[Telecentres] Going forward - Email found in subject

Subbiah Arunachalam arun at mssrf.res.in
Mon Sep 27 20:47:54 BST 2004

Dear Hannah and others on the list:
That is a very good point Hannah made! We at MSSRF try hard to understand
the communities we work with and try to represent their needs and
aspirations in the different fora where we take part. I know of several
other civil society organizations around the world who do the same. Ideally
though, all civil society organizations should do. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Hannah Beardon [mailto:HannahB at actionaid.org]
Sent: Monday, September 27, 2004 7:02 PM
To: Subbiah Arunachalam; telecentres at wsis-cs.org
Subject: RE: [SPAM] - RE: [Telecentres] Going forward - Email found in

I remember her!  I agree that we should each play to our strengths and it
would be inappropriate to have a handful of village level telecentre
managers or volunteers formulating policy.  However, your last sentence
holds the key... "All we can hope is that these non-grassroots people
understand the needs of the grassroots people and their communities!"  Do we
just have to hope, or can we put some structures and systems in place to
ensure accountabiltiy to the poor/ marginalised and good communications to
really listen to what they need, want and what works for them, rather than
making assumptions on their behalf.  

From: telecentres-bounces at wsis-cs.org
[mailto:telecentres-bounces at wsis-cs.org] On Behalf Of Subbiah Arunachalam
Sent: 27 September 2004 14:47
To: Don Cameron; 'Andy Carvin'; telecentres at wsis-cs.org
Subject: [SPAM] - RE: [Telecentres] Going forward - Email found in subject

Arun calling from MSSRF, Chennai, India. Last year when we decided to take
part in the WSIS and ICT4D events in Geneva we included one of our villaghe
volunteers, Ms Usharani, in our team, and a number of people met and spoke
to her and she demonstrated her skills in handling computers - typing in
Tamil which has an alphabet of 247 characters using the regular QWERTY
English keyboard, and answered a variety of questions on her work in the
village knowledge centre. My colleague Mr Rajamohan and Shaddy of OneWorld
South Asia helped her navigate through the maze, but within a day she was on
her own! While the presence of people like Usharani can facilitate reality
check, policy formulation, drafting, negotiating, etc. certainly would need
people who are not from the true grassroots. All we can hope is that these
non-grassroots people understand the needs of the grassroots people and
their communities!  Arun 

-----Original Message----- 
From: Don Cameron [ mailto:donc at internode.on.net
<mailto:donc at internode.on.net> ] 
Sent: Monday, September 27, 2004 4:01 PM 
To: 'Andy Carvin'; telecentres at wsis-cs.org 
Subject: RE: [Telecentres] Going forward 

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
<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" 
2> &AA_EX_Session=913a7783532 

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> &task=view&id=325&Itemi 

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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