APC is undertaking a study of the participation of ‘developing’ countries and non-government actors — including civil society — in the recent World Summit on the Information Society and its associated fora, such as the Task Force on Financing Mechanisms and the Working Group on Internet Governance. It is being coordinated by Professor David Souter, of ict Development Associates ltd and University of Strathclyde.
Women’sNet’s training co-ordinator Elizabeth "Liz" Araujo writes that the recent Africa Source 2 event was set "against a beautiful Lake Victoria island backdrop, replete with sandy beaches, and fishing boats", and turned out to be a "smashing success". Held from January 8-15, 2006, the skills-packed practical workshop was aimed at introducing and exploring free/libre and open source software (FOSS) for non-profit organisations and local African communities. She says that what made this camp radically different from other technology-focused workshops was the almost natural seeming integration of novice, occasional user and high-end techie.
It’s well known that the conventional "wired" connectivity to the internet can be really expensive and it doesn’t apply to every corner of the world. Some remote areas of the globe don’t even count with public telephone cabins or electricity. APC’s "Capacity building for community wireless connectivity in Africa" wants to reverse that scenario in reaching francophone Africa with a workshop held in Dakar, Senegal, from January 24-28 2006.
‘Mainstreaming ICTs: Africa Lives the Information Society" is a contribution towards efforts to bridge the "policy-practice" divide. The book is amied at development practitioners and ICT innovators interested in inventive technology applications for social justice and development. It contains 10 case studies reflecting on the innovative and creative ways information and communciation technologies (ICTs) have been used to promote people-centred development in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries. The book was compiled and edited by Women’sNet with the assistance of a Southern African editorial group including Toni Eliasz, Ria Greyling, Benter Okello, Muroro Dziruni, Ashraf Patel, and Natasha Primo. The project was supported by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).
IMARK is a suite of distance-learning resources, tools and communities on information management. A new website has just been launched. Modules are now available in French and Spanish. APC is part of the IMARK steering group together with UNESCO, FAO and others.
The ‘APC regional consultation meeting on ICT policy in South Asia’ that was to be held in end-January in Kathmandu, Nepal, has been postponed. This meet aims at engaging in surfacing ICT policy priorities and strategies in the countries of South Asia, to exchange information on ICT policy issues and advocacy strategies, and to explore new ways of networking and coordinating on ICT policy advocacy in South Asia. APC is also consulting with One World South Asia, Panos South Asia, IDRC, among others, in organizing the meeting.
You’ve probably heard of speed-dating: after a two minute chat with a stranger, you decide if you wish to give him or her your phone number for continued contact. Likewise, speed-geeking is a tech introduction-in-a-hurry. Some 11 interesting projects — including APC members — got a chance to introduce themselves to participants of Africa Source II, in January 2006 in Kalangala, a picturesque but really-remote island in Lake Victoria, Uganda.
Out of college, at a time when most young people would like just to have a good time, Rudi von Staden (27) is onto something vastly different. He believes his tech skills can really make a difference to those working for social change in southern Africa. This representative of an APC member organisation shares his vision and mission with APCNews editor Frederick Noronha.
Natasha Primo recently became the first-ever woman to chair APC, or the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), which one publication called The African Digital Commons described as being founded by a team "clued in to the potential power of ICTs at a time when many of us still thought of computers as glorified typewriters". Primo, also the executive director of the South Africa-based Women’sNet, outlines some issues, challenges and plans that stand before APC.
BBC’s Radio 4 has announced an appeal for cash donations to Computer Aid International (CAI). Meanwhile, this APC member is also launching a Kenya Cycle Challenge, which encourages volunteers to "cycle from the foot of Mount Kenya to the shores of Lake Victoria" in February 2006 in support of CAI’s work with Kenyan secondary schools. Computer Aid is looking for participants for what it calls a "trip of a lifetime". Besides cycling for hundreds of kilometres across "one of the beautiful landscapes on earth", participants also get a chance to visit schools benefitting from the project, along the way. Details from kenyachallenge @ computeraid.org
Projects from Brazil and Chile
that seek to include the disadvantaged in the realm of benefits brought about by information and communication technologies (ICTs) have emerged as joint winners of the APC Betinho Communications Prize 2005.
On December 13, the Third Sector Information Network (Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor – Rits) launched its Centre for Research, Study and Education (Núcleo de Pesquisa, Estudos e Formação – Nupef). The objective of the initiative is to organise and promote research, disseminate knowledge, and train and qualify people in various fields and on various subjects related to civil society’s position in terms of the challenges created by the dynamics of the information and communication society.
The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) took place in Tunis from November 16 to 18 2005. While heated debates on the future of the internet were taking place inside of the police-surrounded conference venue, citizens’ demonstrations reclaiming the host country’s compliance with international human rights agreements were being severely repressed in downtown Tunis.
Material to share internet knowledge on wireless networking were developed as part of the ‘capacity building for community wireless connectivity in Africa’ initiative which is funded by IDRC and coordinated by APC. This is the first public release of the materials, which will be undergoing further revision during a pilot workshop series. Additional materials will be released in English, French and Arabic during 2006.
Integrating GEM, or the Gender Evaluation Methodology, in the women’s health context, can be a daunting task and there are no quick answers to gender issues in their contexts. But tools like GEM could help one immediately know if their projects are "gender friendly", suggests the experience of a mini-workshop held recently in Vietnam.
Four institutions from Latin America — ICA, CEPAL, LIS and Colnodo — have jointly launched an online repository of ICT-focused projects and professionals in Latin America and the Caribbean. The repository, Protic, can be found at www.protic.org. Currently, it contains information about over 850 projects and around 300 ICT professionals.
The Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet is currently conducting a study on the state of Korean National ID Number System. Its aim: to demo problems of Korean National ID Number System by contrasting how the same is abused in Korea, and comparing with cases of foreign countries. If you can answer some short questions by December 15, 2005, it would help the study immensely.
When an intiative in Brazil to promote community telecentres was endangered, the threat was turned into an opportunity. Free Software tools were re-engineered in a way that they became more powerful and useful. Telecenters that are part of a telecentre-network can use the new system to allow roaming accounts between telecenters. So, a user can create an account on a telecenter in one city and go to other city and login with his original account, without having to make another profile for him on the new telecenter.
APC member BytesForAll joined India’s (and probably Asia’s) largest Free/Libre and Open Source Software events, FOSS.in (http://foss.in). There were big names taking part, such as Welsh kernel hacker Alan Cox. There was a real mixed bag attended. This included Women geeks from Brazil, Indian techies keen to enlarge their tech skills or see how IT can become relevant to the lives of this country of one billion with a large poverty sector, those keen to plug in its benefits to the world of education, mega-corporations and governments throwing in sponsorship dollars and rupees…
APC member Ungana-Afrika have been providing strategic technology planning services to the development community in Southern Africa for nearly three years. The processes have been refined through experience, and are presented here in their current form to assist other technology support providers to implement technology planning in their own context.