What does diversity mean in the internet? The linguistic and content plurality approach is what the organising committee for the Internet Governance Forum, that is going on in Athens, Greece from October 29th to November 2nd, chose.
Aside from ‘access to the internet’ – the single most important issue at this weeks first Internet Governance Forum – ‘accessibility’ follows suite in what is to be labelled “priority”. In fact, access to the internet deals with submarine fibre optic cables, gigantic satellite dishes and other infrastructure considerations. That has to come first. But when you break down the story of internet access to the personal level, what is needed, is a strong commitment towards getting women, underprivileged and people with disabilities on board.
APC executive director Anriette Esterhuysen has told the Internet Governance Forum, meeting in Athens currently, that it has a duty play a much bigger role in spreading the sharing of ideas and encouraging innovation. Copyrighting and limiting the rights of teachers and learners in the developing world from share information would add only "limited value" to harnessing the internet for development, Esterhuysen said in the Greek capital.
Blatant censorship is one thing, and can be fought. But who controls the controllers? What about the more subtle forms of control and blockages, that often can work in the more brutal ways of the unseen hand? APC member-organisation RITS’s Carlos Afonso, made this point articulatedly at the Internet Governance Forum in Athens. Afonso underlined that it was difficult to deal internet-related issues "without considering the situation of regulation, legislation and control of the network itself." He questioned the view that "the technical question is not as relevant as the other issues." What is the responsibility of network operators? Controlling players decide if voice over IP traffic can pass through an exchange point or not.
The twist this IGF is giving to this old debate about ‘openness’ makes it that more relevant since it calls into life a confrontation, not only involving national law, but also market law. This is why corporations like Google have been taken for a ride at the IGF by those arguing that it is unacceptable that this advertisement firm – know for its flagship research engine – started operations in China, where restrictions on free speech are, to say the least, restrictive.
Opening internet access in Africa, convergence and developing country participation in the UN summit on the information society:
Several new papers on key issues now and in the future are available online. Part of the "APC Issue Papers" series, they are currently being circulated at the UN conference on internet governance being held in Athens in English and French.
If you think standards are boring, you had to be in Greece this week, where a loose coalition of researchers, librarians and corporate representatives launched a campaign on open standards. The timing coincided with a forum on the future of the internet that is receiving about 1,500 people in a hotel outside of Athens four days in a row.
"Someone from the Pacific Islands expressed that the single main challenge with which his region is increasingly faced with is global warming,” Milena Bokova said. Quite striking indeed that the very first workshop at the IGF would list this major environmental phenomenon as the greatest obstacle to making the internet accessible.
In a packed plenary room of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome this week, the BBC’s World Service Trust organised a world debate, hosted by BBC World star moderator Stephen Sackur. “Is a Free Media Essential for Development?” was the question asked. Trigger-happy panellists did not loose a second to get in debating mode.
Politically, the World Congress on Communication for Development that is presently unrolling in beautiful Rome might not seem to be the most relevant event. No gender perspective to report on, little debate on the value of telecom infrastructure, almost no inclusion of information and communication technology for development on the agenda. In one seminar, APC nevertheless felt like going political.
The very first World Congress on Communication for Developement got underway on October 25 in Rome. In the course of the WCCD, we will be able to measure if the participants will be able to give ‘communication for development’ a clear focus and genuine identity. With the diversity of voices in the audience though, one might scratch one’s head, doubting about the feasibility of this objective. APCNews is on the ground and offers an introduction here.
A single country will not be allowed to govern the internet, speakers at a national seminar vowed adding expectation of the poor countries should be addressed in the upcoming Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meet. The seminar took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on October 14.
Maxigas from APC-member Green Spider in Hungary reports on the progress accomplished at Transmission, a gathering of citizen journalists, video makers, artists, programmers and web producers who are developing online video distribution tools for social justice and media democracy. Last June, a workshop called Transmission.cc took place in Rome. No later than last week, transmission made a stop in London. Transmission is being autonomously organised by EngageMedia, Candida TV and Clearer Channel with the assistance of APC.au/c2o. Full info about the the latest event: http://retransmission.org.uk
INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM: APC puts up the fight for an open access, equal opportunity and educative internet
APC is viewing the inaugural meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) – which and will be held in Athens from October 30 to November 2 – as a "vitally important event”. "For the first time in a global policy forum, governments, civil society, the private sector and international organisations can address public policy issues concerning the internet on an equal footing," said APC’s policy programme head Willie Currie.
A consortium of socially-aware free and open source software advocates was launched on Software Freedom Day, September 16 2006, at the University of the Philippines. Commonly referred to as BUKAS (new open formation), it consists of seventeen organisations, which share the view that FOSS has become a political imperative in light of the actual Filipino “intellectual property” regime. “Information technology should make us not just a nation of users but a nation of creators. This can be done much better with Linux,” a founding member declared at the launch.
For Colnodo, APC member in Colombia, its commitment to the “strategic use of the internet for development” takes a variety of forms: from work with the government in the policy realm, to training for women, and resource exchange with community media. APCNews spoke to Olga Paz, administrative and projects coordinator, about various Colnodo activist campaigns for the democratisation of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The encounter took place in London at the ICT policy portals meeting organised by APC in late June.
In the midst of an armed conflict, organising an audiovisual communication workshop for youth does not tend to be a priority for groups working in the area. Nevertheless, for the International Peace Observatory (IPO), a Colombian organisation that was a finalist for the Betinho prize in 2005, it is essential that small farmer communities – who are the first victims of the war – be able to tell their stories. APCNews spoke to Laura Lorenzi, president of the IPO, about how new technologies can become arms in the struggle against the war.
This paper, by Kate Wild, was commissioned by the APC as part of the Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa (CATIA) initiative. It looks at the meaning and importance of convergence and considers some of the challenges to implementing it, along with strategies for overcoming them. It also provides a global perspective on regulating convergence and broadband from ITU and then looks at experiences in North America and Europe as well as regional and country approaches in Africa (PDF format).
This paper was commissioned by the APC as part of the Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa initiative and to contribute to APC’s efforts to promote open access to ICT infrastructure in Africa. According to the author, Mike Jensen, a variety of factors is responsible for the lack of acess to bandwith in Africa, but the biggest cause is the high cost of international connections to the global telecommunication backbones (PDF format).
From September 3-8, APC people descended on Pruhonice, a small town just outside Prague for the annual board and management meeting. While the first focused on APC governance issues, the management part of the meeting got under way with a warm-up training. Rob Purdie from iMPORTANT PROJECTS joined the APC folk from as far as Cambodia, the USA and South Africa for two very specific reasons: tp explain the different project management concepts out there, and apply some of them to APC’s reality.