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.
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.
Can the internet become an effective tool for efficiency and transparency in municipal management? APC member, Colnodo of Colombia is successfully carrying out two programmes aimed at local governments. In this article, Colnodo tells us about its participation in the Internet Project for Accountability and the Met@logo Project.
The annual coordination meeting of IFIwatchnet took place March 7th-9th in Montevideo, Uruguay. The meeting was organised by the project’s current coordinator, APC member, ITeM (Third World Institute). The members of the executive committee and regional outreach coordinators participated in this encounter.
APC member in South Asia, BytesForAll took part in the Baramati Initiative 2006 (www.baramatiinitiatives.org), a meet meant to promote ICTD in rural India, in March. This year’s theme was ICT-in-agriculture. From there, APCNews files a report on an interesting website.
A computer that’s encased in wood to resist tropical temperatures and consumes thirty times less electricity than the standard PC? The “Solo”
a unique computer that fights rural Africa’s heat, dust and unreliable power supply is being tested in Nigeria and will be ready for commercial production shortly. APCNews interviews Ochuko Onoberhie, a technician from APC member the Fantsuam Foundation, responsible for testing the Solo.
ZaMirNET’s web-based newsmagazine about civil society issues – ZaMirZINE [www.zamirzine.net] – established a network of independent webpages run by Croatian NGOs and civic groups, with the idea of improving the representation of civil society and its values in the media.
Major South African weekly, the "Mail and Guardian", reports from the APC-organised conference on EASSy, the East African submarine cable. The good news is that excessively high international bandwidth prices in Africa are to be challenged says the M&G but the benefits can be curtailed if operators maintain monopoly control.
IT for change, an NGO figthing alongside APC during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) has published "WSIS: The beginning of a global information society discourse" on March 11 in the Economic and Political Weekly. The piece attempts to place WSIS in the present geopolitical context and discusses its outcomes. It concludes that "WSIS may need to be judged more from the processes that it has set into motion than what it has achieved substantively."
A BBC News article published on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s online edition on Wednesday March 15 reports on the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and APC’s reluctance to the way it’s expected to be implemented. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has made its concerns and reservations about the new optical cable project for East Africa loud and clear at a consultation conference taking place a couple of days prior to the article’s release. BBC readers from Ethiopia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Namibia and many other countries are presently commenting on the BBC article which highlighted that "campaigners [such as the APC] fear that the cable might not actually make much difference to consumers because of high prices."
Africa currently has to pay for some of the most expensive bandwidth in the world. All this will change if the proposed East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) cable is built as it will connect countries on the eastern side of the continent and if this new capacity is offered in a way that maximises use and lowers price.
To help make this possible, APC is launching a new website “Fibre-for-Africa” and on March 10 will hold a consultation with more than 80 key stakeholders from all over Eastern and Southern Africa to ensure that access to EASSy
which will serve eight coastal and eleven land-locked countries is ‘easy’, affordable and open.
By March-end 2006, the first 50 telecenters of the Telecentros BR project are expected to be launched. They’re located in low-income communities. This project was developed by APC-member Rits, Brazil’s state-run oil corporation Petrobras and ITI (National Institute of Information Technology). Each unit is equipped with 20 internet-linked computers. Free Software technicians and social developers were hired and especially trained for the project. Rits developed a management system that can generate real-time reports about the usage of every telecentre. Telecentres will offer free access to the internet using Sacix – http://www.sacix.org.br – a customized Debian version of the GNU/Linux operating system.
In the Latin American and Caribbean Region, women representing civil society organisations in the WSIS process have been lobbying heavily in favour of communication rights. A report (see Page 6) in PDF format on the contribution by Olinca Marino is the director of the Mexican LaNeta, an APC-affiliated internet service provider, and Valeria Betancourt of Ecuador.
Surrounded by the tropical forests of Bolivia, about 18 organisations and institutions representing civil society, the private sector and the government gathered to develop proposals and action strategies for ICT policies. Most of the participants brought with them the lessons learned during their involvement in the Bolivian ICTD strategy – ETIC – process.
Two weeks into 2006, Dakar (Senegal) played host to an exciting and educational workshop that brought together IT specialists and journalists from five francophone West and Central African countries. What gave the conference a particularly interesting ambiance was the gender balance attendees invited as speakers or participants, and the way that organisers were able to keep focus on gender at the top of the agenda of Universal Access Telecommunications policies.
Media should be the main source of information on what is really happening in the world. But, is it? If it neglects to make 52% of the population visible, what reality are we talking about? These and other questions were asked and addressed by hundred of activists that participated in the Global Media Monitoring. Having taken place the 16th of February of 2005, and every 5 years since 1995 under the sponsorship of the World Association for Christian Communication.
Kenya-based African Regional Centre for Computing (ARCC) is the newest member of the Association for Progressive Communications. It is a non-profit ICT training, research and development centre based in Nairobi, and was the first provider of internet connectivity in the East African nation of 32 million.
APC member-organisations, who responded to a survey, see free/libre and open source software (FOSS) as an opportunity to learn new skills and share knowledge. They also see non-proprietary software as an "important form of co-operation" or being capable of "reducing desktop costs".
APC’s member in the Philippines, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, has warned that new laws in that country could act as a threat to communication rights, some 20 years after the People’s Power revolution removed dictator Marcos from power there. On February 24, 2006, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a state of emergency in attempt to subdue what she said was a possible military coup. The proclamation was lifted in early March, but the
chilling effect remains. Besides there are orders still in effect which curtail the right to communicate.