Access to information
APC’s partner IPS (InterPress Service) sent a letter of complaint to the Secretary General of the ITU (organisers of last week’s World Summit on the Information Society) following the removal of many hundreds of their independent newspapers, Terra Viva, by Tunisians trying to suppress criticism of their government. The same people were disrupting meetings critical of the Tunisian human rights record, including the World Forum on Communication Rights which also took place last week in Geneva.
The first victim of war is the truth, so goes the old proverb. At a conference yesterday in the World Forum on Communication Rights, a parallel forum to the official World Summit on the Information Society, speakers from the United States, Colombia, and a Kenyan technologist working in Rwanda took up the theme of how war situations deny communities the right to communicate and how citizens can and are responding to break the silence.
Carlos Afonso, Director of Planning at APC member in Brazil, RITS (Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor – Information Network for the Third Sector) left government delegates clear during his speech on behalf of civil society at the Plenary Session of the World Summit on the Information Society that "digital inclusion [..] will only be possible with the decisive support of a national public policy, in partnership with civil society." Carlos’s powerful speech was delivered spontaneously and without notes and translated into English by APC.
At a conference this afternoon, civil society representatives presented an ‘alternative’ declaration to the official Declaration expected to be approved by the world’s governments tomorrow at the final day of the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva.
The civil society declaration
called “Shaping information societies for human needs” was needed because the process has constantly been disillusioning and frustrating said representatives at the heavily-attended conference. They recognised that some impact was made on the official WSIS Declaration especially involving the vision and the principles, which were previously technocratic and have become more human-centred. However, the civil society declaration goes further, calling for information societIES that are free from discrimination, violence and hatred, and based on a framework of social, political and economic justice and a more equitable distribution of resources.
Several issues which civil society has been advocating in WSIS negotiations are not adequately addressed in the current ICT policy framework of the Philippine government. This was the general observation that surfaced in a workshop which the Foundation for Media Alternatives organized to open up discussions on WSIS and its impact on local policies here.
Seán Ó Siochrú is a researcher, writer and activist in media and communication.
As a director of Nexus Research Cooperative in Dublin, he works for
international agencies in information and communication technologies. A founder
of the Platform for Communication Rights, he has been actively involved in the
WSIS process since the beginning.
Today, December 10th at 14:00, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) officially began – after a preparatory process that was longer that foreseen, due to difficulty in reaching a consensus on the Declaration of Principles and the Action Plan, the final documents to be discussed and sanctioned by the heads of government present in Geneva.
The WSIS Civil Society Plenary unanimously adopted the Civil Society Declaration to the World Summit on the Information Society this week. The document “Shaping Information Societies for Human Needs” sets a landmark in the type of consensus-building that envisions the priorities to which civil society should commit to in order to develop a people-centred and an inclusive approach to the Information Society. Civil society representatives came together to produce this declaration in order to overcome the narrow understanding that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) mean telecommunications and the internet, marginalising key issues of knowledge and technology development.
The squabbling over whether industrialised countries should help pay for technology infrastructure in the South continues to deflect attention from the potential of ICTs in development. Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who is pushing for the creation of a fund to help developing countries bridge the digital divide. Industrialised states are said to be firmly opposed to the idea, claiming that programmes to make up the ICT backlog should be financed by existing aid funds.
However, poor nations question just how far these amounts can be stretched – and whether information technology will receive the attention it should in a world where humanitarian crises often clamour for attention.
Stories in English and French from the IPS news agency and InfoSud agence de presse about media, communication and technology. During the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) this website will carry daily, electronic versions of the TerraViva Conference newspaper from Geneva.