For the APC policy programme, 2006 was a year of transition. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process reached its zenith in Tunis in November 2005. In its aftermath, it was necessary to review the policy terrain and see what dynamics were coming into play.
A number of CIPP projects were evaluated in 2006: The APC policy portals (global, regional and national), our 2003 guide ICT Policy: A Beginner’s Handbook and policy training curriculum, and the efforts to involve civil society in the WSIS. One of the evaluation reports found that:
APC is highly respected. This respect comes from a range of different players and extends over technical, advocacy, and political aspects of its work. The evaluation has shown evidence of the varied partnerships that APC uses in its work. This is reflected not only in the number of partners named for the evaluation, but also in the way it has co-organised many of the events described in this evaluation. The ability to engage in such partnerships is itself an indirect reflection of the esteem that others have for the organisation and its work.
It was also suggested that:
APC needs to firm up its monitoring and evaluation. This need has been clearly expressed by donors. It was also evident in the evaluation in the over-ambition of some targets, and the failure to report neatly against targets.
APC should probably focus on two or three key policy issues while providing lesser support on others. Internet governance seems an obvious candidate as one of the issues given APC’s recognised experience and expertise on this. The other issues should be ones on which it is easier to work at national level.
Global policy spaces
At the global level, the challenge was to find a way of engaging with the process of WSIS implementation as laid out in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society. A bewildering set of implementation structures based on the “action lines” identified in the Geneva Plan of Action needed to be explored. The eleven action lines, which divided up the policy agenda for building a global information society, focused on policy issues such as infrastructure, security, access to knowledge, the media and capacity building. One of them, on ICT applications, had a further eight sub-action lines on issues like e-health, e-agriculture and e-government. In addition, broad monitoring and follow-up responsibility was given to the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), a body that had played no role whatsoever in the WSIS. Such are the Byzantine vagaries of the UN system.
APC’s approach was to attend the various initial meetings of the action lines in Geneva and get a sense of what was happening. APC also offered to co-facilitate the C2 action line on infrastructure with the ITU. Not much happened during 2006 – it was the as if the WSIS policy life cycle had peaked in Tunis in 2005 and we were all at the bottom of the trough, trying to find our bearings within an implementation process that was to run until 2015. Looking back over the WSIS period from 2002 to 2005, APC reflected on the gains and losses that had been made.
The policy arena that generated the most energy was the process leading up to the first meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Athens in November. APC engaged in the series of consultations convened in Geneva by the IGF secretariat regarding the agenda and programme for the Athens meeting. It made submissions on content and process, and vigorously promoted the issue of development and access to the internet being one of the four broad themes of the meeting, as well as engaging in the process of making nominations for the multistakeholder advisory group whose role was to assist the UN with the Athens meeting.
The IGF meeting itself was a great success as a space for multistakeholder dialogue on internet governance. APC participated actively in organising workshops on access, content regulation, capacity building and the environment, as well as proposing speakers for the plenary debates on access, openness, diversity and security. APC chair Natasha Primo spoke in the high-level opening panel on behalf of civil society. We also revised the APC Internet Rights Charter and distributed it in English, French and Spanish at the meeting, and an issue paper by David Souter on developing country and civil society participation in the WSIS was also launched.
On the ICT for development (ICT4D) front, APC attended the inaugural meeting of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development in Kuala Lumpur in June 2006, and APC’s executive director Anriette Esterhuysen was appointed to the panel of high-level advisors to GAID. GAID identified four issues on which it planned to focus: Health, education, entrepreneurship and governance. APC together with the other partners proposed to form a Community of Expertise on Public, Social and Community Entrepreneurship which was accepted by the GAID Steering Committee in December 2006.
Photo: Cheekay Cinco. Participants at the Asia ICT policy consultation in Dhaka take a break.