit
28 June- 1 July 2005, Geneva (Switzerland), ITU - WSIS Thematic Meeting on Cybersecurity
6-8, Gleneagles, Scotland, G8 Summit
Mid July, Geneva, Launch of Working Group on Internet Governance Report
11-15, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, ICANN Meeting [Internet Governance]
31 Aug - 2 Sept, Botswana, World Information Technology Forum (WITFOR)
14-16, New York (USA), UN Summit of Leaders, 60th Aniversary
19-30, Geneva (Switzerland), WSIS PrepCom 3
- TBC - UN ICT Task Force, 9th Meeting
- TBC - Yaounde, Cameroon, CTO ICT Forum and Council Meeting
3-5, Salvador, Brazil - CTO ICT Forum and Council Meeting
14-15, Salamanca, Spain, XV Ibero-American Summit
4-5, Mar del Plata, Argentina, Fourth Summit of the Americas
9-11, Bilbao (Spain), II World Summit of Cities and Local Authorities on the Information Society 16-18 , Tunis (Tunisia), WSIS Summit
- Tunis Phase18-19, Korea, APEC Summit
25-28, Malta, Commonwealth Heads of State (CHOGM)
30 - 4 Dec, Vancouver, Canada - ICANN Meeting [Internet Governance]
ITU World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC)
27-31, Wellington, New Zealand, ICANN Meeting [Internet Governance]
4-8, Hong Kong, ITU Telecom World 2006
23-25, Chicago, USA, Non Profit Technology Conference (NTEN) 2005-
Innovation and Vision in Nonprofit Technology: The Next 10 Years
2005 marks the tenth year that nonprofits have been using technology in a meaningful and purposeful way during the age of the Internet and the networked economy. It is also the tenth year that people from across the U.S. and around the globe have gathered to chart a course for a more effective and sustainable future for nonprofits through strategic use of technology. The 2005 Nonprofit Technology Conference will honor that past by identifying the current state of the sector, looking to the next ten years and beyond, and addressing the new questions and issues that we face as a maturing field. Sessions at the 2005 NTC will identify strategies and tactics that will help nonprofits:
* Achieve excellence in program delivery and operations
* Sustain meaningful relationships with stakeholders
* Embrace constructive innovation
newsnode 12:00 AM - [Link]
Money for ICT finds way into people’s pockets
Kenya and Tanzania have been cited as some of the Africans countries where a multiplicity of ICT projects costing millions of dollars have been going on without registering significant results in the welfare of poor Africans.
Most of these projects are going on without their impact being assessed, said Juma Msenge from Tanzania, an information expert who has worked with several donor agencies.
According to Mr Alain Clerc, Digital Solidarity Fund for ICTs Executive Secretary, one of the problems facing Africa is the failure of the donated money trickling down to those who need it.
Speaking at African preparatory conference for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Accra, Ghana, added that recent studies show that over 65 percent of the money donated for causes like ICT development does not get to the people who really need it.
Some donors at the meeting privately complained that those who are given the money to implement projects in Africa instead line their pockets first before thinking of the project.
Or at times the money does not even trickle down to developing countries from donor organizations that raise it in developed countries.
Equally shocking was the revealation by donors at that over 70 percent of ICT project proposals submitted to them are not from African countries such as Kenya.
But from individuals and organization in the developed countries who say they want to help fix problems in Africa.
“About 90 percent of the project proposals I receive on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Africa, come from other countries except from Africa,” said Mr Pietro Sicuro, the Director of Organization Internationale de la Francophone, which funds many ICT projects in Africa.
Everybody thinks he or she can help Africa, but African countries seem not do think they can help themselves, he added in his speech made at the conference in Accra, Ghana.
As a result, many projects started in countries like Kenya fall short of expectations, as there is no ownership and those who undertake them on behalf of African countries do not have the continent’s welfare at heart.
newsnode 7:09 AM - [Link]
Open access archiving: an idea whose time has come?
As controversy continues around demands for open access to refereed published research, significant progress is being made by those campaigning for the more modest goal of applying the same open access principles to archiving. Researchers in developing countries are among those with much to gain.
Over the past few years, many scientists have become actively engaged in a lively — and frequently tense — debate on how developments in electronic communication can best serve the interests of science communication. Much of the debate has focused on the issue of 'open access' publishing. This draws on the idea that, since the Internet has virtually eliminated the cost of transmitting written information, those who produce journals in which scientific advances are reported can — and should — now make their contents available at no cost to anyone who wants access by developing alternative economic strategies.
Not surprisingly, such demands have been met with a less-than-enthusiastic response from many of the publishers of such journals. These currently generate a substantial income from 'selling' access, either through journal subscriptions, or by charging fees to those who wish to consult scientific papers online. It is argued that pursuing an open access publishing policy could seriously damage their principle source of income.
Given the impasse to which this has led, enthusiasm has been steadily growing among open access proponents for a less radical strategy, known as 'open access (OA) archiving' (or 'institutional repositories). The idea here is that the focus should shift from the publishers to institutions, such as universities or research institutes, for which scientists work. These, it is argued, should be persuaded to create open archives containing electronic versions of all the scientific papers produced by their researchers.
The principles behind OA archiving were agreed at a meeting of OA proponents held in Berlin in October 2003, and outlined in a document since known as the Berlin Declaration. Last week the movement took another important step forward when many of the same proponents, meeting in Southampton University in the United Kingdom, reached consensus on a resolution stating that institutions who agreed to sign up to the Berlin declaration should "implement a policy to require their researchers to deposit a copy of all their published articles in an open access repository."
Significantly, this commitment was given priority over a second one, encouraging researchers to publish their papers in open access journals "and provide the support to enable that to happen". But agreeing on a desirable course of action is one thing; putting into effect is another.
This is particularly true for researchers in developing countries. Such researchers, whose libraries are frequently unable to purchase anything more that a minimal set of scientific journals (if that), let alone pay even reduced subscription fees, stand to gain more than anyone from a system in which the world's scientific literature would increasingly become freely accessible through the Internet. Similarly, researchers who often have difficulty in getting their work published in international scientific journals can only benefit from seeing it placed in a repository in which other scientists from around the world — aided by appropriately designed search engines — can access it. So far, however, the number of developing country institutions prepared to establish their own electronic archive remains disappointingly low.
The publishers fight back
The growing support for OA archiving has done little to dampen the enthusiasm among parts of the scientific community for OA publishing. Based on a business model under which the author — rather than the user — covers the costs of publication, it has several leading proponents. The US-based Public Library of Science, for example, having already launched two free access journals (PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine) is promising to roll out several more later this year. Other publishers, such as Biomed Central, continue to produce open access journals, maintaining (despite some scepticism) that it is a viable, and even profitable, business model.
But neither commercial publishers, nor scientific societies who rely on journal publishing as an essential source of income, are taking open access demands lying down. This was demonstrated last year in the British government's response to an inquiry into scientific publishing, carried out by the UK House of Commons Committee on Science and Technology.
In its report, the committee, which has recently been taking pride in sticking barbs into what it sees as the more conservative aspects of the UK scientific establishment, proposed that open access publishing models should be experimented with as an alternative to profit-driven publishing. In its response, however, the UK government poured cold water on this suggestion (while virtually ignoring another proposal from the committee for the widespread adoption of OA repositories).
Many saw the hand of a coalition of publishers and scientific societies behind the government's reaction. And this is equally true of the US government's response to proposals intended to encourage OA archiving. Last year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the leading US biomedical research institution, published draft guidelines — much to the delight of the OA community — proposing that all scientists receiving NIH funding should to place electronic versions of their research papers in an open access archive within six months of publication in a scientific journal.
The final version of the guidelines, however, released last month, is considerably less demanding. Under these, scientists would now be given the option to choose whether or not to deposit their papers in an electronic archive. Furthermore, they are now encouraged to do so "as soon as possible and within 12 months" after publication. Again, many see the influence of conventional scientific publishers and societies, whose journal sales rely heavily on the desire of scientists to gain access to details of cutting-edge research in the shortest possible time.
OA archiving strides ahead
But if the OA publishing model is still struggling to gain acceptance, open access archiving, in contrast, is moving ahead robustly. On the one hand, many research institutions have willingly undertaken the task of setting up electronic archives of their researchers' publications. Last week's meeting in Southampton, for example, heard from organisations already doing so that range from the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) to the Max Planck Institutes in Germany, the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, and all universities in the Netherlands. In addition, some academic disciplines, such as ocean sciences, are already planning their own, centralised repositories.
At the same time, scientific publishers are becoming more amenable to adapting their copyright rules in a way that gives scientific authors the right — under certain conditions — to publish their papers in institutional archives. One survey, for example, found that 92 per cent of science journals now allow researchers to self-archive their papers independently of the publishers' own websites.
The main challenge faced by OA proponents, in developed and developing countries alike, is how to persuade institutions to pursue OA archiving more actively. The Southampton meeting heard descriptions of several obstacles to this strategy still exist, ranging from uncertainty over its full implications, to a lack of incentive for individual scientists who feel they are currently well served by existing publishing practices.
But, in the developed world at least, various proposals are now being made to address these obstacles. One suggestion being discussed in Britain is that the size and quality of an institution's archive should be formally recognised as a measure of scientific output (for example, when government resources are being allocated on that basis). Another is that more work needs to be done on emphasing the added value to scientists of placing their research papers in an institutional archive (for example, through linking to major scientific databases and, it is claimed by some, the greatly increased impact of their papers).
The challenge for developing countries
The challenge for developing countries is even greater. Admittedly, several are already testing the waters; delegates attending the Southampton meeting were given encouraging reports of recent developments in, for example, South Africa, Namibia and India. But so far, the uptake of OA archiving in developing countries has been relatively low. Statistics produced by Harnad show that while the United States already has 114 OA archives, the United Kingdom 51 and Germany 28, in contrast India has only six and China four.
There are various reasons for this slow response. One factor is an economic one; setting up an archive, even though relatively inexpensive in 'Western' terms, can still make a significant impact on a university with a tight research budget. Another may be the innate conservatism that many universities in the developing world have inherited — and in some cases maintained — from their colonial past. Furthermore, even more progressive research groups may find OA archiving a threat to their attempts to generate income through publishing efforts (which many find a valuable source of funding, particularly when government support is low).
A further dampening factor may, ironically, be the success of various schemes that have been introduced (with publishers' support) to give the poorest developing countries subsidized access to selected journals in a way that is free to the end user. Two of these stick out: HINARI for health research (supported by the World Health Organization), and AGORA for agricultural and food research (back by the Food and Agricultural Organization). The attraction of such schemes is that they provide researchers with virtually free access to papers in the journals that are included. The drawback, however, is that, since the range of journals covered is limited, this will not necessarily provide as much exposure for the work of scientists within these countries as could, in principle, result from a policy of OA archiving. Furthermore some larger developing countries, such as India and Brazil, are excluded from such schemes as publishers consider them to them to be substantial sources of potential subscriptions.
Looked at in terms of local capacity building, therefore, OA archiving should be given much higher attention in policy circles within developing countries that it does at present. Within the OA community, moves to remedy this are already happening. At the follow-up to the Southampton meeting, which is due to take place in Potsdam, Germany, in October this year, one participating organisation, the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development, is already proposing a session on OA and developing countries to which it is hoping to invite "prestigious scientists from the developing world who could provide confidence in OA". And plans are also under way for a Brazil/China/India policy forum to develop OA archives in these three countries.
Further opportunities for discussion are likely to arise during the second half of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which takes place in Tunis in November. Debates on open access during the first WSIS session, held in Geneva in December 2003, ran into something of a brick wall, largely because of fundamental differences in philosophy over open access publishing. In OA archiving the stakes are lower. But that, in itself, means that realistic and constructive outcomes are — or should be — within closer reach.
newsnode 8:08 AM - [Link]
Is information food for society?
In Accra, Ghana, the Africa regional preparatory conference for the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) recently came to an end, and the mood seems positive.
If you haven't head about the WSIS, I wouldn't be surprised, so here is a short rundown of what it's all about.
In late 2001, the United Nations endorsed the holding of the summit in two phases. The first phase started in December 2003 in Geneva, and the second phase starts in Tunis at the end of this year.
The goal in Geneva was to gather political commitment to undertake the steps necessary to create a common "information society" across 175 countries.
The WSIS website talks about "bridging the digital divide" using information and communication technology (ICT) as a generally accepted objective of this process.
The site says "if universal access is the foundation of a true information society, capacity building is its motor. The declaration acknowledges that only by inspiring and educating populations unfamiliar with the internet and its powerful applications will the fruit of universal access ripen."
That fruit had better be edible. Whenever someone talks about bringing better technology to Africa I can't help thinking to myself that you can't eat bandwidth, and that you can't use the internet to filter water.
I am not suggesting communication infrastructure is unimportant for development, which would be foolish. My criticism of this process is the mood and style of it all.
Firstly, it costs lots of money to run a process like this, which could have been put to better use.
Secondly, it smacks of "First World, we rule, follow us because we got it right" evangelism. Are people in the United States really more educated or enlightened because they have access to information? Think about whom they voted for, or the frequent stories about the confusion between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in American households.
Thirdly, what use is the internet to people who earns less than $1 a day? Are they going to form online communities to discuss their impoverishment and work out a plan, or are they going to sell their PCs so their children can eat?
I could go on but I won't. Just remember, there are people out there representing us who have modernisation on the brains and are dying to find a way to spend more money on the communications infrastructure supplied by those with whom we are trying to catch up.
For those of you who want to follow this process, visit the WSIS website and see what you can do to make a contribution. It affects all of us in Africa.
newsnode 12:00 AM - [Link]
Officials push for Africa-wide telecom agency
The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) is pushing for the formation of an African regulatory agency that will harmonize licensing and regulatory issues across Africa.
CTO Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah says the organization wants a single continental regulator that will likely force many African countries to move at the same level of Information and Communication Technology development.
The CTO is a London-based international organization that provides training and capacity-building programs as well as information and knowledge services that have helped to accelerate access to ICT in Africa. CTO draws most of its membership from developing countries.
The idea of a single continental regulator was at the center of debate at the African regional preparatory conference for the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) early this month in Ghana.
Some delegates argued that a more realistic approach is to create and encourage the growth of subregional regulatory bodies across Africa, rather than forming a new regulatory agency, while the CTO insisted that a single continental regulatory agency will be better placed to harmonize licensing and regulatory issues.
Africa already has a number of subregional telecom regulators all working to harmonize licensing and regulations. These include the Telecommunications Regulatory Association of Southern Africa, West African Telecommunications Regulatory Association and the Forum for Telecommunication Regulators in Africa.
newsnode 12:08 PM - [Link]
COMMUNICATIONS: A Small Step Towards the Information Society
GENEVA, Mar 1 (IPS) - The only visible progress made at the recent preparatory meeting for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was the adoption of a financing mechanism created a year ago by city governments of Europe and Africa.
Consensus on other key factors for closing the digital divide between the rich and poor countries, including Internet governance, additional financing mechanisms, and freedom of expression on the worldwide web, will have to wait until the final session of the final session of the WSIS Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) in September.
The PrepCom is responsible for negotiating the political declarations and programmes to be adopted during the second phase of the WSIS, set to take place in Tunis Nov. 16-18.
The first phase of the Summit was held Dec. 10-12, 2003 in Geneva.
The financing mechanism approved during the latest PrepCom session, which ended in Geneva on Feb. 25, was proposed two years ago by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who christened it the Digital Solidarity Fund.
The initiative was promptly endorsed by the city authorities in Geneva. Subsequently, with the support of municipal governments in Lyon, France, Turin, Italy and Dakar, Senegal, it became established as a city government-based project in 2004.
Under the plan, 60 percent of the Fund's contents will be earmarked for projects in the least developed countries, while 30 percent will be devoted to other developing countries and economies in transition. The remainder will be invested in other nations.
The Fund, which will depend on voluntary contributions, has been enthusiastically backed by the African nations, and its adoption by the PrepCom followed negotiations between the African bloc and the European Union.
However, according to Tracey Naughton, the chair of the Media Caucus -- one of the civil society sectors participating in the WSIS negotiations -- the concept of the Digital Solidarity Fund ”still needs to be defined a little more carefully.”
She told IPS that as the African delegation pointed out, any new fund has to be carefully administered.
”It's really important to minimise the cost of any organisation that has to be created to distribute the funds, and a general principle is that no more than 10 percent should be spent on staffing, managing and funding,” she stressed.
Although the Digital Solidarity Fund was formally adopted as a means of supporting the countries facing the greatest underdevelopment in terms of communications and information technology, civil society will continue to call for additional formulas to provide more resources.
Anitha Gurumurthy, another civil society representative, said that the WSIS should explore new financing mechanisms to foster information and communications technology as a means of promoting development.
These mechanisms should not divert resources already earmarked for the poor countries through official development assistance, she stressed. Instead, they could take the form of new initiatives, such as a voluntary or compulsory tax, or contributions from owners of Internet domain names, she suggested.
Civil society believes that information technology and communications are global public property, and as such should be financed through taxes.
One of the ideas proposed is the application of a global tax on computer sales. Nevertheless, there is greater support for an initiative through which the tax burden would not fall on the final consumer, the computer buyer, but rather at the other end of the chain, on the manufacturer of computer processors, noted activist Roberto Bissio from the Third World Institute in Uruguay.
”The special group created within the WSIS to develop proposals for financing mechanisms limited itself to studying existing formulas, and therefore failed to fulfil its mandate,” Bissio told IPS.
As a result, the matter of new financing mechanisms has been postponed until the next PrepCom session in September.
The same holds true for the issue of Internet governance, a particular priority for the developing countries, which want to participate in the management of the worldwide web. As of now, it remains in private hands, under the protection of the U.S. government.
With regard to freedom of expression, the Media Caucus is pressing for the WSIS to declare Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the ”philosophical primus for the Internet.”
According to Article 19, ”Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The adoption of Article 19 was decided upon at the ”very last moment” of the first phase of the WSIS in Geneva, Naughton said, because of opposition from countries like El Salvador, Egypt and China.
During PrepCom Two, an International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) report was widely distributed, reporting freedom of expression violations in Tunisia.
These abuses were studied by the Media Caucus, with Tunisians making up the majority of the participants in the discussion, Naughton said.
”I was so proud that this Caucus was able to have a principled discussion and put out a document that is absolutely in line with Article 19, even although some of the countries are not in conformity with the statement that we made,” she added.
In any event, the Media Caucus chair stated that she is not opposed to the holding of the second phase of the WSIS in Tunis. ”I accept that those decisions are made and are not going to be changed,” she said.
”I think that the only way that things change is if people inside countries actually earn the change and promote it themselves,” she added.
newsnode 9:08 AM - [Link]
Criticism of Tunisia Not Welcome at the Prepcom
The Highway Africa News Agency (HANA) has just posted an article about how the WSIS secretariate is preventing a coalition of WSIS-accredited organizations from distributing a report highly critical of the Tunisian government. "The report details the imprisonment of individuals, the blocking of news and information websites, police surveillance of emails and Internet cafes, lack of pluralism and media censorship," HANA reports.
Tunisia, of course, will host the WSIS summit next November, and its questionable record regarding free expression and human rights has led to much criticism. So a coalition of groups participating in the WSIS summit published a report documenting the Tunisian government's record. But because the coalition in itself is not a WSIS-accredited organization, the WSIS secretariate will not allow them to distribute the report here at the WSIS Prepcom in Geneva.
newsnode 12:02 PM - [Link]
Global digital divide 'narrowing'
The "digital divide" between rich and poor nations is narrowing fast, according to a World Bank report.
The World Bank questioned a United Nation's campaign to increase usage and access to technology in poorer nations.
"People in the developing world are getting more access at an incredible rate - far faster than... in the past," said the report.
But a spokesman for the UN's World Summit on the Information Society said the digital divide remained very real.
"The digital divide is rapidly closing," the World Bank report said.
Half the world's population now has access to a fixed-line telephone, the report said, and 77% to a mobile network.
The report's figures surpass a WSIS campaign goal that calls for 50% access to telephones by 2015.
The UN hopes that widening access to technology such as mobile phones and the net will help eradicate poverty.
"Developing countries are catching up with the rich world in terms of access [to mobile networks]," the report said.
"Africa is part of a worldwide trend of rapid rollout... this applies to countries rich and poor, reformed or not, African, Asian, European and Latin American."
A spokesman for the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS), which is meeting this week in Geneva, told the BBC News website: "The digital divide is very much real and needs to be addressed.
"Some financing has to be found to help narrow the divide."
On Tuesday, a meeting of the WSIS in Geneva agreed to the creation of a Digital Solitary Fund.
"The fund is voluntary and will help finance local community-based projects," said the WSIS spokesman.
Under the proposals agreed, voluntary contribution of 1% on contracts obtained by private technology service providers could be made to the Digital Solidarity Fund.
The exact financing mechanism of the fund is to be ironed out in the coming days, said the WSIS.
Sixty percent of resources collected by the fund will be made available for projects in least developed countries, 30% for projects in developing countries, and 10% for projects in developed countries.
newsnode 12:00 AM - [Link]
WSIS PrepCom-2 focuses on ICTs for development
23 February, 2005
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Plan of Action, at its first phase in Geneva in December 2003, requested that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan establish a task force to review the adequacy of existing financial mechanisms to meet the challenges of ICTs for development. The Task Force completed its report at the end of December 2004 for consideration by PrepCom-2.
PrepCom-2 has invited Ambassador Guy Olivier Segond to make a presentation on the Digital Solidarity Fund, an African initiative aimed at alleviating digital divides in all societies. Also, Civil Society held a special session on financial mechanisms for ICT for development. Two reports were presented regarding the matter. The first one focused on financing strategies for information societies based on the conceptual framework of Global Public Goods (GPGs). The second report looked at progress and issues in financing ICT4D in Sub-Saharan Africa. Summit has focused The Tunis Plan of implementation. The Plan, which forms the bulk of the operational part of the final document tabled by the 'Friends of the Chair', represents a concerted effort to translate into concrete reality the Plan of Action adopted at the Geneva phase of WSIS, held in December 2003. Summit makes a conscious endeavour to establish a link between ICTs and Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). 'Promoting WSIS: MDGs Synergies' was a parallel event organised by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, and the Global Knowledge Partnership. They had focused on 'up-scaling pro-poor ICT policies and practices', and the event was chaired by Walter Fust, Director-General, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. A parallel event of PrepCom-2 was held to call attention to e-Learning as a tool for sustainable development.
newsnode 9:08 AM - [Link]
Hanging with the Telecentres Posse
nb this is from a blogposting
I hosted a meeting for members of the telecentres caucus who are participating in the Geneva WSIS Prepcom. Around 15 people attended; interestingly, more than half were new the caucus and had not previously participated in our online discussions. The meeting faced a notable challenge in the sense that the group was evenly divided between English speakers and French speakers, with several of us not strong enough in the other's language to communicate on our own. Fortunately, I managed to recruit Stephane Roberge of IDRC to serve as translator, and he did an excellent job.
Much of the meeting was spent introducing ourselves; we had participants from South Africa, France, Congo-Brazzaville, Switzerland, the USA, Lesotho, Tunisia and several other countries. Several participants described local telecentre initiatives in which they are engaged, including a project to launch 100 telecentres in France, as well as an initiative to open telecentres for the disabled in North Africa.
Given the fact that our gathering represented less than 10% of the caucus membership, we decided to focus less on setting a specific agenda for the group; rather, we committed to reviewing the initial discussions that took place online last autumn in the hopes of prioritizing potential goals previously discussed by the group. Participants also agreed to make a stronger effort at posting comments to the list in more than one language, even if it requires using machine translations such as Babelfish. Otherwise there is the danger that the group could divide into an English language group and a Francophone group. Fortunately, it seemed the group agreed we should avoid this happening, and continue to see the caucus as multilingual, multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder.
So while our meeting was brief and rather small, I feel quite hopeful afterwards, particularly in the way the caucus email list responded so quickly to my request to comment on the document presented by me this morning in the plenary. Similarly, I hope that members of the group will take the time to review the political chapeau document I referred to in a previous email, so we can offer comments on this important document this Friday morning.
newsnode 8:08 AM - [Link]
WSIS: The Tunis Plan, from Principles to Action
The second meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom-2 of the Tunis phase) is taking place in Geneva (Switzerland) and will resume on the 25th of this month.
The first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society was hosted by Switzerland, from 10 to 12 December 2003. The second phase will be hosted by Tunisia in November 16-18, 2005.
The First International Preparatory Meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society was held in Hammamet, Tunisia, June 24-26.
Having forged ahead with discussion on the mechanisms to finance ICTs, which will resume Tuesday 22 February, the Subcommittee pressed on with consideration of the other main topic on the agenda of PrepCom-2: The Tunis Plan of implementation. The Plan, which forms the bulk of the operational part of the final document tabled by the “Friends of the Chair”, represents a concerted effort to translate into concrete reality the Plan of Action adopted at the Geneva phase of WSIS, held in December 2003. The entire document is in square brackets (not yet agreed) as of now, and therefore subject to fine-tuning of language that will eventually yield consensus on this key issue.
As States debated the first chapter of proposals to move from principles to action, one recurring issue was that the date 2008 set for countries to elaborate e-strategies as an integral part of national development plans was unrealistic. Many developing countries expressed the need to remove such time constraints from the text given their differing levels of development. The EU, on the other hand, suggested a review date of 2010 to mainstream and align national e-strategies, thus looking forward to 2015 as the target to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Australia, Canada and the US agreed that language should be consistent with the Millennium Declaration.
Regarding the establishment of early-warning systems for natural disasters, Sri Lanka reminded participants of the critical importance of the need to bolster such capabilities. Sri Lanka had been one of the countries most affected by last December’s tsunami tragedy. It called upon ITU to pursue every effort, together with other international organizations, to agree on the most appropriate technology and funding of an early warning system for the Indian Ocean. Japan and the US supported Sri Lanka’s position.
Discussion also centred on the need to take account of human capacity-building, training and labour re-qualification to meet the challenges in converting to an Information Society and enabling citizens to exploit the potential of ICTs. South Africa went further by proposing investment both in formal education and in human resources, such as teachers, women and youth.
Others endorsed buttressing the regional dimension to e-development, Russia for example, suggested the inclusion of telemedicine as a means to improving access to the world’s health knowledge. Iraq said due attention should be paid to environmental questions. Brazil felt that an additional clause should cover the issue of technological convergence. Still others insisted on the explicit mention of local languages and content and means to achieve that.
Source: ITU Press Room
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African delegations to WSIS support Digital Solidarity Fund
Delegations from Africa at the Second Prepcom of the World Summit for Information Society (WSIS) taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, have unanimously supported the Digital Solidarity Fund (GSF) and called upon all other delegations to assist in designing a Fund that all nations could and would support.
"I think the DSF is necessary. It must be a complementary financial mechanism," Ghana's Minister of Communication, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah said in his statement made available to the GNA in Accra.
"It must be accessible by all. Its registration under Swiss law will provide transparency that is crucial for its survival," said Mr Kan-Dapaah, who is leading Africa's negotiation at the PerpCom-2.
As part of the negotiations at the PrepCom-2, the issue of the Digital Solidarity Fund proposed to secure investment resources for the development of communications infrastructure in developing countries has come under serious contention from the more endowed countries. The mechanism for financing the Information Society has attracted the concern of the UN Secretary-General, Busumuru Kofi Annan, who has appointed a Special Task Force to advise on the particular issue. Mr Kan-Dapaah said essentially, the Fund was to complement existing financial mechanisms.
"It is necessary only because, as the Task Force on Financial Mechanisms acknowledged, the limitations and the shortcomings of the market do not permit the private sector to intervene in all areas where intervention is needed," he said.
He added that the DSF was the suggested solution to address this special need or gap.
"The DSF will go to assist, on global basis, areas where existing financial mechanisms will not go. That is what we mean by 'complementary'.
"The DSF will not, indeed, should not be allowed to compete with other known and efficient financing mechanisms such as the private sector and the International Financing Institutions," Mr Kan-Dapaah said.
The Minister said the Task Force concluded that the DSF was yet to be operational, but this was not entirely true.
"Indeed, following its conception during WSIS I by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, his country teamed up with the cities of Geneva, Lyon and the Province of Turin to operationalise the DSF by registering the Fund in August 2004 in Geneva as a Foundation under Swiss Law with a Secretariat in Geneva.
"It has since been endorsed by the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Governments and received the support of many local authorities and intergovernmental organisations." Mr Kan-Dapaah said the Fund relied on voluntary commitment of stakeholders, which is made up of voluntary contributions of governments, local authorities, private sector, civil society and international organisations.
It had also been proposed that a voluntary contribution of one per cent on contracts obtained by private ICT service providers was made to the Fund, he said adding that a disbursement formula had also been put in place.
Mr Kan-Dapaah said the mechanics of how the Fund works were not cast in concrete and could be improved upon.
"Here, we recognize the expertise and experience of our development partners in running similar funds. They know the mistakes associated with similar schemes elsewhere and it is our expectation that once the concept is accepted they can help us to improve upon the mechanisms."
He, therefore, recommended to all stakeholders - governments, private sector, civil society and local authorities - to support the Digital Solidarity Fund.
newsnode 6:02 AM - [Link]
Communications Minister briefs PrepCom
Mr. Albert Kan Dapaah, Minister of Communications, attending the second Preparatory Meeting (PrepCom) of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva, Switzerland, has presented Africa's decisions arrived at during the just ended regional conference in Accra, which seeks among other things to build international cooperation among stakeholders to bridge the digital divide.
Ghana by virtue of its position as a member of the governing Council of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) presented the decisions expected to form part of contributions of various countries and regions to the world community preparing for the second phase of the WSIS conference scheduled for November this year in Tunisia.
The decisions were arrived at during the Africa regional conference hosted by Ghana from February 2-4 at which representatives from 53 African countries pledged to forge a common front to build an information society, which is inclusive of all stakeholders including governments, private sector, civil society as well as international organizations.
At the on-going meeting in Geneva, Mr Kan Dapaah said he presented the decisions on the basis of the outcomes, and taking into account the Declaration of principles and the Plan of Action adopted by the first phase of the Summit in Geneva.
The Accra Conference therefore, adopted the principles that building the information and shared knowledge society would contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals to improve quality of life and eradicate poverty by creating opportunities to access, utilise and share information.
Another principle was that building the information society required the construction and maintenance of adequate ICT infrastructure.
Africa noted in this principle that funding for the construction would necessarily differ and financing mechanism for developed countries could not be the same as for developing countries.
On International Cooperation, the Minister said Africa considered that it was critical to become active players in the Information Society right from the start.
"In the past, countries that had been left out in similar economic revolutions have not been able to catch up," he said, adding, "We, therefore, call upon international and regional organisations to assist African countries in the implementation of the WSIS decision, including the urgent development and implementation of broadband ICT infrastructure as anticipated by the NEPAD."
Mr Kan Dapaah also said the Accra meeting considered some urgent operational aspects of the WSIS for which participants agreed on short, medium and long-term plans required to implement the general objectives of the Geneva Action Plan.
On this aspect, the Minister said member states agreed that in order to access the implementation of the Information Society, a specific set of basic indicators should be established and used to evaluate progress in the process.
The Minister's presentation also contained a call on the continent's leaders to pay attention to human resource training and education for the information society with emphasis on the youth and women to increase the contribution to the global knowledge economy. He said participants reinforced their belief in the Digital Solidarity Fund and other existing mechanisms, saying these should be explored to face financing challenges of implementing the action plan. He informed the PrepCom meeting that Africa agreed on Internet Governance and called for the establishment of appropriate regulatory frameworks to deal with issues relating to SPAM, cyber-criminality and privacy among other things.
Mr Kan Dapaah called for the support of the global community, saying: "As we prepare to move to Tunis in November 2005, our collective aspiration is to create access to telecommunication facilities to enable us achieve the goals of the Millennium Declaration through effective implementation of the action plan we have set for our selves and we call for the support of the global community."
The Accra meeting was mandated by the Africa Union and was coordinated by the Economic Commission of Africa. 21 Feb. 05
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WSIS PREPCOM-2 Tunis Phase: Day 2 Report
Friday 18th February 2005 Palais des Nations Geneva, SWITZERLAND.
1. Plenary Session The second day of the WSIS PrepCom-2 reconvened again today to hear the views of member countries, IGO's and civil society on the report of the TFFM.
The Chairman allocated 15 minutes speaking slots each morning for members of the international agencies and civil society that wish to address the Plenary.
The Secretariat announced that approximately 1,500 participants are involved in the WSIS PrepCom-2 and this total is not final.
About 8 member countries (Indonesia, Senegal, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, Australia, El Salvador, Mexico, and Kenya) stated their reactions to the TFFM Report. The Australian delegation took the floor and committed to its continuing support to developing countries’ effort in ICT development. It also called upon other governments to place greater priority in allocating the necessary resources to ICT initiatives.
Other WSIS member states, particularly Indonesia and Kenya, felt that the TFFM Report failed to propose workable, alternative, and creative solutions. Senegal shared similar views with Indonesia and further argued that the existing mechanisms do not respond promptly to their needs and perhaps establishing a system that respond to all needs quickly must be considered seriously.
Switzerland expressed its concern about the need to consider special financial support for LDC’s noting that private funds are often insufficient to support their developmental programs. It also cautioned members against embracing Report’s proposal for the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF), despite it being a good concept, but members must continue to examine other options, particularly on the spot solutions.
Kenya, supported by most of the African States, welcomed the proposal for a DSF but El Salvador expressed reservations about the fair distribution and allocation of such funds. The general reaction to the Report this morning was a mixed one although the concept of a DSF was acceptable to all members.
Members of International Agencies and Civil Society Groups also addressed the Plenary. The UNESCO and UNTACD informed the Plenary on their WSIS related activities such as on line programs and capacity building. On a different note, the Civil Society Representatives such as the Gender Caucus appealed for consideration of gender issues to ensure women benefit from ICT developmental programs. The Community Media Group called for establishing a system which responses quickly to the needs of the community because the current system does not allow for fast responses. It also stated that past experience has convinced them that donors do not have experience working at community levels.
2. Sub-Committee Session The work of the Sub-Committee in negotiating the alternative draft for Chapter 2 (financial mechanisms) of the Operational Part (Tunis Action Plan) completed today. Chapter 2 consisted of seven sections: TFFM mandate; scale of the problem; effectiveness of existing financial mechanisms; inadequacies of current approach; preconditions; improvements and innovations; and Digital Solidarity Fund.
Much of the work focused on the details of the draft whereby members inserted, omitted, and/or replaced words / phrases of the draft to reflect their aspirations. A second reading will continue on Monday and members have further opportunities to fine tune the document.
3. Regional Adviser’s Reflections of Day 2 1. Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) The proposed set up of the DSF by the TFFM Report captured a lot of attention from WSIS members although the general reaction was one of acceptance. Attached to such acceptance are genuine concerns by members of developing and least developed countries for establishing a system which will ensure the fair distribution of the DSF. No real formula for distributing the DSF has been proposed.
Indeed by implication Forum member countries will benefit from the DSF. The reality remains however that forum members will compete with other SIDs, developing countries or LDCs. Strong competitors for the DSF will include the African states, India, Indonesia, Caribbean states, and the Latino countries.
Forum member countries may wish to look immediately at strategies which will increase its chances of receiving its fair share of the DSF. Projects may take a regional or national approach, although it is often favourable to funding agencies to consider regional programs which will benefit more than one country and/or region. Therefore consideration must also be given to opportunities for partnerships in regional projects, if deemed appropriate by Forum members, with other regions, such as Asia, Latin America or Africa, and such an initiative will encourage the application and fulfilment of the South-South Alliance.
2. Regional Groupings/Alliances at PrepCom-2 The WSIS PrepCom-2 members rallied as regional groups rather than individual member countries was perhaps the most prominent feature of the WSIS negotiation process. During the last two days, the Groups for Africa, Latin America, EU, NE Asia, and the Arab regions projected themselves strongly as blocks and agreed to the delivery of their statements by one of their members, at the same time flexibility was given to other members to freely to raise their flags in support of their spokesperson. A similar strategy has been adopted by civil society groups with similar interests. This strategy seemed to serve their purpose effectively in a forum of 1,500 delegates where opportunities for each member to speak are limited.
The voice of the Forum member states, other than Australia, has not been heard due to the absence of most from PrepCom-2 Tunis Phase. The WSIS process is almost at its final stage and it is critical that Forum member countries continue to participate and be seen to be active in the negotiating process. It should also adopt the principle of ‘be seen and be heard’ if it wishes to be recognised by regional blocks in the WSIS negotiating process. Therefore it is important for Forum member countries that are absent from PrepCom-2 Tunis Phase to seek support from their counterparts in Geneva this week to become their voice. Such a strategy has been applied before and benefits can only be gained from willingness to work together for the benefit of the Forum Island Countries. Mr. W Roberts, a member of the NZ delegation, expressed his willingness to support members of the Pacific Forum who may wish to address the plenary. He stated that: New Zealand in the past has supported statements made by Forum member countries such as Fiji and Samoa. This cooperative spirit should be fostered.
Other alternatives Forum member countries may also need to consider includes collaborating with other regional blocks on issues of similar concerns and interests. Such collaboration may go a long way in reducing political barriers and pave the way for stronger political cooperation.
4. Non WSIS PrepCom-2 Event The Australian Mission in Geneva extended dinner invitations to the delegations from the Pacific (NZ, Samoa, and PI Forum Secretariat) for Tuesday evening, February 22 2005.
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Maasai: Local Languages Demand More Space on the Internet
A bid to have African languages join the likes of English and French in the Internet is being blocked by information experts from the West as lacking in commercial value.
A group of African linguistics and technology experts at a recent African Regional Preparatory Conference for the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in Accra, Ghana, say they have already developed special characters that can now help these languages be used on the World Wide Web.
They argue that the use of languages such as English has played a big role in the development of Western countries.
Another reason the Westerners are opposed to African languages being put on the Web, they say is their structure with some having characters and sounds in their alphabet that are not recognisable in the coding system of the Internet.
Therefore, the continent should continue expressing itself through appropriate languages in social and economic development.
According a Prof Mwasoko from the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Africa's political elites are a problem than a solution, as they too oppose, for reason well known to them, the use of these languages on the Internet,
Prof Salam Diakite, Director of Research and Documentation, African Academy of Languages said the only way to make African languages accepted in the cyberspace is to transact business in those languages.
In Kenya, for instance, information on tourism and tea products should be in a local language or in Kiswahili, which Microsoft is going to launch officially on the Internet between April and May this year.
Other communities like the Maasai Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, or Turkana can also use their languages on the Internet when communicating with their family members, relatives or transacting business with the outside world.
If this happens, then those from Europe and America will have no otherwise but to learn how to use these languages. But this can only occur if special characters and sounds like those found in the Gikuyu dialects are accepted by Unicode consortium.
Based in the USA, and with organizations such as Microsoft and International Business Machines (IBM) as members, Unicode Standard defines how characters and sounds of different languages are represented in modern software products and standards.
Language experts think bantu speaking communities will be better placed to put their languages on the Internet because they can adopt the Kiswahili characters and sounds, which Unicode has approved.
Addressing participants at the Accra conference, Mark Lange, senior attorney at Microsoft, said they support the idea of African languages on the internet.
But he was fast to add that African countries need to put in place proper standards for the idea to be supported by other stakeholders in the information society.
Currently, there are plans to put in place an African standardization and certification centre for those who want to use their vernacular languages on the website.
Dr Shem Ochuodho, a computer expert, says any attempt to address over 80 per cent of Africans who live in the rural areas on how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), can, among other things, be achieved by using their languages online.
"The only problem is the existence of a few words from certain African languages whose sounds cannot be accepted by the computer," says Prof Diakite.
African linguistics at the African Academy of Languages have therefore developed special characters for these languages, and now want them accepted by Unicode.
This list of African characters is then to be officially submitted to the committee of ISO standardization so that the characters can be added to their list as pre-composed African characters.
Once this happens, letters in the African language in use will have to be mapped into the keyboards of computers. The type of fonts used will also have to change depending on the language being used.
In addition, a dictionary of the African languages has to be developed to aid those people who are going to have problems in expressing themselves in these languages.
So far, less than one percent of African languages have developed these requirements and gotten access to the cyberspace. In Ethiopia, where the local and national language, Amharic, is in use, attempts have been made to use it on the computer.
Experts there have been struggling since the 1980's to make the computer recognize the Amharic characters. Since they have been accepted by Unicode, Dr Atnafu says they have in place a Content Management System, which allows them to use both Amharic and English on the computer.
In South Africa too, local languages have been put in use on the Internet.
Whereas these two countries have made headway in placing their local languages on websites, other African countries face a double challenge.
Most of them have to find ways of ensuring their people speak and use their own language when communicating economic, social and political issues.
As a first step, the conference has recommended that each African country should introduce the teaching of an African language from the primary school level up to the university as a linguistic bilingual policy.
This language is to be taught alongside English or French and both are to be examinable subjects at both primary and secondary school levels as well as in colleges.
African Union is expected to take up the issue, and impress upon member states to implement the recommendation. Likewise, to accelerate the use of local languages in ICTs, the Union is to declare 2006 as the year of African languages.
As the momentum to use Kenyan and other African languages on the website picks up, linguistics are now warning parents who pride in their children's fluent foreing languages to start a rethink.
They argue that children instructed in their mother tongue are more likely to grasp what they are taught than when the instructiona are in English or French
newsnode 9:02 AM - [Link]
UNECA, AU to lead other donors for Africa’s Digital Solidarity Fund
THE UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the Africa Union would lead other donors to provide funding for Africa’s Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) which is expected to digitally divide between Africa and the developed West. Another prominent agency that has indicated interest in the fund is the Global Knowledge Partnerships amongst others.
This is in spite of the fact that the fund has not gotten the final approval of the WSIS phase 1 which held in Geneva last year.
An African agency working to bridge the digital divide, Africa Digital Initiatives and Financing Agency, ADIFA, said that these agencies having realised that the lacking of financing has contributed immensely to the widening of the digital divide had decided to contribute to the DSF to help in ameliorating the situation.
Ebrima Jobe, ADIFA’s executive director, apparently referring to the DSF, urged Africa to entice other donors and financing entities to be responsive to the outcome of international conventions and heed recommendations that would help improve the lives of African people.
“We need to forge strategic partnerships and play a catalytic role in enticing and facilitating interventions in projects and establish close links with African regional and sub-regional organisations with interest in financing ICT’s,” Jobesaid.
Jobe said regional bodies should monitor ICT initiatives in Africa and assist countries in their efforts to secure the necessary financial resources to implement projects emanating from e-strategies in particular.
“They should help governments, civil society, the private sector, women, the youth and the physically disadvantaged in establishing relationships and partnerships with financing mechanisms for information society development,” he contended.
Meanwhile, Uganda says it is waiting for a decision from the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) phase two before committing itself to the DSF.
“Though Uganda and other developing countries supported the establishment of the fund, it was not approved by the WSIS phase one summit in Geneva in 2003,” said Patrick Mwesigwa, the technical director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).
“Instead, the summit asked the United Nations Secretary General’s office to set up a task force to carry out a study on the existing financial mechanisms and look into the feasibility of setting up the fund,” he said.
Mwesigwa said Uganda, like other developing countries, is confronted with problems related to limited financial resources, inadequate infrastructure and a lack of access. He pointed out other limiting factors such as a lack of awareness about the benefits of ICT’s in social economic development.
“Some countries have on their own decided to contribute to the fund, and Uganda’s position is that the fund should be set up in order to address the enormous financial requirements to meet the WSIS targets and the millennium development goals,” he said.
Mwesigwa said that government is committed to implement the WSIS Plan of Action through the national ICT policy and the telecom policy that is currently under review.
newsnode 1:02 AM - [Link]
UN Prepares for WSIS
In preparation for the next WSIS conference, the United Nations has issued several releases on technology in the developing world. The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is scheduled to take place from 18 to 25 November in Tunisia's capital, Tunis.
K.Y. Amoako, chief of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) chief KY Amoako said: "As we head to Tunis, Africa should be able to provide access [to ICT] within walking distance of all its people." African countries should take up the urgent challenge of becoming major actors in the Internet governance debate and help shape development goals, particularly in trade and business, he said.
In a related release, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) earlier this month convened 150 media professionals, policy-makers and freedom of expression advocates to consider ways of safeguarding freedom of expression on the Internet. The meeting was scheduled to hear from speakers on topics ranging from freedom of expression on the Web, to the use of the Internet in the political process and whether legitimate concerns, such as fear of terrorism, could justify limiting the free flow of information.
Other subjects to be covered include the impact and social consequences flowing from restrictions and regulations on news media on the Internet, and the issue of continuing to contribute content to the Internet despite the codes some are trying to impose.
newsnode 8:02 AM - [Link]
Official Calls For "Walking -Distance" Access To Communication Technologies
Well-defined roles must guide national and regional actions in building Africa's information and communications technologies, paving the way for easy access by all people on the continent, according to the head of the United Nations regional commission for Africa.
"We must distinguish between projects and initiatives that will be supported by our development partners, those by governments, as well as the private sector. There will also be a role for public-private partnerships," Economic Commission for Africa (http://www.uneca.org/) chief KY Amoako said at the conclusion of a preparatory conference for the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) later this year.
"Actions alone will not deliver the desired results," he added.
The second phase of the http://www.itu.int/wsis/ scheduled to take place from 18 to 25 November in Tunisia's capital, Tunis. The Summit's first part was held in December 2003 in Geneva.
"As we head to Tunis, Africa should be able to provide access [to ICT] within walking distance of all its people," Mr. Amoako said last Friday in his address to the meeting in Ghana's capital, Accra, which had the theme "Access - Africa's key to an inclusive Information Society."
African countries should take up the urgent challenge of becoming major actors in the Internet governance debate and help shape development goals, particularly in trade and business, he said.
He also highlighted the need to generate internal resources and to tap into financial, technical and human resources from the African Diaspora.
newsnode 12:00 AM - [Link]
Africa prepares for world summit on IT, Net
The African Regional Preparatory Conference for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Accra, Ghana, put the spotlight on the issue of information and communication technology (ICT) funding for the developing world.
"There is no running away from the fact that most of our best-laid plans have often been undermined by lack of money," said Ghanaian President John Kufuor at the meetings' official opening.
The preparatory meeting, which ran from last Tuesday to Friday, was one of the regional meetings held before the WSIS meets in Tunisia in November.
At the Accra meeting, African ministers as well as representatives from the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the World Bank and other multilateral organizations examined ways to bridge the digital divide and finance the so-called information society on the continent.
Before last week's WSIS preparatory conference, African ministers of the African Ministerial Committee on Information and Communication Technologies reached a consensus that the Digital Solidarity Fund remained the only practical information-society funding mechanism. The Digital Solidarity Fund is an international initiative based in Geneva, through which public administrations contribute a percentage of the value of government ICT contracts to a common pot, to be disbursed for technology projects in developing markets.
Government and political leaders during the ministerial conference agreed that the Digital Solidarity Fund complements other mechanisms and does not compete with them. They encouraged member countries to continue to utilize existing financial mechanisms to fund the growth of new ICT networks and services. Other issues on the talking board at the WSIS preparatory conference included bandwidth access and infrastructure as well as ICT for socioeconomic development and Internet governance.
"With poor infrastructure and high costs of access to information and knowledge, we cannot compete freely and fairly in the digital world," said Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda.
"Unless the asymmetries and imbalances in information and communication technologies are removed, we cannot fully integrate into world economy," he said.
However, there have been some positive steps toward construction of regional infrastructure, according to other speakers.
For example, some countries are working together to complete the fiber optic cable loop around the African continent, between South Africa and Djibouti, according to according to Henry Chasia, executive deputy chairperson of the e-Africa Commission, which operates under the aegis of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
NEPAD, based in Johannesburg, is an initiative operating under the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity, which is building and improving ICT infrastructures on the continent.
There also been progress on the plan to connect land-locked countries with cable network heads, another project initiated under NEPAD, Chasia said. So far 15 countries have signed memos of understanding about it, he said.
A conference resolution, agreed on by government and multilateral institution representatives, focused on the role that international Internet bodies play in building infrastructure for developing markets, and for the need to incorporate local languages into Internet access.
"Special attention should be paid to the Integration of African languages and to multilingualism in the Internet," the resolution said.
newsnode 1:00 AM - [Link]
HANA ENJOYS AT NETHERLANDS EMBASSY PARTY
The Royal Netherlands Embassy in Accra last week organised a buffet-dinner for the Highway Africa News Agency (HANA) team that visited the WSIS conference in Ghana. The HANA is a group of African journalists majoring in Information, Technology and Communication (ICT) reporting.
The second secretary of the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Mr Bob Hensen who hosted the guests encouraged journalists to build a network to share ideas among others.
Some Ghanaian journalists from the Daily Graphic, TV3, Radio Gold and the Accra Daily Mail joined their colleagues from South Africa, Zambia, Ethiopia, Gambia and Nigeria among others to grace the occasion.
newsnode 6:02 AM - [Link]
Between September 2003 and today, The Focus here is on news developments about Africa in the WSIS. Most info here has been freely gotten through emails from Highway Africa News Agency (HANA)Rhodes University, South Africa