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Vol. III No. 7

July 2005

The first monthly magazine on ICT4D

Human rights in South Africa Information for development

Harnessing ICTs for social justice

Creating a ‘one stop shop’ for information

Interview - ILO

ISSN 0972 - 804X

Human Rights and ICTs

Herman van der Laan

April 2004 |


knowledge for change

e-Government: Evolution or Revolution?



Conflux e



The e-Government Conference

The Grand New Delhi 17 - 19 October, 2005


i4d Vol. III No. 7



Human Rights and ICTs

July 2005


23 News

Rights need rules! Paul Maassen


Right to Communicate From the summit to the people Alfonso Gumucio-Dagron

12 Human Rights in South Africa Harnessing ICTs for social justice





Zooming in


Books received


Development Gateway Award 2005

Herman van der Laan

GeSCI: ICT for education

Firoze Manji


Creating a ‘one stop shop’ for information Bev Clark

Rights Information 17 Child Network (CRIN) ‘Right’ from the beginning Veronica Yates

19 Behind the Mask

Acting beyond the traditional path Esau Mathope

Human 21 Commonwealth Rights Initiative

ICT4D award finalists

42 44 45 46

Bytes for All Disaster feature Discovering disasters on web

What’s on In Fact Right insight

Just wanted to tell you that the March issue (MDG 3 - Gender) was a really nice read. All the articles were interesting and informative. I know this comes late, but I just managed to read it all. Anita Satyajit, National Institute for Smart Government (NISG)

This mail is in reference to the article, ‘Integrating bits for a bigger bite’. I worked for Mahiti Sindhu as a business partner and as an ICT trainer for Azim Premji Foundation to train the Young India Fellows (YIF’s). The author did not mention one more project ‘Yuva.Com’ in the article which was launched in 225 Taluk’s to train the unemployed rural youth, women and etc. Thanks for your article in i4d. Hemanta R Naik Kanara Institute of Development Studies

Using IT to promote right to information Mandakini Devasher

and Human Rights 27 ICT Promotion in Bangladesh



Democratising force of ICT Shahjahan Siraj

Human Rights 32 Martus Bulletin System Witness for social justice Saswati Paik

WSIS Thematic Meeting, 23-24 June 2005, Seoul, Republic of Korea Partnerships to bridge the digital divide


PAN Prospectus Consultation Meeting, 23-26 June, 2005, Siem Reap, Cambodia Pan Asia Networking programme

35 ICTD project newsletter Look out for disaster feature every month in i4d!

News Search ICT4D news by date in the sectors of governance, health, education, agriculture and so on. E-mail Subscribe to daily, weekly, monthly newsletters online or send request to Research e-Learning projects from India. Learn more about FLOSS Print edition The past issues of the magazine are available online

Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI) University, is a non-profit organization. We are keen to include a couple of articles in our forth-coming Executive Reference book on “Health Communication”. We request permission to reprint two articles from the May 2005 issue of i4d. We found the articles very informative and thought provoking. Danteshwari Bhaskar, ICFAI University, India

I would like to thank you for the article you published and look forward to EuroIndia ICT Co-operation and 14d working together in the future. Douglas McKinley, Metaware SpA, Italy [i4d is a media partner to Euro-India ICT Cooperation]

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i4d Editorial Calendar 2005 Month

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

January February March

Special Theme Tsunami

MDG Intro/Poverty Reduction - MDG 1 Gender - MDG 3


Education - MDG 2


Health - MDG 4 & 5

WSIS Prepcom


ICT Policy


Human Rights

August September

Environment - MDG 7

Millennium + 5 Summit

Silver Issue of i4d

Media and ICT

Global Partnerships - MDG 8

Telecentre networks


Youth and ICT

WSIS Tunis




i4d | July 2005

 Editorial Information for development

ICTs help assert human rights

ADVISORY BOARD M P Narayanan, Chairman, i4d Amitabha Pande Indian Administrative Service Chin Saik Yoon Southbound Publications, Malaysia Ichiro Tambo OECD, France Karl Harmsen Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific, India Kenneth Keniston Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA Mohammed Yunus Grameen Bank, Bangladesh Nagy Hanna Information Solutions Group, World Bank, USA Richard Fuchs IDRC, Canada S Ramani Research Director, H.P.Labs, India Walter Fust Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Switzerland Wijayananda Jayaweera UNESCO, France

Human rights are universal rights held to belong to individuals by virtue of their being human, encompassing civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and freedoms, and based on the notion of personal human dignity and worth. The United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights, with Eleanor Roosevelt, as chair, created the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). This declaration reasserted the concept of human rights after the horrors of World War II. Human rights have since become a universally espoused yet widely disregarded concept. The various dimensions of human rights assertion by the civil societies are not so easily understood, and the common man often becomes an ignorant victim of violations. With societies increasingly getting globalised there are new challenges to ensuring that human rights are guaranteed. Human rights activists have always felt that timely and accurate information could be a valuable resource for asserting the rights.

EDITORIAL BOARD Akhtar Badshah, Frederick Noronha EDITORIAL TEAM Editor Ravi Gupta Editorial Consultant Jayalakshmi Chittoor Sr Programme Officers Rumi Mallick, Saswati Paik Research Associates Sejuti Sarkar De, Tanzeena Ghoshe Mukherjee Designers Bishwajeet Kumar Singh, Deepak Kumar Web Programmer Zia Salahuddin Group Directors Maneesh Prasad, Sanjay Kumar i4d G-4 Sector 39, NOIDA, UP, 201 301, India Phone +91 120 250 2180-87 Fax +91 120 250 0060 Email Web Contact us in Singapore 25 International Business Park, #4-103F, German Centre, Singapore - 609916 Phone +65-65627983 Fax +65-656227984 Printed at Yashi Media Works Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi, India i4d is a monthly publication. It is intended for those interested and involved in the use of Information and CommnicationTechnologies for development of underserved communities. It is hoped that it will serve to foster a growing network by keeping the community up to date on many activities in this wide and exciting field. i4d does not necessarily subscribe to the views expressed in this publication. All views expressed in this magazine are those of the contributors. i4d is not responsible or accountable for any loss incurred directly or indirectly as a result of the information provided.

In the last few decades, freedom of information has been recognised as an internationally protected human right, and societies across the world have been moving away from opaque and secretive administrative systems to open and transparent systems. Sweden is supposed to have put in place the first set of laws for transparency in public affairs nearly two centuries ago! The 1810’s Right to Know act got replaced in 1949 by a new Act, which enjoyed the sanctity of being a part of the country’s Constitution itself. The principle is that every Swedish citizen should have access to virtually all documents kept by the State or municipal agencies. Several developed countries and of the Commonwealth nations have enacted these acts, in an effort to increase transparency and to build state accountability. The Indian Government has finally enacted the Right to Information Act 2005. The Act has been passed after hectic lobbying by civil society over the last year, since the new Government came into power with an explicit commitment to making the old law ‘more progressive, participatory and meaningful’. But it must be remembered that the bill, passed by Parliament is named as ‘The Freedom of Information Bill’ and it evoked intense debate, including a wrangle over terminology. It was largely felt that the phrase ‘Right to Information’ (RTI) conveyed the idea better, by placing the onus of maximum disclosure on the government, than the term ‘Freedom of Information’, which implied a mere lack of interference. In this issue, we have focussed on how human rights and ICTs are closely linked and how organisations working in this field are using various tools for advocating their issues. We look forward to learning about more initiatives and other resources from our readers.

cc Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies, 2005

i4d is supported by: Ravi Gupta

July 2005 |





Right need rules! One cannot discuss the concept and creation of an Information Society without people and so any discussion involving people should incorporate their basic human rights.

Paul Maassen Hivos, The Netherlands


Rights that are valid in the real world are also valid in the ‘virtual world’. The Information Society should be based on internationally agreed human rights. This is what Hivos voiced, in 2003, as a recommendation to the European Delegation to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva, Switzerland. This recommendation reflected and still reflects our point of view, that one cannot discuss the concept and creation of an Information Society without starting with the atoms of any society: people. As a result, any discussion involving these people should incorporate their basic human rights. This seems an obvious statement, and many stakeholders also supported the idea of an inclusive Information Society based on human rights, rather than on pure bits and bytes as a focus of the summit. Nevertheless, grand political statements uttered in Geneva do not automatically transform themselves into a better world. Human rights often seem to be the ideal subject to applaud, but not to adhere to. Internet strengthens the right to freedom of expression by providing individuals across the globe with new means of sharing and accessing information. Despite the continued exclusion of marginalised communities and many people in the developing world, everyone with access can voice his or her opinion and access decision-makers and local politicians through discussion forums, blogs or through e-mail. ICTs as a tool, have potential for enabling democratic participation and for open information sharing. However, it is precisely due to this enormous freedom, that Internet breeds fear. Foremost amongst those are some decision-makers. Stakeholders, mostly governments, find many reasons to justify Internet regulation (or in some cases - monitoring, censorship or control). These reasons have in common that they are all based on the concept of fear. There is fear of government for its citizens, or fear of citizens for their own governments and other threats like terrorism.

As such, governments in dictatorial states often find ways to limit Internet access in order to prohibit opposing opinions. For example, the Chinese government fears Falung Gong and managed to cut off the tentacles of the Internet, blocking search machines and websites. Freedom of expression and thus information and communication technology pose a threat to repressive governments, undermining their control of ‘acceptable’ flows of information. As a result, whilst Falun Gong members once used e-mail and websites to successfully reach out, nowadays they prefer payphones, which are harder to trace.

Privacy versus security After 9/11, the USA has stepped up its homeland security. For instance, they requested the European Commission (EU) to provide online access to the Passenger Name Record (PNR) of all passengers on flight, from, to or through the USA. The PNR contains data such as name, date of birth, date of reservation, credit card number and phone number. Furthermore, the USA uses the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) of the airlines for additional information such as sex, passport number and nationality. The transfer of this data is regulated and protected by the European privacy law. The Strasbourg Court is examining whether the European Commission, when making the deal, exceeded its powers and acted in breach of EU Data Protection legislation. According to the report ‘Transferring Privacy’, the European Commission has ‘not assured adequate protection requirements, clear purpose limitation, non-excessive data collection, limited data retention time, and insurance against further transfers beyond the Department of Homeland Security’. Source: European Digital Rights ( Hivos

i4d | July 2005

Governments, companies and also parents try to filter unwanted content (pornography, racist websites, etc.) just like viruses. They reason that modern technology offers such a bewildering amount of information, that not all users are able to judge the content on its real value. This fear for harmful content has led to self-regulation by industry and to stronger juridical action by governments. The fear for terrorism has led to massive tracking and registering of Internet behaviour by governments and, non-voluntarily, by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), both in the West and in ‘rogue’ states. Illustrating the consequences of this fear, Tunisia jailed 9 young Internet users for up to 26 years for just downloading files deemed as dangerous by the authorities. Preparing terrorist acts? Harmful content? Or, just curiosity? Finally, for fear of their own government, citizens apply self-restriction in sending or finding opinions and information. In such cases, where governments can be perceived as threatening (such as Iran), self-censorship on the Internet is common. Through restricting this free flow of information, the biggest opportunities for an inclusive Information Society are lost. Some of the described threats are real, some are perceived and some are not more than happy excuses for paranoid governments to control. Either way, they illustrate two dimensions: human rights and fear. One thing is clear that to guarantee the human rights in a new virtual era, these issues cannot be dealt in the national level only. In a true Information Society, there is no national level, and there are no frontiers. Independent media and citizens, expressing opinions and ideas on the Internet, are subject to national law, which is in accordance with international law and agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is important not to adapt the principles guided by human rights just because the technology offers us the excuse to avoid

Iran: cybercafés under surveillance Owners of cybercafés in Iran, which are very popular with the young people, students and intellectuals, especially in the capital Tehran, ask customers to disconnect if they catch them looking at ‘non-Islamic’ sites. The Iranian regime censors thousands of websites it considers “non-Islamic”, officially to protect the public from immorality. They also harass and imprison online journalists. Internet filtering was increased in the run-up to the February 2004 parliamentary elections, at which the hardliners strengthened their grip on the country. Censorship has quickly spread to political content. The OpenNet Initiative, a partnership of researchers from Harvard University, the University of Toronto and University of Cambridge, noted that Iran uses technology from the US company Secure Computing, calling the firm ‘complicit’ in the censorship. According to them, the thriving Internet censorship market spread like a virus from China to Iran to an increasing number of countries worldwide. It calls into question not only the trumpeted slogans of high-tech firms that the Internet represents ‘freedom’ and ‘connectivity,’ but simplistic divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ as well. Source: Reporters without borders (Internet under Surveillance 2004)/ OpenNet Initiative

July 2005 |

China: Microsoft censors blogs Chinese bloggers posting their thoughts via Microsoft’s net service face restrictions on what they can write. Weblog entries on some parts of Microsoft’s MSN site in China using words such as ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘demonstration’ are being blocked. Those using these banned words or any sensitive information get a pop-up warning that reads: ‘This message contains a banned expression, please delete this expression.’ Chinese bloggers already face strict controls and must register their online journal with Chinese authorities. The regulations require the writer of a blog to identify themselves to the authorities. According to Reporters Without Borders, China is using a system called Night Crawler to patrol web journals and make sure that only registered blogs are published. Unregistered blogs will be shut down. Microsoft said the company abide by the laws, regulations and norms of each country in which it operates. Yahoo and Google have also been criticised for similar activities and restricting what people can search for and read online. Source:

them. In the limited number of cases where interference is indeed necessary, for example to fight child porn or to prevent acts of terrorism, we should act within the regular borders of a civilised, democratic state. This means that we need the following clear rules for accountability and transparency: • Information collected should no longer be stored than what strictly needed; • Information collected should not be used for any other purpose than the reason why it was collected in the first place; • The proposed action should be within proportions; • The people affected by actions that infringe their rights should be allowed to dispute the infringement; • There should be at least one controlling mechanism or institution. In view of these considerations, we advocate that governments and citizens follow procedures, norms and rules that are already common within the democracies of the ‘real’ world, and are slightly adapted to meet the specificities of the virtual world. The anarchy and anonymity of the Internet fed the idea of some people that there are no limits of exercising their right to freedom of expression. But the debate in the Netherlands, following the murder of outspoken filmmaker and essayist Theo van Gogh, showed that the right to freedom of expression is not in fact limitless, nor should it be. Maybe, we can state that freedom of expression does not mean that you can always say everything to everyone, but rather that exercising your rights is limited by other people exercising theirs. And yes, some human rights are conflicting. But for those, there are laws, norms, values, and expected social conduct which provide guidelines on how to navigate these. The virtual world of Internet and the real world are not that different. Both are merging with growing pains into what, we hope, will be an inclusive Information Society based on the principles of the ‘old’ world and adapted to the realities of the new one. 





From the summit to the people There cannot be information society when there is no room for the civil society to participate in the design or when the perception on civil society by governments and international organisations is of marginal minorities.

Alfonso Gumucio-Dagron Communication for Social Change Consortium, USA


It would seem that while we remember the 25 th anniversary of the MacBride Report on communication and information, there is not much to celebrate. UNESCO led 25 years ago the highest and largest assault against the hegemonic control of information flows by industrialised countries, the United States in particular. The international organisation achieved early in the 1980s the establishment of regional news agencies capable of counteracting, in a rather small measure, the abundant flow of news distributed through the AP (Associated Press), the most powerful still today, and the UPI (United Press International) which disappeared in the mid eighties. At a given time both agencies carried 90% of the flow of news worldwide. UNESCO contributed to the creation of ALASEI (Agencia Latinoamericana de Servicios Especiales de Información), and other similar news agencies for Africa and Asia. During the following years, ALASEI produced thousands of special features that were distributed to mass media throughout the region, thus offering a different and more appropriate perspective on regional politics, economy, society and culture. UNESCO also supported the development of national communication policies, which did not exist before in most Third World countries. The strident withdrawal of the United States and England from UNESCO, in disagreement with the measures favouring the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO), left the UN organisation deprived of significant funding and had impact on programmes such as ALASEI, that eventually disappeared. The only independent world wide agency, which has survived and has managed to maintain both its quality and the principles that motivated its creation is Inter Press Service (IPS). Other than this, a

few national agencies such as Notimex (México) and Prensa Latina (Cuba), kept swimming crosscurrent.

ICTs for community and communiction In a more conservative and tepid mood, UNESCO tolerates today, the privatisation of frequencies used by community radio stations in the Third World; in the name of press freedom defends the freedom of media owners, and signs agreements with Microsoft, ignoring its own commitment with open source and free software alternatives. Even though, UNESCO is still among the most interesting organisations within the UN system, it is the agency that contributes with knowledge and protects cultural diversity and the world heritage. The paradox is that in the communication sector of UNESCO, the United States now imposes technocrats of its choice to prevent anything similar to what took place twenty-five years ago. After twenty-five years, we continue raising similar banners: the right to information and communication. The control of information by multinational companies goes much further today than three decades back, largely thanks to the advances in technology, which allows concentrating mass media in the hands of multinational companies. Other than the Associated Press, still dominating the market of press agencies, we’ve got CNN, which alone exerts an almost absolute hegemonic power over the planet, with its multiple regional networks in various languages. In countries such as my own, Bolivia, information structures are weak, television channels download material from CNN to cover international news, often without even making the effort of elaborating its own analysis. i4d | July 2005

We are certainly worst now in many ways; the concentration of the information sector in fewer hands is higher, and through the privatisation of the frequency spectrum most national-state and public radio and television media have virtually disappeared. Under the influence of large multinational conglomerates, information is no longer considered a cultural factor in development but just a market commodity. There are, however, two new encouraging elements that have emerged since the 1980s; on the one hand, the emergence of new technologies of information and communication (ICTs), too often visible in a discourse with little content, and on the other hand, the renewed participation of the civil society, which keeps a watchful attitude on the ways our future is being designed. The first of these two facets has a double edge: ICTs are like a knife, they are not good or bad per se, but because of the use we make of them. Technological advances are fabulous, and they amaze us. Those privileged enough to access them feel bewildered by its potential. However, it is not true that in their current configuration the new technologies are the universal remedy for the failures of development in Third World countries. We are certainly better since the international debate is around the right to communicate of the common people and civil society and not only about the right to be informed, and since this debate now takes place at the core of the civil society, the difference in content is substantial. The right to information refers to ‘access’ whereas the right to communicate refers to ‘participation’. Access has much to do with a gracious concession from above while participation re-aligns the axis of decision-making from the power of a few to the consensus of many.

Right to communicate Twenty-five years ago, it was a few progressive individuals at UNESCO and the non-aligned governments that prompted the situation analysis (the report from the commission chaired by Sean MacBride, 1974 Peace Nobel Prize winner) and the necessary measures aimed to re-establish the balance in information exchanges. However, that international discussion developed mainly at the highest circles of political power and thus when the

Source: July 2005 |

Under the influence of large multinational conglomerates, information is no longer considered a cultural factor in development but just a market commodity. undertaking was threatened and eventually buried by the United States, nobody came out to defend it. The problems signalled by the MacBride report intensified over time. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long before civil society took responsibility and leadership in the struggle to bring back to the discussion table the right to communicate. The new world information order is no longer the only key issue nowadays, but that ‘another communication is possible’. It is only possible if the issue of communication and information is discussed along with the other social, economic and political issues that concern our society. In view of the loss of many of the traditional political demands, the ideological desertions and the compromises that leaders of the world make with each other, the civil society, independent and multiform, went down the streets with demands that the powerful do not want to listen; these demands are loudly spelled as the powerful meet in increasingly isolated spots of the planet, surrounded by high security measures, unthinkable only a couple of decades ago. In the early nineties, this movement, which was internationalist and global but opposed the kind of economic and cultural globalisation, was characterised as lacking in strategy and direction. Its strength was initially undervalued and it was said that it wouldn’t last very long. However, the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (Brazil) showed how much the movement has grown, and initiatives across borders such as ATTAC, reveal that there are concrete actions suggested, such as the Tobin tax over stock transactions. As for communication rights, the CRIS campaign has contributed to enrich the debate; ideas and proposals are discussed in each country, in every region, and eventually presented within a common platform during international conferences such as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). In 2003, Ignacio Ramonet, the Director of the prestigious monthly journal Le Monde Diplomatique, argued about the need of constituting a ‘fifth power’ since the ‘fourth power’, the media, is completely sold and compromised with political and economic interests, and does not represent the majority of the population. We actually knew this for a long time, thirty years ago, when we were fighting a kind of mediatic guerrilla through community radio, small journals, street theatre, testimonial video and so many other forms of alternative communication. It was our way of building a fifth power from the civil society. We were, however, accused of


isolating ourselves in ghettos and of developing alternative experiences that had little impact. Many of our colleagues, working within commercial media houses, were still confident that they could change mass media from inside. That didn’t work, as Ramonet acknowledges today. French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said in reference to the film industry: “We tried to take the fortress by assault, but we were trapped inside”.

‘Digital solidarity’ for information society The discussion on the information society generated many expectations before the first summit that took place by the end of 2003 in Geneva. Civil society organisations from all over the world worked with seriousness and responsibility during the preparatory process (and are doing it again now towards the second phase), and were ‘admitted’ at the negotiation table. Organisations from the communication field and networks such as AMARC or CRIS were allowed to camp at the same Conventions Palace of Geneva where government envoys met delegates from the United Nations specialised agencies. Nevertheless, a significant detail worth mentioning is ‘multilateral organisations and governments met on the upper floor whereas civil society organisations were busy on the lower floor’. I was struck by the medieval symbolism of the image: the powerful were on top of their towers while the people buzzed downstairs in a labyrinth of corridors, where a huge communication fair camped. After all, we live in the 21st Century, so mechanical stairs communicated both floors, but they were helpless to communicate with similar efficiency between the representatives from the civil society with those from governments and the United Nations. Moreover, to access the upper floor, special security measures were taken, and after a police checkpoint, passes to get into the plenary were still required. As the meeting progressed, also did the actions that contributed to build an increasingly higher wall between civil society and governments. Access to the convention centre was barred for a few groups of alternative media; copies of Terraviva, a journal produced and distributed for free by IPS, magically disappeared when an article was printed, denouncing the repression of journalists in Tunisia, where the second phase of WSIS will take place in November 2005. Only a handful of civil society representatives

made it to the plenary on the second floor, where one after the other presidents from Asia, Africa or Latin America took turns to tell their colleagues how much they had already done for a more democratic information society, and asked the wealthier nations to show their ‘digital solidarity’.

Lower and upper floors of summit The truth is that a few Third World countries did real efforts of dialogue and coordinate in preparation of the summit. Mine is a good example. In Bolivia, the group of organisations and activists that gathered under the CRIS label, met with government representatives to jointly prepare a declaration, encouraged by the positive attitude of the then Vice-President Carlos Mesa, a journalist himself, who in October 2003 became the constitutional President of Bolivia. Due to the events that precipitated the presidential succession, Carlos Mesa cancelled his participation at the Geneva summit, but he sent a taped declaration, in video, making clear his position favourable to communication rights. Like no other president at the summit, he mentioned several times the CRIS campaign in his message. Those on the upper floor of the summit avoided any confrontation with the civil society, any split that would reproduce the antagonising scheme of Davos/Porto Alegre, or the divide that has been established with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). And those in the lower floor, with an endless willingness to continue the dialogue, did not wish to sever the channels of communication and continued working around the preparatory conferences towards the next summit in Tunisia. Yet the dialogue seemed to be increasingly difficult. The pre-conferences had not indicated any better mind-set from governments or multilateral organisations that are controlled by the governments. We should not forget that the gridlock was in part the result of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) being in charge of the organisation of the summit, and not UNESCO as it should have been. Thus the strong love affair with technology was there at the summit. The strategy of governments to avoid confrontation has been to ignore the issues and change subject, attaching more weight and importance to the new technologies and the digital divide, instead of discussing communication rights. The discourse of power on

Agencia Latinoamericana de Información (ALAI) ALAI is a rather small association of journalists and other media people, who are dedicated for more than 25 years to information supply and exchange for social organisations and movements. In the context of regional activity the regional networks and other co-ordination institutes are the first clients and users of ALAI-products. Along these networks, membership organisations (national or more local) also had direct profit by way of courses and seminars about communication. During training, attention is paid to both communication between and within organisations. The activities of ALAI are directed to the organised sectors of the social movement in Latin America. It focuses on farmer organisations (CLOC- Via Campesina), indigenous organisations, women and feminist organisations, human rights organisations and instances specialised in alternative communication. Apart from these sectors, ALAI strives for the mainstreaming of ‘gender’ and ‘human rights’ at all levels and in all activities of the organisation. ALAI acknowledges that communication plays an important role in processes of influencing policy, but it focuses on its lobby activities concerning the right to communicate and thus the democratisation of the access to information. ALAI specialises on supply of news and backgrounds via a network of correspondents in Latin America. ALAI also publishes a bulletin every two weeks, a daily background newsletter, several discussion sections and it also provides a web portal. (


i4d | July 2005

new technologies is, like the way to hell, paved of good intentions. The word ‘access’ to information and knowledge is repeated endlessly, while, in fact, most of the countries that demagogically undersign their commitment to facilitate greater ‘access’, with the other hand, actually privatise radio electric frequencies, shut-down indigenous radio stations and prosecute those reluctant to close down, treating them as ‘pirate’ stations. We know those pirates, poor Maya Indians in Guatemala or popular educators in Brazil, both countries where community radios have been repressed recently. It is hard to admit, but President Lula’s government has not taken a position to prevent ANATEL, the national telecommunications company, from strangling community radio using technocratic pretexts. The digital divide issue and the access to new technologies of information and communication, which is presented as the main thrust of the information society, cannot be discussed outside the democratisation of society. We could hardly accept an argument that only values the expansion and generalisation of new technologies, outside of communication rights and freedom of expression. By focusing the discussion on the new technologies and inventing catchy wordings such as ‘digital solidarity’, governments avoid referring to other gaps in society that are the real causes for the digital divide: the economic divide, the social divide, and other multiple inequality gaps that are increasingly widening. Those on the upper floor would like us to believe that new technologies will allow leapfrogging to a just society. However, we already know and many colleagues have said it before, that the concentration of information and scientific knowledge in the hands of a few large corporations is growing and their distribution networks see the world as a big market in constant expansion. Those large companies that ‘generously’ donate computers and software, sell to the Third World an illusion of a better world through ICTs. In places where not even electricity, safe water or telephones are available, telecentres are put up with solar energy and satellite connectivity. The triumphal language of certain reports and auto-evaluations contrasts with a much gloomier reality. The poorest who are thought to be benefitted, do not approach the telecentres, only those who are in better social condition will do. However, they do not represent the majority of the community. And even among these, not everyone visits the telecentre to use Internet, email and the web, but only to use the telephone, the photocopier or the fax, when available. In other places, the author has written profusely on the Promethean myth that sees ICTs as the magic wand of development, and have alleged that 90% of the current content of the world wide web is irrelevant to 90% of the world population. The web, which for many of us is a wonderful tool, is not even an object of curiosity for most of the poor of the world. It doesn’t contribute at all to the solution of their daily problems, unless it is ‘localised’; meaning, unless there is a new design whereby local content are developed on the basis of specific questions and demands from the community, as it happens with the project conducted in Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu, India, by the M.S. Swaminathan Foundation. There are essential conditions, seldom achieved, for new ICTs to effectively become a driving force in development and a guarantee July 2005 |

The web, which for many of us is a wonderful tool, is not even an object of curiosity for most of the poor of the world. It doesn’t contribute at all to the solution of their daily problems, unless it is ‘localised’ for the right to communicate. Community participation and appropriation is one. The development of local content is another fundamental requirement. Language and cultural pertinence are also essential. The use of appropriate technology and the technological convergence between audio-visual means and the Internet are necessary to ensure sustainability, as it is networking with other similar projects, on the basis of common objectives and principles.

Information is power, communication is counter-power In its current construction, the information society obscures the communication society. The information society suggested from above is based on ‘access’, not on participation let alone on appropriation of processes and contents. Civil society is now a grown-up movement and will not be again deceived with mirrors. There cannot be information society when there is no room for the civil society to participate in the design or when the perception on civil society by governments and international organisations is of marginal minorities. If the summit in Geneva and Tunisia had not been in the global agenda, perhaps the CRIS campaign for communication rights would not have developed with the multiplying force that we have seen. Clarity has been gained in the discussion and the movement has grown globally, with articulations among numerous organisations and networks in each country and region. This time, the discussion has moved from the summit to the plains and to the people. While on the upper floor speeches are made, in the lower floor serious reflection and debate is taking place. On the upper floor, ways to catch-up with technology developments are being considered, in ways that do not endanger the foundations of political power. Down at the lower floor, civil society organisations are busy preparing, not for the assault of the upper floor but to gain recognition for their arguments, making the case of communication rights as essential for development, for the struggle against poverty and hunger, and for the right to identity and cultural diversity. Let’s close with Manuel Castells: “Information is power, communication is counter-power”.  The complete article with references can be read at





Harnessing ICTs for social justice Pambazuka News was the serendipitous offspring of a programme established to harness ICTs for strengthening the human rights movement in Africa.

Firoze Manji Fahamu – Networks for Social Justice South Africa


Three years back, if someone would have told me that a new electronic newsletter on social justice in Africa would reach a readership three years later of more than 70,000 people every week, most of them in Africa, and that this could be done without forming an alliance with media magnates or multinationals, I would have told them they were insane. Yet that is exactly what ‘Pambazuka News’ has succeeded in doing. Almost without realising, Fahamu has become a publisher of news and with a constituency that not only consumes what we produce, but also actively feeds information to the newsletter on a regular basis.

The context Pambazuka News was the serendipitous offspring of a programme established to harness ICTs for strengthening the human rights movement in Africa. Its birth was intimately intertwined with an attempt to develop distance learning materials for civil society organisations in Africa. In 1997, Fahamu set out to examine how developments in ICTs can be harnessed to support the growth of human rights and civil society organisations in Africa. Like many others, we saw the potentials opening up with the growth in access to the Internet. Although less well developed than in the industrialised world, access to the Internet has spread rapidly in Africa. The current estimates of the total number of African Internet users is at around 5-8 million, with about 1.5-2.5 million outside North and South Africa. This is about one user for every 250-400 people, compared to a world average of about one user for every 15 people.

Understanding needs In 1998, we undertook surveys involving more than 100 human rights and civil

society organisations in eastern and southern Africa. We wanted to know how such organisations used the Internet, what kind of technology they had access to, what their training priorities were, and the way they managed their organisations. Although most organisations had access to email, access to the web was found to be much more problematic because of low bandwidth. One of the biggest constraints to accessing the Internet was found to be the cost of going online. The average cost of using a local dialup Internet account for 20 hours a month in Africa, is about $60 (including call charges). To understand the relative scale of these charges, $60 is higher than the average African monthly salary. Many of these organisations had difficulties accessing training. In part, this was due to the relatively high cost of course fees. In addition, faced as they are by the day-today demands of activism in a frequently hostile political environment, with deteriorating economic conditions, and ever-increasing public demands on a small number of committed and experienced staff, many of these organisations have difficulties in giving priority to capacity building either within or beyond their own institutions. Most training undertaken by human rights and civil society organisations in the region were in the form of short workshops. In-depth training was rarely possible without long absences from work, and therefore relatively few have attended longer, residential courses. Given the fragility of many of these organisations, many said that prolonged absences of key staff threatened their viability. Our survey confirmed the findings of previous studies on the training needs of human rights organisations in the region. Their priorities included skills training in fact-finding, investigation and monitoring; i4d | July 2005

knowledge and application of international and regional standards and mechanisms, especially in the field of social and economic rights; strategies for human rights litigation, reporting complaints and adjudication; provision of paralegal services; campaigning and lobbying; documentation techniques and uses of documentation; monitoring of elections and trials; popular education and human rights education. Because of the problems of access, relatively few organisations at the time had much experience in using the Internet for systematic research except for investigations using the most common search engines and collecting and sending e-mails. Few had experience of using the Internet in their advocacy work.

Developing interactive course materials using ICTs We designed our courses with three phases. In the first phase (usually lasting about 10 weeks), participants are provided with carefully designed interactive CDROM that helps them to learn the subject at their own pace. They are connected to each other and to the course tutor via an email list where they discuss issues arising in the course of their studies, and where they hold asynchronous discussions on topics set by the tutor. During this phase, they are required to complete and submit via email as attachments a series of assignments. Their work is formally assessed by the course tutor. In the second phase, those who have completed the first phase satisfactorily are invited to attend a 3-4 day workshop held at a convenient location. In the third phase of the course, participants are required to carry out a practical project, putting into practice what they have learned during the first two phases. They prepare a written report on their project that is then formally assessed. There were a number of challenges in developing appropriate learning materials. The first challenge we faced was to work out how large quantities of material could be transferred to an interactive medium that could be stored and delivered on CDROM. After extensive research, we had decided that we would use Macromedia Director as the medium for delivering the course materials as it gave us the flexibility for producing the range of exercises and interactivity that we knew would be required. The first course materials took nearly a year to produce from manuscript to interactive CDROM, subsequent CDROMs were produced at a rate of one a month! The courses we have developed include: (a) Introduction to human rights, (b) Investigating, monitoring and reporting on human rights violations, (c) Action for change: advocacy and citizen participation, (d) Leadership and management for change, (e) Practical financial management for NGOs, (f) Fundraising and resource mobilisation, (g) Using the Internet for advocacy and research, (h) Campaigning for access to information, (i) The role of the media in the Rwandan genocide, (j) JustWrite: an online course on effective writing. We are currently in the process of developing courses on the prevention of torture and conflict prevention in association with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Systems Staff College, and the Association for the Prevention of Torture. In their evaluation of this programme, the external evaluators stated that the materials are genuinely innovative in the field they seek to serve – organisations working in the area of July 2005 |


human rights in southern Africa. They provide, taken together, an excellent menu of materials designed to strengthen the functioning of any NGO or CSO organisation, alongside those that contribute more directly to the particular focus of a human rights organisation. The presentation of the materials through CD-ROM is of very high quality and generally found to be user-friendly. Many participants spoke and wrote of feeling more ‘connected’ about the current human rights realities across Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Pambazuka is born People often speak of the ‘digital divide’ as if this were simply a technical divide. It is deeper than that. It is also a social division that prevents the experiences of the greater part of humanity from being heard, and which, therefore, under-nourishes the discourse of those who do have access to the technology. We began receiving requests from human rights and other civil society organisations for assistance in finding information on the web, and with disseminating information about their own work. Initially, we responded on a case-by-case basis, but once the demand became overwhelming, we decided to compile the information in the form of a newsletter, with a number of categories that reflected the subjects that appeared to be of concern to the constituency and also included editorial commentary and opinion pieces from activists in the region and elsewhere. The newsletter is sent out as an email, with text only format so that even those without HTML enabled email programs can read the content with ease. Each section contains a five-line summary of the item, with a URL pointing to the relevant website. Stories or information announcements sent to us directly are stored on the Pambazuka online database. By forming strategic alliances with other organisations, we were able to expand the reach of the newsletter. In December 2001, it was named Pambazuka News (pambazuka in Kiswahili means to awaken or arise – as in the breaking dawn). From an initial base of a few hundred subscribers, Pambazuka News has grown to nearly 17,000 subscribers at time of writing, and a readership estimated at 80,000. The newsletter is also reproduced in its entirety at, with a potential readership probably in the hundreds of thousands. The significant growth of Pambazuka News over the last 12 months has been associated with the extent to which the newsletter



Using mobile phone to support the campaign

has been used as a tool for advocacy in the region. We have supported the campaign for the ratification of the protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, a coalition of some 17 regional organisations, producing two special issues profiling important aspects of the protocol. These have been successfully used as campaigning tools at meetings of the African Union. In July 2004, an edition of Pambazuka News was delivered to parliamentarians of the inaugural Pan-African parliament in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This edition was also produced as a pamphlet and in PDF version and entitled ‘Not Yet a Force for Freedom’ . We also developed and hosted a petition on the Pambazuka News website in support of women’s rights. In addition, Pambazuka News has supported the campaign for the Remembrance of the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide by producing a special issue that profiled the genocide through a series of ten editorials. Pambazuka News also acted as a forum for the distribution of news and information on the commemorations. In 2005, Fahamu joined the Africa leg of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP). The main objectives of the GCAP campaign are trade justice, debt cancellation, a major increase in the quantity and quality of aid, and national efforts to eliminate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals that are sustainable and developed and implemented in a way that is democratic, transparent, and accountable to citizens. In order to support this campaign, Pambazuka News has established a section in Pambazuka News headed the ‘Global Call to Action Against Poverty’ which is intended to reflect the news of organisations that form part of the campaign and raise awareness around the key aims of the campaign. Pambazuka News is also committed to carrying editorials from members of organisations that are part of the campaign in order to articulate the key issues around which the campaign is mobilising.

New forms of information delivery: SMS for social justice During 2004 it became apparent that the explosion of the mobile phone market in Africa offered potentials for us to explore how to bridge this divide and use the potential of mobile phones in order to further the use of this technology for social change. Fahamu was motivated by statistics indicating that the mobile telephone market


has experienced phenomenal growth in Africa. Within this context, Fahmu believed that an opportunity existed, to test the extent to which this army of mobile phone users could be mobilised in support of the campaign for the ratification of the protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Using the existing Internet platform that was provided by Pambazuka News, the aim was to develop a system that would enable mobile phone users anywhere in Africa - and the world – to sign a petition in support of the campaign and have their signature reflected on an online petition page. An SMS service would also be developed to send key snippets of information on the protocol on the Rights of Women to people who wanted to subscribe to this service. Fahamu subsequently developed this system, which has resulted in over 500 people signing the petition by SMS and over 1000 people signing up for SMS alerts about the campaign. Fahamu is establishing a website ( to act as a central forum for news about the campaign. A service will also be made available that will enable people to subscribe to SMS alerts, that will send them key information about the GCAP campaign, as it develops throughout 2005. In addition to this work, Fahamu is in the process of making mobile phone technologies available for use by rural women in KwaZulu, Natal, in South Africa, for networking and information purposes.

Are there lessons from Fahamu’s experiences? The revolution in information and communications technologies (ICTs), and in particular the Internet, has potentially transformed the way people can organise, relate, discuss or debate with each other, and the way they exchange, find, retrieve, and disseminate information - even the way in which information itself is produced. Our work has been driven by a purpose, beyond technology. We have sought to contribute to the building of a movement for social justice. ICTs are, we believe, only one means to that end. Unfortunately, like many other not-for-profit organisations, our greatest weakness has been what in commerce would be called as sales and marketing. While we think we know what the end-user wants and needs, and while we have developed methodologies for producing what is needed, we have not been good about selling: that is, in reaching a significant portion of the potential market. For example, the current number of Internet users in Africa is estimated to be around 5-8 million. Of these, it would not be unreasonable to consider that potential subscribers to Pambazuka would constitute about 5 per cent. If that were correct, then our potential subscriber base is between 250,000 and 400,000. Currently, we reach less than 0.2per cent of that. We have, therefore, a long way to go. Often, the impact of information dissemination may not be immediately apparent. In the case of Pambazuka News, which as an email based information tool lacks the flashiness of some ICT projects, raising funds to continue the project has been difficult. From the early stages, it was clear to Fahamu that Pambazuka News was a valuable tool and yet somehow it proved to be extraordinarily difficult to convince funders that this was the case. Perhaps the lesson here is that often ICT projects of this nature require a long term commitment that are not covered by the life span of traditional funding patterns.  i4d | July 2005


Creating a ‘one stop shop’ for information was established with main aim to create a ‘one stop shop’ for all human rights information on Zimbabwe. One major goal of this portal was to make Zimbabwean NGOs more accessible to local, regional and international stakeholders.

Bev Clark, Zimbawe

July 2005 |

Zimbabwe’s civic and human rights information portal ( was established in July 2001 with main aim to create a ‘one stop shop’ for all human rights information on Zimbabwe. One major goal of this portal was to make Zimbabwean NGOs more accessible to local, regional and international stakeholders. To achieve this, an online directory was created to host an electronic ‘fact sheet’ for each of the 240 Zimbabwean NGOs in the Kubatana network. These NGOs work in a variety of sectors from democracy, health, and culture to HIV/AIDS. These fact sheets list important organisational details such as contact information, the names of key personnel, mission statement and core objectives. If an NGO has their own web site then their link is put on their fact sheet.

Online directory The Kubatana online directory provides grassroots NGOs and community-based organisations with a basic entry level to the Internet. Organisations that do not have resources for the establishment of a fullfledged web site can quote their Kubatana fact sheet URL and in doing so, become a member of the global digital community. The statistical site software of Kubatana allows to view the number of ‘hits’ each fact sheet gets. This helps to strengthen the partner’s belief and confidence in the Internet as a worthwhile communication tool. We have found that our online directory is one of the most popular aspects of the Kubatana project. It has opened up communication between local Zimbabwean NGOs both regionally and internationally. In keeping with many Internet based information initiatives, for the Kubatana online directory, a lot of hard work goes to make sure that the information is regularly updated and therefore accuracy is main-

tained. There is a high level of mobility within the NGO sector with people leaving their jobs, and usual changing of email addresses and physical locations. Thus the NGOs are regularly contacted for verifying their contact details. This means that we are permanently contacting NGOs by telephone in order to verify their contact details. A recent updating exercise has also illustrated how government repression in Zimbabwe has made certain NGOs fearful of having their contact details known. In certain circumstances, they have requested to remove their physical address from their fact sheet.

Information dissemination The source of the information that Kubatana publishes is primarily provided by NGOs, CSOs and CBOs. This information takes a variety of forms, from press statements, reports, surveys to articles and workshop resolutions. Submissions are not edited in any way and Kubatana has become known for the accuracy of the information that it carries. Efforts are still being made to adequately convey the usefulness of the Internet as a communication tool for NGOs. It has been found that generally NGOs communicate their information in very narrow channels, mainly to their small core constituency and to their local and international donors. However, they are encouraged by Kubatana to share their information far more widely, in order to increase the flow of information and news in Zimbabwe where it is often difficult to access diverse views and opinion. At Kubatana, efforts have been made to fill some gaps in the dissemination of important information. For example, Kubatana web site is the only online resource for electronic copies of legislation. This web site is invaluable in the face of non-functioning sites such as the Parliament of Zimbabwe.


In 2004, an ICT Learning Centre in central Harare had been set up which has a permanent optical fibre connection which makes online training much more efficient and pleasant. The centre has 7 networked computers, a printer and a TV and video. Two day learning sessions are being facilitated, where participants learn to use e-mail and the Internet, to advocate, lobby and mobilise. The objective of the first day’s training is to train each participant to publish an email newsletter. The second day is spent screening motivational videos, which describes non-violent tactics used to effect social change. These screenings are followed by group discussion. In the second day, each participant is asked to write an essay on any topic she/he feels passionate about. The essays are then published on the Kubatana web site.

Lessons from Kubatana Currently Kubatana’s online archive holds over 3,800 homegrown Zimbabwean documents. Another core objective is to specifically focus on and develop local content. This has been done very successfully and this has strengthened the methods of information delivery by placing audio files of interviews and workshop presentations on Kubatana web site. Kubatana staff bridge the cyber/real world divide by getting out and about with digital cameras and tape recorders. Local views and opinions are captured and Zimbabwean content is consistently contributed to other portals like OneWorld Radio. The photographs and the graphics that are used on our site reflect the country and the challenges that Kubatana is experiencing.

Publications To complement Kubatana’s work using the Internet, a regular email newsletter is also published that is sent to a diverse and substantial subscriber base. A lot of promotional works have been done to encourage ordinary Zimbabweans, working outside of NGOs in such places as banks, insurance companies, garages and other establishments to subscribe to the newsletter so that they can become involved in civic, social and political issues. Kubatana also assists the NGO sector by publicising their events and public meetings in order to strengthen public participation.

Electronic activism and workshops An important part of the Kubatana information portal is regular electronic activism campaigns. Attempts are made to engage the subscribers and visitors to the web site to get involved in lobbying, mobilising and creating awareness about various civic and political issues in Zimbabwe. This is in keeping with global trends in using the Internet for electronic advocacy. Since the initiation of Kubatana, electronic activism workshops are being organised. In the past, Internet Cafes were used and about 15 Zimbabweans from different walks of life were gathered for each training session. Sometimes the participants would be drawn from the non-profit sector and at other times our training would include students and individual activists. The approach of Kubatana has always been very inclusive and diversity in all of initiatives have been encouraged.


Some important points to bear in mind when establishing a civil society information portal are as follows: • Developing a good relationship with NGO partners and encourage them to share their information as widely as possible; • Even though any initiative might be cyber based, it is important to seek out original content; • It is necessary to stick to own country. It must be made sure that developmental information of any particular country is accessible to local, regional and international stakeholders; • It is necessary for the people associated with any organisation to be aware of the role of public relations in that organisation. In Kubatana, the web site is continually being promoted through advertisements in the press, fliers and promotional emails; • Making sure that the information, published is accurate. Facts must be checked, whenever possible; • The links on the web site must be checked as thoroughly as possible. Dead links must be eliminated from the web site; • It is necessary to develop a substantial and diverse email subscriber base. It is also required to reach out and include people so that the information gathered can be disseminated very widely; • People like to receive a variety of information. The contents must be varied containing poetry, song lyrics, etc. and even encourage subscribers to share their stories; • The subscribers should never be bombarded with emails. At Kubatana, one regular monthly newsletter is sent and then a few email alerts, which publicise public events; • Good graphics need to be used that resonate with the country concerned so that people can identify with the work.

Achievements and the road ahead Kubatana has won the Highway Africa Prize excellence in ICT in 2003, short-listed for the Hafkin Prize in 2002, runner-up for the Yeoman Local Content Award in 2005 and recently received an Honorary Mention in the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica 2005. Kubatana is still in the process of determining how best to use the training centre in order for it to become self-sustaining and income generating. has become one of Africa’s ICT success stories. Plan is being made for working with partners in other countries to establish Kubatana portals throughout Africa. It is important to make sure that the local content in each of African countries is recorded and shared as extensively as possible.  i4d | July 2005


‘Right’ from the beginning Child Rights Information Network is a global network of child rights organisations. It was set up to become a central clearinghouse of information related to children’s rights.

Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) is a global network of child rights organisations, which was created following the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). As most countries were ratifying the Convention, more and more non-governmental organisations (NGOs) began working on child rights issues, there was a need for information about child rights to be in one easily accessible place where anyone could share information. CRIN was set up in 1995 to become a central clearinghouse of information related to children’s rights. The role of it is to ‘democratise’ information - to make it freely available in a variety of formats, both electronically and in hard copy, with the ultimate aim of advancing the realisation of children’s rights.

Membership profile

Services offered

Veronica Yates Child Rights Information Network (CRIN), United Kingdom

July 2005 |


The membership consists of 1,550 organisations based in over 125 countries. 26 per cent of member countries are in Africa, 28.5 per cent are in Asia, 29 per cent in Europe and 8 per cent in North America. The UK and India have the highest membership, but countries like Ghana and Bangladesh have large memberships too. Members range from large international NGOs to local grassroots organisations that often rely on the charity of their local religious communities. Membership is free and anyone can benefit from the services.

• Members case studies: experiences from around globe; • Information requests: questions from all and sundry; • Working papers: research on emerging issues; • Coverage of key UN events related to children’s issues; • Membership surveys to evaluate services and members’ needs. Members appreciate CRINMAIL e-mail newsletter because it gives them information they would otherwise lack and provides an insight into issues of which they may not be aware. Every news item also links readers back to the website where more information can be found. It gives the disenfranchised a voice where otherwise there would be a deafening silence. The members’ directory is another popular service as members use it to network with like-minded organisations around the world. The service of CRIN also helps the UN to reach an audience beyond their touch. At the same time, it also

The following are the services offered by CRIN to the members: • CRINMAIL: e-mail newsletter in English, Spanish and French and thematic publications; • Website: includes databases of publications, events and members; • Directory of members: hard copy and online;


The divide between the information-rich and the informationpoor is growing at an exponential rate as one accelerates away at broadband speed and the other languishes at dial-up speed. CRIN is trying to serve the needs of a very diverse audience at different stages of development. On the one hand, it serves the needs of the information-rich organisations, generally based in the northern hemisphere, for whom e-mail and Internet are a given, and on the other, small grass-roots organisations that have to go to Internet cafes in their nearest town for email or to their neighbours to make an international phone call to ask us for information. Training and development


deciphers the often complicated reams of UN information into understandable and practical tools for the members. However, it is not all a one-way street. The members also send from ‘the front lines’.

Challenges There are many areas where the services of CRIN can improve. Below are some of the key challenges CRIN faces in delivering services. More targeted and interactive information It can be challenging to meet global, regional and local needs all at the same time. For instance, when it comes to children in armed conflict as seen in West Africa and elsewhere, the CRIN is torn between the needs of those suffering on the ground and the needs to educate on a global level through the UN and other international bodies. Due to limited resources, the target is to send the information to the areas where most difference can be made. The goal is to make the services more interactive. CRIN wants to establish a network based on active participation where members can use their own initiative to become more self-sufficient.

There is a lack of infrastructure for the Internet, especially in Africa where access to the Internet is the lowest. Even if they have access to the Internet, many may lack the very basic training to use it. Many members in the southern hemisphere ask CRIN for training in information management, website development, and information dissemination. CRIN would love to be able to meet all of their information and training needs but the limited infrastructure does not allow it to do so. The language barrier Another challenge is the language barrier. Often e-mails are received in variety of languages, especially recently in Russian and Arabic, but the software cannot read it. As fewer international organisations seem willing to spend their resources on translation fees, it remains essential to avoid alienating the non-English speaking members. Even though translation fees are the most expensive part in the production of the newsletter, members really value receiving information in their own tongue. The CRIN newsletter is being translated by the members into over 50 local languages, including Hebrew, Bengali, Lusoga, Luganda, Tamil, and German. CRIN is faced with a mammoth task and sometimes struggle to keep abreast of the latest developments and technological possibilities. It has been always interested in sharing ideas about how to do things better and will continue to do it in future.

Electronic versus hard-copy The Internet is an invaluable tool for an organisation like CRIN because it enables it to provide information at a fraction of the cost of hard copy materials. Producing one newsletter a year costs more than the yearly maintenance of the website, with postage often accounting for a disproportionate amount. Nevertheless, the research shows that even though about 85 per cent of the members have access to the Internet, they still value hard copy information that they can distribute widely, especially when it comes to networking locally. Bridging the digital divide A tendency many organisations based in the northern hemisphere have is to draw all into the new-fangled technology and unnecessarily complicated web tools, often to the detriment of southern hemisphere organisations whose web browsers are not able to download websites that have all the latest Flash images and Java script.


The e-2005 eChallenges Conference Fifteenth Annual Conference supported by the European Commission 19 - 21 October 2005 Grand Hotel Union, Ljubljana, Slovenia Focusing on eBusiness, eGovernment, eWork, eEurope beyond 2005 Including presentations, technical, legal and policy papers, business case studies, workshops, tutorials and exhibition. For details on registration, log on to

i4d | July 2005





Acting beyond the traditional path ‘Behind the Mask’ pioneered Africa’s premier gay and lesbian web portal. Mainstream international, continental and national human rights organisations have come to rely on it as a source of credible news and reports on human rights abuses.

ICT for marginalised people In Africa, explicit hostility towards gay and lesbian people is borne out by the fact that society is heterosexist. It is not that only gay and lesbian people face repressive forms of marginalisation; the pattern of dominance is perverse and manifests itself through different forms. There is genital mutilation which is dressed as a ‘cultural practice’, pathological misunderstanding of feminists who are viewed as a direct attack on the institutions of marriage and family, as well as ethnic groups who are seen as being encroachers, who have to be purged. The struggle for civil liberties and societal acceptance for gay and lesbian people in the African continent is still in its infancy. There is a general lack of debate and dialogue is almost impossible, as religious, cultural and political factors are fronted as the premises on which homosexuality ought to be defined as a deficiency, not an orientation. With the advent of e-mail and the Internet, a new wave of communication methods has opened up. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are increasingly serving as willing carriers of sectoral news and information previously closed to the outside world. Online publishing has cut out the logistics involved in traditional printing press operations.

Deprivations faced

Esau Mathope Behind the Mask, South Africa

July 2005 |

The print and publication industry on the continent, and to a larger extent in South Africa as well, hasn’t yet opened itself up in a free market style to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities. Where some publications are produced for this market, they are usually aimed at the top end of the market. In South Africa, few publications blatantly cater for the white community covering topics like

holidays, new cars, up market property and fashion. The voiceless African gay and lesbian people on the continent have little in the form of expression, movement, or protest that is feasible under the conditions in which they live. As a gay or lesbian person, deprived of many things that most Africans are deprived of, access to the Internet is also a humungous task.

Behind the Mask Behind the Mask (BtM) pioneered Africa’s premier gay and lesbian web portal. Founded by Bart Luirink, based in Johannesburg and a network of correspondents across the continent, BtM aims to use journalistic activism to mainstream lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) interests and to change negative attitudes towards homosexuality and same sex traditions in Africa. One of our major victories has been our visibility. We have been able to unearth a community, albeit online most of the time, of gay men and lesbian women who are professionals, proud to be who they are and identifying themselves as gays and lesbians and based in African cities across the continent. Before our arrival, researchers, embassies, donors and empathetic supporters based outside the continent handled gay and lesbian news and information on the continent. Today, BtM has built an extensive network of human rights advocates, activists and has provided a platform for exchange and debate for LGBTI groups, activists, individuals and other stakeholders who are pursuing a common developmental agenda. Through this, an alert system, operating through e-mail, has been established, that helps in cases of distress, arrest, torture or other forms of human rights abuse, attributed to sexual orientation.


Association for Progressive Communication (APC) Association for Progressive Communication is an international network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment, through the strategic use of ICT, including the Internet. Its vision is a world in which all people have easy, equal and affordable access to the creative potential of ICT to improve their lives and create more democratic and egalitarian societies. APC has a virtual office with staff members spread around the world. 37 members world-wide work together to provide online organising and collaboration tools and skills for civil society. Since 2000, APC has been focusing on Internet Rights for Civil Society, building APC Information Communities and building APC membership. As a part of the Internet Rights for Civil Society programme, APC has enrolled in the ICT Global Policy Monitor. This project, with a focus on Internet governance, is one of the projects that Hivos supports.

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) WOUGNET was initiated in May 2000 by several women’s organisations to promote the use of ICT as a tool to share information and address gender issues collectively. In Uganda, the barriers for women to access and use ICT are much larger as compared to men. Despite the efforts made by government and different organisations, challenges remain in terms of lack of capacity to explore and utilise ICT’s accessibility, affordability, illiteracy, language barriers, and limited ICT infrastructure especially in the rural areas. WOUGNET addresses the identified constraints to enable women to benefit more from the use of ICTs. Presently, the membership of the network consists of 80 women’s organisations and individuals. Its goals are to strengthen the use of ICTs among women and women organisations, to build capacities in ICT application, as well as to expand activities to reach out to rural women. Main strategies are providing opportunities for sharing knowledge, giving technical support, ensuring gender related issues in government and institutions’ ICT policies and implementing special projects for rural women. During the past years, member organisations received technical support in order to make better use of ICTs. WOUGNET assessed the impact of ICTs on social change for women, trained women entrepreneurs and women in the health sector in the application of ICT, disseminated relevant information on the website and mailing list, created a pool of web designers and Tech Tip volunteers, and spearheaded ICT policy advocacy initiatives. WOUGNET website profiles Ugandan women organisations and their activities. It was awarded the African Information Society Initiative (AISI) Media Award. Hivos supports WOUGNET because it addresses the need for increased access to and use of information by women through modern communication technologies.


In the absence of established gay and lesbian organisations in the continent, we have used our contacts in different cities to harness the spirit of activism by organising individuals, who can organise themselves and represent their own issues in their own terms in their own countries. One of the dangers of the kind of work we do is the temptation to ‘form’ structures in other countries. We have had to acknowledge that South Africa is structurally different. ICT has enabled us to move beyond conferences or workshops and engage on a one on one basis with our contributors and correspondents, most of whom are neither trained journalists nor writers. The training that is given covers a complicated field of activism, advocacy, lobbying, reporting, and networking. Mainstream international, continental and national human rights organisations have come to rely on BtM as a source of credible news and reports on human rights abuses. Personal meetings rarely ever take place at BtM offices. The movement, the activities and the information have given voice to one of the most muted societies in African continent. It has now emerged that gay and lesbian people face the same prejudices all over the world and that their aspirations and dreams are the same. Those domiciled in European and American cities are beginning to write and say that, in their time, lack of ICTs as a medium of expression, made it impossible for them to express their sexuality.

Information for human rights By being at the coalface of such a complex issue, BtM had to grow to become a professional organisation. Currently with a team of about seven, consisting of a director, an administrator, an online editor, a webmaster and three editorial assistants, the organisation has its website running without interruption since May 2000 when it became an independent non-profit entity. With a staff complement with no formal background in journalism and with most staff members in their early and late 20s, Internet, e-mail, discussion groups, news server lists, etc. have served to enhance their skills and expertise. BtM also had its downs with ICT, with some of our projects hijacked or stalled because of the geographical distance between our constituencies and us. BtM is involved in a project called ‘The Link’, which aims to robustly penetrate the African continent and develop forums of debate and dialogue as well as encourage other civil society organisations to upscale their involvement in LGBTI issues. ‘The Link’ aims to have a database of contacts, categorised by classified and public access sections, from which expertise and information can be drawn, in cases where BtM has outstretched itself or when they are too technical or legalistic for a journalist to handle. We are also a big supporter of a new initiative called ‘All Africa Rights Initiative’. This grew out of the necessity to represent African gay and lesbian aspirations in own terms. The previous continental gay and lesbian initiatives have branches of organisations like the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGHRC) and International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA). Just as there is a call for an African Renaissance, so is the time for African LGBTI activists to stand up and speak for themselves.  i4d | July 2005


Using IT to promote right to information With a mandate to promote the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth countries, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) believes that the right to information is fundamental for the realisation of economic, social, civil and political rights.

‘The great democratising power of information has given us all the chance to effect change and alleviate poverty in ways we cannot even imagine today. Our task…is to make that change real for those in need, wherever they may be. With information on our side, with knowledge a potential for all, the path to poverty can be reversed.” Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations Governments all over the world are embracing democratic norms and adopting principles that facilitate more open and responsive governance. There has also been a marked increase in the enactment of domestic legislation to entrench the public’s right to access information from their governments, and even private bodies in some instances. In the Commonwealth, to date 10 countries (Australia, Belize, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom) have enacted right to information laws. India, which passed the Right to Information Act in May 2005, is the most recent Commonwealth country to establish this right legally. With a mandate to promote the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth countries, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) believes that the right to information is fundamental for the realisation of economic and social rights as well as civil and political rights.

Power of the right to information

Mandakini Devasher Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative India

July 2005 |

The right to information is premised on the right of all the citizens to access government held information. It entails a corresponding duty on the government to provide information, which are of general interest or value to the public, both proactively and on request. Without information, the public will struggle to fully exercise their rights, and even be unaware of their rights to information.

Furthermore, information is vital for the protection and enforcement of rights. More broadly, the right to information is a powerful tool which can be used to break down the walls of secrecy which too often exist between the citizen and the State. Promoting good governance and inclusive democracy With access to information on their side, people can function better as an informed and responsible citizenry - investigating and scrutinising government actions and reviewing the performance of their elected representatives with a view to seriously holding them accountable. The world over, access laws have been used to monitor and oversee the functioning of the Member of Parliaments and Governments officials. People can access information on how officials are delivering on their commitments, how the bureaucracy is spending public money and how representatives are interacting with special interest groups. Facilitating participatory development The right to information empowers groups from all sectors of our society to scrutinise and engage with the developmental activities being undertaken around them - by governments, donors and private bodies. People can access information about their development rights, as well as can find out more about the development projects and programmes from which they are supposed to be benefiting. At the more personal level, people can use the law to ensure that they



receive the entitlements and benefits that are due to them and other sections of society. Exposing corruption The right to information is the key to combat corruption and foster an environment which is pro-transparency, pro-democracy and ultimately pro-people. Experience has shown that civil society groups, anti-corruption agencies, media persons and activists can use right to information laws to expose high-level corruption. Access laws can also be used very effectively at the community level to expose cases where implementing agencies fail to properly discharge their duties, both to the government and the public. Supporting equitable economic growth The right to information is an important tool that can be used to ensure that markets work for the people rather than corporations. At the high policy end, parliamentarians and the public can exercise their right to access information to obtain documents on trade and economic policy, and also to scrutinise the activities of international financial and trade institutions, such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation. At the other end of the spectrum, people can use their right to obtain information and make rational informed decisions on tax, wage and occupation, health and safety entitlements and compliance. Bolstering media capacity In many jurisdictions across the world, the media have been active users of the right to information, using access laws to unearth cases of corruption, mismanagement of public funds, highlighting the government’s misuse of public resources, etc. The right to information is a powerful tool in the hands of the media who, in taking this legislation to heart, have in many countries put pressure on governments to amend their policies. The right to information makes real a new era of investigative journalism premised not on hearsay, but verified government information.

society organisations in member states to catalyse action towards the enactment of access legislation. CHRI also works to support implementation of access regimes, through the exchange of best practice and lessons learnt. CHRI recently organised a National Conference in India on ‘Effective Implementation: Preparing to Operationalise the Right to Information Act 2005’ which was designed to bring together government officials and civil society with key Indian and international experts on the right to information to discuss best practice, challenges and key implementation strategies. CHRI’s RTI Programme covers the entire Commonwealth. It has been of key importance that the programme utilises its resources – human, financial and technological, strategically to maximise its reach. As a policy-advocacy organisation, CHRI’s approach has been to channellise the needs, ideas and lessons learnt by local partners towards governments in the form of practical policy suggestions for change. In this context, CHRI recognises that the Internet can be a powerful media, enabling better coordination between governments, civil society organisations and individuals working on the right to information across the Commonwealth and its sub-regions. Making best use of the organisation’s website CHRI’s Right to Information website (http://www.humanrights has been a key element of CHRI’s international engagement strategy. It has been developed to provide legislators, advocates and the public with resources on international and Commonwealth principles and standards on the right to information. The site also functions as an important RTI archive, providing links to all Commonwealth RTI legislation, as well as a comprehensive collection of right to information resources of all the 53 Commonwealth countries. Establishing and strengthening partnerships CHRI has extensive contacts with NGOs, civil society groups and right to information activists across the Commonwealth. Promoting awareness on the right to information through information sharing between and across these networks has been one of the key strategies for CHRI. CHRI has relied on the Internet and e-mail to establish and consolidate its partnerships with stakeholders throughout the Commonwealth. ICT tools also help CHRI to consolidate the local partnerships and also for making timely interventions. Publishing and circulating useful information

Using IT to network for change

The RTI programme is also keenly aware of the opportunity ICT provides for disseminating useful information and raising public awareness. The RTI team writes extensively for newspapers, journals, articles and newsletters and tries in this manner to spread greater awareness about the right to information and its key relevance in the access of other basic rights. CHRI also publish original papers and reports in its websites.

The right to information is a core aspect of CHRI’s work in the Commonwealth. Specifically. CHRI’s Right to Information (RTI) Programme works towards the adoption and implementation of right to information regimes in all the Commonwealth’s member states. To this end, CHRI partners with governments and civil

The successful implementation of the law is directly related to the level of commitment within the government and the level of knowledge of the people. CHRI’s RTI programme is committed to disseminate the knowledge to all the concerned stakeholders and ICT has proved to be a useful tool for it.


i4d | July 2005

Vol. III No. 7

July 2005

Information for development w w w. i 4 d . c s d m s . i n

 e-Governance Prime Minister’s initiative to boost up ICT in rural Sri Lanka The launch of the e- Society Development Initiative (e-SDI) by the Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) under the patronage of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa will take Sri Lanka into a new era where all sections of the society would reap the benefits of the developments of ICT. The overall goal of the e-SDI, is to facilitate access to ICT amongst the most vulnerable groups in Sri Lanka, and ensure that the benefits of ICT development flow to these groups. By facilitating a more balanced access to information within Sri Lankan society it is envisioned the e-SDI will assist in closing the development divide between urban and rural areas, help to integrate post conflict regions and thereby contribute to the broader national objectives of development, growth and peace. The key feature of the e-SDI will be the e-Society Fund through which two types of grant mechanisms will be operated over the next four years. The e-SDI Community Assistance programme is characterised by a ‘bottom up’ approach where vulnerable groups will first be made aware of ICT and the range of benefits, which ICT may bring to their lives and then provided technical assistance to identify their own priorities for development, which are acquiescent to an ICT solution. The ICTA has appointed a Process Consultant to manage the day to day activities of managing the fund. The Process Consultant would also work at grassroot level creating awareness and building capacities of communities for developing proposals for e-SDI assistance. All proposals will be reviewed by a careful chosen review panel and the final decision July 2005 |

on the award will be made by a grants Board appointed by the ICTA.

Mozambique government successfully implements e-Government pilot project The government of Mozambique has successfully implemented an e-Government pilot project connecting 15 national public administration entities in Maputo. The initiative is funded through the Development Gateway Foundation’s e-Government Grants Programme, in partnership with the government of Italy. It is named as a Called Government Elecronic Network (GovNet)-Pilot. The project is a part of Mozambique’s national ICT Policy Implementation Strategy, which aims to improve public services and increase transparency in the public sector. The Pilot has established a common communications platform for the Ministry of Public Administration, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Science and Technology, among others, giving them a unified e-mail system, intranet, and document management system. As part of the project, a new government web portal has also been launched at, intended to increase public access to information.

Video-conferencing facility launched to facilitate ‘Bhagidari’ project in India The Delhi Government’s award-winning ‘Bhagidari’ project for partnership on 30 June, 2005 with the launch of a new video-conferencing facility to enhance interaction between the Resident Welfare Associations and the administration. The Chief Minister of New Delhi,

Sheila Dikshit was handed over the United Nation’s award given to the Bhagidari Cell of Delhi government. The Chief Minister has said that the facility has been set up in three districts — South, Southwest and West — and will be extended to the other districts in the next one-and-half months. She also said that about the UN award won by Delhi government from over 200 nominations from around the world, the credit for it goes to the citizens. The government planned to include residents’ groups of slums and unauthorised colonies in the project.

 Education Rural Limpopo gets wireless networked e-Learning Resource Centre In South Africa, in one of the biggest ICT investments in Limpopo yet, Telkom’s Godfrey Ntoele, the Managing Executive for business and government markets launched the Telkom Foundation’s first Letsema Village at the Manyangana High School in Dixie Village recently. Ntoele, adopted five schools and each school received its own fully wireless networked eLearning Resource Centre consisting of 20 computers, a server, a printer, all Microsoft supplied software, insurance and a threeyear maintenance plan. The donation also included Internet access powered by VSAT satellite technology to bring the village schools in contact with the outside world.

NRI to create BPO jobs for girls in rural Punjab In Punjab, India, thirty kilometres away in Manuali village at Fatehgarh Sahib district, a teacher has thought of including


The i4d News

Farmers to get market information v via ia cellphone in South Africa In Makuleke region of Northern Limpopo province, the Senegalese mobile solutions company Manobi, together with Vodacom and Alcatel, has launched a project providing market information via cellphones to farmers. Daniel Annerose, Manobi founder and General Manager has commented that the first phase of the project gives around 100 farmers real-time market information and enables buyers to place orders with the farmers. Mthobi Tyamzashe, Vodacom Director of corporate communications has said that the Makuleke community is chosen for the pilot because of its remoteness and lack of access to information infrastructure. Thierry Albrand, Vice President of Alcatel’s Digital Bridge has remarked that the project is in line with the Department of Communications’ e-Strategy Framework and will open up the possibilities for government and local authorities to provide e-Health, e-Learning and e-Government facilities. In the second phase of the project, another 100 cellphones and subscriber identity module (SIM) cards will be distributed to farmers in Makuleke and surrounding areas. Annerose has said that Manobi plans to roll-out similar projects across South Africa and the rest of Africa.

The programme would cover 282 schools for providing free computer education to the students in collaboration with the National Institute of Information and Technology (NIIT) from 6th and 8th standards. The Chief Minister has said that the government is keen to maintain high standards of education and computer literacy is a step taken in this direction. He also said that the computer education would be provided free of cost to the students, especially in the remote and difficult areas where such facilities are not available. The state has a vast network of over 15,000 educational institutions in the government sector and had made a humble beginning with 331 at the time of formation of the state in 1948. He said that the emphasis is now on consolidation of these institutions, but need-based opening of the educational institutions would continue in future as well.

Internet chatting in the curriculum. He believes that it will help them improve their English. At Non Resident Indians (NRI) billionaire Nanak Kohli’s initiative, at least 10 villages in Punjab are trying to make girls net-savvy and fluent in English to help them land Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) jobs. Retired Colonel Govinder Singh explains that he wanted to start a project for the best of the best, but then the writer Khushwant Singh advised him to concentrate on the poorest of the poor. As a result, the Sundar Amar Sheel Trust, which caters to 2,000 children in Delhi set up computer centres for girls in rural Punjab. Colonel Singh, who is the part of the trust and urges girls to write their own letters, has said that right now the girls are under training, but next month they will undergo a test to check their competence. At Mahadian village, also in Fatehgarh Sahib district, 75 girls are learning English and brushing up their IT skills. Some are still in high school while others are graduates. The girls hope to land a job in their village itself.

Namibian government, Microsoft join together to launch Pathfinder initiative In Namibia, to celebrate a pilot project that was started two years ago, the President


Hifikepunye Pohamba and the regional CEO of Microsoft, Jean-Phillipe Courtois, officially launched the Pathfinder initiative recently. Pathfinder is born out of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the Government of Namibia and represented by its parliament. It supports the efforts of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and focuses on the needs and educational growth of Africa. Microsoft is ready to replicate and deploy Pathfinder across other regions in Africa. To date, Pathfinder has been rolled out across 13 schools around Namibia. The initiative aims to bridge the digital divide using Microsoft’s nine point model of ICT in education. The model includes access, training, technical support, standards, innovative software, digital content, research, telecom and power and policy development. The project is also in line with Microsoft’s broader technology and education initiative known as Partners in Learning (PiL).

HP government, NIIT to launch computer literacy project in remote areas In Shimla, India, the Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh, has launched the first phase of the computer literacy project in the state under Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan in the remote government high school at Himri recently.

Students to get ICT training in Uganda MTN Uganda in order to boost the quality of service provision in the ICT sector in the country is going to start training middle cadres in ICT. MTN’s Chief Technical Officer, Francis Kazindukyen announced this during the swearing in ceremony of the new guild executives of the Uganda Institute of Information and Communications Technology (UICT) in Nakawa on June 16, 2005. The industrial training programme will mainly target students from UICT.

Illiterate women get computer training to market their products in Uganda Uneducated women under the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Ltd (UWEAL), Kabale chapter, have started computer training to market their products worldwide on the Internet. An IT consultant from the Commonwealth secretariat, Lesley Ann Noel, led a group of trainers from Kampala, who are teaching about 20 women at Home Again hotel, Kabale. She has said that it was interesting that even uneducated women could cope with computer training. She also said that she had learnt that Ugandan baskets, textiles, and crafts could fetch good money on the international market. The chairperson UWEAL Kabale chapter, Irene i4d | July 2005

The i4d News Mbaruka has said that women would continue to use the skills they would acquire in the training to widen their knowledge.

Visually challenged students avail ICT training in Nepal Lumbini Community Multimedia Centre (CMC) has recently organised a one-day ICT orientation programme for blind and visually-impaired students of Shri Shanti Model Secondary School in Manigram, a village in Western Nepal. Shri Shanti local government school has about 850 students, 28 of which are either visually impaired. The inspiration for the training was a visit to the CMC by two visually impaired students. Sagar Subedi is one of them, has taken part in a training workshop on a textto-speech software called JAWS. When he heard that the Lumbini CMC had also obtained the software, he and a friend came to investigate. The JAWS software literally reads text from computer documents, including Internet websites and e-mails. The Lumbini CMC was established in April 2004 as part of Radio Lumbini, a community radio station in the plains area of Western Nepal. Community Multimedia Centres combine new technologies like computers, Internet and specialised software applications with traditional media.

 Community radio UNESCO installs first community multimedia centres in Mali United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has recently installed the first of the new community multimedia centres (CMC). It is established in Mali as part of a scale-up initiative and also involving Mozambique and Senegal. The first of the new centres were installed in Niéna and San, respectively 300 and some 400 kilometres east of the capital Bamako. CMCs will also be installed in Goundam, Banamba and Yelimane soon. The Project Officer, Birama Diallo in San has said that everyone in Mali is extremely pleased with the speed of the dial-up connection to the Internet. There has been strong mobilisation in the local community, which has contributed to the installation by renovating the premises housing July 2005 |

the new telecentre, setting up a local steering committee and generally preparing for the new facility. CMCs combine local radio and community telecentre facilities. As San has several radio stations, Radio Santoro was chosen to house the telecentre but all the local stations will be full partners and benefit from equal access to the telecentre to enrich their programmes with digital information.

Agriculture ITC plans to launch 30 more rural malls in 2005-06 In India, Indian Tobacco Company (ITC) Ltd plans to open 30 more rural malls in 2005-06, in synergy with its fast growing e-Choupal network, after successfully implemented the country’s first private sector rural mall known as Choupal Sagar at Sehore in Madhya Pradesh. The construction of nine malls three each in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh is nearing completion. They may be opened within the next few months.

Tamil Nadu government to implement IT in its agricultural department The Indian state of Tamil Nadu would probably be creating a history of sorts by

implementing IT in a big way in the agriculture department. The state government has decided to link all 28-district headquarters’ offices of the agriculture department, besides linking the 385 block-level functioning, in a phased manner. Under the programme, the government would connect the district headquarters’ offices through a dial-up line, while building an exclusive portal and setting up kiosks at block level extension centres are also part of the programme. Block level kiosks would be deployed at all the 385 block level extension centres. These centres, bi-lingual in nature, would be a complete ‘farmers notebook’, which would help the farmers collect information on seed requirements, production guide, weather data, use of pesticides and fertilisers, and location-specific recommendations on irrigations, etc.

ICRISAT using ICT to benefit dryland farmers In India, ICT integrated open distant learning (ODL) methods can create miracles when applied in right context. It can then really become information and communication technology for development (ICT4D). The International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in building up of the Virtual Academy for the Semi-Arid Tropics (VASAT) has started transforming farming pattern and life styles of farmers in the world’s most droughtprone regions. VASAT, an informal and

BPOs mov moving ing to Indian v villages illages to bridge the digital div divide ide In India, Kizhanur is like any other village in Tamil Nadu’s Thiruvallur district, surrounded by paddy fields and grazing cows. But look closely at No:1 Sivan Koil street which is soaked with a new phenomenon – a business process outsourcing (BPO) version of ITC’s e-Choupal. Chida Soft is a village BPO, doing coding on legal paper for an US client. It is run by entrepreneur Sharmila who is only 25 years of old, who supervises the Kizhanur franchisee of Lason India, part of the $170 million Lason Inc, US, an end-to-end outsourcing company that has a presence in the healthcare and publishing industries. Sharmila has provided the real estate, while Lason has invested in the hardware and training. This is the India’s first BPOs in a village that is run by a resident and that employs locals. The Managing Director of Lason, Pradeep Nevatia has explained that other than IT infrastructure, a BPO does not require good roads or houses. All it needs is abundant people. The initiative termed ‘Lason Village BPO’ is to be extended to five more locations in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka by the end of 2005.


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Tamil Nadu v village illage to avail mobile telemedicine unit In Kadamalaikundu, a remote village in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu’s Theni district, a new white vehicle with an antenna on its hood and medical equipment inside will help improve the management of health. The mobile telemedicine unit is the vehicle on which project Disha is to officially resume on July 8, 2005. The project brings together Philips, in its capacity as medical-equipment company, Apollo Hospitals, Indian Space Research Organsiation (ISRO) and Dhan Foundation. The efforts are put together to bring healthcare on the road. K. Ramachandran, Philips’ Chief Executive Officer, has remarked that there are several tele-medicine projects in the country but this one is different since it is a mobile, multi-speciality vehicle that has instant connectivity. Besides two doctors on board, the vehicle comprises Xray equipment, an ECG to check the heart, a defibrillator that helps bring back the heart’s rhythm, an ultra-sound and laboratory equipment for blood tests and so on. The van links-up to the outside world through Insat 3A, with support of the antenna and other telecommunications software and computer systems in the vehicle, explains ISRO’s Dr Bhaskaranarayana, Director - Satellite Communication Programme.

virtual information, communication and capacity building coalition, caters to a cluster of 37 villages in Mahboobnagar district in Andhra Pradesh, where the literacy rate is as low as 35%. In fact, 75% of the workers are engaged in agriculture and allied activities. About 60% of the area is rain-fed, only 15% are under irrigation and remaining 25% are waste lands. A pilot information hub with connectivity to the Internet is set in Addakal village in Andhra Pradesh in partnership with Andhra Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Programme. This hub is operated by a 4,200-member federation of micro-credit societies of rural women, Aadarsha Welfare Society, and is linked to 1,200 rural ICT centres.

orthopaedics and infertility. He also said that the initiatives have already been taken with hospitals in North Bengal and Durgapur. The idea is to leverage upon the gathered experience and expertise in medical education and convert it into tangible and affordable healthcare for the community. Telemedicine is the only answer in the country like ours where distances are great and where the availability of medical and diagnostic facilities is few and far between, he added. According to him, a customised software has been developed whereby SRMC can connect with 99 telemedicine centres in distance mode. Already, tie-ups have been formalised with about 30 such telemedicine centres in distance mode.

 Health Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre sets up telemedicine centre in Kolkata In India, the Chennai-based Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre (SRMC) has set up an information-cum-telemedicine centre in Kolkata in association with the United Health Care Services. Dr P. V. Vijayaraghavan of Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute has said that the Harvard Medical International Associated Institution would focus more on specific areas of healthcare such as interventional neuroradiology, paediatric cardiology, advanced


Telemedicine facility launched at AIIMS All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has launched a telemedicine facility on 5 July, 2005 with Comprehensive Rural Health Services (CRHS) Project in Ballabgarh, Haryana. The Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, while inaugurating the facility has said that more such facilities will be implemented in the country to cater better healthcare services for rural masses. It will target the health care needs of rural masses in the district of Faridabad and also enable doctors at AIIMS to assist physicians at the two primary care

centres in the villages of Jhansa and Dayalpur. The Minister has said that in India rural areas constitute 73 per cent of population but have access to only 25% of health services. According to him telemedicine is the future through which people living in far off places will have access to the latest technique of healthcare services. The facility will provide link with AIIMS’ department of radiology, pathology and Dr. Rajendra Prasad Centre for Opthalmic Sciences. Apart from this, one additional link will be provided where consultants will provide their services.

 Miscellaneous International consortium to set up Internet kiosks in rural India An international consortium, including Indian and American companies as well as the World Bank is planning to set up thousands of rural Internet centres in India to bring government, banking and education services to isolated villages. The project to be announced on 23 June, 2005, is intended to bring Internet-based services to individuals who must often travel long distances to conduct banking or business with the government. It is being undertaken by Comat Technologies, an Indian provider of Internet services; ICICI Bank, India’s second largest commercial bank; and Wyse Technology of San Jose, California, which makes computer terminal equipment. The project aims at serving the Indian rural villages with populations of more than 5,000. Ultimately, the plan calls for kiosks in 5,000 villages in the Indian state of Karnataka. State government has subsidised the project and will invest money to develop computer skills in residents. The centres, will be connected to the Internet by either land lines or satellite links. According to Andi Dervishi, an investment officer at the Global Information and Communication Technologies division of the World Bank, the project will commence with a technical demonstration in 4 villages and then will be extended to 20 others.

For daily news on ICT4D log on to i4d | July 2005






Democratising force of ICT ICT, specially Internet, used in collaboration with human rights activism, creates virtual alternative tunnels for the free flow of uncensored information. It has opened up the golden gate for human rights promotion in Bangladesh.

Shahjahan Siraj UnnayanNet, Bangladesh

July 2005 |

The whole world is heartrending to establish human rights, peace and happiness, fighting against the degradation of human values. Majority access to basic information and people’s participation are the precondition for human rights development and millennium targets. ICT has potentiality to serve as a democratising force. It provides public access to information, builds a virtual space for community gathering and grassroots development for repression, propaganda and enforces authoritarian control, particularly for the marginalised community. ICT, specially Internet, used in collaboration with human rights activism, creates virtual alternative tunnels for the free flow of uncensored information within and out of country. Global information systems, Internet as well as ICTs have opened up the golden gate for human rights promotion in Bangladesh. It is proved that only one responsible website can change the situation dramatically by encouraging, awakening and making people sensitive to participation for protecting the violence and human rights abuses. It gives continuous objective education and awareness both to the defenders and offenders. Such type of effective and popular portal or website has not yet been launched in Bangladesh. The society is still very reluctant in development of human rights and power of people’s participation. Maximum people have no clear concept or interest about the rights, reality and participation although Bangladesh has two great examples of participation and success; one is language movement in 1952 and another is liberation war in 1971. Because of excessive focus on personal matters and benefits; the extreme individualism, selfishness, corruption, dogmatism, violence (both visible and invisible) are increasing dangerously in Bangladesh. People

are becoming separated to separate, divided to divide. This is the time to inform and educate the people about rights and power of participation by grasping the new media opportunities. ICTs, particularly the Internet and multimedia, can play most important role for promotion of human rights. The history of Internet in Bangladesh is young, only 10 years old. In April 1994, from Netherlands, off-line e-mail system was started and in June 1996, first ISP was set up in Bangladesh. With low bandwidth and high price limitations also, Internet and mobile telecommunication are gaining popularity since 2000. But the access is limited up to certain level in urban areas only. Majority of the rural people don’t have access or involvement with this powerful media. Because of illiteracy, poverty and lack of awareness, villagers cannot even read newspapers. They totally depend on the centralised radio, television or verbally transmitted news and information which are mostly contaminated by the heralds. The positive sign is that the national policy on ICT declaration and unprecedented youth participation in ICT fields have created great opportunity for social change by making community based ICT initiatives a reality.

Challenges and opportunity According to national ICT policy, ‘Bangladesh is committed to provide the Internet facility which will be extended to all the district headquarters and subsequently to its adjacent area up to ‘upzila’ (sub-district) levels. Internet will be provided to the educational institutions and libraries. To ensure public access to information, cyber kiosks will be set up in all post offices, union complex and ‘upzila’ complex.…’. But the implementation is still in file and has not been reflected even in the national budget 2005.


Though our target is to ensure nationwide Internet connectivity and ICT infrastructure within 2006, but we have not yet been able to ensure minimum rural connectivity. Presently Bangladesh has more than 80 ISPs. But there is no VISP (Village Internet Service Provider) who will be responsible for majority people. The ICT service providers are focusing predominantly on the city area and are not interested in the village, even though 80% population of the country live in villages. All are reluctant with the prejudice that village is not a profitable region; but there are successful examples of Grameen Phone’s rural telecommunication initiative. Low percentage of education and computer penetration, lack of Bangla interface, software and community based ICT as well as lack of proper ICT leadership have led to low Internet penetration in rural areas. The cost of computer, which is approximately equal to middle class farmers’ annual crop values, and more than 6 months salary of a middle income group person is another barrier. The crude reality is that more than 90% people do not know yet what is Internet, even haven’t seen a computer. Within these barriers also, the use of ICT is increasing in the human rights and development arenas of Bangladesh, especially by the youth leaders, journalists and media activists. The global information system is affecting positively towards behavioural change and practices. But the spirit of information and consciousness have not yet touched the heads of the society as it is needed.

Initiatives and success Using Internet as a tool of social activism started in Bangladesh from the online forum ‘Alochona’ and webzine, ‘Meghbarta’. ‘Meghbarta’ ( covers every aspect of the state, society and people of different class, gender, caste, nationality and group since its inception in October 1999. ‘Alochona’ ( introduces itself as the first human rights web portal in Bangladesh. It was in the month of February, back in 1998, when the idea of ‘Alochona’ was first proposed in the chat email list ‘ADDA’. ‘Alochona’s’ goal was to provide voice to Bangladeshis worldwide to discuss serious issues and news using the Internet. Finally, on June 11, 1998 ‘Alochona’ ( was launched with 44 interested subscribers from the United States, United Kingdom, and

Credit: Poffet Christian


Bangladesh. Hosted from a laptop using the Internet resources in Dhaka, ‘Alochona’ was the first moderated forum for Bangladeshis. ‘’ ( was launched in February 2001 with the collaboration of the British Council and Drik. It is the outcome of a successful workshop on ‘Effective use of the media and the Internet to promote human rights’. The author was involved with this initiative as site designer and online editor (2001-2004). It is an independent platform for media professionals and human rights activists who believe in a society respectful of the rights of all its members. The second initiative, ‘Drishtipat’ ( was taken in November, 2001 from USA. It is a non-profit, non-political expatriate Bangladeshi organisation, committed to safeguarding every individual’s basic democratic rights, including freedom of expression, and is opposed to any and all kinds of human rights abuses in Bangladesh. This website is intended for disseminating information about the state of human rights and social change in Bangladesh, and to discuss potential campaigns. ‘Drishtipat’ and its local chapters have undertaken numerous campaigns every year since its inception in 2001. ‘Mukto-mona’ ( and ‘Uttorshuri’ are also famous for their progressive online activism in favour of human rights development. ‘Mukto-mona’ is a loose Internet congregation of secularists, freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics and humanists of mainly Bengali and South Asian origin scattered across the globe against all kinds of social injustices. And the online discussion forum ‘Uttorshuri’ ( is an Internet based sociocultural network dedicated to the Bangla speaking people from around the world, including Bangladesh and West Bengal of India. Including the Daily Star (, ‘Prothom Alo’ (, etc., all popular national newspapers which are now available online, and are providing everyday human rights news and situation. The Daily Star regularly publishes a special chapter on human rights, ‘Law and Our Rights’ ( Beside these, personal mailing list ‘Shahidul News’ and ‘Shobak News’ (www. are acting as the most popular human rights list servers. ‘Shobak’ is famous for its alternative views and antiwar activities. The ‘Shahidul News’ ( com/group/shahidulnews) is initiated by photographer Shahidul Alam for announcements on media and human rights related issues, with a specific emphasis on photography. ‘Manusher Jonno’ ( and ‘Shushashoner Jonno’, ‘Procharavijan - SUPRO’ ( are prominent human rights networks in Bangladesh. Moreover, BRAC (, ‘Proshika’ (, ‘Ain O Shalik Kendro’ ( and SEHD ( and ‘Bangladesh Shishu Odhikar Forum’ (, Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) (, VOICE ( are doing good job for human rights development. Few of them regularly publish the updated news, human rights reports and observations online. Among NGOs, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) ( has established the country’s first community multimedia centre. The Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) ( is promoting community radio and doing advocacy. i4d | July 2005

Nowadays, most of all Dhaka based human rights organisations have websites and Internet connectivity which increase human rights awareness and networking. But more than 2000 grassroots organisations and NGOs don’t have minimum ICT capacity and minimum updates of information about contemporary human rights movement of the world. Without them, it is impossible to establish nationwide human rights and the desired peaceful information society. UnnayanNet ( is providing web site design and ICT capacity building training to grassroots human rights and development organisations in order to give the ownership of modern information and technology to majority of the people. Along with local organisations, international human rights agency and the organisations such as Amnesty International, the Committee Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch, Transparency International are also playing important role through ICT for human rights promotion in Bangladesh.

ICT as the action media In remote villages, Internet facility is not available, but there are NGO activities. To establish ‘Human rights multimedia resource centre’ in every village nationwide, large number of NGOs network can play an important role. Since 2001, the use of ICT tools has increased dramatically in Dhaka as well as in major districts and divisional cities. More than 90% cyber and ICT businesses are run successfully by young ICT entrepreneurs. It is proved that the youth entrepreneurship and youth participation can make ICT as action media for human rights and aspects of information society promotion. In context of Bangladesh, the following recommendations can be effective for human rights promotion through ICTs • Use of ICTs as human rights advocacy tools for strengthening the virtual presence and networking capacities of human rights organisations; • Use of website, blog, online forum, mailing list for online campaign, mobilisation and urgent news dissemination; • Promotion of online journalism and human rights activism for strengthening civil society involvement and people participation; • Establish community based human rights multimedia resource centre ‘InfoCentre’ and ‘InfoBooth’ fixed with one computer (in advanced cases, multimedia computer/touch screen can be used) in every village as an initiative of NGO or local community organisations;

Women participation in rural community meeting

Credit: Poffet Christian

• Promote the use of multimedia local content, interactive legal quiz on declarations and human rights, audio-visual presentation in public place and mass media.; • 24 hours ‘hot line’, ‘free dial’, SMS for reporting human rights violations can be effective for instant communication, help against abuse and proper treatment; • Promote decentralised community radio project which can be effective for making social awareness on the local issues; • Compulsory ICT and human rights education in schools can give institutionalisation of the human rights discourse.

Searching the new dimension The establishment of VISP and community human rights media resource centre/booth as well as nationwide Internet access can ensure the ownership of modern information and technology for the majority rural poor which can be advanced in Bangladesh with a jump for human rights promotion and development. The intolerance and violence against women and minorities makes tension in Bangladesh. There is need to educate, involve and inspire the people including religious community. The author has a dear vision to see the priests of Bangladesh as Internet users, and establishment of community multimedia/ cyber center/InfoCentre in religious institutes, like mosques, madrashas, temples, pagodas, etc. in Bangladesh. It is needed to inform the masses that human rights means the surety of qualitative and dignified lives which is the consequence of people’s participation, contribution and awareness. 

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Creating model for ensuring human dignity The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO’s) mission is to improve the situation of human beings in the world of work. Herman van der Laan has the experience of working for varied offices of ILO in Europe, Asia and Africa and is at present the ILO Representative in India. Prior to this assignment, he was the Chief of Coordination Unit responsible for relations with ILO donor countries in Department for Development Cooperation in Geneva. Before this, he was the director of the ILO office in Indonesia. Herman van der Laan Director, ILO Subregional Office for South Asia, New Delhi, India

In this interview, Herman van der Laan speaks about the policy and vision of ILO to improve the labour rights and the various programmes to achieve this mission.

One of the primary goals of ILO has been to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work. How much success has ILO achieved towards this goal till now? Since the ILO was established after the First World War the organisation works to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work. Work ensuring freedom, equity, security and human dignity for all women and men. Decent work is centered around the promotion of rights at work, employment, social protection and social dialogue. Protection of the rights of the workers in the informal sectors, whose numbers are steadily growing, is an important agenda of ILO. Women are often forced to work in low-paid jobs in poor working conditions. Decent employment for women is, therefore, a major concern for ILO. The ILO has at present 178 member countries and works with their government, represented by the Ministry of Labour and with workers’ and employers’ organisations with the aim to provide sustainable opportunities for decent work. This tripartite structure of ILO makes it unique among the UN organisations.


How effective has the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) of ILO been? Protection of children is one of the important issues for the ILO. The aim of IPEC is to work towards the progressive elimination of child labour. Through this programme, ILO addresses the key aspects of the child labour problems, such as educational and training opportunities, awareness of the adults and decent income of the family. IPEC’s work on child labour is also an important facet of the ILO’s decent work agenda. The ILO generally follows a two-way approach to fight child labour. One way is the legal approach through ratification of ILO Conventions and another way is to build up national capacities to address child labour problems. IPEC’s experience shows that to be effective, poverty alleviation programmes must address child labour issues through prevention, withdrawal, and the strengthening of national capacity, especially in the education system. In this regard, the National Child Labour Programme and its bridge schools initiated by the Government of India are a very effective step. We work with the government, employers’ and workers’ organisations, as well as with

NGOs to create model and innovative approaches for the elimination of child labour that can be replicated through out the country. In India, our work covers a number of states, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi and others. ILO has recently launched a comprehensive report on forced labour, which also deals with human trafficking, which is a serious problem in South Asia. What are the strategies of ILO to abolish such practices? Indebtness to employers force a large number of poor workers to work as bonded labour. In India, projects with ILO support are implemented in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In the South Asia context, we work in a number of countries, specially Nepal, to stop the trafficking, particularly of children. Women are particularly prone to trafficking. We also look at this from the point of view of migration because trafficking in one sense is illegal migration. So we are working for strengthening the migration policies and procedures of the countries so that there is less scope for illegal migration. At the next ILO Asian Regional Meeting, which will take place in Korea in October this year, migration is one issue that will be discussed by the ILO member i4d | July 2005

countries from Asia-Pacific. The members will look for taking better measures for protection of migrant workers and avoiding illegal migration. What are the strategies of ILO for the protection of the rights of indigenous and tribal people? Tribals and indigenous people are often the most suppressed and backward sections of the society. ILO works for the protection of their rights and also assist them to find decent income opportunities, which suit their traditions. The ILO is also actively involved in a number of United Nations activities and processes, which are relevant for the indigenous and tribal peoples. In India, ILO has undertaken programmes for the empowerment of tribal people through self-help groups and microcredit, amongst others in Orissa. The aim is to generate employment opportunities based on their traditional skills and linking them with the market and economic infrastructure. The new Forest and Land Act of Government of India is an appreciable step for the entitlements of the rights of the tribals. ILO is also working for the protection of their traditional rights. One of the major ill effects of globalisation has been sub-contracting of jobs to poorer countries for cheap labour leading to major violation of labour rights. What initiatives have been taken by ILO to protect these labours? Globalisation results in a dynamic process of job losses and gains. We, at ILO, strive to ensure that the rights are protected and those who lose jobs have adequate social protection. To analyse the impact further, the ILO has established the “World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation” to assess the impact of globilasation. The benefits of globalisation are now reaching only a small group of countries or a small group of the population within a country. The report essentially points to the fact that globalisation is not fair, and that it can and should be made fairer. Please share with our readers about ILO’s efforts for restoring the employment and livelihoods of people affected by Tsunami. ILO has a comprehensive approach for the Tsunami affected areas. It is working in the Tsunami affected areas of Indonesia, July 2005 |

Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. In India, we have taken an approach in line with the Government of India’s request that the United Nations system work together and support the government’s efforts. The fishing community lost significant income opportunities in the Tsunami and that’s why we are concentrating with the worker’s organisations. At present, we are working on a programme for the start of new businesses or improving existing businesses. For the fishing community, we are working very closely with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), which has specific programmes for the fishing industry, in addition to working directly with women for other skill development. I must also mention that the government is looking for ways for better functioning of labour market so that government institutions can play a different role than they have played so far and respond better to the needs of the Tsunami affected. What are the specific objectives of ILO in India? As far as India is concerned, we have agreed on a number of priorities together with our partners in this country. The first one is looking for ways to provide decent work for informal economy workers. The second one is to address the needs of vulnerable groups like child labours, bonded labours, tribals, etc. The third element, which we are supporting, is improving and expanding social security. Many people of India do not have access to social security and the aim is to particularly reach the informal economy. The last issue, which we address is sound socio-economic policy at the country as well as state level to ensure that the Common Minimum Programme of the Government of India is implemented. It is quite remarkable to see how closely the CMP is linked to the ILO agenda. How can ICT be used to promote labour rights? The ILO has looked on ICT and its impact especially on employment from a global perspective. It is also looking at ICT as a potential tool for addressing the poverty. A major challenge is to make sure that the people in the villages, in the unorganised part of the economy, do find a proper way to communicate with the computer, mobile phones and information

technologies. That clearly needs two things – one is education and another one is the development of suitable computer applications that are as conducive as possible for the poor, in rural as well as urban areas, to communicate. This can be done through special programmes. A large part of the Indian population is poor and is not yet a part of the mainstream economy. With these tools, they can become much faster part of the economy, increase their job opportunities, become a part of the market and become an internal engine for India’s growth. ICT can for instance be used to inform people of their rights. One could think of use of ICT by the Panchayats (village level administrative bodies) for making the villagers aware of their rights and entitlements. Many of the poor do not know about the various government programmes. They can be provided information through various programmes using ICT. We are working with a group of women in Tamil Nadu to help them realise their various benefits - they simply do not know about these schemes. A lot of government funding is not utilised because people who should benefit, do not know about their rights. In that sense, information technology could play a very important role. It can also be a very important tool in the hands of district administrations and village administrations. What is the ILO’s vision towards United Nations Millennium Development Goals? The ILO is fully committed to play its part in realizing the Millennium Development Goals. Poverty reduction is an essential component for the promotion of decent work. In fact, it can be argued that without decent work you cannot fight poverty. It’s only through work, that the poor can realise their aspirations: a decent income, some basic form of social protection and the right to defend their own interests. We do a lot of work promoting right macroeconomic policies, which integrate creation of employment opportunities and decent work for all women and men. We see the Millennium Development Goals related to jobs, decent work and human dignity. People everywhere want to live a decent life with dignity and politicians know this. No politician in the world can ignore this demand for jobs and respect for human dignity.



Witness for social justice The Martus Project is a free software and open source technology tool, launched in 2003 with the potential to dramatically improve global human rights. It aims to bring efficiency and security to the documentation and reporting of abuses, thus developing the social justice sector. Martus is the Greek word for witness. Timely and accurate delivery of information is one of the most powerful weapons in the battle against human rights violations. The need for secure storage and backup to counter possible attacks on saved information is a vital component of the Martus solution. By carefully making the tools usable to someone with basic experience with electronic mail, the technology currently available to more powerful entities will be made accessible to the grassroots activist community. Martus offers a system and infrastructure that addresses the specific technological needs of the human rights community. The Martus system encourages easy code review to foster an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. The features of Martus systems are as follows: • It uses built-in encryption to safeguard data; • It enables text-based bulletins about violations to be created easily and quickly; • It securely backs up this information and replicates it in multiple locations to protect against loss; • It provides grassroots groups with power over their own information, allowing them to decide what to make public and what should be kept securely private; • It offers consumers of human rights information access to the non-confidential portions of bulletins, enabling activists, prosecutors, press and the public to have direct access to the voices of those affected by human rights violations.


By employing a ‘train the trainers’ method of training, the community of Martus users will grow rapidly each year and the reliance on professional outreach by Martus staff will decrease. With records of abuses preserved and protected, human rights groups worldwide will be able to bring greater attention to human rights violations. Martus is involved in projects to support human rights and it advocates the use of Martus software in thirteen countries. These include Afghanistan, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Hungary, the Philippines, Russia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Zimbabwe and the United States. There are three active Martus backup servers located in Seattle (Washington), Manila (Philippines), and Budapest (Hungary). Benetech has made partnership with the Asia Foundation to bring Martus to NGOs in Asian countries. Martus was installed in the main office of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in Sri Lanka which has historically relied mainly on faxes, mail, in-person meetings and paper files to collect, transmit and secure its data. The main purpose was to assist the HRC in monitoring the media and Internet coverage of human rights violations under the ceasefire and subsequent agreements. In January 2003, Martus was introduced in Philippines in coordination with the Asia Foundation. It has been installed in the office of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Effort is made to bring the Martus Human Rights Bulletin System to civil society organisations in the Philippines. The objective of this project is to strengthen the capacity of the CHR and the domestic human rights community to

monitor the abuse of human rights and to decrease the number of abuses. In United States, the higher rate of mortality in domestic violence disputes in Arizona distinguishes it from most other states. In response to these tragedies, the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ACADV) began to compile reports of murder-suicides in such disputes. ACADV chose to test Martus software to help the organisation manage the hundreds of incident records necessary to write the report. By using Martus, ACADV was able to manage a vast amount of information and

supply important feedback on the software. Martus is being developed by Benetech as an information and documentation management system based on client software and Internet-based infrastructure. Benetech is now working strategically with grassroot NGOs around the world to offer outreach, training and support. These tools will ensure that the documentation of human rights violations is safeguarded and disseminated. This, in turn, will strengthen reporting of violations, and in some cases, prevent additional abuses.  Source: Saswati Paik

i4d | July 2005


ICT for education Stephen Nolan Executive Director, GeSCI

GeSCI -The Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative ( was established in 2004 by the United Nations ICT Task Force in an attempt to address an old problem in a new way—that is, raising global standards of education for communities in the developing world. GeSCI works at local, national and international level to support developing countries, as they create and deliver strategies to harness ICTs for education and community growth, transforming the prospect of learners and citizens and the fortunes of developing nations.

The concept of GeSCI was established in 2004 to raise global standards of education for communities in the developing world. How far do you think you have been able to achieve this? We have achieved a lot since 2004, particularly in making the concept of GeSCI a reality. Our country programmes, particularly in Namibia and in India have become established, our work in building knowledge around ICTs in education is well-underway, and we have established several key partnerships in the process. In terms of raising educational standards, this is, of course, an ambitious long-term goal, but we know we are on the right track. What are some of the major achievements of GeSCI in terms of policy and implementing strategies to harness ICTs for education and community growth? There have been several so far, but I’ll just mention three. One is the central strategy called ‘complete system’, that guides all of our work, and provides a model approach to development. By this, we mean programmes that are comprehensive, demand-driven, capable and efficient, and coordinated. Another is our work in Namibia, where we are working closely with the Namibian government, and other stakeholders, to implement a national ICT in education plan. A third is our work on developing practical knowledge tools for policy makers and practitioners, such as studying the costs of benefits of various technology options for education. Do you believe the targets of the Millennium Development Goals are achievable by 2015? What are the concrete steps GeSCI has adopted to make the UN MDGs a reality? The MDGs are achievable, yes, but it won’t be easy, and doing so will require sustained and focused efforts and significant commitments of resources. It is interesting to share with you that the UN ICT Task Force, the Governments of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Canada founded GeSCI in direct response to the MDGs. So the MDGs are ever-present in all of GeSCI’s work. More specifically, GeSCI’s work relates to MDGs 1,2 and 3, as well as MDG 8. How do you undertake partnerships in developing countries and what is the active role GeSCI plays in those partnerships? GeSCI looks to bring all the stakeholders to the table in a collaborative way, as a catalyst for addressing core challenges to July 2005 |

education, and we look to complement and coordinate existing efforts already underway. It’s important to say that we don’t approach partnerships with a fixed agenda. Instead, we look to understand the context and then clearly articulate where we can add value. The value that we can add is typically bringing all the stakeholders to the table, build and implement a plan with those stakeholders, and mobilise resources to do so. Developing nations have lack of resources, lack of infrastructure, poverty and many other plaguing problems. What are the main hindrances before the ICT sector to develop as a tool of education in developing countries? One hindrance is too much emphasis on the technology and not enough on education priorities and employing technology as part of a larger solution that includes maintenance, training and capacity building, access, and infrastructure, among other things. Another is a lack of coordination among ICT in education efforts. A third is lack of real knowledge about the costs and benefits of e-Schools strategies. What are your initiatives to bring about large-scale impacts in ICTs and education and going beyond the pilots? All of our country programmes, such as Namibia, India and Ghana are designed to do just this. Can you briefly share your experiences in these countries? Our programmes are all at different stages, and we have come the furthest in Namibia. Just a couple of days ago, the Government of Namibia and GeSCI officially launched the National ICT in Education Policy. This was an important achievement for Namibia and for GeSCI’s and we are now working with the Ministry of Education to develop a national implementation plan. Both the government and NGO sector of Namibia have been instrumental in this process. Our experience in India has been equally positive. Aruna Sundararajan, GeSCI’s Country Programme Facilitator in India, is leading a comperehensive selection process to determine which 2 states are most interested in working with GeSCI and working with the Federal Government in an advisory role. GeSCI’s work in Bolivia and Ghana are both earlier on in the process. 


Books received Sand to Silicon The Amazing Story of Digital Technology Author: Shivanand Kanavi Publisher: Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Limited, pages 259 ISBN 0-07-058330-7 This book is an endeavour and a journey into the past to investigate the development of technologies powering information technology and telecommunication. The book attempts to investigate the role played by the Indian scientists and engineers. It covers the entire array of developments in semiconductors, computers, fibre optics, telecommunications, optical technologies and the Internet. Kanavi in his book has attempted to record IT’s evolution, achievements, potential and the intellectual challenges that have motivated some of the best minds in the world to participate in its creation. The book traces the history of the expedition that has made information technology and communications central to our existence. The book showcases a complex set of digital technologies in relatively simple terms. Stories and anecdotes have been recounted to provide a flavour of excitement. A bibliography is presented at the end of each chapter for the more adventurous readers along with website addresses wherever available. Kanavi has used an informal ‘walk about’ style and ramble around chip technology, computers, telephones and cell phones, satellites, lasers, fibre optics and the Internet. 

Globalisation, ICT and Developing Nations Challenges in the Information Age Author: Sumit Roy Publisher: Sage Publications, pages 245 ISBN 0-7619-3346-8 Roy in his book has focused on the critical relationship between globalisation and ICT. This book, focusing on this important relationship, emphasises that increasingly non-state institutions, as opposed to the state, are transforming economies. The author has highlighted the critical requirement for developing regions to shape ICT, which can stimulate development and usher in the information age. The analytical framework is based on a comparative political approach drawing on East and South Asia in particular Africa and India.


This comparative study of the political economies of East and South Asia, which enables new analytical and policy insights into the linkages between globalisation and ICT. The book discusses the concepts and policies underscoring the shift from state to non-state institutions in furthering the impulsion of globalisation and also its implications for development. Roy explores the scope of different developing regions to participate in globalisation, based on a comparison of their experience of growth and development, namely, the different phases of integration, disintegration, marginalisation and reintegration into the international economy. It also explores the ways in which policies on ICT can be both a challenge and a unique opportunity for paving the way for development.

Amnesty International Report 2005 The state of the world’s human rights During 2004, the human rights of ordinary men, women and children were disregarded or grossly abused in every corner of the globe. Economic interests, political hypocrisy and socially orchestrated discrimination continued to fan the flames of conflict around the world. The ‘war on terror’ appeared more effective in eroding international human rights principles than in countering international ‘terrorism’. The economic, social and cultural rights of marginalized communities were almost entirely neglected. The Amnesty International Report, which covers 149 countries, highlights the failure of national governments and international organisations to deal with human rights violations, and calls for greater international accountability. The report also acknowledges the opportunities for positive change that emerged in 2004, often spearheaded by human rights activists and civil society groups. Calls to reform the UN human rights machinery grew in strength, and there were vibrant campaigns to make corporations more accountable, strengthen international justice, control the arms trade and stop violence against women. Whether in a high profile conflict or a forgotten crisis, Amnesty International campaigns for justice and freedom for all and seeks to galvanise public support to build a better world. i4d | July 2005

July 2005

ICTD Project Newsletter Need for project management


Introducing project management perspective in developmental projects Successful project management involves balancing the triple constraints of scope, time and cost. The high cost of development projects has created a need to equip, prepare and create more capacity among the development sector for ensuring smooth implementation of the project in a transparent and efficient manner. Also it has become necessary for the project managers to possess knowledge in the area of project management processes. Organisations across the globe are recognising the value of implementing formal project management processes and disciplines in their workplace. Project management can help them to reach their stated work goals on time and within budget. But the use of these project management procedures and processes is currently limited to the corporate sector. It is now time that these proven techniques and processes spills over to the development sector.

Though there is no dearth of material on project management and well-defined guidelines for project implementation, information about project management in relation to development projects is lacking. But slowly awareness about this so called corporate practice is seeping into the development sector, and introducing the need for adopting a project management perspective in the area of a service delivery/intervention, irrespective of the sector it stems from.

Many organisations attempt to apply project management when the organisation has not yet standardised the project management process at the project level. Government organisations, unlike the private sector, do not have a choice on whether to initiate a project. Government agencies cannot start or end projects simply based on the Return on Investment (ROI) or the value to the organisation. Most public sector projects are prescribed either by law (e.g., parliament, legislature, or other lawmaking body) or by political influence. Development projects, on the other hand, are often handicapped by the fluctuating human elements (final target audience) that are part of the project. Also the size and scope of diverse interventions provided make it difficult to cast project management under a specified head and state predefined processes for the same. Lack of accurate assessment and failure to document projects also makes it difficult to measure project metrics. Issues that commonly crop up when there is no proper project management are often related to resources, time management, lack of organisation of capacities leading to under-utilisation of capacities, lack of right knowledge and skills, dissatisfied users, lack of training, project information dissemination, etc. The important thing, while implementing project management in NGOs and other organisations in the development sector, is to address core issues and their implications. The success of the project will be measured in terms of the qualitative and quanti-tative differences in the lives of the stakeholders and target audience at the end of the project period. Addressing issues in operations


and the activities thus involved is an essential ongoing activity.

Relation of project management to development sector Successful project management involves balancing the triple constraints of scope, time and cost. In relation to ascertaining the success metrics for developmental projects, defining it in monetary cost is, in itself, difficult. But measuring the qualitative increase is even more of a challenge. Also it becomes necessary for the project managers to possess not only knowledge in the domain area of the intervention/service being provided, but also to possess knowledge in the area of project management processes. But the high cost of development projects has created a need to equip, prepare and create more capacity among the sector in relation to the creation of standards for ensuring smooth implementation of the project in a transparent and efficient manner.

Understanding project management and programme management Projects in all sectors get executed irrespective of the methodology used or

despite the lack of a separate project management unit. Where the development sector is concerned multilateral agencies have a defined set of project management guidelines for the implementing agencies to adhere to during the period of funding. The guidelines are replete with information relating to the entire project implementation, evaluation as well as documentation. But there is a lacuna where information about executing projects in a structured manner is concerned, and this results in problems such as projects not adhering to timelines, going beyond budget, etc. This is where a proper understanding about project management and programme management becomes important, and the need for a project management unit/office in the organisation becomes evident.

Project management The Project Management Institute (PMI), an international professional society, recognised currently as the leading certifying agency for project management professionals, has created a ‘Project Management Body of Knowledge’ (PMBOK Guide). PMBOK defines project management as ‘the application of

knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed the stakeholder needs and expectations from a project.’ Project management stems from the fact that project implementation has become increasingly multi-dimensional and multi-functional and needs the services of professionals who have expert skills in monitoring the project in terms of tasks and sub-tasks, time and cost overruns and the effective management of project resources. Due to the multitude of varied skills and knowledge a project manager must possess, project management is increasingly being recognised even in academic circles as a specialised branch of management.

Programme management PMBOK Guide defines a programme as ‘a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually’. Programme management is a concept larger than project management. It is the centralised management of a portfolio of several analogous projects to achieve the strategic objectives and benefits. Project management, from a strategic or an organisational perspective, however, includes programme management, portfolio management and project management office. In the context of project management, there is a certain hierarchy of strategic plan, portfolio, programmes and projects. Generally speaking, a programme consisting of several associated projects contribute to the achievement of the strategic plan.

Determining the need for establishing a project management office in the development sector In an organisation which only has a couple of ongoing projects at a time, it becomes quite easy to enhance organisational standards by building capacities of the few project managers who


would then follow similar processes. However, for a large organisation, managing numerous projects simultaneously, it would become difficult to ensure and enforce organisational consistency in implementing a common project management methodology. Many organisations have attempted to solve this problem through a centralised department or a specific team of individuals who would be responsible for varying aspects of project management and establishing the methodologies. Many companies call these groups a ‘Project Management Office’ or PMO. Other names include the Project Office, Programme Management Office, Enterprise Project Office, Project Management Centre of Excellence and Project Management Resource Team. A typical project management unit is responsible for deploying a consistent project management methodology within the organisation, including processes, templates and best practices. Establishing this project management unit though is not a one-time event, but a broad initiative that could take a number of years to implement. Is the project continually off schedule? Do the project managers find it difficult to sequence the project tasks and assign proper resources? Do the target audience often end up waiting impatiently for the project to get completed? Posing questions such as the above will aid an organisation to determine to what extent the need for establishing a Project Management Office exists. Smaller organisations with few employees may benefit only from training the project managers.

Creating a project management approach: framework for development projects A project management approach can be made part of the organisation by following the below mentioned steps. It is essential to remember to always

implement project management processes in a phased manner and not introduce something which hasn’t been discussed with the project managers. • Define Project Management From a management and strategy perspective define what project management is and what it means to your organisation. What exactly do you think it will help your organisation to achieve? Will it help you to ensure that your resources (human and monetary) are effectively utilised? Creating a vision for project management is essential at the initial stage itself. • Identify the ‘God-father’ People are always resistant to change. While implementing any new process in the organisation it is essential to also undertake a change management plan. The need for creating a project management perspective and its benefits must be informed to the other organisational employees while ensuring that their fears and inhibitions are suitably addressed. It is hence beneficial to first identify one employee in the organisation’s management who takes the initiative to guide the organisation towards implementing professional project management. This project management champion must guide the project team, help them enhance their skills, and also help them to take responsibility to implement these new procedures. He must be able to help the team to relate to the possible results on the field by use of project management processes. • Isolate your performance areas for implementation This is a very crucial activity to undertake as it involves determining what project management procedures and processes to undertake and implement initially. Project management can be viewed as a number of interlinked processes. Standard project management process include

initiating processes, planning processes, executing processes, controlling processes and closing processes. Conduct a gap analysis to establish the areas in which the concerned organisation lags behind during project implementation. Consult with project managers, project personnel in the organisation to receive an unbiased opinion on the problems faced during project implementation, and seek inputs from them about possible ways to correct these issues. Based on the feedback received arrive at a few processes and activities where project management procedures can be established. This process of involving all employees encourages participation in the end and helps to create an atmosphere conducive to the implementation of project management internally in the organisation. • Determine the initial project management procedures The PMBOK describes the key competencies that project managers must develop in 9 knowledge areas: - 4 core knowledge areas lead to specific project objectives (scope, time, cost, and quality) - 4 facilitating knowledge areas are the means through which the project objectives are achieved (human resources, communication, risk, and procurement management) - 1 knowledge area (project integration management) affects and is affected by all of the other knowledge areas Using the above mentioned knowledge areas as a reference, the lessons learnt from the employees must be included and new procedures arrived at for implementation. These procedures, be it in planning or procurement, must work towards enhancing only some and not all of the current process. These new project management procedures should be created to arrive at a new approach.



• Integrate these procedures into a new/existing project The procedures arrived at must be relatively easy for the project managers to implement in already existing programs or can be implemented on a project which is just about to begin. It is necessary to train the employees to use the new procedures and ensure that everybody is on a common platform in terms of use of standard project management processes and tools. Building project management capacities across the organisation will ensure its effective and accurate implementation. • Create mechanisms for up-scaling of PM initiatives Once the efficacy of the new procedures has been established, it is important to upscale the scope and size of the project management initiatives being introduced in the organisation. For larger organisations, introduction of project management tools may ease the burden of the project managers and aid in monitoring and evaluation. Project management tools and techniques assist project managers and their teams in various aspects of project management, such as


defining Work Breakdown Structures (scope), Gantt charts, PERT charts, critical path analysis (time), Cost estimates and Earned Value Analysis (cost), etc. • Kaizen in project management Not only is it necessary to enhance the delivery of services and intervention being provided by an organisation, it is also essential to continually study the use and benefit of the implemented system. Anything redundant must be done away with. Project management processes must be continuously improved and adapted to suit the focus of the organisation and meet its requirements.

Conclusion Good project management provides assurance and reduces risk. Project management provides the tools and environment to plan, monitor, track, and manage schedules, resources, costs, and quality. It provides a history or metrics base for future planning as well as good opportunity to document the project on an ongoing basis. In India, today the government spending on development alone is around USD 12 billion as per last social welfare department budget estimates.

The 20,000 plus NGOs in the country further raise and disburse hundreds of millions annually. The amount of money spent every year in the development sector is in truth no indicator of the grim reality that is development in India. Most organisations are plagued by problems such as lack of skilled manpower, lack of funds etc. And these problems often tend to overlap into the organisation’s functioning. Caught up in executing projects and programs, few organisations are able to pay attention to inculcating project management perspective into their existing activities. Though interventions are provided, they either come late or when faced with situations like the recent Tsunami, the lack of organisation in effective aid delivery becomes evident. It is nevertheless essential to bring in some project management perspective into the organisation. Implementing project management processes can no doubt be a slow endeavour but its benefits are very hard to ignore. Not only does it increase the organisation’s accountability and visibility but it also helps streamline activities. In the long run this not only results in projects that are implemented quickly and for a much lower cost but also gains the trust of the people from whom the projects are being implemented.

References • Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) – PMI, USA • Project Planning, Scheduling & Control – James P. Lewis: A hands-on guide to bringing projects in on time and on budget. • Project Management - A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling – Harold Kerzner • • http://www.project • Anita Satyajit and Satyajit Suri 2005 © National Institute for Smart Government

NISG and i4d reserve the right to reprint articles produced for the ICTD section of the i4d magazine and website, with due credits to NISG and i4d. Please write to the editor for any request of reprints.


ICT4D award finalists The Development Gateway Foundation is an enabler of development. It helps to improve people’s lives in developing countries by building partnerships and information systems that provide access to knowledge for development. The Development Gateway is an independent, not-for-profit organisation based in Washington, DC. Six finalists have been chosen from a field of 135 nominations for the Development Gateway Award 2005. The $100,000 award, to be announced in September, will recognise one of the finalists for outstanding achievement in using information technology to improve people’s lives in developing countries. Working in all regions of the world, the nominees demonstrate the impact that technologies such as the Internet, satellite communications, smart cards, and others can have on development in various fields. The Award, with major sponsorship from Deutsche Telekom, will be presented at the Development Gateway Forum 2005 on September 16-17 in Beijing. The Forum, co-hosted with the Government of China and the World Bank, will bring together leaders of China’s information technology and development sectors with their peers from around the world to address the theme of ‘Information Technology and Collaborative Development’.

Finalists for the Development Gateway Award ITC e-Choupal: ITC e-Choupal, a programme of ITC Limited, in India, is regarded by many as an example of best practice in e-Commerce that is improving farmers’ productivity and livelihoods. Through the establishment of a network of 5,100 local computer kiosks (choupals) in Indian villages, an estimated 3.5 million farmers have access to real-time information that enhances their ability to make decisions, connect with buyers, and succeed in the marketplace. ITC aims to serve 100,000 Indian villages by 2010 – expanding its reach to 10 million farming households. Future plans also include choupals for telemedicine. ( Madhya Pradesh Agency for Promotion of Information Technology (MAP-IT): The e-Agricultural Marketing system (E-Krish Vipanan, or EKVI) was created by MAP_IT as a public-private partnership helping to organise the agricultural trading business in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Working with the state’s agricultural marketing board, MAP_IT is benefiting an estimated six million farmers and 70,000 licensed traders by making the agricultural trading business more transparent and effective. The system, in Hindi and English, is designed so that other states can replicate it, in India and elsewhere. ( Modemmujer: Modemmujer (Women’s Modem) uses the Internet and an online network to inform, train, and empower July 2005 |

women throughout Mexico and Latin America. As a supporter of women’s rights for 11 years, Modemmujer promotes transparency in Mexico, and through its network it affects the larger Latin American region. A participant in the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, Modemmujer helped to spread awareness of women’s rights. In Mexico, following passage in 2003 of the Federal Law on Transparency and Access to Public Government Information, Modemmujer began disseminating information on policies and laws affecting women. (www.modem Prodem Fondo Financiero Privado: Prodem’s automated teller network, using smart card technology and voice applications, enables rural Bolivians to overcome language and literacy barriers to reliably save their money and gain access to loans. Prodem expects to add 2,000 clients per month to this system. Its 76-branch network, reaching 1,500 communities, is the largest in the country and spans urban, as well as rural areas. ( Radio 68H: As Indonesia’s only independent and nationwide radio network, Radio 68H has changed the nature of local radio in Indonesia. Using the Internet and satellite communications, Radio 68H is able to gather and disseminate news, information, and educational programming across the country’s 17,000 islands. Radio 68H’s activities have also been critical in the post-tsunami relief effort, for which it was presented the Tsunami Award by the Aceh Art Council. Radio 68H rebuilt radio stations in Banda Aceh, provided updates about relief operations, ran a missing persons bulletin, and conducted a fundraising campaign. Now that reconstruction has begun, Radio 68H is providing information on these efforts as well. ( Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF): The VVAF’s International Management and Mine Actions Program (iMMAP) has been the driving force behind the use of a satellite and database system to provide what it calls ‘Humanitarian Information Management’ in some of the most dangerous places on earth, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan, and in countries affected by the Tsunami in Asia. VVAF in an international humanitarian organisation that addresses the causes, conduct and consequences of war through programmes of advocacy and service for victims of conflict around the world. During an international crisis, leaders use iMMAP to gather critical data and provide a common operational picture to support their decision making. Following the Asian Tsunami, for instance, iMMAP provided support by monitoring and mapping logistical assets throughout the regions worst affected by the Tsunami. (  For more details, contact: Allison Scuriatti, Development Gateway Foundation


 Rendezvous WSIS T HEMATIC M EETING , 23-24 J UNE 2005, S EOUL , R EPUBLIC



Credit: ITU

Partnerships to bridge the digital divide

At the invitation of International Telecommunication Unit (ITU) Secretary-General, Mr. Yoshio Utsumi, and the Minister of Information and Communications (MIC) of the Republic of Korea, Dr Dae-je Chin, and with the close co-operation of the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity (KADO), a WSIS Thematic Meeting on Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships for Bridging the Digital Divide was held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, from 23-24 June 2005. The purpose of the meeting was two-fold: • to provide a showcase for successful multi-stakeholder partnerships from around the world, and • to develop a methodology for monitoring the digital divide through a composite ‘digital opportunity index’. Some 125 participants from 36 countries participated in the meeting. The participants were welcomed by Mr. Hun-Hyong Rho, Vice-Minister of Information and Communication, Republic of Korea and Dr Tim Kelly, Head of the Strategy and Policy Unit, ITU. They explained the background to the meeting in the context of the overall WSIS preparation process for the Tunis Phase and of the ‘Digital Bridges Initiative’, which is jointly-run by ITU, MIC and KADO. In particular, this meeting is part of the planned implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action, which is one of the three areas of focus of the Tunis Phase. In the Plan of Action, each country is urged to have at least one multi-stakeholder partnership or public/private partnership to announce at the Tunis Phase, as a basis for future action. In the opening ceremony, opening remarks were presented by Mr. Yeon-gi Son, President/CEO of KADO, the host of the meeting; Mr. Hak-su Kim, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic


and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), which had hosted the Asian regional meeting in Teheran, 31 May – 2 June 2005; and Mr. Othman Jerandi, Ambassador of Tunisia to the Republic of Korea, the host country of the Tunis Phase of the Summit. This meeting is an opportunity to enhance cooperation and mutual understanding between multiple actors working on bridging the digital divide. Among the new initiatives announced at the meeting was the establishment of an ICT Training Centre for the Asia-Pacific region in the Republic of Korea with initial funding of over US$10m for the first five years. It was also stressed that the second phase of WSIS should be a ‘Summit of Solutions’. The meeting approved the nomination of Dr Michael Reed, Director of the International Institute for Software Technology, United Nations University, Macao, to chair the meeting and adopted the draft agenda. The keynote speakers provided the relevant background to the understanding of multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Measuring and monitoring the digital divide The second area of focus of the conference was on measuring and monitoring the digital divide. The background document entitled “Measuring digital opportunity” (BDB-WSIS/06) was presented by Mr Michael Minges (TMG). In the first phase of WSIS, in 2003, the need was identified for the creation of a composite “digital opportunity index” DOI (WSIS Plan of Action Para 28a). This index would provide a statistical tool for international evaluation and benchmarking of the objectives, goals, and targets of WSIS action plans. Among the conclusions in this session were that any reasonable measure of ICT infrastructure should include mobile devices, and that number of Internet hosts was an unreliable measure. It was argued that good measurements were essential to guide policy and to identify opportunities in the developing world. The NSF example showed how policy could be driven by measurements, and that desired results could be obtained with modest funding and through multi-stakeholder partnerships in contrast to top-down direction by governments. It was proposed that the NSF example would provide a useful model for connecting unconnected villages in developing countries. It was agreed that measurements showed that the digital divide is shrinking but at a slow rate and that urgent policy action is needed. Finally the ambitious suggestion was made that the international community pick a pilot nation in the developing world and build a quality ICT infrastructure in that nation to establish a template for global use. i4d | June 2005


Pan Asia Networking programme

Policies • Research on policies to support localisation efforts • Better understanding of key ICT4D concepts and mapping ICT4D initiatives July 2005 |

Credit: IDRC

The Pan Asia Networking (PAN) programme initiative of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has been working on Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) issues since 1994. PAN is the Asia component of the ICT4D@IDRC Programme Area, which focuses primarily on issues relating to connectivity and the information economy in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Since its inception, PAN has supported Asian institutions to adopt ICTs as a means of addressing development problems. As part of the prospectus five year strategic planning process, PAN organised a two-day partners consultation meeting, entitled PAN Prospectus Consultation, or ‘PAN PC’. The meeting aimed to gather feedback on PAN’s current focus areas, as well as on key emerging issues that can be considered for inclusion in the future programming of PAN. The consultation was designed as an interactive forum for about 30 Asian researchers, practitioners and policy makers to exchange ideas and experiences. It served as a learning experience that could help stimulate fresh thinking among PAN stakeholders from different regions of Asia. The first day of the ‘PAN PC’ included presentations from PAN staff and evaluators of PAN’s programming, who highlighted the programme initiative’s key achievements (including the digital inclusion of marginalised communities; developing and testing development applications in telemedicine, distance education, commerce and agriculture; networking digital pioneers and developing appropriate ICT policies) and challenges (ensuring research outcomes are relevant to the poor, the need to build capacity, and the multitude of players in ICT4D field). IDRC’s Director of ICT4D, Richard Fuchs, and PAN’s Team Leader, Laurent Elder, then touched on key points and issues to help formulate thinking about PAN’s future programming. The second day of the meeting was more focussed on gathering detailed feedback from the participants. Key research issues were identified and prioritised within the three broad areas: ICT policy research; research on appropriate ICT technologies; and research on the social and economic effect of ICTs. More specifically, some of the key ideas that surfaced from each of the three different areas are:

• Research for more effective e-Government • Research on how best to achieve universal access issues • Research on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in Digital Asia

Technologies • Building awareness and capacities, through training and education • Research and development on localisation • Research on the appropriateness and applications of Open Source and Open Spectrum • Research and development on end-user application for development

Effects • Research on social inclusion and vulnerable groups • Research on communication processes and content related issues • Building research capacity and developing appropriate research methodologies to better understand the effects of ICTs on communities • Community popularisation and use of new last-inch ICT tools The exercise of seeking ideas and advice for the next prospectus does not end with PAN. The team will also engage with other programmes working in ICT4D as well as other stakeholders in the development field.

PAN PC preceded by PAN localisation workshop The PAN PC dovetailed a highly successful training meeting of the PAN Localisation network (PANL10N), ‘From Localisation to Language Processing’, in Siem Reap. This second Asian Regional Training on Local Language Computing focused on tackling the more advanced technical challenges they are facing in the development of local language applications in Asian languages. For more information visit


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Bytes for All... June 2005@BytesforAll Discussion Group was yet another exciting and happening month with very interesting and insightful discussions. Thank you everyone for their contributions! The following is the summary of various discussion threads.

Open Source Open source open type font for writing Urdu Center for Research in Urdu Language Processing (CRULP) at the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan has announced the release of updated version of Open Source character-based Nafees Web Naskh Open Type Font for writing Urdu in Naskh script based on Unicode standards. Hindi Software CD launched At Vigyan Bhavan New Delhi, a Hindi Software Tools CD was launched by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in the presence of IT Minister and IT Secretary. The CD contains Open Source Software, which runs both on Windows and Linux. It includes Open Office, Firefox, Gaim, Columba Email and Limewire. Free CDs – Tamil language software TDIL (Technology Development for Indian Languages) programme of Department of Information Technology (DIT) aims at development of information processing tools and techniques for facilitating human-machine interaction without language barrier. Efforts are being made to provide these language tools to common masses through Indian Language Data Centre Free CDs spread open source in India The Indian government is trying to encourage the use of computers across the country by distributing free CDs that contain localised versions of popular open-source applications. The government has started distributing CDs containing Tamil-language versions of various open-source applications.

e-Governance e-Subidha This web based module of e-Subidha (Service Facilitation Centre or SFC) facilitates enquiring about the status of a Citizen Service Request for any particular service. The new version that makes the application suitable for implementation in government organisations, having Citizen-Centric-Interface and hard copy printed deliverables, with end to end workflow automation.


National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP) for Bangladesh A draft of national frequency allocation plan (NFAP) and spectrum policy has been prepared by Bangladesh Government, aiming at ensuring proper allocation and use of country’s network frequency.

Internet Governance China orders bloggers to register with government The Chinese authorities have ordered all weblogs and websites in the country to register with the government or face closure in Beijing’s latest attempt to control online dissent.,7369,1501184,00.html Internet Governance Priorities APDIP presented Internet Governance Priorities and Recommendations from Asia-Pacific at the Fourth WGIG Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland during 14-17 June 2005.

ICTs for Development Information Society in the Asia Pacific Partha of Bytesforall joined the Asia Pacific Conference on WSIS in Tehran during May 31 to June 2, 2005. The goal of this conference was to formulate a Regional Action Plan (RAP) and a declaration at the end of this conference. Connect the world - ITU initiative to bridge the digital divide The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has launched a major new development drive designed to bring access to ICTs to the estimated one billion people worldwide for whom making a simple telephone call remains out of reach. Connect rural India to the Internet An international consortium, including Indian and American companies as well as the World Bank, is planning to establish thousands of rural Internet centres in India to bring government, banking and education services to isolated villages. MW= Lumbini CMC The Lumbini Community Multimedia Centre (CMC) was established with the support of UNESCO in April 2004. Lumbini CMC is part of Lumbini Community Radio and focuses on making the CMC work for traditionally marginalised and underrepresented groups. i4d | July 2005

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Bytes for All... Women in Bangladesh acquire computer skills Adhunika is a volunteer-based organisation that provides free IT training to underprivileged women of all ages and all economic backgrounds in Dhaka, Bangladesh. ICTs serving people with disabilities This pilot training programme carried out in cooperation with the Ability Foundation of India seeks to promote equal opportunities for persons with hearing and physical impairments enter the employment sector. =DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

Events and announcements Call for nominations - World Summit Award in Pakistan Pakistan’s National Committee for the World Summit Awards announces the launch of nation wide WSA Pakistan competition to recognise and award the best e-Content practices in Pakistan. Conference on e-Content and sustainability This conference is being organised by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), World Summit Award (WSA) along with PlaNet Finance India (PFI) and American India Foundation (AIF) will be held on July 23rd 2005 at India International Center, New Delhi. Telecom reforms in Asia The first LIRNE.NET course to be held in Asia will take place in Singapore during September 25-30, 2005. It is designed to enhance the strategic thinking of a select group of senior decision makers in the telecom and related sectors in Asia and elsewhere. Call for papers – International Conference on ICT4D – 2006 The goal of the ICTD conference is to provide a forum for academic researchers working with ICT applied to development. The conference will be scientifically rigorous and multi-disciplinary. Knowledge networking for peace: rhetoric or reality? Above mentioned workshop is being organised by BellaSap in Katmandu, Nepal during 27-29, July 2005. The goal of the workshop is to build community of practice for peace.

Publications egov egov bi-monthly magazine is a media initiative of CSDMS (Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies), an NGO, based in July 2005 |

Noida (Uttar Pradesh, India). It caters to the information needs of government agencies, the industry, and citizens in general in the area of e-Governance. The theme of May-June 2005 issue is Public Private Partnerships. APCNews APCNews, the monthly newsletter of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is published and was shared electronically. The newsletter covers issues from ICT Policy and Internet Governance to Women & ICTs, Online Tools and Building Capacities and Strategic Use of ICTs.

Miscellaneous Devnagri input dev-ice HP Labs in Bangalore is engaged in developing a Devnagri input device. The device works on the basis of partial handwriting recognition. During preliminary studies it was revealed that inspite of a large demand for Hindi keyboard the ones available in the market (QWERTY keyboards with Hindi labels) have not been accepted. Electronic thesis online India starts consultation on making thesis online. The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India is inviting public comments to its draft consultation paper “Electronic Thesis Online (India) UGC (Submission of Metadata and Full-text of Doctoral Theses in Electronic Format) Regulations, 2005”. Empower women to help stop land degradation United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has called on member-states on the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, to pledge the empowerment of women and engage them as full partners in global efforts to address the vital challenge of desertification. Big Brother Awards International Every year Privacy International and a growing number of affiliate human rights groups present the Big Brother Awards to government agencies, private companies and individuals who have excelled in the violation of our privacy. The juries worldwide consist of lawyers, academics, consultants, journalists and civil right activists.  Bytes for All: or Bytes for All Readers Discussion: bytesforall_readers To subscribe: Compiled by Shahzad Ahmed, Bytes for All, Pakistan


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Discovering disasters on web It is very true that “We cannot command Nature except by obeying her”. But what we can do is to learn more and more about it and make ourselves cautious about its fury. Here are some web links, which provide us some excellent resources to know more about natural disasters, which frequently interrupt the rhythm of our lives. If we cannot protest against nature, at least, we can try to protect ourselves through discovering the mood of the nature!

General Disaster • The Disaster Relief website has topics on hurricanes, volcanoes and many other disasters. It has many news articles and one can search for a specific topic. • violent.html This website has topics on earthquakes, fires, volcanoes, and weather-related disasters. It also provides many links in categories listed by type of disaster. • This site has been prepared by the Independent Insurance Agents of America to give information about natural disasters to consumers. • This site provides online news service covering disaster relief operations and current issues in emergency management. • In this site, an in-depth guide to citizen preparedness provided by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Earthquake • This site is very good for getting information about earthquakes. It has 41 different links to connect to other information.


• This site has been developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, which is in-depth and is updated hourly. • eqlists.html This site was developed and is maintained by the National Earthquake Information Centre, which is a department of the U.S. Geological Survey. • This site provides information about earthquakes and preparedness of earthquakes. • How-to mavens give practical advice colourfully on what to do before, during, and after an earthquake to prevent property damage and injury.

• weather/hurricane1.html The site was developed by the College Community Network. This site provides information about protection when there is a hurricane watch or warning.

Lightning • weather/weather.html This site digs into an overview of the phenomenon of lightening. • This site consists of lightening facts and figures. • This is a comprehensive lightning safety site with information on protecting people and buildings.

Flash Floods

Storm Surge

• This site provides background information on the floods and flash floods including occurrence, fact sheets, emergency information and preparedness, and tips on recovering from flood.

• wsurge/wsurge.htm This site consists o relevant maps, news, forecast of storm surge in USA.

Hurricane • 93th.html This site is useful for people who want to get information fast about hurricanes. Statistics are established from legitimate databases (National Hurricane Centre, USA Today, Purdue University), giving this information credibility. • hurricane0.html This site is the official site of the National Hurricane Service. It is endorsed by the Miami Museum of Science for educational purposes.

Thunderstorms • thunder.htm This site helps to learn about the science behind thunderstorms and lightning.

Tornado • This site provides a scale that indicates the damage done by tornadoes. • This website is a source of safety information, statistics, chat, and products for preparedness and recovery. Source: studentwork/disindex.htm departments/ema/natural.htm i4d | July 2005

What’s on Botswana


31 August-02 September, 2005 World Information Technology Forum Gaborone

07-10 September, 2005 Mapping for Change International Conference on Participatory Spatial Information Management and Communication Nairobi


24-28 October, 2005 E-Learn 2005 Vancouver British Columbia

South Korea 22-26 August, 2005 NWeSP’05 International Conference on Next Generation Web Services Practices Seoul

Switzerland 19-30 September, 2005 PrepCom-3 Third meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the Tunis phase, Geneva

Kyrgyz Republic Tanzania

16-17 August, 2005 Rural Internetisation in the Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek

Egypt modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=44

12-14 August, 2005 WYDI 2005 World Youth, Development and ICT Conference Arusha


06-08 September, 2005 ICT-Learn 2005 The Fourth International Internet Education Conference Cairo

25-28 July, 2005 Conference on Bridging the Digital and Scientific Divide Abuja

India 23 July, 2005 e-Content & Sustainability Conference and Manthan Award Gala New Delhi AWARD%20GALA.asp

17-19 October, 2005 Conflux 2005 The e-Government Conference New Delhi


Slovenia 19-21 October, 2005 e-2005 e-Challenges Ljubljana

South Africa 24-26 August, 2005 CIRN2005 The 2nd Annual Conference of the Community Informatics Research Network Cape Town

27-28 October, 2005 Lesser Used Languages & Computer Linguistics Bolzano Multilingualism/Projects/Conference2005.htm

29-31 August, 2005 7th Annual Conference on World Wide Web Applications Cape Town

Tunisia 14-16 November, 2005 WFIS 2005 World Forum on Information Society Digital Divide, Global Development and the Information Society Tunis

16-18 November, 2005 WSIS: World Summit on the Information Society Phase 2, Tunis

United States 14-16 September, 2005 Millennium +5 Summit New York

25-26 May, 2006 ICTD2006 Berkeley, California

Get your event listed here. July 2005 |



Right insight ICTs can enhance human rights advocacy by augmenting the virtual presence and networking capacities of human rights organisations. There are many human rights organisations which provides useful information and also provides a platform to discuss on human rights through their websites. Some of such organisations are highlighted here: AAAS Human Rights Action Network (AAASHRAN): Initiated in 1993, the AAAS Human Rights Action Network (AAASHRAN) utilises electronic mail to inform AAAS members and other subscribers of cases and developments deserving special attention, and to coordinate scientists’ efforts to appeal to governments on behalf of their colleagues whose human rights are being violated. ( Amnesty International: Amnesty International (AI) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognised human rights. AI’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. ( ) Canada-US Human Rights Informaiton and Documentation Network (CUSHRID Net): CUSHRID Net facilitates the exchange of ideas and information between human rights organisations; establishment of uniform standards for human rights documentation, information management and exchange; development of co-operative projects in the areas of documentation and information management to avoid duplication; training in various aspects of documentation and information management; and contacts and exchanges with information and documentation networks in other parts of the world. ( Committee to Protect Journalists: The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organisation founded in 1981. We promote press freedom worldwide by defending the right of journalists. ( Globalvision is an independent film and television production company specialising in information, entertainment and educational programming. Some of the programmes focus on human rights. ( Human Rights First: Human Rights First works in the United States and abroad to create a secure and humane world by advancing justice, human dignity and respect for the rule of law. ( Human Rights Interactive Network is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to insuring respect for human rights worldwide. It monitors local and indigenous human rights. ( hrin/welcome.html) Human Rights Internet (HRI): Founded in the United States in 1976, HRI is a leader in the exchange of information within the worldwide human rights community. (


Human Right Watch: Founded in 1976, HRI is a leader in the exchange of information within the worldwide human rights community. Launched in the United States, HRI has its headquarters in Ottawa, Canada. From Ottawa, HRI communicates by phone, fax, mail and the Internet with more than 5,000 organisations and individuals around the world. ( Institute for Global Communications (IGC) offers to host web pages and e-mail addresses for human rights activists. Its mission is to advance and inform movements for peace, economic and social justice, human rights and environmental sustainability around the world by promoting the strategic use of appropriate computer networking technology. ( Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights: Founded in 1983, Minnesota Advocates is one of the largest Midwest-based nongovernmental organisations engaged in international human rights work. It is dedicated to the promotion and protection of internationally recognised human rights. ( NetAction: NetAction was founded in July, 1996, to educate the public, policy makers, and the media about technology-based social and political issues, and to promote access to and use of information technology as a tool for community organising, outreach, and advocacy. ( Peace Brigades International (PBI) is a non-governmental organisation which protects human rights and promotes nonviolent transformation of conflicts. (http://www. peacebrigades. org) The Carter Centre: Founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, this Atlanta-based Centre has helped to improve the quality of life for people in more than 65 countries. ( The Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC): It was formed at the annual meeting of the Internet Society in Montreal. Members of the coalition include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Human Rights Watch, the Internet Society, Privacy International, the Association des Utilisateurs d’Internet, and other organisations. ( The International Rescue Committee: Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee is a world leader in relief, rehabilitation, protection, post-conflict development, resettlement services and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression. ( The Video Project: It provides educational Videos on the Environment, Violence Protection and Human Rights. (http:// WITNESS: WITNESS was founded in 1992 by musician and activist Peter Gabriel and the Reebok Foundation for Human Rights as a project of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. (http://  Source: i4d | July 2005




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Human Rights and ICTs : July 2005 Issue  

i4d encompasses the role and relevance of ICT in various development sectors such as Rural Development, Gender, Governance, Micro-finance, E...

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