Global Forum on Internet Governance: Not everyone agrees on what is broken nor on what fixing might involve
A global forum on internet governance organised by the United Nations in March was the most open and inclusive platform for addressing internet governance issues to date but time was too short to disaggregate the various areas of policy and regulation that are loosely grouped under “internet governance”. There are fundamental concerns around the accountability and legitimacy of current internet governance structures, but at the same time the overall tone is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But not everyone agrees on what is broken, nor on what fixing might involve.
The challenges the Global Forum faced will now be faced by the working group which will take work forward to the next UN World Summit in 2005. The dilemma lies in having to both expand, and shrink the scope of “internet governance”, to get to practical proposals that also address broader concerns. And it has to work in a way that is inclusive of different stakeholders and perspectives, and actively tackles discontent instead of glossing over it, says APC.
This was an underlying question addressed in the evaluations of six information and communication (ICT) initiatives from Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, which participated in the field-testing of the Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM). Evaluated initiatives varied from an employment training initiative in Croatia, to a network of women mayors in Romania, to media campaigns around violence against women in Slovakia and Bulgaria.
Living on the fringes of society, the Zabaleen have been making a living from recycling what Cairo’s more affluent throw away for generations. However, the government is now contracting foreign waste-disposal specialists and the Zabaleen have found their traditional source of livelihood cut off. The young Zabaleen often have high-school diplomas but lack the self-esteem necessary to enter the regular workplace. To build up their confidence and their marketable skills, APC member in Egypt, ArabDev, has been training young people in computing and internet. There has been an unexpectedly high demand from young women.
‘Citizens Online’ (Cidadania na Internet), a Brazilian civil society information-sharing portal, celebrated one-year online on March 27. A multi-institution project managed by APC member in Brazil, RITS, ‘Citizens online’ started out life with twenty organisations on board. One year later, sixty people and groups work together daily to produce information to strengthen Brazilian citizenship in all its facets.
The Community Information Network for Southern Africa (CINSA) aims to build a sustainable network of community ICT projects in the 14 SADC member states
Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe through research, networking, facilitating training, service brokerage and more.
Conference on ICTs in the service of good governance, democratic practice and development for rural women in Africa
Held just outside Johannesburg, the conference brought together about fifty participants from women’s organisations, government officials, and gender and development practitioners and researchers, involved in gender and information and communication (ICT) projects and initiatives tasked with finding ICT strategies to specifically benefit rural women. The Community Information Network for Southern Africa (CINSA) interviewed a selection of conference attendees including APC-Africa-Women coordinator, Jenny Radloff. The regional workshop was organised by Women’sNet with the support of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Listen to the interviews with Dimitra participants.
Once again, at the Annual Meeting of Hungarian Green Non-profits (OT2004) APC member Green Spider offered herbal teas and sound internet access, training and advice to participants. Raising awareness of environmental contamination and in support of free software, Green Spider collected up visitors’ old CD-roms and exchanged them for new GNU/Linux CDs.
This Latin American workshop considered a series of proposals for promoting the effective use of ICT and radio for rural development so that rural radio stations, networks, specialists in ICT for development and policy decision-makers, start to take into account the effectiveness of combining radio and internet.
Looking around at the recent Non-Profit Technology Enterprise Network conference in Philadelphia, it would have been easy to think that free and open source software is sweeping the non-profit world. With an attendance of over 700 people, this year’s NTEN event featured a full track of six workshops on free and open source software (FOSS) topics – almost all of which were packed.
Local traditions in Upper Egypt prevent battered women from seeking refuge in shelters so getting training and finding a job is often the only way out of a violent family home. APC member, ArabDev, has carried out a survey to identify the skills needed for potential employment and a training project is ready to go, but there’s one problem: lack of computers. The Egyptian Ministry of Telecommunications has been promising ArabDev ten computers for the project for the last two years and still none have arrived due to red tape. “We are in dire need of hardware to improve the harsh circumstances of these women,” says ArabDev director, Leila Hassanin.
A new law passed in the South Korean parliament on March 9 requires internet media and press websites to verify the names and identification numbers of all visitors who post messages on bulletin boards or chat rooms
and even personal websites regarding political elections. Civil society groups, including APC member Jinbonet, held a press conference pledging to defy the law which they claim is a violation of freedom of expression.
The Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) is an international multistakeholder network committed to harnessing the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for sustainable and equitable development. Within the GKP framework, governments, civil society groups, donor agencies, private sector companies and inter-governmental organisations come together as equals to apply ICTs for development.
APC takes its place on the committee which oversees the direction of the GKP together with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UNESCO, the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and others. The Excomm as it is known was chosen by the members of GKP during online voting in April.
A Mission-Driven Business Planning workshop for environmental civil society online networks in the Balkans in February was attended by APC members from the Balkans and six fledgling electronic networking initiatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo/a, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro.
South Africa went to the polls for the third time since the end of apartheid in the early 1990s. APC member, Women’sNet, provided analysis and opinions online about the elections and perceptions of men and women. Articles included "The Dreary Dialogue", a report on interchanges between the political parties and women in civil society by director, Natasha Primo.
Was WSIS worth it? The general verdict on the recent United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in December 2003 was a thumbs-down. The Summit outcomes were limited after an arduous and expensive process. However, argues Anriette Esterhuysen, APC’s executive director, from the perspective of many civil society organisations that participated actively, the WSIS has created a new opportunity for solidarity across ideological, sectoral and geographical divides.
The APC executive board and staff met in March for an intensive planning meeting to map out APC’s activities for the next three years. The meeting took place following the definition of strategic priorities for the APC by the 36-member APC council in Cartagena, Colombia last November.
Free and open source software (FOSS) holds a great deal of potential for civil society organisations. The most obvious benefit of FOSS is that it is often free to use or low-cost. However, it also offers more including
crucially better security. Ddid you know that if your computer uses the GNU/Linux operating system you don’t have to use anti-virus software? No more days or data lost recovering from the latest virus…
The materials available in the MultiMedia Toolkit’s latest unit on FOSS provide an introduction to FOSS, tackling questions like ‘what is open source?’ and ‘how will it benefit my organisation?’ They also include practical advice on how to review open source software packages and select the right ones for your organisation.
Colnodo, APC’s member in Bogotá, in association with the Colombian Confederation of Non-governmental Organisations, launches “avanza” (meaning “advance” or “move forward” in English), a website for Colombian development.
An “Information and Knowledge Exchange Network on Information Communication Technology for Development” for Ecuador has been created.
Choike, the southern civil societies portal produced by APC member in Uruguay, the Third World Institute (ITeM), is now offering a monthly newsletter. This month’s features special reports on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and migrant sex work. The specials are produced by Choike’s editorial team but they take their sources from the work of civil societies in the South. Subscribe to the Choike bulletin.