Sunday, May 28, 2006

Getting it right before Information summit

Caption:(L-r) Sunday Folayan, MD, Skannet, Theresa Swinehart, GM, Global Partnership, Kieran Baker,GM, Comm & Public Participation(ICANN)

For four days preceding the ongoing WSIS regional summit in Accra, Ghana, ICT journalists from key West African countries met to benefit from the insight of world authorities on the Internet medium, reports JOHN AWE.
(Infosystems cover story for Thurs 3 Feb 2005)

Journalists from West African countries gathered in Accra, Ghana in the tail end of January to receive new insight into the various issues that will define the emerging information society.

The critical issues of internet governance, internet access and the role of the media in midwifing the information society were dissected by various experts in a four-day workshop organised to prepare West African journalists for the challenges of reporting the information society.

The workshop was a collaborative effort of the International Institute of Information and communication Technologies (ICT) Journalism, Afilias, .Org and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Serious discussions opened with a presentation by Desiree Miloshevic of Afilias who broached the subject of Internet governance and introduced participants to a maze of issues surrounding Internet administration and content.

Her presentation delved into the limitations of ICANN duties, the upsurge in unwholesome cyber practices such as website hijacks, 'phishing', spamming and scamming, and the modest efforts of stakeholders to preserve the integrity of the unique information medium.

But, according to her, since no single entity is in charge of the internet, the job of making it safe and trustworthy belong to all stakeholders, which include the users.

Desiree noted that ICANN has made a major move to reduce prolonged disputes over Internet registry related issues by setting up a Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy. THis has solved a number of tacky issues that would have otherwise resulted in court actions, she said.

ROland Stanbridge, Director, Global Journalism, Stebro University, Sweden pushed for a change of news values in the media.

ROland canvassed the reportage of developmental issues not only from the point of view of decision-makers but also from the perspectives of the governed.

To successfully do that , journalists, according to him, must strive to understand ICT and discuss it in a way the local people can understand it.

Filifing Diakite, a broadcast journalist from Mali led a group discussion on the level of ICT growth in West African countries.

The Internet , according to Filifing has been on a steady spread in Mali since 1996. But there is currently some hot debate in the country of 12 million people, about the recent decision of the dominant telco to enter the retail internet market despite being the sole seller of Internet bandwidth to ISPs.

Day Two opened with a presentation by Sunday Afolayan, CEO of General Data Engineering Services, an ISP in Nigeria.

Sunday discussed the role of the regulator in achieving a pervasive Internet access on the African continent. He stressed that it was never enough for regulators to roll out rules, but must be strong enough and ready to enforce them. The alternative is anarchy, he said.

He canvassed a shift of paradigm, arguing that journalists should never be afraid to question established norm, tradition or ways of thinking .

He wondered why the West African submarine cable sat 3 was not being utilised to solve the communication problems of the sub-region.

For example the cost of calling Ghana from Nigeria would , according to him, drop drastically if the national carriers of the two countries would agree to use a little of the capacity of the cable for exchanging international traffic between each other.

Sunday called for the inclusion of Internet in the list of utility services that must be provided at the construction of a building.

Anne-Rachel Inne, Policy Analyst with ICANN dealt extensively with the issues involved in country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) designation and redelegation.

She submitted that unlike the Generic TOp Level Domain (gTLD), ccTLD was left entirely in the hands of countries or whatever bodies any country might appoint to handle it .

She noted that ICANN would not get involved in the local dispute of who managed a country's TLD but would point out best practices around the world or direct such countries to similar cases that were successfully resolved.

The duo of Mouhamed Diop and Adiel Akplogan of the Africa Network Information Centre subsequently took turns to educate the journalists on the issues of Internet registries and the significance of having AFRINIC.

They submitted that the full recognition of AFRINIC by ICANN would save the continent money that had hitherto been paid to other Internet registries outside the continent.

Participants expressed satisfaction with the quality of resource persons at the workshop. Many of those spoken to particularly described the presentations of Sunday Afolayan and Rachel as the most interesting.

"Afolayan mixed his explanations with local proverbs and sayiings that elicited laughter and helped to keep his audience's attention. I think his was the best presentation," said Gerard Guedegbe of Education-Info, a news magazine based in Benin Republic.

"Rachel has an interesting personality. She was eager to receive questions from participants and answered them in such a refreshing manner. Well I think she was the most pleasant of the resource persons," said Segun Oruame, Editor of Nigeria- based IT Edge magazine.

The workshop closed on Monday.

No comments: