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The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (Hivos) launched the 2012 edition of the Global Information Society Watch during the second day of the Internet Governance Forum that took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, in a joint presentation with the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Internet & Society Co:llaboratory.

The presentation of the 2012 GISWatch edition was delivered by Valeria Betancourt on behalf of APC and Monique Doppert and Loe Schout on behalf of Hivos. Some reports authors were also present, among them Shawna Finnegan (Canada), Ritu Srivastava (India), Alice Munyua (Kenya) and Valentina Pelizzer (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

“It was good to launch the GISWatch 2012 Preview amidst such a specialized audience present during the Internet Governance Forum”, says Schout.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) joined APC and Hivos in the presentation to launch the publication “ICTs, the Internet and Sustainability: Where Next?” written by David Souter and Don MacLean.

The Internet & Society Co:llaboratory also joined APC, Hivos and IISD to present MIND 4. MIND stands for Multistakeholder Internet Dialogue and in its fourth edition it discusses human rights and internet governance. The key article was written by Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Price Winner in 2003 from Iran, and discusses from the various stakeholder perspectives of government, private sector, civil society and the technical community. Among the commentators are Carl Bildt, Swedish Foreign Minister, Marjette Schaake, member of the European Parliament, Jeremy Brookes, President of GNI, Markus Kummer, Vice-President of ISOC, Joy Liddicoat, APC’s Internet rights are human rights coordinator and Jeremy Malcom, President of Consumer International.

This event was also an occasion to introduce two special editions from the 2011 GISWatch produced by APC and Hivos, which addresses “internet rights and democratisation” focusing on freedom of expression and association online. The first 2011 GISWatch special edition contains thematic updates from Argentina, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and South Africa as well as an introduction from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jillian York.

The second 2011 GISWatch special edition is a follow-up report that maps themes and trends that emerged in the 2011 publication and also reports back on the action steps suggested in the country reports to see how relevant they remain one year later.

The internet and corruption under society’s spotlight

The 2012 GISWatch edition addresses the theme “The internet and corruption – Transparency and accountability online.” Through nine thematic reports and over 50 country reports, it explores how the internet is being used to ensure transparency and accountability, the challenges that civil society activists face in fighting corruption and gives accounts of when the internet has failed as an enabler of a transparent and fair society.

Corruption is without doubt a very relevant topic. “The internet is increasingly used to put corruption in daylight, to empower citizens to report on bribes and corruption cases and hold officials and authorities to account. There is of course a dark side also. The internet is also used for sophisticated digital corruption practices and more. This year’s GISWatch edition will hopefully lead to more awareness and discussion on how to combat corruption and on what works,” says Loe Schout from Hivos.

Launching this edition on internet and transparency in a country such as Azerbaijan, a government that restricts free speech and access to information, has much significance. Shawna Finnegan from APC was one of the authors present at the event. She agreed that the focus on transparency and corruption is a key issue. “There seems to be a renewed focus on this in other areas (such as the Open Government Partnership) and there is a clear connection to ICTs and technology (ie. the crowdsourced ‘I Paid a Bribe’ website). However it isn’t always clear what the impact of ICTs is on efforts to tackle corruption, and often efforts to increase transparency fall into the trap of making governments look good without really changing anything substantively.”

Her thematic report entitled “Using technology for collaborative transparency: risks and opportunities” looks at how ICTs are used to combat corruption and achieve transparency in local governance spaces, particularly at the ways in which these efforts can be undermined if there is not sufficient support from all stakeholders, and if considerations around secure online communications are not made.

Even though we are still in the early stages of understanding the connection between ICTs, transparency and corruption, “the GISWatch 2012 edition provides a comprehensive snapshot of where we are at this year, and where more research and advocacy is needed,” says Shawna.

Additional info:

Download the 2012 GISWatch preview
Download the 2011 GISWatch special edition 1
Download the 2011 GISWatch special edition 2
Download the MIND 4 edition

Image by Shawna Finnegan