Opening Night – Nnenna Nwakanma

(African Civil Society for the Information Society, Nigeria): The mirage of South – South cooperation in ICT4D

Hands on approach to the situation in Africa. Nenna’s presentation consisted mainly out of a series of questions to the audience.

Where is the south in Africa? Is it geographically situated?

South Africa?
Cote d’ivoire?
Burkina Faso?

Do you know Africa?

Where did you go?
Why did you go?
How long did it take?
How do you get information about Africa?

Africa and info-development.

Has anything changed? … Not much, however:

A sort of flogging of the freedom of expression question. (It stays a returning problem.)
Recalling media problems. Keep making a problem out of it.
Lots of info on the Internet.
Speed of info
Larger area of info cover.
Content that can be swapped, shared, sold, bought, stolen,…

What has not changed?

Patents and copyrights
Unbalanced ownership of content
American imperialism
Language and cultural diversity with the accompanying inferiority and superiority complexes.

The world summit on the information society – WSIS

It was/is a summit: a meeting intended for heads of states. These were free to send official delegations.
Normal UN stuff. People identify with the name tags – countries.
The UN agreed at the Private sector and the civil society could participate. This is the basis of the multiplicity of partners.
This may not mean the same as “multistakeholderism”.
For the NGO’s it was a case of Unite or be phased out! There is a job to be done at the national level.

Alliances? Reality or Mirage?

Problems with this…

With time the Information society accepted as meaning the Internet Society. This is NOT the reality in Africa. It also is an insult to people. U can’t use ICT for development with this premisse…We need to be able to reframe this, to find a translation, to get it in line with the day to day problems of people in developing countries.

Many NGOs had their own agendas and were looking for “partners”… but partners were looked for from an opportunist perspective.
As in all conferences, those who were present spoke on behalf of all.
True to its nature, you are always free to disagree and say so.
Coming back home to the real ICT4D
The information society is NOT different from the present social order (those who can and those who can’t afford)
The worst thing in ICT4D is to think that the Internet includes everybody! (problems of acces, problems of language)
“South” is a very hazy definition. Who is southerner than the other? Is there central south, southern south, northern south,…?

The first line of the declaration principles of the WSIS talks about a people centred Information society, but the reality is that we are focusing more things on people.
To Nnenna, results are more important than impact on Human lives. NGOs are only operational arms for donor organisations. Outcomes are set well before execution and no other outcomes will be acceptable, even if they are the ones that reflect the reality on the ground.

One question: Where do you classify an NGO that is based in the north and has offices in the south?

Question: issue of representation. We need to focus on this issue. Part of legacy of representative democracy. Does it have to do with charisma. Do we really need representation? Don’t care about the organisation, but about the outcome WSIS also opened a lot of doors. This is an important issue, and what we want to come out of WSIS