Addis Ababa workshop report
Nov 15 4:42 PM
Here's a press release concerning the recently concluded workshop in Addis Ababa that I had erroneously characterized as preparatory to the WSIS (message no. 373; my fault for not reading my newsletters closely!). This was just posted by Frederick Noronha of Bytes for All to the GKD list.
Content was one of the topics of discussion, but it would be of interest in general to those working on/with ICT for development in Africa.
13 November 2002
Viva African Civil Society Building an Inclusive Information Society! Viva!
JOHANNESBURG - These were the words that began one of the most vibrant and challenging discussions about civil society's engagement in ICT policy-making in Africa to date. Organised by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) with the support of Article 19, the workshop on ICT Policy and Civil Society sparked the formation of a network of ICT policy mobilizers dedicated to building an inclusive information society in Africa.
The workshop took place over three days starting November 6 at the UNECA headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Over 80 representatives from non-governmental organizations, human rights organisations, media groups, women's organizations, development groups and researchers from 24 countries throughout Africa gathered to discuss the role of African civil society in ICT policy-making and to outline a plan of action to move forward in mobilizing other organisations on these issues.
Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane of the ECA opened the workshop by expressing the need for civil society organizations to become more engaged in ICT policy processes on the continent. She challenged the organisations present to organise and unite so that civil society can have a greater voice in the formation of policy. APC Communications and Information Policy Coordinator Peter Benjamin outlined the plan for the week, impressing on participants the need to take action on the issues and tasks that had to be completed by the end of the three days. The aims of the workshop were, firstly, for civil society actors to share their experience and build on the knowledge that already existed, secondly, to identify the needs of those organisations in developing ICT policy at both national and international levels, and lastly, to identify the strategies required to meet those needs.
Participants at the workshop came from diverse fields in the civil society sector and from countries throughout Africa. The debates, especially those around issues such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), were intense and challenging, as participants critically analysed the role of civil society in governance and policy development. "This workshop is one of the milestone events in ICT policy-making in Africa from a civil society perspective," said participant, Ewan McPhie, Policy Director at Bridges.org. "It is difficult to estimate the value of providing a venue where civil society organisations from Africa could meet, share views and experiences and get to know each other better."
Smaller working groups formed around four main areas of ICT policy-making including the right to communicate, freedom of expression and information exchange, diversity of content, language, ownership and control and global, regional and national governance of the information society. These discussions led to the formulation of action plans and a statement on African civil society's engagement in ICT policy development from participants. The statement begins with the recognition of the importance of civil society in ICT policy-making: "Given the centrality of civil society to the development of an inclusive information society, and the proximity of civil society organizations (CSOs) to the needs of people and society at large, CSOs need to play a central role in developing and implementing ICT policy." The statement goes on to assert recommendations on the themes of 'freedom of expression', 'policy and enabling environment', 'governance', 'content creation and overcoming barriers', 'open source' and 'brain drain'.
The Action Plan sets out a clear course of action for participants to engage in information sharing, lobbying at national and international levels (especially at the World Summit on the Information Society), a free/open source software task force, and the development of a cross-regional information exchange for community radio organisations.
The Civil Society and ICT Policy Workshop was funded by Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA), the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA) and the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD). This workshop was organised as part of the APC's Africa ICT Policy Monitor project, supported by HIVOS and the International Development Research Centre.
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals through the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially Internet-related technologies. APC and its members pioneer practical and relevant uses of ICTs for civil society, especially in developing countries. APC is an international facilitator of civil society's engagement with ICTs and related concerns, in both policy and practice.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Read the Statement:
APC Africa ICT Policy Initiative
Johannesburg, South Africa
Tel: +27 82 8727374
Photos available: contact heather@...frica_web_content_owner/conversations/messages/376 | AWCO archives]])''