Global Information Society Watch 2008

Global Information Society Watch logo. Image: APC and ITeM.Global Information Society Watch logo. Image: APC and ITeM. I. Introduction: GISWatch is an opportunity

The desire and commitment to build a “people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society” was expressed by heads of state, ministers and other high-level representatives of the governments of the world during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), convened by the United Nations in November 2005 in Tunis.

The ambitious goal of bridging the “digital divide” while also respecting human rights, promoting education, public access to information, women’s empowerment and economic prosperity, can only be accomplished, according to the Tunis commitment, through the involvement, cooperation and partnership of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organisations.

The global civil society community and other stakeholders have expressed their commitment to play a role as Global Information Society watchdog. Many of them operate nationally, within a specific theme – such as human rights – or for a specific target group. They have collected data, and within their window of operation, monitored information society progress.

However a consolidated structured overview of data, developments and perspectives – national, regional and international – does not yet exist. This makes it difficult to value local progress against a wider global setting.

This insight led APC and ITeM to publish the first GISWatch publication in 2007. It focused on participation of civil society organisations in national and global policy processes. For the second cycle of the GISWatch, Hivos has joined APC and ITeM as a project partner. These three organisations consider GISWatch an opportunity to take the information society forward by monitoring the implementation of key international and regional agreements on the information society from a civil society perspective. The three partners have made “access to infrastructure” the main theme for the 2008 GISWatch report, which will be launched in December 2008 in Delhi, India, during the third Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

Furthermore GISWatch is an opportunity for collaboration between three established and influential non-profit organisations. Each partner brings strong networks to the table, with only little overlap, and has core competencies or areas of experience that can be effectively leveraged for the project. The partners also have strong experience in the national and global ICT arenas. At the same time, there is evidence that the product is needed and that it can easily put itself down in the current environment.

II. Objective and vision

GISWatch aims to provide information on a global scale on the progress made towards the WSIS goals, and to make governments and international organisations accountable to these goals. It will be established as a reference that civil society-driven platform to hook into, with a strong focus on advocacy but also drawing on research. At the country level the book aims to speak to people beyond the civil society ICT circles. It will go beyond the obvious and generalities and include a strong capacity-building component.

For the long term the three partners see GISWatch as more than an annual report, although the publication – both in print and interactively online – are central to our efforts. The project will:

  • Publish GISWatch annually, both in print and online
  • Develop methodological tools and frameworks to evaluate the countries on their achievement towards the goals of an all inclusive information society
  • Link the publication to national and international policy influencing efforts
  • Build the capacity of country contributors through research, analytical and writing skills as well as in advocacy
  • Over time develop into a stand alone initiative driven by the contributing CSOs

III. Our contributors: Working with local partners and our (inter)national networks

GISWatch will closely cooperate with APC, Hivos and ITeM networks. For example, Hivos will bring to the GISWatch network environmental groups, women’s, micro-credit, media and human rights organisations working in several countries that have not been included in the first edition of GISWatch, such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. ITeM will promote the GISWatch initiative amongst “Social Watch:”, the international NGO watchdog network that monitors poverty eradication and gender equality. ITeM will explore the possibility of conducting surveys on specific issues/questions related to ICT and development. APC will bring their international network into the project as well.

The capacities of network members will be diverse, with very different levels of skill, expertise, experience, etc. A special emphasis will be put into developing research, analytical and writing skills (including interpreting statistics, presentation, etc).

For the production of the report it is important to have at least one organisation acting as a national focal point. Depending on the topic to be developed each year, they could bring in other non-ICT specific groups to work with them.

With respect to coordination mechanisms at the national level, the approach would be to leave it open and let them self-organise (this is the model followed by Social Watch). GISWatch could provide the country groups with resources (such as a common online space to work in).

IV. Target readership

The target readership of the GISWatch annual report is divided into two groups:

  • Direct target groups: Civil society/social movements; decision-makers (at national, regional and global levels) and media
  • Indirect target groups: Academia/researchers, private sector and other groups or associations

V. Achieving maximum effect and impact

The production of the GISWatch publication, as well as the debates that follow, can be an empowering process, potentially increasing civil society’s impact in policy processes.

The GISWatch is expected to become an authoritative publication in the international ICT-4-development field and likewise influence media and have direct advocacy impact. The overall project impact is likely to depend on how widely the GISWatch is circulated. Therefore we aim to publish GISWatch not only in English, but also in French and Spanish.

The printed book will be strategically circulated. Besides distributing the book through launches, and mail-outs to the project partners and contributors, this might include developing a targeted distribution list specific to the intended impact of the project (e.g. media and other ‘influential’ people).

For the country teams, a basic guideline/strategy kit will be developed with suggestions on how to spread the report and the message.

The project will continue to develop, with frequent updates and promotion, on the GISWatch website. In this way the content will be distributed globally in an interactive and accessible way. Over the years, this platform will grow into a strong product in its own right.

Lastly, GISWatch would benefit from developing a unique set of indicators that can be published each year. In particular, these indicators would map the information society from a civil society perspective.

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