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CHAKULA Issue # 5: Africa Civil Society and the WSIS

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CHAKULA
Africa ICT Policy Monitor newsletter from the APC
Issue No.5, May 2003: Africa Civil Society and the WSIS

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Contents:

1. Africa Civil Society and the WSIS process

  • What is the WSIS?
  • How does the process work?
  • Africa CSOs’ involvement in WSIS
  • Bamako 2002
  • PrepCom 1
  • Addis 2002
  • PrepCom 2
  • The Civil Society Bureau
  • The Africa Civil Society Caucus

2. ICT Policy Training in Uganda

  • Organizers
  • Participants
  • Course Content

3. New: African ICT policy reports now available

  • Benin
  • Cameroon
  • Egypt

4. New Content on the Africa ICT Policy Website

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1. Africa Civil Society and the WSIS process:

The World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) is an initiative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations (UN). Its stated intention is to provide a unique opportunity for all key stakeholders to assemble at a high-level gathering and develop a better understanding of the information revolution and its impact on the international community. Whether this goal will be attained remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it is an important opportunity for civil society organizations in Africa to critically engage ICT for development issues.

Geneva 2002. First Phase

The first phase of the World Summit will take place in Geneva hosted by the Government of Switzerland from 10 to 12 December 2003. It will address a range of themes concerning the Information Society and adopt a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action.

Tunis 2005: Second Phase

The second phase of the World Summit will take place in Tunis hosted by the Government of Tunisia, in 2005. Development themes will be a key focus during this phase. Progress will be assessed and a further plan of action adopted if necessary.

More details can be obtained on: http://www.itu.int/wsis/basic/about.html

How does the process work?

Preparation for WSIS consists of Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) and Regional meetings. The African Regional Conference was held in Bamako, Mali from 26-30 May 2002. For information about regional meetings see: http://www.itu.int/wsis/preparatory/regional/index.html

The first Preparatory Committee meeting was held in Geneva in July 2002 and the second one in February 2003. The latter meeting resulted in a draft declaration and action plan.

See documents|

The draft declaration and action plan were the result of a compilation of inputs from the regional preparatory meetings and discussions that took place during the second PrepCom. These were finalised on 21st March 2003 and are referred to as working documents, meaning that the documents will serve as the basis for further work. Inputs to these documents are now welcome with a deadline of 31st May 2003.

An Intersessional period was proposed during PrepCom 2 to be dedicated to refining the working documents. This meeting is scheduled to take place in July in Paris.

See details

The Third Meeting of the Preparatory Committee for WSIS (PrepCom-3) will take place in Geneva from 15 to 26 September 2003.

Africa Civil Society involvement in WSIS and the African Civil Society Caucus:

“Bamako 2002”:http://www.geneva2003.org/bamako2002/doc_html/prog_unesco_en.htm

Africa civil society has been involved in the WSIS process since the Africa preparatory meeting held in May 2002 in Bamako, Mali. Representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations from the African region gathered for a consultation on the role of civil society in the WSIS, on 26 and 27 May 2002, in Bamako, Mali.

“PrepCom 1”:http://www.itu.int/wsis/preparatory/prepcom/pc1/index.html

During PrepCom 1 held in Geneva in July 2002, the ‘Africa Civil Society Caucus’ was initiated as part of a wider ‘Civil Society Plenary Group’. Civil society organizations actively participated in the process which revolved around defining ‘Rules of Procedure, Accreditation and Modalities for participation’ and a brief on ‘Contents and Themes’ of the WSIS Prepcoms and Summit.

From a civil society perspective the outcomes of PrepCom 1 were less than expected. The key issue was that representatives of civil society organizations alongside private sector entities are recognized as ‘Observers’, and thereby do not have equal access, speaking, negotiating and/or voting rights to the WSIS process and Summit. This greatly limits the participation of civil society organizations in this process and is bound to influence the outcomes.

Addis 2002:

In November 2002, more than 80 civil society organizations met in Addis
Ababa at a workshop on ICT policy and civil society organized by APC in collaboration with UNECA and Article 19. Outcomes of the workshop included an action plan on issues relevant to WSIS. This meeting has lead to further Africa civil society involvement in the WSIS process at national, sub-regional, regional and global levels, including active participation in PrepCom 2.

PrepCom 2:

PrepCom 2 took place in Geneva from 17 to 28 February 2003. The Africa Civil Society Caucus was represented by between 30 ­ 50 organizations. The caucus met informally almost on a daily basis to ensure active participation in the formal process as well as in the different informal meetings, activities and events that were taking place.

The Africa civil society caucus made various submissions for input to the draft declaration and action plan, as well as on issues regarding civil society organizations involvement and participation in the process.

The Civil Society Bureau:

An interesting development during PrepCom 2 was for the formation of the Civil Society Bureau (CSB). The stated purpose of the CSB is to facilitate civil society organizations’ participation in the WSIS process and Summit. The formation and functions of the CSB – which is seen in a similar structure to the Governmental Bureau – was and continues to be a very
controversial issue. The main concerns were centred around its operations, representation and accountability. The CSB was ‘formally’ constituted at PrepCom 2 and is now in operation comprising of about 25 representatives of various thematic groups known as ‘families’.

Full details of the CSB and its working mechanism

Tasks done by the CSB during PrepCom 2 included:

  • Defining principles of modalities and participation of civil society
  • Establishing a finance task force to work on how funds allocated to civil society for participation will be disbursed
  • Liaison with the civil society content and themes working group

It is important that Africa civil society representatives follow the development of this bureau closely. Africa is represented in the CSB regional thematic caucus ‘Africa’ family, and in a few of the thematic focused families.

Africa Civil Society Bureau represented by:

Anais Network (Oliver Nana Nzepa [anais_ac@yahoo.fr]) and FEMNET (Alice Munyua [munyua@femnet.or.ke])

The Africa Civil Society Caucus:

The Africa Civil Society Caucus of the WSIS was initiated through joint efforts of civil society organisations present at PrepCom1. The aim of the Caucus is to strengthen African civil society’s capacity to ensure that its perspective on the information society are articulated in the WSIS process.

The Caucus has discussed the agenda and content and themes of the WSIS in online discussions and at physical meetings wherever possible. Some of the key areas of concern African civil society organizations identified were: fostering an enabling environment for the development of an information society freedom of expression, universal and affordable access, gender equity, sustainable development, cultural and linguistic diversity, democratic governance, capacity building and global social justice.

Open and inclusive platform:

The Caucus is an open platform and invites all individuals and organizations in or with interest in Africa to participate online and at physical meetings whenever possible. A steering committee was formed during PrepCom 2 of the
WSIS in Geneva in February 2003.

Make sure your voice is heard:

The Africa Civil Society Caucus is using an online forum, convened by the steering committee content working group of the Africa Civil Society Caucus, to prepare inputs for WSIS. Weekly summaries in English and French will be available. (April 28 ­ to May 23).

You are all urged to join this forum and use it as a central civil society space for talking about WSIS related issues.

To subscribe to this list please visit: http://mailman.greennet.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/africa

A website is currently under construction to enable access and sharing of relevant documents and information during and after the forum.
http://www.wsis-cs.org/africa

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2. Training Course by APC and CTO Helps Civil Society Organisations Understand how ICT Policy Decisions Can Affect Your Work

ICT Policy for Training for Civil Society in East Africa
Kampala, Uganda, June 16-19, 2003

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC), with the support of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) is now preparing to hold the second ‘ICT Policy training for civil Society’ in Kampala, Uganda,
starting on June 16. Participants will come from civil society organizations in East Africa. The objective of the course is to build the capacity of CSOs to understand policy and regulation related to ICTs.

The training course is aimed at building the confidence of CSOs to engage and influence relevant ICT policy processes at national, regional and global levels. The course will be followed by a public meeting on ICT and development on June 20.

An estimated 25 participants and facilitators, from countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda will attend.

This is the second 4 day course offered by APC to civil society groups. The first was held in Johannesburg, South Africa in March 2003, and was attended by Southern African CSOs.

Contact: Emmanuel Njenga [africa.rights@apc.org] or Milton Aineruhanga [milton@wougnet.org] for more information about how your organization can become involved.

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3. New African ICT policy reports available:

New research reports on the participation of civil society in national ICT policy-making in Africa are now available on the APC Africa ICT Policy Monitor Website:

Egypt:

Egypt’s CSO sector is active and far reaching, however despite the increase in the number of users, and the fact that Internet policy and regulation is becoming an issue, although only a tiny minority of activists work in this area. Recent lobbying on the newest communication bill is an encouraging sign that representatives of civil society are waking up to the fact that civil society much stake a claim in ICT policy formulation processes.

This report describes ICT infrastructure, policy and regulatory developments in Egypt, and notes the activities of civil society organizations -in responding to ICT policies

Report by Leila Hassanin, ArabDev.

Benin:

With a current population of about six million people, Benin has a poorly developed telecommunication infrastructure in spite of being connected to the Internet since 1995. There are few civil society organizations and most work primarily in “traditional” areas of health, education, human rights and rural development. A few have recently began work in the area of ICTs.

This report examines ICT policy and regulation and the role of CSOs active in this field. The report also describes the current state of the ICT sector and the impact that this has on the work of CSOs. It concludes with some recommendations on how CSOs can play an active role in the formulation and regulation of ICT Policies.

Report by Ken Lohento, of Oridev

Cameroon:

Cameroon has fewer than two hundred registered NGOs, and few of these organizations are active in the ICTs sector. This situation is changing rapidly mostly because of awareness-raising on the importance and role of ICTs in development. The emergence of an information and communication sector in Cameroon has brought forward various debates regarding the
formulation and strategies for the implementation of ICT policies.

This report describes a partnership building process between the Cameroonian government, private sector and CSOs in an effort to build the ICT sector in response to government’s perceived failure to do so. The report covers the context of the emerging information society in Cameroon and the inadequacy of the current ICT policy framework. It emphasizes the role of civil society in the formulation of national ICT policy and strategies and the creation of an enabling environment for ICT sector growth. The report concludes with an articulation of civil society’s capabilities in mobilization and intervening in ICT issues in Cameroon.

Report by Olivier Nana Nzepa of Anais.Ac?

The “ICT and Civil Society in Africa” reports were commissioned by APC to explore the role of local civil society organisations (CSOs) in developing and strengthening ICT policy-making at a national level in Africa. You can read and download these and other country reports from the APC Africa ICT Policy Monitor Website

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New content on APC Africa ICT Policy monitor website:

The APC Africa ICT Policy Monitor Website has been updated with new content reflecting ICT Policy news, documents and resources as well as alerts and campaigns relevant for civil society organizations in Africa.

In this edition of “Chakula”, of note:

Djibouti’s National ICT strategy: 04/04/2003: United Nations Development Programme

President Ismaïl Omar Guellah of Djibouti is supporting a national strategy to move the country, strategically located on the Horn of Africa at the mouth of the Red Sea, into the digital age by 2010 to promote development and reduce poverty.

The Right to Communicate: Women in the Information Society 2003-03-01: CRIS

As part of the CRIS campaign, members are producing a series of papers for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) as input to the WSIS. This paper by: Dafne Plou.

R63m African Connectivity Project Launched 04/22/2003: ITWeb

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), funded by the Canadian government, has launched a R63 million project aimed at improving access to information and communications technology (ICT) in Africa.

Africa Launch of the Digital Diaspora Initiative 04/24/2003: Wougnet

Information and communications technologies (ICT 1) are becoming widely accepted as integral means for transforming the path of development. As envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the importance of harnessing information and communication technologies for poverty eradication cannot be overemphasized. Yet, as statistics describing the
growing digital divide demonstrate, women and girls are at particular risk for exclusion from opportunities presented by ICT to secure better livelihoods and other rights.

The reality of e-commerce with developing countries 04/11/2003: IDS

Business-to-business e-commerce applications are being promoted as tools that will enable producer firms in developing countries to reduce their costs substantially, thereby easing their access to global markets. Internet-based Business-to-business e-commerce, the argument goes, should help producers in developing countries obtain better information on global markets and give them direct access to new customers.

E-Africa – Journal of Governance and Innovation04/11/2003: Pambazuka News

e-Africa – Journal of Governance and Innovation will be launched on May 1 by the South African Institute of International Affairs Johannesburg, South Africa www.wits.ac.za/saiia ) . It will be a free e-publication to the leaders of nations, policy makers, key business and NGO people, academics and journalists across Africa.

APC-Africa-Women: Women’s Electronic Network Training Workshop for Africa (WENT-Africa 2003) 04/02/2003: APC-Africa-Women

Based on the successful WENT experiences in Asia co-organised by APC’s Women’s Networking Support Programme, APC-Africa-Women offered a training workshop which aims to build the capacities of women and their organisations to utilise information and communication technologies in social development work and policy advocacy from 29th March – 4th April 2003 in Cape Town, South Africa.

THETHA – Cyberlaw and Internet Rights – May 22, 2003 05/08/2003, David Barnard: SANGONeT

The Southern African Non-Governmental Organisation Network SANGONeT) has been providing networking, information and training services to Southern African civil society organisations (CSOs) since its inception in 1987.

Many more news and documents available on the website

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Chakula: Africa ICT Policy Monitor newsletter
Contact chakula@apc.org with questions, comments and contributions.

Chakula is produced by the Africa ICT Policy Monitor Project of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

APC

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Emmanuel Njenga Njuguna Project Coordinator AFRICA ICT POLICY MONITOR PROJECT E-mail: njenga@apc.org or africa.rights@apc.org URL: http://africa.rights.apc.org Association for Progressive Communications http://www.apc.org ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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