Access to information
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.
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.
Policy decisions being made today will impact on the peoples of the world’s ability and potential to use ICTs as tools in their work tomorrow. At the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held December 10-12 in Geneva – governments will sign a declaration that will enhance or hinder access to ICTs for the vast majority of the world’s population. APC has been actively participating in the WSIS process and helping others get involved by producing resources, websites and guides. APC is at stand 842 in the Human Capacity & Empowerment street at the ICT4D Platform in the Palexpo, Geneva. Come and meet us!
After months of hard work and negotiations, the CRIS campaign can see some light at the end of a long, dark, eighteen months long WSIS tunnel. Paragraph 4 of the Draft Declaration reads: “Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and the foundation of all social organisation. It is central to the information society.” Sean O’Siochru, spokesperson for the CRIS campaign says: “We welcome the progress that has been made but call on all governments to ensure that communication as a central and crucial human activity remains in the final Declaration that will be presented at the Summit in December 2003.”