Metamorphosis, a think and do tank
By FD for APCNews
MONTREAL, CANADA, 09 May 2007
APCNews: In your own words, what is Metamorphosis, who’s involved and where does it come from?
MF: Metamorphosis is a think and do tank from Macedonia, gathering experts and activists devoted to the development of an information society, which we see as crucial element in bettering people’s lives. Most of the people currently involved rely on a background in the IT industry and the NGO sector, but in general, we favour an interdisciplinary approach and broad involvement of stakeholders. This generally contributes to widening and diversifying of our circle of associates.
APCNews: Your main goal is the "development of democracy and prosperity by promoting a knowledge-based economy and information society". This sounds ambitious. What does it mean on the ground, in the Macedonian context?
MF: Based on our firm belief that information and communication technology (ICT) is an essential resource for capacity-building and social and economic development, we work both with decision makers on the policy level and with citizens and their organisations on issues affecting their daily lives. One of the main issues hindering Macedonia’s development in this regard is the lack of knowledge and awareness.
It’s a challenge in a situation where 70% of Macedonian citizens, especially the older segment, impoverished and rural citizens have never used the internet. We strive towards increasing opportunities for people to gain knowledge and ICT skills, enabling them to communicate with each other. Other major obstacles include high unemployment and an educational system in need of reforms. Increased deployment of ICT leads to greater opportunities, including economic and human development. ICT can be used as a powerful tool in reducing poverty, improving health services, expanding educational opportunities and generally improving the quality of life of those in danger of being left behind in Macedonia and the region.
APCNews: Could you provide us with examples of projects that you currently carry out and that could help us understand how you actually aim at social change?
MF: With regard to knowledge sharing, we promote free culture-oriented projects, including localization of Creative Commons licences into Macedonian. These are aimed at the creative community, while we use the Open Access approach to get the academic community onboard. We also work on localization, promotion and dissemination of free and open source software as a solution for most of the office needs of individual citizens, NGOs and municipalities, including the support via eRiders interventions and trainings. Another important project is Digital Clubhouses, which are public internet access points in rural or socially deprived communities which also provide basic training for citizens.
APCNews: Do you team-up with non-profit organisations regionally in order to develop ICT projects? If yes, who are they?
MF: So far, we’ve cooperated with the Internet Society Bulgaria (isoc.bg), Linux Centre from Serbia, Multimedia Institute and APC-member ZaMirNET from Croatia, and APTI from Romania in the areas of policy-oriented networking and skill sharing. Each year we organise the international e-Society.Mk conference, which gathers representatives of the governmental, civil society and business sectors from the region and beyond. Moreover, Metamorphosis participates in joint projects with academic and other institutions from the region and the European Unioné
APCNews: Since 2005, the two million strong Macedonia is a European Union candidate state. If your country joins, what will that change for the ICT sector and for non-profit organisations in particular?
MF: Joining EU will diminish inter-ethnic tensions which have been major obstacle to development in the last fifteen years, and end the period of transition which creates an atmosphere of gloom, uncertainty and helplessness among people. Reaching this level will also mean a harmonised legal system with strong emphasis on human rights, so the NGOs will be able to focus on monitoring the implementation instead of initiating progressive policy changes. EU member status will provide more opportunities for cooperation.
APCNews: What would you like to add to complete your profile?
MF: In all our efforts, we incorporate raising awareness and a transparent approach, especially building up good relations with the media. Lack of relevant e-content, i.e. information and services in local languages, also hinders use of digital technologies in Macedonia, and we therefore invest in providing technical support to various e-publishing efforts. In this context, this year we accepted the responsibility for organizing the World Summit Award contest for Macedonia, promoting best solutions with high impact in crucial areas, both domestically and abroad.