While in Tunis...

Tunis

But I've many interesting experiences at WSIS. For example, one evening in

Tunis I was travelling back to my hotel by bus and the lady who was sitting

next to me was talking to me in French. When I've problems explaining

things in French, she started speaking to me in English and informed me

that she used to work with a writer group in USA.
20th November,

Charles Du Gaul Airport, Paris

While in Tunis...

Partha Pratim Sarker/Bytes for All

Shahzad did a great job in keeping the readers updated through his blogs. I

was planning to do something too but I missed many of the happenings as I

arrived late- on the 16th instead of the 13th- the date that I initially

planned for. I missed the flight due to Air Canada delay and couldn't take any

other flights that were overbooked until the 15th. Anyway, this delay in

arrival put me in a hectic schedule of meetings within a

short span of time. Sometimes it wasn't even that productive but in an

event like WSIS you hardly can avoid meeting people, having formal

conversations or even discovering friends, colleagues and networker whom

you don't see for a long time. And as said by Shahzad, you can start fixing

faces behind the email addresses.

But I've many interesting experiences at WSIS. For example, one evening in

Tunis I was travelling back to my hotel by bus and the lady who was sitting

next to me was talking to me in French. When I've problems explaining

things in French, she started speaking to me in English and informed me

that she used to work with a writer group in USA. Interestingly when she

came to know that I'm originally from Bangladesh and work in ICT4D field,

she asked me whether I know anything about bytes for all network? I hid my

identity and asked her why? She said, she is subscribed to this list and

felt it a very interesting and vibrant group. 'Get yourself subscribed to

bytes for all, if you aren't already' that the lady told me before she got

off the bus. I think the value of Internet is that the wave of network

comes back to the source in a spiral progression.

But my greatest regret is that I missed a chance to have an audio interview

with Richard Stallman whom I've talked to for a while outside the exit gate of

the hotel

where we all had been staying. Richard along with Shazad (from b4all

Pakistan), Maxigus (from APC) were on their way to visit Cathrage - a very

old city destroyed by the Roman Empire. Anyway, I'd a brief conversation

with him and Richard told me to pronounce my consonants more clearly. I

felt, not only consonants but also many other things need to be pronounced

clearly. Richard on the other day was requesting everyone to wrap an

aluminium foil on the WSIS ID card that has RFID stick. This RFID stick can

help detecting someone's whereabout through a scanner nearby.

It was difficult to find any stall or a venue at the conference pavilion. I

felt the things were not designed systematically and I have been lost several

times to find a venue or a stall. At the conference

pavilion our address was APC stall in the BCO pavilion which was packed

with bloggers, networkers, activists, partners etc. You hardly could find

any space at this pavillion. A lady even told me that she went to APC booth

but couldn't dare to go inside as it was full with people in their laptops.

Anyway, on the last day of the WSIS event, BCO hosted a lunch which we all

joined and tasted some delicious food from Tunis.

I was carrying an i-river tool that Mark of telecentre.org lent me to do

some podcasting of telecentre.org programs and interviewing telecentre

organizers/operators whom they have invited from across the World. Allen

Gunner was facilitating the workshop on a bit aspiration-open space model

and the workshop was very interesting. I met so many interesting initiatives

and ran interviews as well. But I'd some technical

problems with downloading (audio files) for which I wasn't entirely happy. But

you would soon get the podcasting links.

Negroponte's 100 dollar laptop idea seemed to take a huge media attention.

I received a mail from a cousin who live in rural Bangladesh but read about

this 100 dollar laptop at the Daily Prothom Alo (www.prothom-alo.com). He

thought that the laptops are on sale in the event. But it

was only a prototype of such computer that was showcased and the UNDP booth

with these laptops were full of journalists, visitors, students etc. When

the attendant lady was talking high about the great value of this

initiative, I was wondering, what was the need to create a new one &

reinvent the wheel, why not integrate with the existing experiments of low

cost hand held/lap top devices (such as, SIMPUTER) and build up a

partnership model. I understand integration and partnership are the words

that are most talked about while in reality this hardly exists.

Last day I had a very different experience. With Sacha and Shahzad, we met

a group of political activists who are facing serious problems in Tunisia.

The whole city was practically a fortress during the WSIS event and they

fear the repression would start again as soon as the foreigners leave the

city. An issue surprised me a lot. Tunis seemed to be a populated city but

during the conference I hardly could see any people on the street. That

means local residents either were not allowed to go outside of their

residence or somehow have been kept apart. Don't know what exactly happened.

We talk about high end solution, we talk about technology not reaching the

masses, but at the end when I see the absence of basic level of respect to

people rights to live, communicate or to speak, I think all our debate just

go in vain. As our taxi was fading out from the crowd of these political

activists, one statement from one of the Tunisian activists was reminding my

ear-

'Pls. don't forget us'.

Should we forget them in the realm of so called information society?

Partha Pratim Sarker

Bytes for All

http://www.bytesforall.net

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