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.
Achieving affordable bandwidth still remains a major concern for Africa. A workshop in Senegal – organised by the Open Society Institute of West Africa (OSIWA) – stressed the key role various sectors need to play to change the abysmal situation in a continent fighting tough challenges both at home and internationally.
Web Networks has recently completed a working prototype of a unique online tool to deliver literacy, as part of its "In Your Language – En tu Idioma" family of products. "Yodigo" incorporates the "Conditional Cash Transfer" approach to development funding within an interactive, video-based learning environment that can be provided online or on DVD. You can see www.yodigo.tv for more information and to try out the demo, and contact Oliver Zielke (oliver @ web.net) if interested in participating in piloting this tool in the field. Watch for more information next month about the En tu Idioma project and APC partners in Latin America.
FOSS, or free/libre and open source software, has dramatically changed the way software is produced, distributed, supported and used. It has a visible impact on enabling a richer social inclusion. But how has it allowed the gender problem existing in the software industry to be replicated in the world of FOSS? Amsterdam-based Taiwanese researcher Yuwei Lin lists seven reasons why women stay off FOSS — including its strong long-hour coding culture, a lack of mentors and role-models, discriminatory language (including in documentation), a gendered text-based environment, a lack of women-centered views in FOSS-development, a male-dominated competitive worldview, and the lack of sympathy from woman peers.
As part of his Asian tour to promote free/libre and open source software (FOSS), the techie-millionaire founder of the Ubuntu Linux Foundation Mark Shuttleworth spent a day in Manila on February 2 to meet with different sectors of the ICT industry in the country.
Nine skilled information and communication technologies (ICT) trainers from five different women’s media organisations met in Mexico City in February of 2006. They came together to learn about a medium they never imagined they would one day have access to: video. The “Media Mujeres Mexico” project brought two trainers from Montreal to Mexico, equipped with a miniDV camera and a boom pole, to offer a basic training in video theory and practice for women.
Last year, civil society organisation Nodo Tau provided training to a group of young deaf-mutes at the free software based community computer telecentre that is available at its headquarters. A telecentre is a space that provides a community open access to technologies. Trainings are also held at these locations on the use of these technologies so neighbours can use them to resolve problems and improve their community.
Does it make sense to monitor information about women that is published or transmitted through by the media? Is the image that media construct of women important? In what way does it influence our social imaginary for women to almost always appear in the news as victims and rarely as experts on subjects of political, social and economic relevance? The WACC made the results of its media monitoring known on February 16th, 2006 and thus launched three action weeks to raise awareness on the treatment that women receive in the media and the information disseminated about them.
Some months after the heat and dust settled on the Tunisian skyline, APC has come up with its evaluation of what the four-year World Summit on the Information Society could hold out for people on the planet. And our reflections throw up a mixed bag. There are some positive signs emerging from WSIS, it suggests. But unless active steps are taken to ensure that vested interests don’t take over, and local opportunities are created, all hope and optimism could be rather misplaced. Read the eleven-page report.
APC member SANGONeT holds its "ICTs for Civil Society" conference on March 7-9, 2006 at Johannesburg, together with its South African NGO Web Awards 2006. A number of speakers from organisations doing interesting work have firmed up participation in the event, and over 300 participants are expected. In store is an exciting event with much opportunity for learning, debate, information-sharing and networking.