[Telecentres] Going forward

Don Cameron donc at internode.on.net
Mon Sep 27 21:30:48 BST 2004

Thanks for your thoughts Andy.

The invitation for Telecentre's (as representatives of civil society) to
participate in WSIS has been a long and hard-fought battle since our first
representations prior to Prepcom1, and it's terrific to now have this
opportunity, and I (amongst others) thank you for it - providing
Telecentre's are not again marginalized by WSIS or cited as being "too
narrow a focus for a thematic group"
(http://wsis.ecommons.ca/node/view/457). This shows a distinct lack of
understanding about the role of Telecentre's in today's society.

Most critics of WSIS, many of whom are practitioners and other regular
participants on Telecentre forums, cite the major issue as being a lack of
civil engagement compounded by the fact that what engagement there is falls
far short of true civil representation: "Civil society needs to claim its
role in WSIS and demand that information should be for the good of humanity.
A pro-development stamp is needed on the WSIS process" (South Asia
Partnership Summary Report: Communication for Social Change Forum"

The views of many Telecentre practitioners about WSIS are well summarized by
the following extract:

"During a conversation with Sarah Parkinson of IDRC I re-affirmed my
thinking, that what we call the 'Civil Society' is in fact a collection of
middle-class researchers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) workers and
the like. People with the time and money to spend far too much time on the
internet, these people feel strongly about injustice and try to rectify it.
But are not the people suffering the injustice of poverty and isolation.
Then is it true that Civil Society does not even come from the population we
claim to represent." (Community Information Network for Southern Africa

I am not suggesting that we do not participate in WSIS, to the contrary. I
am suggesting it is our responsibility as community representatives to
require that WSIS extends itself beyond a closed-door conference venue and
incorporates true civil representation - these are not new issues having
been raised many times within and external to the WSIS process, and WSIS
itself has now had more than two years to develop processes for civil

The Telecentre movement can help WSIS by offering a tremendous opportunity
for delegates to engage with society - if this is what WSIS delegates truly
want to do. However if WSIS stands aloof and only accepts input by
invitation there is probably little we can offer in the way of help.
Anything we do contribute would be subject to the determinations of people
inherently lacking in experience and exposure.

If I can presume to ask a question of the list in turn... What can the
Telecentre movement offer to help WSIS achieve civil engagement thereby
fostering the development of the information society? - Answers to this
question may well offer insight into how best the movement is represented at
WSIS, whether by select individuals or the method of a unified

Rgds, Don

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