Access to information
Was WSIS worth it? The general verdict on the recent United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in December 2003 was a thumbs-down. The Summit outcomes were limited after an arduous and expensive process. However, argues Anriette Esterhuysen, APC’s executive director, from the perspective of many civil society organisations that participated actively, the WSIS has created a new opportunity for solidarity across ideological, sectoral and geographical divides.
In December 2003, APC’s member in Brazil RITS carried out a survey of the users of 10 of the 107 municipal telecentres that serve under-privileged neighbourhoods in São Paulo in order to find out who’s using them, users’ habits and preferences when they visit the centres and use the internet, and to find out what their expectations and possibilities are regarding really getting the most out of ICTs. Two thousand questionnaires were distributed in different neighbourhoods. The results of the survey will be posted on the OPPI – the Observatory of Public Policies on Infoinclusion in Brazil- at the end of May. Find out more about RITS’s involvement in the telecentres.
Choike, the southern civil societies portal produced by APC member in Uruguay, the Third World Institute (ITeM), is now offering a monthly newsletter. This month’s features special reports on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and migrant sex work. The specials are produced by Choike’s editorial team but they take their sources from the work of civil societies in the South. Subscribe to the Choike bulletin.
On April 28, APC member in Brazil, RITS, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation will present a new publication "The World Summit on the Information Society: a subject for everyone". Composed of analytical articles on the principal issues involved in the WSIS process, the book will also look at the Summit Declaration and Action Plan and the civil society declaration. The presentation will also include a debate with panelists – Sergio Amadeu da Silveira, president of the National Information Technology Institute, and ambassador Clodoaldo Hugueney, representative of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. According to Paulo Lima, RITS director, this is the opportunity to place in the balance the Summit up till now and its strategic importance as well as broadening the debate and the participation of civil society in information society issues. More about RITS.
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.
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.
APC takes you through the main events in the run-up to the first World Summit on the Information Society phase in Geneva 2003 from the perspective of civil society representatives.