Access to information
Maxigas — a friend from Hungary — and myself had the opportunity to go to the Tunis City Centre last afternoon, just to have a feel of the city and get to know a little more about Tunis. The atmosphere seemed quite festive, and preparations for the WSIS are in full swing. Green plants are being transported in numbers and transplanted on roadsides and important squares, large pictures of the Tunisian President are installed everywhere, and even most of the banners also carry his pictures welcoming the WSIS delegates. But questions remain….
Inter-Press Service (IPS), civil society’s leading news agency, is offering special coverage of the World Summit on the Information Society, to be held at Tunis, from November 16-18, 2005. IPS, unlike the mainstream global news agencies which are mostly focused on the affluent world, calls itself an "independent voice from the South and for development".
On the internet, you find websites in hundreds of different languages and dialects, in all shapes and designs. If diversity in audio, photo, text or video content is the living proof that the internet is a space for true expression and creation, certain web development standards need to be applied for the content to reach and be shared by people at the margins of mainstream communication channels. During a well-attended workshop entitled ‘Inclusive development and ICTs/universal design for all’, hosted by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in Varna, Bulgaria on October 9, 2005, Hiroshi Kawamura of the DAISY Consortium presented a set of practical tools that can make the internet work for the rest of us.
Manal and Alaa Bit Bucket — www.manalaa.net — an Egyptian blog set up on March 20, 2004, promoting free expression and human rights, was one of eight finalists chosen for a weblog contest by the German radio station Deutsche Welle, under its freedom of expression category. Manal and Alaa have been working with the APC in the field of FOSS (free and open source software). Their site contains blog posts which they wrote "about our experience as part of the pro-democracy movement in Egypt". It also includes detailed accounts of street protest, political rallies, elections monitoring, police brutality, the picketing of court houses in order to get activists released, secret meetings and the like.
APC BETINHO COMMUNICATIONS PRIZE - DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS 16th OCTOBER 2005: Community connectivity for economic development
In 2005, the APC Betinho Prize will be offered in recognition of community initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean that use the internet and other networks to access markets, skills and opportunities to derive real economic benefits. The deadline for applications ended on October 16, 2005 24:00 GMT. We are looking for ICT initiatives that: make a positive economic contribution to the community; are driven and developed in Latin America and the Caribbean; and can demonstrate a sustainable use of technology.
Podcasting hasn’t yet caught on among the alternate circuit but Partha Pratim Sarker of BytesForAll got off to a quick start at Geneva. At the Prepcom 3 events, Sarkar took along recording equipment to do what he described as a "sort of audio blogging with an RSS feed". APC’s Lenka Simerska, on hearing it, commented: "Cool blog, really! I find it useful and refreshing to use combination of written word and voice. I had a problem to listen though… But on second try it worked well." Podcasting is a method of publishing audio programmes via the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed of new files (usually MP3s). It first became popular in late 2004.
Communication infrastructures are changing at such an accelerated pace that while new technologies are released continuously, we are still ignorant about questions of internet interconnection. While the users of the North reap the benefits brought about by information and communication technologies’ advances, the users of the South are increasingly prevented from taking advantage of the innovations. Leading among the many factors, the privatisation of this sector’s operations in the industrialised countries and the adoption of new technologies have reduced the financial flows of the network towards the developing world. Available in English and Spanish.
A "Cantenna"? What’s that? It’s a solution that comes out of using empty tin cans and other simple tools that a lot of communities can afford. "Cantenna" technology can make wireless connection cheaper for poorly served rural areas and economically disadvantaged African people who do not have access to Internet connectivity. This is what emerges from a report on an APC-run series of capacity-building workshops in Africa.
It is free, open-source, contains no advertising and runs online so there is nothing to download. Loband works by displaying any website with the original text and layout but with after removing un-necessary adverts, images and web objects such as Flash animations. Its promoters call this a "unique simplification and compression process (which) can reduce access time by up to ten times". Loband is perfect for speeding up browsing and searching on the internet, making it cheaper and less frustrating. It potentially allows internet access where it was impossible before. The newly released v2.0 supports more websites, including ones featuring international character sets. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org For a demo of APC’s Spanish homepage through Loband, see this link.
When civil society from Brazil and France got together recently, they focussed on exchanging "experiences in digital solidarity". Their mid-July meet in Paris saw them also look at the possibility of cooperation in fields like Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).