re:publica, or the blogger pilgrimage to Berlin
is on in Berlin! This blogger conference is a first for Germany and
that might help to explain its success. More than 600 people showed up
already to discuss what tools to use for blogging, what censorship in
Egypt implies and what politics 2.0 means.
Re:publica is on in Berlin! This blogger conference is a first for Germany and that might help to explain its success. More than 600 people showed up already to discuss what tools to use for blogging, what censorship in Egypt implies and what politics 2.0 means.
Most of the programme is in German-language and it’s hard to find people from outside Germany, Switzerland and Austria in the attendance. But what’s already great is that many have expressed interest in opening up the event to an international crowd as soon as next year. The organisers even made it clear that they intend to invite participants from “developing countries” for re:publica 08.
Also very positive is the high participation of women and girl bloggers at re:publica. I’ve never attended a tech-oriented event here in Germany without the gender-balance being a complete mess. I don’t know if women take more joy in writing text than writing code, but whatever the reason is, the turnout is encouraging and the discussions are that much more interesting.
Re:publica is organised by “newthinking communications”, a Berlin-based initiative promoting free software in the industry, NGO world and government. I’ve been spending more and more time with the newthinking folks over the last couple of weeks, not only because some of them have been following international internet events such as WSIS or the Internet Governance Forum, but also because we’re collaborating locally.
I’m volunteering with IT-Pool, a Kreuzberg (neighbourhood of Berlin) non-profit that’s been actively engaging in getting the technology to disadvantaged youth in Berlin. IT-Pool’s also developing a training and open access computing centre in Senegal this year, and this is where the Newthinkers and I got a chance to collaborate on.
Now on April 11 (yesterday), I took part in this re:publica panel/workshop on “Net culture in the South” with Newthinking worker Andrea Goetzke out of Cologne, Christian Kreutz from the GTZ and Lorenz Matzat, a Berlin-based journalist writing about technology. About 35 people attended and asked questions. Time did not allow for us to continue the Q&A session but from the feedback we got, it seemed to have kicked some ideas around that could well be expanded next year round. It also injected an international and development oriented dimension to the conference.
Andrea talked about the net in itself since as we all know, before you can talk about a net culture, you better have a net. She detailed some of the internet infrastructure issues that the APC community is familiar with. She also exposed some of the experiences she’s had with access to the internet in universities in Uganda and Ethiopia.
I expanded on the EASSy submarine cable issue and did some minor definition-work on the concept of “open access”. Then went into some of the campaigning work such as Take Back The Tech and FOSS advocacy that APC members are engaged with. Talked about the Tricalcar wireless project in Latin America and media initiatives that help craft a net culture in “developing countries”. For more info about the media part, I encourage you to check out the Highway Africa website and the Blogging in Africa event website.
Christian from the GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) gave a solid overview of blogging in Egypt, where he spent two years with his organisation. He specified that he developed a personal interest in closely following the heavy-handed Hosni Mubarak crackdown and censorship techniques on freedom of expression activists.
Finally, Lorenz exposed one of these North-South huge and controversial projects called the “One laptop per child” project. Also known as the 100-dollar laptop project, it is meant to equip youth in “developing countries” with low-cost laptops for educational purposes. Lorenz made a point in case to highlight the many criticisms that civil society is throwing at the initiators of the project, Mr Negroponte and the MIT Media Lab.
Re:publica is certainly there to stay. The energy here in Berlin certainly didn’t only stem from the fact spring has finally kicked-in. It’s very good to see people being so passionate about online publishing. I’m off to re:publica, more workshops coming up today and tomorrow!