Wednesday, November 14, 2007

IGF 2007: Dynamic Coalition on Access & Connectivity for Remote, Rural and Dispersed Communities

I was involved in the organisation of this workshop and it turned out to be a rather good session, though we had some logistics problems in the beginning with Videos that did not start playing and microphones that did not work.

The session started with a presentation by Janna Anderson from Imagining the Internet on a survey they carried out at IGF Athens and it was interesting to hear comments that were relevant then, and continue to be relevant now.

This was followed by commentary from Dr. Vint Cerf on some of the Access & Connectivity challenges in different regions and some possible solutions.

Dr Cerf’s comments led into a panel discussion on Digital Inclusion issues and the role Government, Private Sector and Civil Society can play. The Panellists were a diverse group representing Private Sector, Government and Civil Society. Examples of Government-Private Sector success stories were presented by Guillherme Saraiva from Comcast Brazil. We were honoured to have the Hon. Gunnar Hökmark, Member of the European Parliament, on the Panel and he offered some perspectives on the role of Governments in creating enabling environments and the value of regulatory reform. Hakikur Rahman from ISOC Bangladesh represented the Civil Society voice on the Panel, having been involved in ICT development for over 20 years. He presented some perspectives on how Civil Society is also an important part of delivering ICT for development, in particular in rural communities.

The ensuing audience interaction was also very valuable with some great examples being provided of access and connectivity initiatives around the world. One example was of India deploying 100,000 ICT centres for e-Government initiatives, and efforts in the Dominican Republic to introduce computers to village communities which has led to an explosion of computer use with more villagers investing in computing technology. One other comment I found of interest was by Arun Mehta of India who said that technology exists for disabled access to ICT, and this in itself is a practical way in which to provide exposure to ICT for an illiterate population - people may not be able to read and write, but they can speak and understand speech, which is what systems developed for the blind do by delivering an oral version of what is on the screen.

We had a peak headcount of around 85, and this was very encouraging. We hope to further build on the Dynamic Coalition and start planning early for IGF Delhi.

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