[Telecentres] working group background, organizing principles

Michael Gurstein mgurst at vcn.bc.ca
Fri Sep 24 11:49:34 BST 2004

Andy and all,

The Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN) with which a number of
those on this list are affiliated will be meeting f2f next week in
Prato, Italy. One of the topics of discussion will be a possible role
for CIRN in WSIS (while CIRN is not directly registered as a Civil
Society group within the WSIS context, several national representative
and other formally registered CS organizations are active participants
in CIRN and will be represented at the Prato meeting). 

CIRN as a network of researchers and practitioner/researchers concerned
with enabling communities with Information and Communications
Technologies has a very strong and active interest in supporting the
development of Telecentres as points of community internet access.  I
should mention as well though, that our interest goes beyond simple
access through Telecentres to working with communities to make effective
use of this access in support of locally based development including for
health, local economic and social development, environmental management
and others.

I'm sure CIRN's on-going relationship with this Network will be an
element in our discussions and I would guess that our conclusion would
be to actively support this initiative in whatever manner seems to be
most useful and generally productive.

As to a preferred organizational structure for this working group, there
seems no particular reason at this point to move towards a formalized
structure (but perhaps I'm wrong) and that it might be more useful for
the group to get to know each other a bit better first and also to
further explore the issues of concern to determine what the appropriate
nature of the "representativeness" for this group should be.


Mike Gurstein
(Interim) Chair: CIRN 


-----Original Message-----
From: telecentres-bounces at wsis-cs.org
[mailto:telecentres-bounces at wsis-cs.org] On Behalf Of Andy Carvin
Sent: September 24, 2004 12:51 AM
To: telecentres at wsis-cs.org
Subject: [Telecentres] working group background, organizing principles

Stuart Mathison wrote:

 >> - My suggestion is that we advocate on the two previous questions. 
An issue,
 >> however, is the mechanics through which the collective voice of this
working  >> group can make itself heard. Are we "official"? Can we be
as a
 >> civil society entity? How do we appoint people to represent the
group?  >>

In the simplest terms, yes, we are already "official." When the UN
decided to host the WSIS meetings, it was agreed that civil society
organizations could become accredited delegates, along with governments,
UN agencies, international donors, etc. This meant that civil society
organizations would have a voice in the deliberations, though not a
vote. Prior to the first WSIS meeting in Geneva, civil society
organizations began to organize, setting up caucuses and working groups
on a variety of issues, such as human rights, gender, education, youth;
there were also groups set up by region (Latin American family, North
American family, etc). Participation in these working groups is
voluntary, with each working group existing because there was critical
mass of volunteers to work in that area. Civil society also created a
plenary email list (plenary at wsis-cs.org) for all working group members
to join, as well as a civil society bureau comprised of representatives
from each working group to represent civil society's interests when it
comes to logistical planning for each summit and prepcom, etc.

This June, at the CTCNet conference in Seattle, I co-hosted a meeting of
the North American group. During the meeting we discussed civil
society's wsis activities, and the role telecenter activists were
playing in the process. Some of us noted how the telecenter movement
could fall through the cracks because its interests were spread out
amongst various other working groups. So I proposed the idea of
organizing a new civil society working group for telecenters.

Following recommendations of members of the civil society bureau, I
proposed the idea on the CS plenary list, and proposed it during CS
plenary meetings in Tunisia at the most recent Prepcom meeting.
Participants were supportive of the idea, and there were no objections,
so I was encouraged to found the new working group. The bureau then
created the email discussion group for us on the official WSIS civil
society server (www.wsis-cs.org) in late August, which brings us to
where we are now.

So to summarize: our group is an official civil society working group,
and we can offer input to the civil society plenary and participate in
other civil society activities. I'm the one who proposed and founded the
group, and so far I'm facilitating the group. If the group would like to
be more formal, we could have a discussion about who is serving as
chairperson, or "focal point," to use the civil society bureau
terminology. I'm perfectly happy to serve in this role, but would not
want to force myself upon the group either simply because I came up with
the idea.

Most other groups have a sole focal point serving as chairperson, but
others have co-chairs, or a chairperson and a couple of vice chairs.
Personally, I think this is a good idea, since it would allow for some
geographic diversity.

So I suppose we have three models to consider:

1. One person (I or someone else) could serve as sole focal point
(chairperson) for the working group.

2. Two people - perhaps one from the North, one from the South - could
serve as co-chairs.

3. One person as focal point, with multiple people (two or three others)
as vice chairs.

So I'd like to propose we discuss this. Does anyone have any strong
feelings as to how the group's leadership shall be organized? And are
there nominations for people to play any of these roles? As I said, I'm
perfectly happy to do this myself, but think it would be good to share
some of the responsibility with one or more people representing other
parts of the world, particularly the South....


Andy Carvin
Program Director
EDC Center for Media & Community
acarvin @ edc . org

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