Getting computers into schools is just not enough. The challenge that remains unfulfilled is for the community to feel a sense of ‘ownership’ of the equipment and to use it to meet their needs, as this Inter-Press Service feature from Argentina eloquently points out. Prior to the World Summit on the Information Society, governments of Latin America have pledged to double the current number of schools, libraries and community centres hooked up to the internet by the year 2007. But officials themselves admit that it’s not enough to simply hand out computers and internet connection, without training or course content. "In order for this technology to be used, it is essential to provide training, create networks among organisations, and promote access for the most marginalised sectors as well," APC member in Argentina Nodo Tau’s Carolina Fernández is quoted as telling IPS.
APC-member Open Forum and the National ICT Development Authority of the Cambodian government (NiDA) submitted a proposal for teacher training to InWent (International Capacity Building, Germany) and received support for training 300 computer end-user teachers, as well as for training 30 Linux administrators (for which Open Forum is developing training materials in Khmer). If the present rhythm of training is maintained, more than 350 teachers will be trained in Phnom Penh and at least six other provinces (in teacher training centres and NGOs) before the end of the year.
In November 2005, the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) will meet for the last time in Tunis. APC’s WSIS coordinator Karen Banks points out that in its five year history, the summit has failed to redress the North-South "digital divide". Consensus at WSIS has been elusive: the private and public sectors hold diametrically opposing views on issues such as market fundamentalism, free and open-source software, and intellectual property rights reform; while on issues of financing and internet governance, agreement between governments has been split along North-South lines. It remains to be seen whether civil society groups participating in the summit will be able to shift attention away from these competing interests towards human rights issues.
APC member Fantsuam Foundation remains a lone player in rural wireless internet service in northern Nigeria. Represented by Ochuko Onoberhie, the Fantsuam Foundation was one of the new trainers at the IDRC-APC South African Wireless Workshop, held in mid-September 2005. Fantsuam was also identified as a strategic partner for the next round of trainers for the West African version of this workshop. Through these various capacity building events, Fantsuam is working to act as a sub-regional resource centre for wireless training.
Pallitathya Help-line Centre — an innovative call centre for the underprivileged — received the 2005 Gender and Information and Communication Technology (GICT) award on October 27, 2005 at Bangkok, Thailand. Sponsors of the contest are APC’s Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) and the Global Knowledge Partnership.. These awards are supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Department for International Development (DfID), UK. Besides the Bangladesh venture, the 30 other entries for this Asia-Pacific prize threw up a runner-up from India. Putting ICTs in the Hands of the Poor is an interactive community ICT centre in North India. The other runner-up was eHomemakers, a network for home-based business from Malaysia. A knowledge-sharing session was also organised along with the award ceremony.
Citizens’ Summit on the Information Society (CSIS)
Tunis, November 16-18, 2005
First announcement and call for support
CSIS Press release October 24, 2005
Big companies on the technology business have known for long that the dissemination of information and communication technologies can promote democracy, but that it can also be a very profitable business. Seeking new potential markets, they send their best lobbyists to pressure governments and international agencies into using their products. Paulo Lima of APC’s brazilian member group RITS has something to say about some of these participants in the upcoming multistakeholder summit.
APC member BytesForAll’s mailing list recently played host to a strong, and at times polemical, debate on proprietary-versus-FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software). It threw up a range of issues about the role of FLOSS in the ‘developing’ countries, its role in localisation, how it competes with proprietorial software, why its benefits haven’t yet reached regions like Africa, and how diverse approaches to software could actually make a difference in the real world. BytesForAll is a South Asian voluntary network, founded along the free software principles of volunteering, but focussing on information — and how information and communication technologies could be more relevant to the common(wo)man, specially in South Asia.
On the ‘information superhighway’, humans too are being trafficked now. Just how and how much, the internet and other ICTs are implicated in trafficking is the subject of this issue paper by the Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) produced in cooperation with The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). It explores three pivotal questions: Does the role of ICTs matter or is it a fashionable distraction from serious countertrafficking work? Can we talk of trafficking in images or does trafficking only apply to people? Is the consideration of privacy in relation to ICTs contrary to counter-trafficking work or is it part of a broader movement to create safety and freedom for individuals and communities? Finally, the paper asks what action can and is being taken. Written by Kathleen Maltzahn, who worked on trafficking issues since 1992, this is part of a series of forthcoming papers from the APC WNSP examining ICT from a gender perspective.
Africa Source II will be an eight day hands-on workshop at the beginning of January 2006 and is aimed at building the technical skills of those working with and within NGOs in Africa. Applications for joining this event were accepted till October 24, and now preparations are underway.