Day 2 of GAID 2006 was dedicated to a couple of workshops. These were:
- Common multi-stakeholder frameworks for developing effective policies and sustainable partnerships for mainstreaming ICT in Health
- Common multi-stakeholder frameworks for developing effective policies and sustainable partnerships for mainstreaming ICT in Education
- Common multi-stakeholder frameworks for developing effective policies and sustainable partnerships for mainstreaming ICT in Entrepreneurship and poverty eradication
- Intersectoral governance and ICT strategy for development in countries with economies in transition
As these were run in concurrent pairs, I was only able to attend the Health and Intersectoral Governance ones and exchanged notes with (some new-found and some old) colleagues on the other sessions. From the two I attended my perception was that the workshop lacked real focus. There were a set of panellists out in the front of the room, each of whom gave a presentation, some based on their organisation's work, others on generic topics centred around the workshop theme. The audience was then asked for questions. The problem with this was that the panel were not necessarily able to respond to questions, as they were there more to provide anecdotal comments rather than solutions and workflows. Sometimes the responses to questions were so out of subject that many in the audience were left a bit dazed. During the Intersectoral governance workshop I asked a question on how new Internet services such as VoIP should be handled in a regulatory environment and the likely impact of such actions in developing economies and economies in transition. Instead of a panellist from the emerging economies represented answering, the answer was provided by one from the US, who simply suggested "VoIP should be considered" and then went off on a tangent talking about net neutrality, which is a buzz word in the US at the moment. I thought of going back to the microphone to emphasise that I seeked the view of one of the rest of the panellists who actually were from emerging/transitioning economies, then decided to not bother and instead had a chat with a colleague from The Gambia who was seeking answers to the perceived US control of the Internet (ie. the ICANN debate).
The Health workshop was perhaps slightly better in terms of content, and issues such as standards and human resources also crept into the deliberations. I think first and foremost, it must be realised by all and sundry experts that although ICT can indeed be an important tool in Health, for most developing economies the priorities become basic health services (ie. primary health care) and how to deliver these basic services. An issue, particularly in Fiji in recent times, is how to retain our nurses who are constantly leaving for better paying jobs in the developed countries. I fear until such basic concerns (primary health care and HR) are addressed first, any work with/involving ICT will always be secondary. If there are no properly trained staff, who will use the ICT tools? If there are no properly trained staff, how can a diagnosis be made using telemedicine technology?
As I was not present at the other two workshops due to scheduling clashes, I do not want to comment on them, but I imagine ICT in education is well developed and continuously evolving. I would have loved to attend the ICT in poverty eradication one, which could potentially have been very interesting.
I am also uncertain as to what the outcome of these workshops are to be. Although I could not see anyone transcripting, I believe the proceedings were videoed. The summaries provided by each workshop chair at the collective summary round were a bit hoo-hoo-hah-hah and not too far from gooney-goo-goo I thought. But then again maybe I am just a cynic........