APC@GK3: Opening session: let’s engage in ICT4D. But what about human rights?

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia

The third Global Knowledge Conference, or GK3, has officially started today. The words “emerging people, emerging markets and emerging technologies”, the three main topics that structure this conference, were repeated many times by the speakers (which included the deputy prime minister of Malaysia). The words “human rights” or “freedom”, however, weren not mentioned not even once. This seemed weird, given what is happening in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, a few minutes away from fancy conference centre: people are being arrested for protesting peacefully against the "state" in this glossary). As a general rule, "government" should not be capitalised.

Source: Wikipedia">government

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The third Global Knowledge Conference, or GK3, has officially started today. The words “emerging people, emerging markets and emerging technologies”, the three main topics that structure this conference, were repeated many times by the speakers (which included the deputy prime minister of Malaysia). The words “human rights” or “freedom”, however, were not mentioned - not even once. This seemed weird, given what is happening in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, a few minutes away from fancy KLCC: people are being arrested for protesting peacefully against the government.

Even if the Plenary Hall of KLCC was not full, many people were there at 9:00 am sharp. The opening session normally sets the tone for big events like GK3. The fact that it is a partnership of very heterogeneous institutions, from giant corporations like Microsoft to small NGOs and from intergovernmental organisations to local agencies, got many participants intrigued.

Rinalia Abdul Rahim, executive director of the Global Knowledge Partnership, was the first to speak. She made a presentation on GKP and gave information that most of the public was familiar with. She also mentioned the original format and content structure of the conference, which includes not only panels and hands-on workshops, but also a telecentre village, a Young Social Entrepreneurs’ forum and a factory of ideas.

The second speaker was Walter Fust, from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (one of GK3’s main sponsors) and also member of the GKP Executive Committee. He insisted on the Style information: APC uses multi-stakeholder with a hyphen between "multi" and "stakeholder".

Source: Frequently Asked Questions about Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships in ICTs for Development: A guide for national ICT policy animators">multi-stakeholder

approach as the most suitable one for addressing the challenge of development and inclusion first, and the digital inclusion as a consequence of that, second. He recognised the challenge of such a diverse network as GKP and ended his presentation by saying: “Knowledge has a unique characteristic: it grows when you share it. In knowledge and partnerships, one plus one is often three.”

Then it was International Telecommunications Union's (Source: ITU">ITU

) deputy secretary general’s turn. Houlin Zhao started by apologising for being late from the airport and made a joke about wearing the same clothes. He did not seem to have read the newspapers about assembly and protests in the city. He then talked about building on the success of Source: APC ICT Policy Handbook and APC Annual Report 2005.">WSIS

through events such as GK3 and also highlighted the role of ICTs in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He praised Malaysia’s high speed technological development over the last years and said that the fact that they were hosting this conference, “shows its determination to play a role in the international arena.” The police detention of bloggers this last year was not mentioned. The “international arena” apparently has nothing to do with human rights.

Although Malaysia’s prime minister was expected to attend, only his deputy, Najib Tun Razak, could make it. He talked about “dialogue and discussion” as key to economic growth, and highlighted the importance of building “human capital”. “Access to knowledge is key to development and to promoting inclusion,” he added. One can’t help wondering what knowledge he was talking about. Obviously not a knowledge society where everyone has the right to say what she or he thinks.

The opening session concluded with speakers playing traditional drums. Much fuss about nothing?

GK3

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