ISCP: Beginning or End?

Well, it depends on how you see it. As the clock ticks here in Geneva, we are beginning to experience the “beginning of the end” of PrepCom III — and the “end of the beginning” of the process towards the Tunis meeting.

While its the general notion that things did not move as fast as they should in the last few days (and with rumours of another PrepCom having surfaced — but now less popular), today seems to be quite different. Yesterday evening, a meeting with the delegations sounded some strong warning on the possibility of not completing the work ahead of the Tunis summit (and Tunisia was quick to say that they won’t host any other PrepCom), and it appears that the message really go to the right ears.

Official PrepCom 3 Highlights earlier in the week reported that, “Internet governance discussions kicked off this morning with delegations getting down to the business of drafting text that will eventually become part of the outcome documents of November’s World Summit… Work sped up with the help of new document DT/14, a comprehensive compilation of comments and input on DT/10… While the three working groups continued their labours outside the room, Committee A embarked on an in-depth reading section 5 of DT/10 — potentially the most controversial section of the document”. I guess the next report will showcase the increased pace.

But even with all the text ready, Tunis being a great success… the question remains, “What happens after Tunis?” How do we translate the words of the declarations into action? I want to stop paying double for calls made to a neighbouring country. I want cheaper access… those are the voices of the people who are the inhabitants of the Information Society — the ones whose interests we have (supposedly, at least) been debating since the first WSIS meeting (which incidentally was the African Regional Preparatory Meeting in Bamako — May 2002).

The answer to that question may become clearer (at least for Nigeria, and Africa) as young Nigerians gather for a WSIS Roundtable Discussion at the Heinrich Boll Foundation office in Lagos, sometime next month. There’s a lot that will happen before then (including additional campaigns in Nigeria, led by youth), but what will you bring to the Information Society Cooking Pot (ISCP)?

Youth, French, DSF and More…

Good ol' plenary sessions...

Yesterday went quite well, especially noting the wonderful discussions at the Youth Caucus meeting at 7pm where we looked at the 3 major issues (main WSIS process, side events, publications and the ICT4All exhibitions).

For the main process, we discussed the email sent to the civil society plenary list on overpasses and nomination of speakers; considered the different side events that youth will host at the Tunis Summit — including the World Summit Youth Awards, display of outsomes of the Rural Youth National Information Society Campaigns (RYNICs) and a 4-hour roundtable. For the ICT4All exhibitions, the Youth Caucus will have a Youth Pavillion, that will be home to events, RYNICs exhibitions, access, and more. The Youth Caucus will also produce a Source Book (featuring Tunis events, participating organisations, general information, etc) and a report/publication on the National Youth Campaigns.

From this morning’s African Group meeting, the major lesson for me is to move from the level of picking a few words to conducting a sound conversation in French. And now, I continue blogging from the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) meeting in Room 23… Okay, coming back from the offline world now… the DSF meeting was quite enlightening — not that the story of the fund’s development is new to anyone. For more information on the DSF, please see the DSF website. See also DSF Inaugural Ceremony and the DSF Inaugural Ceremony Keynote Address (by President Olusegun Obasanjo). I also find the Statistical Data on the Digital Divide interesting.

The DSF discussion brought up the major indices again, including the fact that funds come from a 1% contribution on procurement contracts on ICT markets (from local authorities). Also of importance is the fact that allocation will be such that 60% of the funds will go to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), 30% to developing countries and 10% to countries in transition and developed economies. Projects that will be supported should be community-based (not infrastructure); address insolvent demand in order to create new activities, jobs and markets; respect cultural diversity and local contents; be easily replicable; be (when possible) managed by women organisatuions.

The session didn’t come to an end until the speaker shared his thoughts, stating that ICT tools are not gadgets, but tools for development (to fight ignorance and poverty). He closed his presentation with the following, “The DSF should be seen as a concrete manifestaton of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and to seek innovative sources of financing for development… Action speaks louder than words. With political will, the DSF is a reality, even from the beginnig as a sugestion from the Senegalese President.”

To Skip Or Not To Skip

It could be tough deciding which meeting to attend in these UN meetings...

My first task was not very simple — deciding which meetings to skip! The problem here is not where to be, and when, because there are too many things going on around the WSIS. And maybe that is only descriptive of the Information Society itself. Combing through special leaflets (announcing meetings) and the civil society draft (of meeting plans — really helpful!), I was able to come up with a “Personal WSIS Timetable” along my lines of interest and work — at the Lagos Digital Village, PIN, AYIN, NYIN and more…

The first meeting (having only arrived and fully registered at 12 noon on Monday, September 26) was the Workshop on Country Code TLDs that held from 1300 in Hall 9. Emily Taylor led the .uk (driven by discussion, and highlighted major issues as the Root/IANA services; competitive environment; business and technical continuity; and industry self-regultion. Nominet has an annual turnover of ₤12mn, compared to the ISPs in the UK that make over ₤1 bn, and the eCommerce industry grosses over ₤40bn annually. She ended her presentation by emphasizing the important roles of industry self-regulation; local soloutions for stakeholders; application of offline laws; and informal/cooperative patnership between private sector and government. Peter Kim of the National Internet Development Agency of Korea (NIDA) led the discussions on .kr, and he started by introducing NIDA (a non-profit organisation founded on June 29 1999), which performs the function of the TLD manager, along with other roles that help with Internet development in Korea — along with networking with Internet-related international organisations. He also explained Korea’s “Act on Internet Address Resources”.

It could be tough deciding which meeting to attend in these UN meetings...

Margarita Valdes from Chile led the .cl discussions. She hinted that .cl was delegated to the department of Computer Science, University of Chile in 1987. There were about 1,000 registered domains by 1997, and formalisation of the TLD process was in September 1997. She hinted that the .cl TLD management process included the need for proper identification of domain name owners, introduction of low registration fees, request for the re-registration of existing domain names, establishment of a dispute resolution mechanism (which later involved mediation before arbitration).

She stated that there are over 130,000 .cl domain names, and about 10,000 .com, .net (and other domains) in Chile. She didn’t end her presentation until she stated that .cl is so popular because of freedom on who or what can be registerd, minimal bureacracy, and low registration fees (among others). The National Council of Domain Names and IP Addresses was created in June 2003, and met for the first time in April 2004. Members are representatives of indusrtry, business, ISPs, academics — and government. An interesting aspect of her presentation was the introduction of 7 new characters within the .cl domain name system! Local languages are included in domain names… Can you imagine my blog registered as “” with all the necessary accents? That’s what she was talking about.

Mohammed El Bashir Ahmed of the Sudan Internet Society led discussions on the .sd experience. He hinted that in 1996, the .sd was delegated to a private company, Sudan On-Line — operated by a Sudanese based in the United States. The .sd was inactve since then, but in early 2001, the Sudanese Internet Society (SiS) was formed as an NGO with technical orientation and as a professional body. SiS works around the need to increase local awareness, policy development, internet techologies, and regulaton suggestion. Stakeholders include government (Ministry of ICT, National Information Centre) for Policy Oversight; private sector (Telcos, ISPs) who provide funds; and the civil society (SiS) for .sd registry management. The .sd model restricts .gov, .edu and .org registrations, and the manager’s website is in Arabic and English. Income is used in local internet penetration — social awareness and professional development. They are also strongly involved in post conflict work in Sudan, by developing local content. Giovanni Seppia spoke on the role of regional organisations, explaining that each region has its own TLD registry, with Council of Europian TLD Registries (CENTR) for Europe. The session ended with questions and comments, and did I remember to say that it started with lots of food, water, juice and wine — how I wished I saved that CHF 20 I spent on breakfast 😉

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37,000 Feet Above Sea Level, and Blogging…

Not just a dot... trying to get the other aircraft's pictureThat's it... could the pilot just move a little closer?Thanks pilot! Though I'd appreciate another closer shot, but that move was scary...

I’m not very good with retaining figures, but always seem to hear the pilot’s announced of the intended cruising altitude for any flight. From Tripoli to Geneva, it was 37,000 feet.

There were, of course, many things on my mind as we took off… the “fasten-seat-belt” lights went off… light meals were served… and then as we drew closer to the Swiss airspace, I was too tempted to take pictures. An earlier experience of a friedn made me think of stopping, but you can bet that a few questions from the right person can sure open doors — even if they were never shut 😉

Blogging from that height was the first thing that came to mind… and I sure began to (only that it was in my head). Right now, I’m waiting for the hotel attendant to resume at the only hotel that has a room for me (WSIS — and other UN — meeting periods are not the best time to arrive Geneva without an hotel reservation). And of course, this is the opportunity I have to transform the blog from its “in-my-head” state into electronic (and visible) format. If I had a choice — and assured access (and my missing camera cable was already replaced), I would have posted this blog from that height — 37,000 feet above sea level.

The pictures you see coming with this blog are rare shots 🙂 That one (actually 2 of them, with one brighter than the other) that looks like it has a “slash” across the page is simply amazing. For the first time, I caught the view of another aircraft from 11F and just had to get my camera for the shots. The one that has a dot was not close enough, so I tried better and harder… and the string (from left to right) shows you the succession of shots I was able to get from 11F, and you can join me in appreciating the marriage of technology (Sony Cybershot) and nature (amazing cloud formations). 37,000 feet above sea level, this rather shot blog filled my mind. It’s quite interesting how I really wished the pilot would just get a little closer — and just as if he perceived my thoughts, he made one of those “Stealth-like” moves (nothing close to the 4th man’s moves but cool enough for a commercial flight 😉 and I got the third shot — best of the 3, I guess. I would have wished for a closer view, but that move scary enough for one day. I got other “near-breath-taking” pictures too, anyway. Enjoy them…

Wanna join the ride… you’re absolutely welcome (not the Tripoli-Geneva flight, but the opportunity to share treasures with others through blogging!) 😉 And I guess after settling down today, and hooking up with the other “WSIS foot soldiers” early tomorrow, work begins — the last in the series of WSIS PrepComs, but ahead of the final summit in Tunisia. I should be able to do a few blogs from Geneva, but you could check out my presentations titled More Than A Summit and Quo Vadis: Where Do We Go From Geneva, (and the WSIS Website) for more information (and background) on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Trapped in Tripoli

Ever seen the movie, The Terminal? Welcome...

There’s nothing like having our own effective airline — and getting our acts together in other areas of existence in Nigeria. I am writing this at breakfast, in the waiting lounge of the Tripoli International Airport — having made a hurried decision to fly Afriqiyah airlines to Geneva for the 3rd PrepCom.

My first lesson from this experience is never to accept the easiest solution when it presents itself. Late preparations meant myself and my colleague had to visit the Swiss embassy on Tuesday September 20, and that in itself is a story for another day — how Nigerians are often subjected to often-inhuman conditions at embassies. Well, it would be good to state here that I met the gentleman in the consular officer on that day as he gracefully agreed to approve a colleague’s visa and print within 10 minutes (mine was approved in 24 hours noting frequency of travel but he had earlier rejected my colleagues application but trust the New Nigerian in me not to be quiet).

Getting the visa on Tuesday meant there was no room for transit visas (which would take another 72 hours from the Thursday I was with the travel agent). So, the only options were 2 African airlines — but one was outrageous and had the wrong travel-times. The other, which we chose, had not-too-good travel dates, but was a better option of the two. But there was a clause — some 25-our wait in Tripoli before continuing to Geneva. Now, that would have been a great thing since the usual experience is that the airline would lodge us, or at least we would have the choice of lodging at a place of choice before coming back to join the flight. To make the story much better, a gentleman at the airline’s office (at the airport) said the bookings were wrong and that the flight would leave for Geneva (from Tripoli) in less than 3 hours.

Off we went.. great flight, with less than 40 people in the entire aircraft. I had 3 seats to myself when the “Fasten Seat Belt” lights were off, and my colleague had 3 too 😉 I could have had the entire roww, but for the beautiful hostesses that were always criss-crossing that region of the aircraft. We arrived Tripoli and the plot began…

First, it was the interesting episode of some smart-looking forrensic-equipment-bearing immigration officials looking into passport and visa pages with what looked like microscopes 🙂 Each person’s passport was scrutinized with great care, since we were all Nigerians (as I was later to discover). About 3 young people (a lady and 2 guys) were accused of either possessing “fake” passports or invalid visas… and as I write this, they are awaiting the actualisation of the deportatation threat (with their passports already seized, and breakfast served to them). Then, I came face to face with the reality of being a Nigerian in Tripoli. We would have been given accommodation but for the fact that we were Nigerians (Ghanaians and Ethiopians are also guilty for being nationals of their countries as far as Libya is concerned).

After a few consultations with the manager and other immigration officials, we were given the option of paying for transit visas — and being responsible for our own accommodation, feeding and transportation. Or another option of staying at the waiting lounge for the next 24 hours and being treated as “Economy VIPs” — breakfast, lunch, dinner and some form of warmth in the evening all promised. Now, talk about being stranded… I moved on to the bank and asked to cash out their local currency from my TCs, and then the shock — they wouldn’t take TCs, not even in any other bank. Could that be true, or is it another, “don’t trust Nigerians, Ethiopians and Ghanaians” experience? As I write this, we’re trying to see there’s any option out of staying here for 24 hours but only time can tell…

The Nigerian Bloggers’ Forum

Prepare to participate... here comes the Nigerian Bloggers' Forum

I strongly believe that its time to bring home the strengths of blogging.

Nigerians are good at whatever they set their minds to… and have often been caught doing such better tha the originators 😉 And there’s a usual “wave of popularity” that helps us with this attribute! In the last few days (and I suspect this has a lot to do with my recent focus on blogging as an avenue for development), I have been noticing the increased rate of blogging in Nigeria. Students, journalists, Nigerians in diaspora, just name them… and the blog-names come in varying proportions too.

A few days before I set up this blog (while I was borrowing blog-space), I discussed the idea of a Bloggers’ Forum with 2 of Nigeria’s finest… and we agreed on the need to bring Nigerian bloggers together for the twin purpose of networking and creating development opportunities through blogging. In the next few weeks, discussions will hold around this urgent need — across sectors, interests and locations — and I hope that we’ll soon be finalising issues such as theme. One thing is sure, blogging will help increase Nigerian web content… but will we see blogs in local Nigerian languages (the 360, or so, of them)? Will the strokes some more easily without the need for graphical support?

All these, and many other questions, are the reasons why Nigerian bloggers need to come together for a National Confab, and why other Nigerians need to hook up to the blogging lane… such that we’ll not really need email addresses, resumes and profile pages. All you’ll need to ask a new friend is, “waht’s your blog URL?” Interviewers will ask you to show them — or discuss — your most recent blog post. I can already see the Nigerian media (especially those reporting ICTs) maximising this opportunity — and only hope we’ll ride on the wings of this technology platform to increase the volume of positive and necessary Nigerian content on the web.

Prepare to be an active part of the (planning and participation of the) Nigerian Bloggers’ Forum…

Abuja: Home of cheap cabs…

Abuja in the evening... from UD's office

Nigeria’s fast-growing capital, and the obvious political headquarters of Nigeria, has many sides. I keep discovering more about this city everyday, but can’t seem to keep my fingers and thought from the cheap cabs, today. For reasons best known to the Swiss embassy, I had to make a trip to Abuja today. (I can’t help wonder when I face the reality of how embassies are relocating to Abuja… it used to be early morning cabs to embassies, but its now early morning flights…). But that is not the important part of this entry. Come with me on a journey…

If you visit, you will be met with this interesting descrip[tion: “The very character of Abuja has been shaped by the two renowned rock formations around it. These are the Zuma Rock and the Aso Rock. The former is referred to as the ‘Gateway to Abuja’ and the Federal Capital Territory begins at its base, where the state of Niger ends. It is also reported to be the exact geographical center of Nigeria. The Aso Rock is located at the head of Abuja and the city extends southwards from the rock”. Just take another quick trip to Wikipedia’s Abuja page and you’ll enjoy the rich history and many faces of the city. But let me share this from the source:

“Abuja, estimated population 1,078,700, is the capital city of Nigeria in western Africa. When it was decided to move the national capital from Lagos in 1976, a capital territory was chosen for its location near the center of the country. The planned city was located in the center of what is now the Federal Capital Territory. Abuja officially became Nigeria’s capital in 1991. Abuja is located at 9°10′ North, 7°10′ East (9.1667, 7.1667).”

Just today, I read a local newspaper and could not help wonder if Abuja will soon wear the toga of my favourite city — Lagos. Crowded, yet with enough space for all. Crazy, yet sane. I just love that city! Maybe that should be the next blog topic… but trust me that it may not be, as its tough to think like this when you’re in Lagos. The report said that Abuja’s de-facto Mayor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, put Abuja’s annual population growth in tens of thousands and its population as standing between 3- and 6-million. But that is still not the story of the day…

Cabs in Abuja are cheap. And that’s where I’m going… Noting that cabs cost an arm and a leg in other major cities in Nigeria, one keeps wondering if the Abuja cab guys drive on the same fuel. Could Lagos traffic be the reason for the relatively high prices? I wonder… but anyhow you see it, Abuja cabs are cheap. During my first trip in 1999, I paid N80 (about 60c) for each cab ride. A few years after that (2002), it was N100… and then it rose from that to N120. Now, it varies between N150 and N200 (depending on what you’re wearing and where you’re headed). But at that, these cabs are cheaper than elsewhere in Nigeria… Port Harcourt, Lagos, just name it. And to think that these cities are not as “central” and “powerful” as Abuja, I wonder…

I just hope the cab owners don’t read this 😉 And I must not fail to mention that the price is not the same when you’re on your way from the airport. Cabs will charge you N3,400 for a ride from the airport into town (a distance of about 30 minutes depending on how deep into the town you’re driving). And they now — oops, we — now have “Rufai cabs”. They are green, modelled after London cabs, green and (you-can-bet) more expensive. As much as I love the colour, I still can’t seem to change from the cheaper (and some equally clean) cabs. Abuja, home of cheap cabs…

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I strayed into ICTs (3)

In this post, I will “conclude” the series… but please note that this is a first completion. Other interesting things have since happened, and most of them are expressed in projects, processes and other media. Interesting enough, I’m putting together a more comprehensive report (and eventual title) on Nigerian Youth and the Information Society that should help capture a birds’ eye view of the whole ICT-scape. Myself and Edward are also planning a collabo that could hit book stands soon 😉

While writing my final reports in October 2003, I realized that all targets had been met, and the name ‘Gbenga Sesan was almost always in the news – especially newspapers and television. That was good news because the name had become synonymous with youth involvement in using ICTs for development and for a nation that had no concrete plan for it’s youth, things changed dramatically with every major Information Technology event or policy process requesting for youth input. The only difficult part was that most of these meetings and processes requested my presence and it was a tough task combining all the projects. The teams that supported me helped me stay alive to other responsibilities that I had – my job, school and my career growth!

These experiences have recently shown the need for broader research on Nigeria and Africa’s policy involvements around the use of ICTs for development and my desire to participate in the Public Policy and Management program is not far from realizing these objectives. In my 24 months as IT Youth Ambassador for Nigeria, advocacy, representation, participation, networking, mentorship and youth bridging the digital divide would be good words to describe the experience with. These required my participation in international policy engagements on ICTs – such as the World Summit on the Information Society which held in Geneva, Africa’s WSIS preparatory sessions in Mali, International Telecommunications Union’s Africa Youth Forum in South Africa, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s ICT Policy sessions for civil society organisations in Ethiopia, African Youth Parliament in Kenya, etc.

And the story continues …

I strayed into ICTs (2)

Wole Soyinka defied the chaos in Lagos -- at that time -- to present me with the IT Youth Ambassador plaque... thanks!

Looking around me, and studying the nation’s young people – including those who were enrolled in computer science programs – I knew that Nigeria needed to bridge the digital divide in order to benefit from the global Information Society. And I was ready to do my bit – at least to ensure that I contributed my quota to the community by connecting others with the thrill of ICTs and empower them to use the same for personal development, nation building and secure a platform for global participation. That explains why I keep spending most of my weekends speaking to young people in various campuses across Nigeria. I was in over 30 of such meetings between 2001 and 2003 but the passion is only getting stronger – and I love it when I see that same glow on the faces of these young people. “Maybe I’m impacting my generation”, comes the thought each time I speak with youths on using ICTs for development. From speaking with young people, I had the opportunity of moving on to help my nation and continent around the same issues of bridging the digital divide and using ICTs for accelerated development. Each time I consider what Nigeria and Africa keep losing while we hold on to our natural resources at the expense of rising benefits of the Information Society, I take another step towards helping the situation in my own little way.

And in appreciation of the efficacy of teamwork, I invited a group of friends together and started the “Paradigm Initiative Nigeria” (PIN, team, which has since become an icon of youth involvement in the use ICTs for development in Nigeria. An online network that has six core volunteers who work for different organisations, PIN has been recognized at two different events as one of the leading organisations in Africa that seek to use ICTs for development and empower others to do the same. We have engaged in projects ranging from seminar presentations to collaboration with international agencies such as the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Taking IT Global, and others – to deliver the Youth Creating Digital Opportunities project ( Only recently, PIN helped coordinate Nigerian and African youth involvement in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and facilitated meetings that climaxed in the production of the “Nigerian Youth Declaration on the WSIS” and its African equivalent. Our mailing list has over 450 young ICT enthusiasts and keeps growing as they are fed with global ICT opportunities, engagements and platforms through the electronic medium – along with my personal website,

While inching closer to my dream of the new generation of young Nigerians (who will use ICTs for personal development, nation building, regional cooperation and global participation), I was involved in a national competition on Information Technology. The requirements were to design a website from “a pile of junk data” and to face an high level interview where the participant would be required to share his/her idea of how ICTs can help Nigeria, and how he’s a right candidate to champion that cause among Nigeria’s largest population – the youth. I emerged the winner in that contest and was awarded the “Nigeria’s Information Technology Youth Ambassador” award, which received a lot of international and local media attention. And like the British Broadcasting Corporation put it, “Nigeria … appointed a youth as an information technology ambassador … and while he has no personal computer himself, he holds the dream of helping over 4,000 young people learn new ICT skills within his two year tenure”.

I strayed into ICTs (1)

'Gbenga Sesan in his final year in secondary/high school -- Federal Government College, Idoani

In the next few posts, I intend to tell the story of my coming face to face with ICTs, and what’s been up to date. I hope I can conclude this after 3 posts, so I can move on to other interesting stuff — you can bet that I live in an interesting country, belong to an amazing profession and engage with strong issues around a fascinating continent. Enjoy, as I tell the story of how “I strayed into ICTs”. Please note that the picture above was rescued from its physical form, and I’m the innocent young man to the extreme left corner of the picture.


Four young men left the meeting feeling very differently about life, and I was one of them.

I grew up in a moderate city (Akure) in Nigeria and saw a computer for the first time at the age of thirteen. But I would not even be able to touch one until some three years down the line. The computers were locked up in the Principal’s (head administrator of the secondary/high school) office and were only accessible to three kids who were sons of a well-known professor of Mathematics in Nigeria at that time. That was a very big challenge to me and I made up my mind that I was not only going to touch a computer but I would teach others how to use it to prevent the kind of embarrassment I faced each time I tried to get close to the “magic beast” that the school probably spent more money protecting than its students.

Three years after I was kept form the computers, I graduated from secondary/high school and thought it was good time to learn about computers. Though my parents initially felt it was too much money to spend on “something that would not earn you a bachelor’s degree and a good job” but persistence would not keep me away from the computer school. I enrolled and graduated with the best feeling any human being could have – I was connected to my dreams and knew that I was not too far from realizing it.

Then we had to attend a meeting in my local community. The invited speaker was so sure of everything she was talking about. She capped her verbal nuggets with the story of a man who “served his generation” and is still remembered for the same today. I knew she was referring to me when she said, “maybe some people here today would achieve the same feat”. That was the meeting that ignited the almost-lost passion that I had about helping others get connected to computing possibly earlier than I did. Four of us left that meeting deciding to influence the community and while many of us moved to different locations for study, the dream I held – and the passion it was bathed in – would not move an inch, except closer to reality.

Eight years after my first encounter with a computer, I engaged in a pre-degree internship at an information technology outfit and was able to learn enough to get me started with my dreams. And in the year 2000, I began with my first task in helping people use Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for development. I organized a training session on website designs with another friend, and about sixteen young people left the training with a similar glow to what I had some five years before then…

[Part II follows shortly, or maybe its a smart way of saying I’m off for lunch, late lunch]