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[Developing world]

December 11, 2003

Education on wheels. The rugged and beautiful mountains and of Cambodia are virtually inaccessible to the outside world - Education struggles to travel along the muddy potholed paths that only ox-cart and motorbikes can use.

But an organisation at one of the stalls buried among the hundreds of others at Geneva has penetrated the dense green heart of the Ratanakiri region.

With five little bright red motorbikes, they are taking e-mail and non-real-time internet access to the schools to, project organiser Neou Ty explained. The pilot scheme works through a receiver on the back of the bike, which picks up reception from a satellite dish.

According to Japan Relief for Cambodia: "Despite its charm life in the region is rough. During the rainy season, villages soon become inaccessible. Food and housing are inadequate. Disease is common and child mortality high. Most villagers lack even a basic education.

"No postal system, no telephones. People, goods or information could only be transported via ox-cart or motorcycle. The five motorbikes are a vital first step for these villages in gaining access to a new world of educational, medical and economic opportunity."

The charity has already built 14 schools and equipped them with a solar panel to run their computers. Now, e-mail and internet access provided from the bikes has connected the villages schools to each other and health clinics. But 3,000 villages in Cambodia don't have a school yet, let alone a computer.
Erin Dean @ 01:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

Where's the alcohol? After dutifully attending the signing of the African, Caribbean and Pacific - European Union Joint Position on Information Society for Development as promised, I felt somewhat mislead when not a single cocktail, olive or tiny paper umbrella was to be seen.

The signing was unusual at the summit as the room was full with more people queuing outside. And the outcome of its five pages and the historic moment? A call for more talks...

Erin Dean @ 06:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 09, 2003

Last minute agreement. Further to our earlier post, Marc Furrer, Swiss Secretary of State for WSIS, has just arrived, with PrepCom President Adama Samassekou - the latter resplendent in a blue turquoise robe. Mr Furrer apologised for his tardiness and for not having a copy of the draft text - so fresh is the ink on the new agreement.,

Key revelation - Mr Furrer said that the developed nations have agreed "at least to look into" the possibility of a global fund. Meanwhile the developing nations will each proceed with their various funds organised on a regional basis.

Cara Swift @ 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2003

More news "The "ICT for Development Platform" is heading for a major success. Two hundred organisations and businesses from 80 countries have already announced their intention to participate in the largest summit event at WSIS. Covering an area of 16,000m2, the Platform, which runs from December 9 to 13, will show how information and communication technologies – from simple transistor radios to high-tech computer systems – can be used innovatively to reduce poverty and promote development.

Ahmed Reda @ 07:17 PM

November 16, 2003

The IPR Hot Potato. There's little agreement over Intellectual Property Rights in advance of the summit. As ever, it's hardly surprising that ideas and information (specifically, who owns them and what does it cost to buy them) go to the heart of the "digital divide". To quote the WSIS draft declaration "a fair balance has to be struck between IPR protection... and... its use, and knowledge-sharing".

So, on one hand, WSIS-watchers will be looking closely at the attitude of big "advanced developing" countries like Brazil, Mexico, China and India - who have interests on either side of the IPR digital-information divide. Richer countries see a strict regime of intellectual property protection as essential to encourage innovation and creativity, while ranged between them are those who believe the "fair balance" concept is mean, misguided and based on a false analogy with ownership of physical property. Of course, those who promote communication rights believe "the best way to 'protect' creations of the intellect is to allow them to be used".

Andrew Taussig @ 02:58 PM
Where's the progress? The summit is in trouble, as previously noted. Three more days of talks, designed to sort out gaping disagreements, have dribbled to a close.

By now, we shoud have something to really work with in Geneva - but instead, every time the participants get round a table, more tensions come out.

The draft paper optimistically calls for a "people-centered, inclusive"
information society - something which it wants to get from a hopelessly divided bunch.

There seem to be three main problems:
- Firstly, surprise, surprise, - money. The EU, especially Germany and the UK, and Japan are desperately against even a voluntary fund to pay for ICTs.
- Secondly, freedom of expression and human rights. China have successfully ambushed a complete paragraph on the "free flow of information" - not a good decision for the good of the world's media.
- And finally - Internet governance. China again seems to be causing more trouble than anyone else - it looked like governments would agree on just stating the need for further discussion in the declaration (a bit of a cop-out anyway), but China is blocking progress here, because Taiwan is a member of the ICANN government advisory board.

In addition the Civil Society seems to be generally brassed off with the course things are taking. They also said that terrorism legislation is now clamping down on the freedom of speech - an interesting swipe (especially at the US).

These are pretty complex issues, but Daily Summit is going to unravel them as best we can, over the next couple of posts.
Erin Dean @ 02:35 PM
In the news, Reuters analyses the progress of the negotiations, but reports that developing countries are making some progress on the"digital divide" fund they have been pressing for. It looks like they're going to get... more talks!

According Pierre Gagne, head of the summit secretariat: "No decision will be taken on the establishment of a fund, but I think that there will be agreement to establish a mechanism that will come up with specific recommendations on what to do."

David Steven @ 11:36 AM

November 11, 2003

More technology=better education, writes Tony Roberts, head of NGO Computer Aid International in the FT today.

99 percent of children in developing countries "leave school without having seen or touched a computer," he claims. But Computer Aid International has the answer...

"There are a number of steps companies could take to help bridge this digital divide, for example professionally refurbishing Pentium personal computers for re-use through organisations such as Computer Aid International. Instead, nearly 2m PCs are dumped in landfill sites every year, and with them the opportunity to promote education in developing countries is buried."
David Steven @ 01:05 PM

November 10, 2003

India's government is under pressure to bridge the digital divide in the country. Despite increasing investments in IT infrastructure the gap is still widening, according to a group of NGOs. The government is sending a sizeable delegation to WSIS in Geneva, but the director of OneWorld South Asia says there has been no dialogue between the government and people's organisations on ICT strategies and policies.

Cara Swift @ 01:39 PM
In the news, the FT reports that "an attempt by developing countries to put management of the internet under United Nations auspices is likely to be shelved" - at least for now.

Developing countries are unhappy with the way internet registrar, Icann, operates, but the US and EU are defending what they believe is a successful model "based on minimal regulation and commercial principles."

UN officials believe this issue will not be solved until WSIS part 2 - in Tunis in 2005.

Update: More on Icann at Icann Focus.
David Steven @ 09:35 AM | TrackBack
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