So near, yet so far. Bangladesh is keenly looking forward to having an easier, more affordable and smoother ride into cyberspace, as APCNews staff writer Frederick Noronha finds out. In the eighth most populous country in the world (population 144 million), voices from civil society, the media and industry are increasingly surfacing, as this piece – filed from Dhaka in late April – demonstrates.
What does a director of a Paraguayan women’s organisation and a rural Colombian teacher have in common? For APC member in Colombia, Colnodo, the answer is clear. It is their capacity of using information and communication technologies (ICTs) as tools to empower women. This is the reason Colnodo celebrated the Women’s Month, in March, with courses, workshops and seminars aimed at making ICT accessible to women from different regions and realities.
He was involved in broadcasting and telecom policy work in South Africa during the transition to democracy, and in the immediate aftermath of the 1990s establishment of the Mandela government. In the field of policy for the past 15 years, Willie Currie is now APC’s manager of the Communications and Information Policy Programme. In an interview in Dhaka, Bangladesh in April, he explains what the Association for Progressive Communications is concerned about and the important policy issues plaguing our times from an APC point-of-view.
A detailed study of Venezuela’s topography, a trip to Italy, some pieces of ‘public domain’ software, satellite dishes that cross mountains on all-terrain trucks, cables, generators. This is neither a capricious list nor are its elements surrealist digressions. The elements that we have just enumerated are part of an ambitious endeavour that recently became a reality: to break the world wireless connection record by establishing a 279 km long link.
Telecentres are a model for community ownership of information and communication technologies: a model that works and is gaining strength, according to various successful experiences in Latin America. APC member in Brazil, RITS, is a civil society organisation committed to this new logic which is based on solidarity.
In between short gaps, and while waiting for the meetings – at the first APC-organised information and communication technology (ICT) policy workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh – to start, APCNews staff writer Frederick Noronha talks to APC’s women’s programme manager ‘Chat’ Garcia Ramilo about APC WNSP’s work, priorities and initiatives. ‘Chat’ took over the APC WNSP challenge in 2004 and works on the policy work of the Women’s Networking Support Programme.
APC’s Manilla-based member Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) has initiated a research project aimed at producing seven policy papers. They seek to contribute to policy development in some of the most important areas within the Philippines’ information and communication technology (ICT) arena.
Cheekay Cinco, member of APC WNSP, interviews Nancy Hafkin, woman pioneer of networking and ICTs development in Africa on her thoughts about the current gender and ICT policy environment. She reflects on the WSIS process and the recent Commission on the Status of Women, and articulates what is urgently needed to render visible the gender dimensions of ICTs at policy levels.
“There’s power in getting people to talk. When voices get online, and can express themselves, this in itself unleashes a whole new chemistry.” Hana Kim – better known by her cyberidentity as ‘Dalgun’ – clearly understands the relevance of her work. Soft-spoken Dalgun is part of the APC-member Korean progressive network Jinbonet (jinbo.net). She talks about the tactics she is involved with to get youngsters to blog. APCNews has met her in Dhaka, Bangladesh in mid-April.
Tadahisa Hamada of APC-member JCA-NET tells the story of an internet service provider that evolved from a technical support group for Japanese peace and social change organisations, to an advocacy hub. The non-profit is starting to itensify its fight against new wire-tap laws and electronic communication control by the Japanese state. Interview with a first-mover in the technology-for-social-justice realm in Japan.
In one of the first international labour communication meetings in South Africa, Capetown-based Workers World Media Productions and the International Federation of Workers Education Association (IFWEA) hosted over 50 trade unionists, labour activists and organisers from non-profit organisations between April 4 and 7, 2006. APC member LaborNet – who is getting ready for the major Labortech conference later this year – is in the field and reports for APCNews.
A business report filed in The Daily Star of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Thursday April 20 reveals that "Top policy makers yesterday termed digital divide dangerous for the country, saying it is creating imbalance in the society." Quoting Bangladesh’s principal secretary of the prime minister it goes on saying: "Digital divide is already existing in Bangladesh and widening very fast. Majority of the people do not have access to computer and education…it is very dangerous." The article has gathered many more voices at the first Asia ICT policy meeting organised by APC in Dhaka.
From April 24 to 27, the Datamation Foundation and the APC WNSP are organising a gender-evaluation methodology (GEM) training. APCNews has met Cheekay Cinco, one of the co-organisers, in Dhaka. "At the end of using GEM, one of the main outputs is an evaluation plan that incorporates gender. So, it’s not just about answering questions, but about identifying different stages in an evaluation, and where you can involve gender in those stages." Read the full interview on the APC women’s programme website.
Exactly one year after the successful introduction of GenderIT.org – the gender and information and communication technology (ICT) Policy Monitor in English – the APC WNSP now presents GenderIT en español, the Spanish counterpart of the monitor with original resources and coverage in Spanish, as well as in Portuguese.
"There is great potential for using free software in women’s organisations,” said an enthusiastic Lenka Simerska insisting that this potential “is driven by needs and growing interest in training and networking.” Simerska – one of three trainers in the Women’s Information Technology Transfer (WITT) team – commented at the end of a three-day ‘IT for women’ workshop taking place in Prague, Czech Republic on February 23 – 25 2006.
Since 9 March 2006, an informal African ‘open access task force’ – made up of NGOs and small and medium sized ISPs – was initiated to lobby for the implementation of an open access model in internet infrastructure. The task force is currently mobilised to make the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) ‘easy’, affordable and open. APCNews staff writer Frederick Noronha has gathered statements from two civil society stakeholders in what is to become a determining project for Africans’ equitable access to the web.
Indigenous women want to be the protagonists of the ICT appropriation process that they are experiencing. They are looking for ways to participate in the decisions that affect them. The only not to be excluded and sidelined to the margins is to plunge head on into the debate. The debate was moderated by Nidia Bustillos from Bolivia, a member of APC’s Women’s Networking Support Programme in Latin American (WNSP).
On Wednesday March 8, an awards ceremony took place at the Municipal Bank Auditorium in the city of Rosario, Argentina. The jury – made up of several different women from the university of Rosario, the municipality and the press – decided to present the Juana Manso award to www.enredando.org.ar in the digital journalism division. "This is such a great recognistion for our team of citizen journalists" expressed Flavia Fascendini of the enREDando communication team.
The digital divide ceases to be an abstract concept when we come across certain numbers: for 92 million of Latin Americans (sixteen per cent), lack of access to information communication technologies is a daily reality.
In a country where the majority of the population lives below the absolute poverty level, where political crises and violence have done away with social institutions, does it make sense to invest energies in information and communication technologies (ICTs)? Canadian APC member, Alternatives, firmly believes in this opportunity.