The forgotten agenda...

With the focus at Tunis largely on who controls the Net, and the

far-from-sophisticated control mechanisms of Tunisian society, the issue of

what the Net can — and is — doing for the excluded in the planet might

have taken a back seat. Disparity in accessing the levers of communication is markedly sharp. But interesting stories are coming in about what’s possible from various parts of the globe —

href=“”>Africa, in the field of education,

href=“”>the American Indian indigenous people, and beyond. Undeniably, the harsh reality needs to be acknowledged and dealt with too….

With the focus at Tunis largely on who controls the Net, and the

far-from-sophisticated control mechanisms of Tunisian society, the issue of

what the Net can — and is — doing for the excluded in the planet might

have taken a back seat.

WSIS: UN summit to

serve the people? is the question raised by Marty Logan via Tunis. Logan

writes: “Now that the worlds powers have agreed to stop squabbling over

control of the Internet (for now), will the more than 10,000 people here for

this week’s United Nations forum focus on creating an information society

for all people?”

Some figures from this report: Roughly the same number of people use the

Internet in the world’s eight economic giants as in the other nations

combined — 429 million users in the former versus 444 million in the

latter, says the United Nations.


page for some facts and figures about the global digital divide, or how

skewedly distributed cyber-facilities are in different parts of the globe.

Another report, also by Mithre J. Sandrasagra is titled


A little could go a long way and notes that two African leaders launched

a public appeal last Wednesday for support to a global fund for

community-based communication projects. IPS wrote: “President Abdoulaye Wade

of Senegal and President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria launched the appeal

for increased funding for the

href=“”>Global Digital Solidarity Fund

(GDSF). Few, however, attended the meeting they addressed.”

We’re told that the “fund has so far gathered 5.5 million euros (6.6 million

dollars) from its 22 members that include just nine countries. The others

are international organisations, cities and provinces.”

More interesting details: The fund has had some success in Africa. The

href=“> Association for African Solidarity based in Burkina Faso has used money

from the fund to introduce broadband connectivity at HIV/ AIDS clinics.

Patients now have up to date medical information, and also access to

specialists in other countries. The African

Virtual University (AVU) was established in 1997 with funding from the

World Bank. It now has more than

3,000 students in 18 countries.



Project in India funded by the

href=“”>Institute for International Social

Development (IISD) based in Britain has “involved more than 50,000 slum

dwellers in a literacy programme” where ICT tools help build individual

capacity for development. See the

href=“”>IISD page on

Sushiksha. The Food and Agriculture

Organisation has launched a scheme to help rural communities with access

to information to improve farming and marketing methods, and to mitigate the

effect of natural disasters.

[Not sure if the IISD project touches “more than 50,000 slum-dwellers”, as

mentioned above. It’s a not-for-profit company based in Kolkata (India), and

not in Britain.]

Another report


go global: an indigenous web builds up by Marty Logan (again,

href=“”>IPS) reports that the indigenous Navajo people

of the southwestern United States are now using the Internet to reconnect to

their traditional culture, and rebuild confidence. Check

href=“”>The Navajo Nation.

IPS reminds us that after WSIS I in Geneva in 2003, a group of indigenous

people identified obstacles and challenges to their peoples’ equitable

participation in the information age. These included poverty, which reduces

access to the Internet; fear that the new technologies would force them to

conform to one model of living; lack of money to pay the high costs of

training; and a shortfall of computer software in indigenous languages.

Meanwhile, two portals exist on indigenous people’s issues, but both are

operated by governments, Canada and Australia, said Deer, a member of the

Mohawk nation from Canada.

[Check The Gathering of Nations which takes you to Native American web site links: “Shop Native, Native Portal Sites and Native Services”… and more.

From Bolivia, IPS/TerraViva has

this news item that says


highway blocked by rural poverty, underdevelopment (in Bolivia). It

explains how “the proliferation of cybercafés in Bolivia’s largest cities,

offering Internet access at relatively modest rates, contrasts sharply with

the slow advance of this technology in rural areas, which depends on

sporadic initiatives headed up by the private sector or civil society.”

IPS/Terraviva says: “There are barely 62,000 Internet connections today in

Bolivia, a country with a population of 8.2 million people — as well as an

illiteracy rate of 25.7 percent in the countryside and 6.44 percent in the

cities — according to the most recent census, conducted in 2001. Indigenous

people account for 62 percent of the population, and that proportion rises

to almost 70 percent in the centre of the country and in the mountainous

western regions. In rural areas, indigenous languages are spoken by 72

percent of inhabitants.”

It adds that for the areas of Bolivia where Internet access is possible,

Entel and the Royal University in La Paz have created a “virtual high

school” programme that allows people to complete their secondary education

through computer-based distance study.

Another initiative currently

underway, with funding from the Andean Development Corporation (the

financial arm of the Andean Community of Nations), the Eco Pueblo Foundation

and Aquino University of Bolivia, is a computer centre in the town of

Calamarca, 80 km from La Paz, where the local Aymara indigenous children and

adolescents are provided with access to information technology.

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