Theta on Survival & Prosperity in the NGO Sector - The Role of Technology in Strengthening Organisational Capacity
During the past few years the South African non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector has experienced dramatic changes. In the 1990s many NGOs were forced to close down because of a lack of funding and related organisational problems. APC member in Johannesburg, SANGONeT, is currently in the process of establishing various new partnerships and brokering arrangements in support of its ICT service delivery activities and services to the South African NGO sector. To assist in developing these ICT services, SANGONeT is offering this Thetha –or discussion- in early April.
APC has been present in Latin America since the late 1980s when two of our founding members were technology activist groups based in Nicaragua and Brazil. Here we briefly summarise our current internet and information and communications technology (ICT) policy efforts in the region, the innovative work of the Latin American branch of APC women’s programme in Latin America and last year’s APC Betinho Communications Prize which recognises notable technology initiatives in the region.
Transparency for Colombia and APC member Colnodo recently donated their new software “Internet for Accountability” to allow a mass take-up of the ‘good government’ tool. More than 500 municipalities will receive the software plus internet access on the signing of a transparency and anti-corruption agreement.
The structure as well as the struggles for the second
phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) summit process are slowly becoming clearer. One thing is clear: It will be more complex than the first round, as it has to deal with many more loose ends. WSIS 2003 only had to deliver two pieces of paper (the declaration of principles and the action plan). This left a lot of time for endless discussions, arm-twisting on wording, sorting out friends or foes in different arenas, and for civil society to start playing inside the official UN process. Now, the negotiators from Geneva will meet the real world. And as conflicts remain, the actors are positioning themselves for the second round.
Carlos Afonso, director of planning at RITS
APC’s Brazilian member organisation outlines the digital inclusion opportunities and initiatives carried out in Brazil so far, from the successful ones to the dismal failures. According to Afonso, despite the flurry of acronyms being thrown around, Brazil still does not have a national strategy that will provide the majority of Brazilians with access to the internet. He believe it’s crucial that the Brazilan government gets involved in the set-up of community telecentres and computers in schools and public libraries – the cheapest and most efficient way of democratising access to information and communication technologies.
After the excesses of Christmas and New Year, the CRIS Campaign in their own words has been very quiet in the early part of 2004. However, the team is back with an update on the First World Forum on Communication Rights held in Geneva in December, plans for CRIS for 2004 and an invitation for local networks to become part of CRIS.
The depth of disappointment with the formal outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society cannot be fully explained by reference to the usual process of summit attrition, governments horse-trading down to the lowest common denominator.
There’s a new openness since the Lula government came to power at the beginning of 2003 and began working hand-in-hand with Brazilian civil society to change the way the internet is being governed in Brazil. It’s been announced that the committee which handles all Brazilian-registered website addresses will be chosen in public online elections. For the first time since the .br registry was created in 1995, members of civil society will be elected and can participate directly in the deliberations.
The ItrainOnline partnership has recently released nine new Multimedia Training Kit (MMTK) units on the following topics: open source software; OpenOffice.org; radio browsing; reporting on HIV/AIDS; and older and refurbished computers.
All materials are available on the ItrainOnline site. Go and find out more!
APC’s free content management system designed specifically for progressive organisations to publish news automatically and share content at the click of a button has been nominated one of the best open source software tools that can be used by activists to spread the message and promote interaction by e-newsletters, forums, blogs, and online petitions.
Compiled by Dan Bashaw and Mike Gifford in an article for the Democracies Online Newswire APC ActionApps came out tops along with other well-known applications like PostNuke, Twiki and WebCards.
CENTRAS in collaboration with APC member, the Strawberrynet Foundation, has launched the first tri-language database of non-governmental organisations in Romania", RO_NGO.
The Brazilian government has decided to support this transition to a new internet governance structure for the administration of “.br”. ITI and Abong outline the process which involves elections and the nominations of candidates from civil society, government and the science and technology sectors in this article translated into English by APC.
“The Andalusian Institute for Women decided to invite the GEM team after learning about the tool via the website where it is now in English, Portuguese and Spanish,” said Dafne Sabanes Plou, regional coordinator for GEM in Latin America.
New publication: “The Other Side of the Divide” - Voices from Latin American and the Caribbean speak out about the social impact
RedISTIC (Networking on the Social Impact of ICTs) is a coalition made up of groups that work on information society-related issues (communication, knowledge, wisdom, etc.) in Latin American and the Caribbean. The first achievement of RedISTIC is the publication of the book “The Other Side of the Divide: Latin American and the Caribbean Perspectives on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)”.
APC at the World Social Forum 2004, Mumbai: A Personal Account from APC’s African Policy Coordinator
Emmanuel Njenga Njuguna of APC’s Africa ICT Policy Monitor project has been involved in various global policy-making processes on communication rights issues. He gives us his impressions of the World Social Forum as he went to Mumbai to run an ICT Policy for Civil Society’ workshop for Forum participants.
Based in the UK, Computer Aid the largest and most experienced non-profit in the world which supplies professionally refurbished computers to not-for-profit organisations in developing countries. They have provided over 25,000 quality computers to progressive organisations in the South working to bring about social and economic change. This year, Computer Aid is focusing their work on less-developed countries and to increase provision to and via rights based organisations and women-led initiatives. They also plan to focus on training and computer refurbishment as a means for self sustainability. Computer Aid is APC’s first new member of 2004!
Alternatives –the Action and Communication Network for International Development- joined APC in November 2003. Alternatives is based in Montreal, Canada, and works on a regional, national and international level with non-governmental organisations defending the interests of vulnerable populations; specifically, labourers, women and young people constructing a more environmentally conscious, humane and democratic society.
APC is delighted to announce that BlueLink’s project “Regional Environmental Content Sharing in the South Eastern European (SEE) Region” has made it to the final of the Stockholm Challenge Awards for pioneering IT projects worldwide. The platform designed for non-profit users became one of the nine finalists of the “Environment” category selected from over 900 applicants for the annual awards. Another APC member StrawberryNet is a partner in the successful project which is based on a content exchange replication process developed by APC and made possible using APC’s free software, the APC ActionApps.
See the finalists.
New intellectual property law forces Cambodians to start developing their own Khmer-language software
“We envision, in 2007, a country where Cambodians can learn and use computers in their own language, a country that does not have to change to a new language in order to use computers!” say the activists behind the new KhmerOS initiative. Until now, computer use in Cambodia has been mostly in English, and mostly using unlicensed copies of Microsoft Windows products. However, a new Cambodian intellectual property law means that a user will have to purchase a license for each copy of software sold by companies such as Microsoft and that’s unaffordable for most Cambodian computer users. This new portal coordinated by APC member, Open Forum of Cambodia, gets together some previously isolated developers and is starting out by providing Khmer translations of well-known free software programmes such as Mozilla (the powerful web browser and mail programme). But the eventual goal is to create a full applications package under GNU/Linux, "which has 90% of all applications which 100% of all users need". Find out more about the motivation behind KhmerOS.
Women’sNet, an APC member in South Africa, is hosting a regional workshop to be held in Johannesburg in February which will bring together women’s organisations, government officials, and gender and development practitioners and researchers, involved in gender and information and communication projects and initiatives.