"Modern information technology should guarantee there's no harmful impact on users"
SOFIA, BULGARIA, 19 July 2005
Convincing business and government to ensure that modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) have no harmful impacts on their users is proving to be a difficult job. Besides, in the global village, non-uniform standards and a lack of compatibility among various systems are blocking people and technologies from communicating freely and working effectively.
These issues were raised by the Bulgarian CSO network, BlueLink, during the Tokyo Ubiquitous Network Conference, Japan. This World Summit for Information Society (WSIS)-related event was held in mid-May 2005.
Sofia-based BlueLink Information Network executive director Milena Bokova (photo), who took part in this event, moved four recommendations to the conference secretatiat. Of three accepted, two focussed on removing artificial blocks.
One argued for unified standards. "In order to enable people from all around the world to use their equipment everywhere without the need of additional adaptors and appliances (unified standards are essential)," argued Bokova.
In another recommendation -- also accepted -- she made a case for the need to ensure "compatibility between different systems -– in order to enable a free exchange of information worldwide without software or hardware obstacles".
BlueLink contributed actively to the conference outcome. Another proposed recommendation that was accepted and included in the final documents urged business to invest in environmentally friendly information and communication technologies -- in order to reduce the impact of the industry on nature.
But one resolution that was not accepted urged business to invest in 'human-health friendly' information and communication technologies. It said this would reduce the impact of technological equipment on the human health.
Said BlueLink: "The first three recommendations were accepted and included in the final documents. This is not just a success of BlueLink, but an indicator for the democracy of the process and the readiness of all stakeholders to work for the development of services and technologies which will respond to users’ needs and which will not harm nature."
But, it said, the fourth recommendation "seemed to be too advanced for the conference". BlueLink argued that it is a "field of future work" for civil society to convince business and governments that modern ICTs should guarantee that no harmful impact was caused to users.
This conference discussed the significance of a ubiquitous network society, foreseeable problems and specific measures to overcome those problems. The conference confirmed that the vision for a ubiquitous network society should be shaped through the inclusive partnership of all stakeholders.
This event brought together some 600 participants drawn from governments, international organizations, the business sector and civil society entities.
BlueLink praised what it saw as a "fair and balanced" approach at giving fellowships, thus throwing open opportunities to participate to CSOs from different parts of the globe, including 'countries in transition'.
Bokova felt there could have be more women participants. But, she praised the fact that civil society representatives were able to freely participate and contribute to the conference outcome.
She added: "I was impressed by the democracy in the process. Equal opportunity was given to all participants to speak and contribute to the working documents. Moreover, many of the suggestions coming from the civil sector were taken into consideration and found their place in the final documents. My conclusion is that the Western world can learn a lot from the Japanese model of participatory democracy."