By APCNews VARNA, Bulgaria, 10 October 2005
Open source, open content, open access, open standards, open processes… Many of us in civil society claim we are committed to any number of “open-nesses” but can we put our hand on our heart and say that we really walk-the-talk?
As “social techies” APC and partners are committed to supporting and promoting the use of computer and internet technology as an empowerer —as something to help social justice and development workers meet their goals. At an Open Day hosted by APC and our host member in Bulgaria, BlueLink, which was a real learning event, APC, BlueLink and guests examined and exchanged experiences and know-how on the complexities and realities and the issues at the heart of real “open access for all”.
The open day was held on Friday October 7 2005 in the Imperial Hotel at the Black Sea resort Riviera, between Varna and Zlatni Piasatsi, Bulgaria.
More than 50 representatives from the APC member organisations from 32 countries around the world were present along with guest technology experts and environmental activists working online from Bulgaria and the Balkan region.
OPEN DAY PROGRAMME
9.30 Opening and introduction: Welcome from the APC chair Julian Casasbuenas and BlueLink Executive Director, Milena Bokova.
Special intervention: ICTs for Sustainable Development – examples from Bulgaria and the Balkan Region
Introduction to our theme: Open Access for All by Anriette Esterhuysen (APC) and Michael Stanley-Jones (Aarhus Convention Secretary)
Panels included 4-5 guests and a presenter. Guests gave input of around 5 minutes and took questions from the audience. Debate was lively as the methodology used was based on the internationally-known ´tv chat show´format.
Panel One: Open decision-making processes
Panel Two: Open access
Panel Three: Open content
Closing Observations and farewell
ABOUT THE PANELS
a. Open content
Open content, coined by analogy with “open source” describes any kind of creative work that is published in a format that explicitly allows the copying of the information. Content can be available in the public domain or under a licence. Open content is also sometimes used to describe content that can be modified by anyone.
Civil society generates a wealth of rich and diverse content, but we aren’t maximizing the potential of that content in terms of sharing it. We want to change that here.
Speakers included ISOC BG on the Creative Commons licensing model in Bulgaria, Dirk Slater of TacticalTec, and Andrew Garton of c2o Australia. Chair: Ann Tothill (APC)
b. Open decision-making processes
The recent UN working group on internet governance (WGIG) showed the value of open processes and the process by which the WGIG was formed is a good indicator of the role civil society can play in shaping global policy environments. As civil society becomes more involved in policy-making, that can lead to greater involvement in implementing and monitoring policies, and ultimately to societies in which there is greater citizen participation. In what ways has civil society been getting involved? And do inclusive processes always lead to effective outcomes?
Speakers discussed the Aarhus convention and public access to environmental information in Bulgaria (Michael Stanley-Jones), on-line voting mechanism for Bulgarian NGOs (Milena Gorgieva, BlueLink), internet governance and multistakeholder policy processes (Willie Currie and Karen Banks, APC).
c. Open access (infrastructure)
Not everyone has access to the internet but in many ways the digital divide is just a prism through which all other inequalities – whether of race, gender, class or whatever – are reflected. The gap in internet access between developed and developing countries is large and continues to grow. Low-income countries account for almost 60% of the world’s population but have just under 5% of the world’s internet users.
In the developed world, because internet access is fairly widely distributed throughout the population, the digital divide is less acute. Nonetheless governments spend significant sums of money on digital divide initiatives aimed at offering access to poorer people and those in rural areas. And the governments of low-income countries find it hard to prioritise spending on internet access over more pressing demands like health care. What alternatives are out there?
Speakers included Radhika Lal of the UNDP on open access for community and municipal networks, I-Space Bulgaria on FOSS, the Project Telecenters of Bulgaria, and John Dada on access in rural Nigeria.
About APC: APC is an international network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals through the strategic use of ICT, including the internet. BlueLink is a full member of APC since 2000.