CHAKULA Issue # 13
CHAKULA Issue No. 13, July 2005
A Newsletter on ICT Policy issues in Africa
Amongst the key issues highlight in this issue of Chakula, are calls for reform at the World Intellectual Property Organization – WIPO or largely referred to the ‘‘Development Agenda’‘. We have traced the background to the calls for the reforms at WIPO, outlined the key issues of the proposal for the establishment of a ‘‘Development Agenda’‘ for WIPO and the developments so far after a series of meeting this year.
Another major issue that has been making headlines in the last two weeks is the release of the report on Internet Governance by the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) following months of work on the future of the Internet governing mechanisms. The WGIG was set up by the Secretary General of the United Nations after the first World Summit on
Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 failed to reach an agreement the governance of the internet. We have outlined key issues raised from the report amongst these the models of governance mechanisms proposed that are expected to form the key basis of discussions at the upcoming preparation conference (Prepcom 3) of WSIS to be held in Geneva in September this year.
2. WIPO AND THE ‘DEVELOPMENT AGENDA’
Since the beginning of this year, several meetings have been held at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) headquarters in Geneva to discuss what has increasingly been referred to as the ‘Development Agenda’.
The ‘Development Agenda’ is about proposals directed to WIPO to focus more on the needs of developing countries, and to view Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) as one of many tools for development – not as an end in itself. Those behind the ‘Development Agenda’ have included civil society actors, scientists, academics and individuals who signed the “Geneva Declaration on the Future of WIPO,” citing the main problem that the current IPR system is hampering the free flow of information, raising the cost of computer software, hampering scientists from advancing research, reducing the public’s access to information and raising the cost of medicines.
In addition the “Geneva Declaration on the future of WIPO” referred to the 1974 agreement with the UN establishing WIPO as a specialized agency of the UN system, which requests WIPO to take ‘appropriate action to promote creative intellectual activity’ and facilitate the transfer of technology to developing countries, ‘in order to accelerate economic, social and cultural development’. The Declaration stated in part: ‘We do not ask that WIPO abandon efforts to promote the appropriate protection of intellectual property … But we insist that WIPO … take a more balanced and realistic view of the social benefits and costs of intellectual property rights as a tool, but not the only tool, for
supporting creative intellectual activity.1 ‘
At the United Nations General assembly of WIPO in October 2004, Argentina and Brazil introduced a proposal for the Establishment of a ‘Development Agenda’ for WIPO2 and was strongly supported by developing countries, as well as by a large group of civil society and others who signed the “Geneva Declaration on the Future of WIPO”.
At the October meeting a ‘massive victory3‘ was achieved as the WIPO assembly adopted a decision to start a ‘Development Agenda’ within its work following the proposal by Argentina and Brazil co-sponsored by an additional twelve developing countries)4. While welcoming the initiative for a ‘Development Agenda’, the WIPO general assembly decided to convene intercessional intergovernmental meetings the following year (in 2005) with the objective to examine the
proposals for the ‘Development Agenda’ and also to ensuring the participation of other relevant multilateral institutions, including UNCTAD, WHO and UNIDO, WTO, and open to NGOs, civil society and academia.
Developing Countries Submit New Proposals
On the eve of a high-level meeting on development and intellectual property held in April this year, the 14-member co-sponsors of the ‘Development Agenda’ – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Venezuela submitted detailed elaborations of their proposals for incorporating development into WIPO’s work. The 14 so called ‘Friends of Development’ group asked the WIPO Secretariat to distribute the proposal to all WIPO Member States for consideration at the two meetings that were to be held: one on April 11-13 Inter-sessional Intergovernmental meeting on the ‘Development Agenda’ (IIM) and the other on April 14-15 meeting of the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD).
Under the rubric of “promoting development and access to knowledge for all”, the co-sponsors offered concrete recommendations on four aspects of their original ‘Development Agenda’ proposal.
- First, the co-sponsors argued that reform of WIPO’s governance structure is a necessary prerequisite for promoting development in its work and thus proposed amending the WIPO Convention to make it more consistent with WIPO’s mandate as a UN specialised agency, strengthening the role of Member States in guiding WIPO’s work, establishing an independent Evaluation and Research Office, and ensuring wider participation by civil society and public interest groups in WIPO
discussions and activities.
- Second, the Friends of Development proposed principles to ensure that development objectives are central to all processes and outcomes of WIPO norm-setting activities, including greater Member State involvement in devising WIPO’s work plan, comprehensive assessment of the sustainable development implications of any proposed new laws; deeper
consideration of the rights and interests of a broad range of stakeholders with respect to intellectual property; and stronger efforts to ensure that proposed standards support the objectives and provisions of other international instruments (such as the Millennium Development Goals).
- Third, the submission proposed mechanisms to ensure WIPO’s technical assistance and capacity building responds to the development goals of developing countries.
- Fourth, the submission argued that WIPO should contribute to international discussion of what developed countries can do to facilitate the transfer and dissemination of technology to developing countries and recommended several new initiatives at the multilateral level.
In their submission, the Friends of Development emphasised their view that “the development dimension of intellectual property is not the same thing as technical assistance.” They affirmed that they attach importance “to the role of intellectual property in the path towards development” and stressed their belief that “WIPO could have a new role.if it incorporates the development dimension into its work”.
‘Development Agenda’ issues tackled
Finally the meeting to discuss the possible establishment of an agenda for development was held last month (June 20-22) and opened with, among other things, a proposal on how to discuss the proposals. The first day focused on structures on how to deal with the proposals with many countries putting forward their suggestions. But many developing countries were eager to see more progress on substance rather than on structures in the second meeting, with an eye toward the recommendation of a ‘Development Agenda’ work plan for the General Assembly.
On the second day of the meeting, negotiators began discussions on WIPO reform to better address developing country needs tackling the details of various proposals put forth by member governments on the ‘Development Agenda’. By the end of the three day meeting, no conclusion had been arrived at, but positions on the various proposals on the table began to emerge, with differences showing along North-South lines of developing versus developed countries with some notable exceptions.
One of the biggest dividing points was whether to move the subject of development wholly into an existing WIPO committee, the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD). This was derived from a United Kingdom proposal that argued for the cost-effectiveness and practicality of putting the issue
under existing body that appeared to have no limit on its mandate.
The PCIPD proposal got significant support from developed countries, both as the Group of industrialised countries, and as a number of individual developed country delegations, including Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States.
But key developing countries such as Argentina, Brazil and India argued against it, out of concern that the broader, cross-cutting issues of a sweeping ‘Development Agenda’ would be dumped into a “garbage can” committee, as a Brazilian delegate put it.
Another point of concern was that a U.S. representative spoke against most of the ‘Development Agenda’ proposals, arguing generally that they are based on two “misconceptions,” sources said. They assume that WIPO has disregarded development concerns, and that strong intellectual property protection is detrimental to global development goals, the U.S. argued. In addition, the United States asserted that development must not become reason for weakening international intellectual property, which it said would undermine the very development is seeks to bring about.
In the end, delegations approved a meeting chair’s summary, which included the list of proposals with some noted as discussed and others presented. A WIPO secretariat report on the meeting was produced early this month (July) and the final meeting took place last week (July 20 – 22).
The EU and Africa Group table their proposals
Prior to final meeting on Intercessional Inter-governmental Meeting (IIM), the European Union proposed that talks on a stronger development-oriented agenda for WIPO be continued through 2006 while the Group of African nations also put forward a new list of proposals for consideration at the IIM that are more far-reaching than the EU proposal.
The European Union proposal was similar to that of ‘Friend of Development’ and suggested to hold three more IIMs next year while differing with the United States-backed proposal to put the development issue into the existing WIPO Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD).
The EU proposal also outlined other areas such as the continuing IIM process be funded primarily from funds allocated for the PCIPD, a wider participation of civil society, establishment of a system of public hearings and of a code of ethics, all from the Friends of Development proposal. Missing from the EU list are several key Friends of Development proposals, such as to establish a WIPO standing committee on technology transfer, an access to knowledge treaty, an evaluation and research office, and proposals related to norm-setting activities at WIPO.
The lengthier African Group proposal was more wide-ranging, calling for instance for WIPO “to contribute effectively to individual nations’ self-reliance by relaxing patent rules on technology and facilitating access to foreign patented information on technology. It also called for WIPO to adopt an “internationally binding instrument” on the protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.
The African proposal also called for stronger national capacity for patenting of local innovations; more donor funding; a new technology transfer body within WIPO; an evaluation mechanism to conduct annual assessments of WIPO’s development-related activities, requests assistance in stemming the outflow from Africa of highly skilled workers (so-called brain drain); the establishment of a trust fund for least-developed countries; and intensified WIPO cooperation with all U.N. agencies.
No consensus reached on ‘Development Agenda’
In the late afternoon of the last day of the third Intercessional Inter-governmental Meeting (IIM), the main plenary meeting resumed after informal consultations among Member States most of the day.
The informal consultations had resulted in an agreement between all countries – except the United States and Japan — to recommend to the General Assembly that the IIM process should be extended for one additional year to continue to examine a Development Agenda for WIPO. The US and Japan refused to allow the IIM Development Agenda discussions to continue and instead insisted that all development issues should be dealt with by the ineffective Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD) Committee. This is notwithstanding that many developing countries had raised objections on this as PCIPD committee only meets once every two years and has no oversight role over the substantive work of WIPO committees, such as the copyright or patent committees.
The final outcome of this meeting came down to that no consensus had been reached as WIPO proceeds according to “consensus”, meaning all countries must agree or no action can be taken. Without the US and Japan agreeing with the all of other countries to continue the IIM Development Agenda process, the body could not make that recommendation to the WIPO General Assembly in its report due 30 July 2005.
Despite the overwhelming majority view, the only decision that could be taken was to inform the General Assembly that a consensus could not be reached, and to simply forward the summaries and discussion notes from the three IIMs to the General Assembly for its meeting to be held in September this year.
What can Africa civil Society do?
As noted above, the WIPO meetings on ‘Development Agenda’ debated amongst other issues the greater participation of civil society in its activities. There was a huge presence of civil society groups who made statements as government officials addressed proposals to make WIPO more sensitive to developing country needs.
Though few civil society groups in Africa are engage with issues of Intellectual property issues and WIPO reform, it is time wider groups began getting involved and ready to take an active role given that increased civil society participation will soon become a key element of the WIPO development agenda.
The keys issues to engage as reflected from the Friends of Development proposal, the NGO Group Statement not forgetting the proposals from the Africa group include calling for: implementation of development impact assessments; the creation of a new independent WIPO Research and Evaluation Office to conduct such assessments; adoption of an Access to Knowledge treaty to balance the interests of rights holders and public at large; and greater civil society participation in WIPO policy-making activities.
For detailed articles and further analysis, visit the Africa ICT Policy Monitor Website – On Intellectual Property
3. WHAT DOES THE INTERNET GOVERNANCE REPORT SAY?
The long awaited report on the future of the Internet governing mechanisms was finally released following months of work by the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). The WGIG was set up by the Secretary General of the United Nations after the first World Summit on Information Society in 2003 failed to reach an agreement the governance of the internet. The mandate given to the WGIG was “to investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of Internet by 2005.” The WGIG was asked to present the result of its work in a report “for consideration and appropriate action for the second phase of the WSIS in Tunis 2005.”
What did the report say?
The report, while expected to reach an agreement on various issues of contention can be said to cover to main parts, one part – or the easy part, dwelt on the definitions of internet governance and the identification of public policy issues relevant to internet governance. The second part of the report – the more difficult or controversial part- the action plan, presented a range of proposals ranging from no change to a complete overhaul relating to internet governance mechanisms.
The first part as expected from the mandate given to the WGIG, outlines a working definition of Internet Governance; identified public policy issues relevant to Internet Governance and finally outlined the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders such as governments, private sector and civil society.
- 1. Definition of Internet Governance
On the issue of a working definition of internet governance, the working group arrived at what has been termed as a generic definition that is not narrow to only have included issues of technical functioning of the internet on one hand while also not broad enough to include wider issues in the usage of the internet such as privacy, freedom of expression and intellectual property. The report outlines the definition of internet governance as follows.
“Internet governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.”
- 2. Public policy issues relevant to Internet Governance
On the identification of public issues relevant to Internet Governance, the report identified a set of highest priority issues and problems for the attention of the WSIS. Among the identified issues included;
- Issues relating to infrastructure and the management of critical Internet resources, those identified here include the administration of the root zone files and system, the allocation of domain names and IP addressing.
- Issues relating to the use of the Internet, those identified here include Spam, Internet stability security and cybercrime, Data protection and privacy rights, Multilingualism and Consumer rights.
- Issues that are relevant to the Internet but have an impact much wider than the Internet and for which existing organizations are responsible, those identified here include Intellectual property rights (IPR), Freedom of expression, Interconnection costs,
- The final area covered issues relating to the developmental aspects of Internet governance and the issues identified in this aspect included meaningful participation in global policy development and capacity-building in developing countries.
- 3. Roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders
Finally with regard to the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders, the report detailed out a series of responsibilities for governments, private sector and civil society while also reviewing those of existing intergovernmental and international organizations.
Four Options outlined for internet governance mechanisms
The second part outlines the proposals for action relating to internet governance mechanisms. These are the issues considered controversial and the report outlines four key options;
- Option One – create a UN body known as the Global Internet Council that draws its members from governments and “other stakeholders” and takes over the US oversight role of ICANN.
- Option Two – no changes apart from strengthening ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee to become a forum for official debate on internet issues.
- Option Three – relegate ICANN to a narrow technical role and set up an International Internet Council that sits outside the UN. The US would lose oversight of ICANN.
- Option Four – create three new bodies. One to take over from ICANN and look after the internet’s addressing system. One to be a debating chamber for governments, businesses and the public; and one to co-ordinate work on “internet-related public policy issues”.
These options are expected to form a major part of the discussion at the upcoming preparation conference of the World Summit on information Society to be held in Geneva this September. The final Summit will be held in Tunisia in November this year.
Civil society groups discuss what position to support
Many groups involved in monitoring internet governance matters have reacted or made comments on issues raised from the report. Among some of the statements include the WSIS Civil Society Caucus on internet governance while others have continued to debate on what position to take on the proposals recommended on the report.
It is expected that Africa civil society caucus on the Information Society (ACSIS) will be holding an online discussion in the coming weeks to come up with a position to be presented during the upcoming preparation conference (Prepcom) on WSIS to be held in September this year in Geneva.
The full report on internet governance including a background can be found here
For news articles and information resources, visit the Africa ICT Policy Monitor Website – on Internet Governance
4. A BRIEF REVIEW OF KEY ISSUES MAKING HEADLINES
At the national level in several African countries, developments have continued over privatization talks evident from various media reports in the recent past; one particular case is Kenya where the government has been involved in talks with advisors on strategies for the privatization of Telkom Kenya the incumbent operator. The permanent secretary in the
Ministry of Information and Communication was recently quoted in that the decision had been reached on the long overdue privatization of the incumbent operator to take place early in 2006. The decision was reached following a report by the consulting company making recommendations to the government to allow time for some important structure changes such as the retrenchment of over 50% of the workforce.
In Zambia, similar talks have been in place about the privatization of Zamtel – also an incumbent operator where talks have been abandoned as the government was in favour of entering a commercialization agreement with an investor as opposed to privatization. The commercialization plan would be similar to one already carried out between the government of Zambia and a United States-based company to build a railway line under the build, operate and transfer (BOT) principle. Some good news though from Rwanda as the privatization of Rwandatel process was completed with a payout of $ 20 million that was announced at the end of June.
On the regulatory front, a few developments have taken place in the last few weeks with Kenyan communications commission causing a major concern especially amongst the business sector in the country with regard to the issuing of licenses for would be Voice over IP (VoIP) providers. It was reported that the regulatory authority had out on hold the issuance of
licenses for VoIP providers pending a review of the rules governing the sector. A similar and related issue was also reported in South Africa where it was reported that over 50% of small and medium enterprises (SME) sector companies had been locked out of the VoIP revolution because of the market structure, citing technical requirement in the form of the Telkom-supplied Diginet line.
There have been some positive news in South Africa following a ministerial statement that the regulator -Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) would be ready to award the second national operator (SNO) licence ‘within weeks’.
The Kenyan regulator this week is reported to have said that policy guidelines for the sub-sector will be released in the next two weeks and the licences issued later.
National ICT Policy
The national ICT policy processes have also made the news in the past few weeks, with Kenya again stealing the show with the highly publicized workshop that took place in Mombasa in mid-June. The workshop key objective was to discuss the draft policy document amongst key stakeholders that included civil society, private sector and the government. Though the official report of the workshop is yet to be released, the national ICT policy is now expected to move to the final
stages where the draft would be tabled to the Cabinet and once approved the implementation stage would commence thereafter.
The Zambia ICT policy is also under review by Cabinet and it is expected to be out for implementation later this year.
Rwanda has also reported a positive spin to the ICT policy following a recent statement by the Ministry of Information who said that social and economic developments had been achieved since Rwanda adopted the first phase of the ICT policy in 2001.
Africa Civil Society and WSIS
With regard the WSIS process, the outcome of a recent event has been a report addressing issues and challenges of the African information society with a special emphasis on the role of Civil Society. This was from a meeting that took place in in Nigeria at the beginning of this month where Africa civil society organizations came together in a pre-event to the African Regional Preparatory Meeting (ARPM) of the World Telecommunications Development Committee (WTDC).
Among some of the highlights from the meeting was some three projects that will be under consideration to be undertaken by civil society organizations, among these are; an Africa based Virtual Library and a community radio including the development of rural multimedia community centres.
For more news articles and information resources, visit the Africa ICT Policy Monitor Website
5. UPCOMING EVENTS
World Youth Development and ICT (WYDI 2005) Conference
This conference is being organised with a theme of “Young People Creating Global Culture”. The conference aims to bring together more than 250 young professionals, community leaders, non-governmental organisation (NGO) leaders, university students, information and communication technology (ICT) professionals, among others.
22/08/2005, South Africa
Building Partnerships for the Information Society
The Cape Peninsula University of Technology, with the support of the Cape Town City, the Centre for e-Innovation in the Provincial Government of the Western Cape and the South African Department of Communications, will be organising and hosting the “Information Society” event.
24/08/2005, South Africa
Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN) 2005
The Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN) 2005 Conference is open to receive research, policy and praxis based papers around the major theme of ‘partnerships’.
World Information Technology Forum (Witfor) 2005
The Government of the Republic of Botswana, in collaboration with the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) will host the second World Information Technology Forum (WITFOR) in Gaborone from August 31 to September 2, 2005. WITFOR is a state-of-the-art, high-level international forum, aimed at ICT policy-makers and practitioners.
CTO Forum 2005 – Yaounde, Cameroon, 5 – 6 September 2005
Organised in partnership with the Government of Cameroon, the CTO will host this unique gathering of opinion leaders and decision-makers in response to the growing need for access to ICT in emerging markets in the Commonwealth and beyond.
12/09/2005, South Africa
Highway Africa Conference 2005 ‘Reinforcing journalism in the information society’
The Highway Africa 2005 will explore the above issues and seek to assist in overcoming the challenges. Highway Africa’s programme includes a unique mix of plenary and keynote presentations, panel discussions and hands-on workshops where delegates acquire practical skills and expertise.
PrepCom-3 of the WSIS Tunis phase to take place in Geneva
The third meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom-3 of the Tunis phase) will take place in Palais des Nations, Geneva (Switzerland) from 19-30 September 2005.
6. SUBSCRIBING TO ‘CHAKULA’
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