This crazy summit, which will be remembered as WSIS, is finally over… but the official summit frankly, ended with agreements on further meetings and conferences… and watch out folks… don’t rise your expectations anymore, as nothing will happen. I infact, saw two official delegates, at the closing ceremony with good bye handshakes, saying "see you in Greece".
On the afternoon of Friday, November 18, 2005, one of three stakeholders taking part in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) drew a line in the sand. Civil society representatives from all continents lined up to deliver a stark closing statement.
There were civil society thumbs up for the new multistakeholder Internet Governance Forum; the awareness built that people from all walks of life should be involved in ICT policy development, not just technology specialists and government officials; and the spotlight shone on state repression and surveillance in the host nation, Tunisia.
But thumbs were down for: the UN for choosing a flagrant violator of human rights as the hosts of a UN summit; wealthier governments which insist that financing for ICT for development should be voluntary only; the vague language on internet oversight; and the fact that WSIS follow-up will probably be assigned to technology-focused specialist committee.
With the focus at Tunis largely on who controls the Net, and the
far-from-sophisticated control mechanisms of Tunisian society, the issue of
what the Net can — and is — doing for the excluded in the planet might
have taken a back seat. Disparity in accessing the levers of communication is markedly sharp. But interesting stories are coming in about what’s possible from various parts of the globe — href=“http://www.ipsterraviva.net/tv/tunis/viewstory.asp?idnews=385”>Africa, in the field of education, href=“http://www.ipsterraviva.net/tv/tunis/viewstory.asp?idnews=383”>the American Indian indigenous people, and beyond. Undeniably, the harsh reality needs to be acknowledged and dealt with too….
Here are some other voices about how civil society responded to the Tunis
mega-meet over the past week. href=“http://www.ipsterraviva.net”>IPS/TerraViva has done an interesting
job in highlighting diverse issues. Including href=“http://www.ipsterraviva.net/tv/tunis/viewstory.asp?idnews=377”>reporting
on how the non-profit world saw the results of the global meet (a
“consolation prize”), href=“http://www.ipsterraviva.net/tv/tunis/viewstory.asp?idnews=364”>how the NGO world sees the deal on internet governance (“disappointed”), the treatment civil society got in Tunis (“a poor welcome”) and some crucial background to understanding the issues involved.
Looking back at the roots of the Digital Solidarity Fund, the responses it evoked, and the linked story of missed opportunities and promises that can still be worked out.
Only 11% of African people have a fixed line telephone, 12% of African people questioned have a mobile telephone, less than 3% have an email address…So says a new study conducted by RIA. Although one of the WSIS’s main objectives is to decrease the digital divide, 80% of African people today do not have access to any form of communication service. A shocking statistic is that 15% of African people who were questioned would have preferred to buy a cellular telephone than a refrigerator! In Francophone African countries, the statistics, with the exception of Senegal, are worse.
The WSIS process is almost over, and I am wondering about what we have achieved in terms of integrating gender as a relevant dimension into the building of an ‘information society’ after seven years. What do we have?
Free, as in free speech… not free beer — that’s the message of those campaigning against proprietorial software. But what happens when the issue transforms into ‘free as in tee-shirts’? And, no. We’re not talking about the Ubuntu approach here — which not only offers you free CDs, but free shipping as well… if you know where to get it from.
Felix says "it is nice to see so many technologies here, but I don’t think we will ever have this in Bolivia, much less in our communities”. He thinks a bit and then adds, "This summit is incommunicado, in Bolivia people go to telecentres and connect to the internet there. Here everyone has a laptop and connects that way. Those of us that don’t have one cannot connect and send information to our radio stations — which is my case. On the other hand, here everyone speaks English, so language is another limitation."
She’s a Peruvian heading towards The Mountain Forum in Nepal. The forum is particularly created as a medium of alternative communication for mountainous areas, which is why, since its conception, it has specifically used the internet as a communication tool between the participating people and communities that constitute the different nodes.