South-South ICT-Enabled Traveling Workshop, India (2)

Nna, who park this one hia?!

After the morning ride from the hotel today, the meeting began at 10am at the MSSRF RKC Hub in Pillaiyarkuppam, with Prof. Arunachalam inviting the newest participant (from Kenya) to introduce himself. He then went on to ask two participants to express their thoughts about yesterday’s sessions and the first comment praised “the global dimension the workshop enjoys (from participation) and its proper planning”. A second comment noted that yesterday was a “great networking opportunity and the workshop is holding in a perfect, peaceful location – and I am really impressed with the work that is being done by the local community”. Prof. Arunchalam then asked participants to leave their names and email addresses, and would be invited to join the C3Net which is a mailing list of about 100 people – 60% of whom have attended the traveling workshop and others from development partners. He highlighted the importance of the day’s activities, which will be coordinated by Nancy, and would mostly involve communication between workshop participants and village communities that will be visited.

Nancy invited the two village representatives (Embalam and Veerrampattinam) for their presentation – which were all made in the local language, with the use of PowerPoint slides and translated into English by Nancy. The first presentation was on the Embalam Knowledge Centre, which was inaugurated in 1999 by Prof. Arunachalam and Dr. Bruce Albert, then the head of the US-based National Academy of Science. The village has a population of 4500, of which 2,500 are women – and there are 37 women self-help groups. Literacy rate is 80%, the main occupation is agriculture and four of the villagers have won the MSSRF NVA fellows. Last year, the village won a Presidential award and it was amazing for them to see the president live and not on the television as usual. Two of the fellows have participated in the World Summit on the Information Society meetings (one in Geneva and the other in Tunis), and have since been popularly referred to by the names of the cities they visited by the other villagers. She also gave examples of how the villagers have been able to use ICT tools for information retrieval, agricultural practices support and access to health services (precaution, disease control, etc). The information received by women volunteers are taken to the community in their local languages.

The second part of the presentation (made by another volunteer) focused on training programs by Knowledge Workers, which hardware, software, open content, modern agriculture technology, management and heath (recognizing cataracts). The knowledge workers in turn provide such training to their community members. The villagers also enjoy free legal services that have since learnt from the community knowledge center models. Another volunteer continued at this point, stating the problems they have faced in the village and how they have been able to find solutions to these problems. Such problems include the single siren that called farmers off the farm at only one period of the day, but has now been increased to two times in order to reduce tension between landlords and farmers. The problem of news reach has also been met with a solution in form of knowledge workers who help to relay news, while the volunteers now receive stipends that help them to meet family needs – along with the enviable status of traveling opportunities. She showed pictures of her participation at the WSIS meeting in Tunis, and a local newspaper report on another knowledge worker’s Geneva trip.

Another knowledge worker took over at this point, and she discussed the newspaper project. The data collation, editing and production are managed by the community itself, and the newspaper includes information on employment opportunities – through which one of the villagers got his job. Each page is dedicated to a specific area of interest (such as agriculture) and this helps them with content management. Local practices are documented as part of the Open Knowledge Network project, and these have been very beneficial to the villagers. Prof. Arunachalam advised that the presentation will be translated into English and made available to participants. The presentations were followed by a question-and-answer session that includes the following questions and answers:

(a) Question: How do volunteers manage to combine their daily lives with volunteerism?
Answer: Each volunteer prepares a personal timetable to decide when they would have to be at the Knowledge Centre and at home. Family members have also been helpful in the delivery of their work and they take care of visiting families and friends on Saturdays and Sundays. They are also strongly motivated by the passion for social value delivery.

(b) Question: How is the newspaper production financed?
Answer: About 5,000 copies are produced for 33 villages at the cost of Rs 5,000, and funded by IDRC Canada (with fund management provided by MSSRF).

(c) Question: How were the community services selected?
Answer: The services are based on people’s needs and there is a visitor’s register which helps documents requests. At the beginning, there was an evaluation exercise conducted by social scientists to find out what the needs of villagers are, which was then fed into a database that is now constantly updated. It is also interesting to note that men at the centers are social scientists, while women are the technologists. At the very beginning, there was a lot of worry over the fact that they were village women, but this has since given way to self confidence – an example of which was the story of how women began to answer questions from men while seated and using the computer (an unusual practice in rural India). They loved the experience, and it is only one example of how they have been able to express themselves through the power of ICTs.

(d) Question: What did the knowledge worker in Geneva speak about?
Answer: She told the story of what is being done and said, “We want the whole world to benefit from our experience”.

(e) Question: What is the impact of the newspaper on the community?
Answer: A survey has been conducted by a social scientist, and published in form of a book titled, “Reaching the Unreached and Voicing the Voiceless”.

(f) Question: What is being done about the maintenance of computers and other centre equipment?
Answer: The computers were initially donated by the MSSRF (through an IDRC grant), but are now increasingly donated by visitors who are impressed with the center’s work. The “Friends of MSSRF” in Tokyo also shipped used computers to Mandras for use on the project.

At this point, Prof. Arunachalam explained that the success of the project is built on the efforts of these volunteers, and with the strength of an enabling environment – a visionary leader in the person of Prof. M S Swaminatham, democracy and a friendly national outlook. He however stressed that MSSRF would love to do more work, especially in the light of the ambitious “Mission 2007” as popularized by Prof. M S Swaminatham. He also went on to say that if Africa (as an example) does not succeed in the fight against poverty through its development efforts, the entire world is at risk. Two more questions were entertained before the tea break:

(g) Question: Beyond technology, what has been your best experience since becoming a knowledge worker?
Answer: Self confidence, and the ability to contact and communicate with people outside the home and village. Becoming role models and contributing to the community through social service offerings.

(h) Question: How have you been able to convince the rural community that information is important in the fight against poverty?
Answer: The visible change in the lives of the knowledge workers has been a major factor in making their work acceptable to the community. The workers also made information on possible benefits available to the community after a comprehensive survey on the same.

After coffee break, R. Ezhumalai made his presentation on the Veerrampattinam village community centre, which was commissioned in 1999 by Dr. Morris Strong UN Under-Secretary General for Environment). The village has a population of 6,264 and 90% of these people are fishermen. Others include 5% inland fishermen, 3% farmers, etc. He showed the location of the village on an Indian map, and also presented a resource map designed by himself and one other volunteer. The village resource center makes information available on weather forecast, wave report, fishing information, employment opportunities, village profile, and cattle support skills, which are broadcast through a loudspeaker and a notice board for the villagers. The local content information collected from villagers have been made available to other countries through short wave radio, newspapers and online. Nineteen people (including a lady) have benefited from the information sharing on Government and private employment and training opportunities, while one person received financial support through the Department of Fisheries for higher education.

With the help of MSSRF Hub Centre, 13 self-help groups (SHGs) were formed, and after the Tsunami, the number of SHGs increased to 56, due to the efforts of the knowledge workers. With the help of the knowledge centre, women formed the 1,302 member-strong Fisher-women Co-operative Society – which is linked with the Fisheries Federation. An electronic board is used to show information on fishing (location, depth, and more) and eye services have been provided to village residents. Each morning, school students come to the centre to learn about computers through the Bangalore’s educational CD. The Village Community Centre has trained over 400 people from 1999 to date, and now provides computer training on the platform of Microsoft Unlimited Potential Program (MUPP), through which income is generated for the centre.

The training programs of the centre are need-based, and include Microsoft Office, Adobe PageMaker and Photoshop, minor hardware, screen printing, eye care, herbal medicine, cattle care, content generation, working with subject-oriented CDs for children, mushroom cultivation, and shell ornamental crafts. The village lost 3 people to the tsunami, but lives were spared when a panchayet member saw the first wave, ran to the centre, broke the lock and announced the information over the center’s public address system – after which everyone ran away from the village. Relief work has also been done through the center. Even with the amazing success story, he shared some issues that have been faced by the centre, including the fact that the village presently does not have a Panchayet. However, they have been able to work around these issues, and continue with their visible impact within the community.

After the presentation, a number of questions were asked – and were addressed by the VKC manager, as follows:

(a) Question: How does the cooperative work?
Answer: The VKC met with the women to inform them that they could work on the cooperative without any reservation, and this has proved successful.

(b) Question: How do the Self Help Groups work?
Answer: The VKC trains the SHG leaders, who in turn lead the group around their various activities.

(c) Question: How do the training courses work, and are they willing to pay for them?
Answer: Most of the courses are free, but the diploma costs Rs 300. Participants are selected, and program delivery is supported by 2 private sector firms.

(d) Question: How do you deal with the issue of piracy since Microsoft software is pretty expensive?
Answer: The software is available, at no cost, to the project.

After this, we had lunch and then proceeded to the villages to see the projects and meet with knowledge workers.

South-South ICT-Enabled Traveling Workshop, India (1)

Day 1 in India

The day (November 28) started with an interesting journey (which can pass for a sightseeing experience in India) to Pillaiyarkuppam, where the MSSRF Rural Knowledge Centre (RKC) Hub is located. On arrival, Prof. Arunachalam welcomed participants and invited them to introduce themselves – name, country and project. Participants were from Ghana, Paraguay, Phillipines, India, Nigeria, Uganda, and Bangladesh; and projects include civil society-led community initiatives, government-led projects and private sector efforts. After the introductions, Rinalia (GKP Executive Director) spoke about the Global Knowledge Partnership and their continued support for the South-South Exchange program, which is running for the third time.

Prof. Arunachalam then explained the “Speed Geek” concept which involved participants sharing their stories with revolving groups during a 6-minute period for each group they discuss with. This was a particularly informative string of sessions and its first segment (before coffee break) involved presentations by six participants. The RSSF Village Resource Centre, Tata Consulting, a multistakeholder effort from the Phillipines and the Lagos Digital Village were involved in the first “speed geek” cycle. During coffee break, participants were able to take networking outside the meeting rooms and it was obvious that the networking dimension of the workshop is fully on course.

After coffee break, participants of an MSSRF-hosted workshop for volunteers from different villages joined the workshop participants to share their experiences. It was an interesting session with a brilliant mix of cultures, languages, experiences and expressions. Participants then proceeded to the next set of “speed geek” sessions. These include an Hewlett Packard initiative which gives eGovernment support to rural populations by providing 250 government schemes meant for rural people through a portal. Claudia from Paraguay also spoke about the PC bus project – a Junior Achievement project working with underserved high schools. Students are taken through a program tagged “Personal Economics” (which teaches them how to run their own finances) and some of them are selected to join the “PC Bus” (a huge international traveling bus provided by a private sector organisation, and furnished with PCs and internet access). After this, some of the students are awarded a scholarship for 3-month training on Information Technology skills. They also have 3-month internship opportunities in supporting companies, or can start their own business with support from JA Paraguay.

The “speed geek” session also had a presentation on One World South Asia – an organisation that helps network other organisations, uses community approach and empowers communities through knowledge exchange. They give a voice to the voiceless and are involved in an MSP project research (learnings from MSP projects in various parts of the world). They are also involved in Mission 2007, a multistakeholder partnership that seeks to establish 600,000 knowledge centres in Indian villages – and has been described as one of the largest upscaling project in the world. Shafiu Shaibu also spoke about the Social Enterprise Development Foundation, a farmers’ cooperative support program which has operations in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia – and has its headquarters in Tamale, Ghana.

After lunch, Prof. Arunachalam invited Rinalia to speak on the Global Knowledge Partnership. She hinted on the nature of the GKP as a multistakeholder network, and explained membership terms for non-profits (North and South) and private sector organisations (with 500 employees, or more). GKP has a community of diverse projects, including youth-oriented organisations, international organisations, private sector institutions, and more. GKP also provides a platform for inter-regional co-operations. She stated that GKP holds a strong interest in tri-partnerships involving governments, communities (and NGOs working in them) and the private sector. The GKP has defined its focus for the next 5 years, and it is focused on innovation in the area of ICT for Development (education, poverty reduction, capacity building, and more).

Participants then moved to the last set of “speed geek” sessions. Presentations at the sessions include the discussions with Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication, which seeks to connect rural people with low-cost access and they believe that access to ICTs should be basic human rights. The “Farmers’ Suicide Hotspot” project was also discussed. The project started in order to solve the problem involving farmers who had been committing suicide due to heavy losses. The project enjoys a lot of support through community participation, and advises farmers to manage existing resources without necessarily exposing themselves to unsustainable practices. One World South Asia got a second mention – but this time, with a focus on local content. Rural dwellers bring their local content to the Village Community Centre, where they upload the content as an online publication. The limitation of the online content brought the need for a biweekly newspaper publication, which has now been followed by a 15-minute radio program. Some feedback letters (in local language) and publications (on farming, gender, cattle health, herbal treatments, etc) were shown to participants.

The next “speed geek” session discussed Bangladesh Friendship Education Society (, which focuses on (local) Knowledge Management and works with teachers and youth on ICT training. They organize events to ensure that rural people share their local knowledge with neighbours. Jim (GKP secretariat) spoke about the focus of GKP on ICTs for Development – and vision of achieving an equitable and sustainable society. Various partners (members) meet at a global forum that discusses issues such as challenges and opportunities and GKP also organizes regional meetings, with one having been hosted by the MSSRF. He stated that how much each organisation gains from the network depends largely on how much is given as input. He also spoke about the Youth Social Entrepreneurship Initiative (YSEI) which provides funding up to $15,000 and mentorship support to youth-led social enterprises – and is presently open (until November 30, 2005) to young people living in South East Asia. The last discussion was on the MSSRF National Virtual Academy, which engages in capacity building for key community leaders.

After the evening coffee break, participants gathered to review the day’s “speed geek” discussions. Prof. Arunachalam invited feedback on the seventeen “speed geek” discussions and some participants gave feedback on the 2 projects that interested them the most – and the reasons for the same. Nancy was then invited to summarise the day’s activities, and she asked participants to respond to her statements by standing around there points that were clearly marked “Yes”, “Some Extent” and “No”. Statements include “Speed geek was very helpful,” and “I got new learning experience through this exercise”. The workshop gave room for participants to ask questions about projects that they had listened to earlier in the day.

Bollywood on Arrival

India... learning the model, enjoying the experience

When the Emirates Air flight landed in Chennai at about 3pm local time, billions of thoughts (not necessarily because of India’s population) ran through my mind — the Indian movies I saw on Fridays while growing up in Ondo State (Nigeria), the amazing IT news that keeps coming from India, the recent popular address of the Indian President to the citizens, the long hair, the popular software stories, the CNN “celebration” of the nation… and more. It wasn’t long that I got my luggage and made my way out of the airport. The reception didn’t go without its own Bollywood-type comedy as the driver who’d been asked to pick me up slept off in his car and only resumed duties after ICTs played the usual rescue role — his mobile phone rang after some gentlemen at the airport (great ambassadors of India, if you ask me) made a couple calls in order to get his number. You should have seen him running towards me and holding the “name card” as if we were acting a movie 🙂 We had to look for a second guest, who we later found out was not arriving that night — after we checked the manifest, that was boldly pasted on the wall outside the airport.

India... learning the model, enjoying the experience

The journey to the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation was interesting, as I kept asking myself if we were truly in the India I had heard so much about… it was so human driving through one of the most popular destinations on my mind, owing to (of course) its growing popularity in the IT industry, and their successful Mission 2007 campaign — a multistakeholder effort that seeks to establish 600,000 community knowledge centres throughout India’s villages! I arrived at the MSSRF centre (and guest house) at about 4am, and was given a room to spend the night. After spending a few hours to unpack, I saw the last part of the movie I started seeing in Dubai and … suddenly there was a knock on the door — it was the next day! I was told that I needed to move to Pondicherry where we would spend the week (about 3 hours from Chennai), and you can imagine how I felt having unpacked on arrival. I was consoled when I met Claudia (who is also with Junior Achievement, in Paraguay!) and Shafiu Shaibu (my first friend from the northern city of Tamale, Ghana) 😉

India... learning the model, enjoying the experience

The journey to Pondicherry was interesting… and the discussions in the car could only be explained with one phrase — where were these guys all this while?! It was like being with your brother and sister from another country — and I guess that’s what you get when you work “from the heart” (a new expression given to passionate development work, by none other than Prof. Arunchalam himself). Arriving at the hotel, I was introduced to a more familiar face of India — women with the “dot” on their forehead and a warm smile, and men with varied dashes and dots too (which I found out has more to do with fashion in South India). After lunch (which reminded me that I was away from home — why I no bring that garri sef?), it was time to get online. After a few minutes of trying to find out if it was cheap to access the Internet from the hotel, it was time to visit a local cybercafe. Trust me, I was eager to see the same scenes I’d seen in pictures and websites.

India... learning the model, enjoying the experience

Was I disappointed? No way! But no one told me I couldn’t go into Indian cafes with shoes… you’s better put on a clean pair of socks when coming to India 🙂 I took of my shoes, and was quick to settle in and make my way to my second home (which some argue is the first, but I disagree), the web! Catching up on lost work, reconnecting with processes and responding to emails was fulfilling. After an hour, which cost Rs. 15, it was time to get back to the hotel, take a short nap and have dinner. After dinner, it was time to see the city. Without my camera (wished I had it on me), we kept walking through a seeming endless street and decided to “risk getting lost” before being discouraged by the rain — its been raining heavily here for the past few weeks, and while its not unusual to see the usual floods after some downpour, its big news here! It wasn’t long that the next morning came.. and we set out for the workshop venue, a little less than an hour from the hotel. I have been asked (along with self nomination) to take official notes at the workshop, and so would be able to post my raw notes at the end of each day (which means posting 3 blog entries today to make up for the few days of not blogging). Enjoy India, and this amazing South-South workshop with me…

India... learning the model, enjoying the experience

43,200 Minutes Free in Dubai

See Dubai, and enjoy the access

I have spent quite some time online today, but not with this laptop. I stood in line for free access at the Dubai International Airport’s access point (which is strongly branded by one of the global mobile phone manufacturers) and was able to make my online meeting with the Human Network — to discuss the next phase of our research project.

While still enjoying the scenery of this airport (and my camera batteries acted up after the first shot), 🙁 I was looking over from an amazing view while having lunch (courtesy of the airline) — and could only think: “when will Lagos become the hub that it should be”. I returned to the access point… and then the “Quiet Lounge” where I decided to continue seeing a movie on my laptop. I was tired of “stand-up access” but really would have loved to stay online and get stuff done.

I wouldn’t know why, but I guess for reasons best known to the curious side of me, I pushed the wireless access button. Of course, there was maxspot starring me in the face. Trust Skype, it connected even though I was yet to buy the access card as advised by a lady at one of the restaurants that I know would usually provide wireless access in some major cities — but not at the airport today 🙁 To push a little further, I launched Firefox (my default browser for life — please consider leaving the bondage and crash-happy status of Internet Explorer) and bingo, the usual access page was there.

But my attention was drawn to the notice, “30 days free access”. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t check it out 😉 After a few pages, and few lines for registration, I was met with the notice, “You are now on line! You can now browse the internet for 43200 minutes. To end your session click on the log-out button. If you do not log-out your session will automatically end after 5 minutes of inactivity”. Na lie! While trying to check out the truth in the offer, I looked out for the usual “payment method” dropbox, but it wasn’t there… so na true!

Of course, I connected to my usuals (eMail, FTP, secure web access and other suspects… and of course, “/blog”) and the only thing I need to worry about right now is how to get my battery power back to 100%, and a secret wish that the flight would be delayed 🙂 But considering the fact that I need to unpack my bag and mind ahead for the long week of intense ICT South-South collaboration, I could do with paid access and continue enjoying my 43,200 minutes on my way back to Lagos.

When you combine free access with the amazing stucture and feel at the Dubai International Airport, one can only appreciate the gentleman who said, “See Dubai and die!” Don’t die, enjoy the access — and duty free (on on condition, of course).

An Interesting Year So Far…

Thanks to the team... its been a great year!

On my way back from Victoria Island (I was at the popular Walter Carrington Crescent in Lagos to pick up a travel document) earlier in the day, I was forced to pick my pen and paper — not because I had to prepare for anything in particular, but because I was stuck in traffic (the popular Lagos go slow) and also couldn’t take the risk of working on the laptop while in the cab. My mind quickly ran back a few days — to a city where things were so different from Lagos that I couldn’t wait to get back. I wonder why, but Lagosian complain so much about things but end up hurrying back when they step out

I caught myself drafting points for what I called my next article, tagged, “Strategy 2015: 10-year Strategic Capacity Building to Prepare Nigeria for Leadership in the Conceptual Age”. Please don’t ask so many questions just yet, I’m still drafting… but what matters now is the fact that my thoughts were provoked by the fact that its been an active year, but care needs to be taken to ensure that none of the gains are lost out on — for any reason at all. From the various efforts at the Lagos Digital Village (and the great support I keep getting from my base, Junior Achievement of Nigeria) to the Paradigm Initiative Nigeria-led efforts and other activities, its been an interesting year.

January was the WSIS month in Lagos, Abuja, Ghana and Kaduna. February was Ghana’s WSIS lot, and of course Geneva had its own share too. March was the month HBF hosted the WSIS Youth Caucus and April was UNECA’s CODI month — where AYIN got some loud support. In May, it was Kano’s turn — and it was great to be back in that city! Ilorin and Jos were great places to be in June, even at the risk of missing an Asian engagement — but trust me, those sessions with youth were motivating and will remind you of the greatness that Nigeria is about to witness.

Who can ever forget the July story — hosting Africa’s youth at the WTDC ARPM event. Then Ogbomoso, Epe, and back to Abuja for the Nigerian National Volunteer Service’s Science & Technology Summit. In August, it was great being with the Pan African Youth Leadership Summit in Ifrane, and September’s Harambee Focus Networks’ meeting in Addis added a new dimension to the year. And then, it was time for the supposed final WSIS PrepCom in Geneva… and I’m so glad I took out time to be at the Lagos Business School in October. It was great listening to Prof. Pat Utomi share his ideas about Social Entrepreneurship, and I’m better for it!

Of course, November is yet to be over, but the WSIS meeting and upcoming South-South Travelling Workshop in Chennai say a lot about the depth of the year. And looking ahead at the last few involvements for the year (I particularly look forward to the time with freshers at the Obafemi Awolowo University (which I attended myself) and the December 20 Peer Energy session with 50 youth leaders. And of course, I have decided to take time out to “regain lost energy” in one of five possible places (depending on where myself and other friends decide on) before the new year arrives. It will be a busy and fulfilling – and far reaching 2006!

With all the thought on the year, my mind kept going back to the need to strengthen youth efforts in Nigeria and on the continental and global levels. After WSIS, the Nigerian Youth ICT4D Network needs to be institutionalised in order to build on its successes; AYIN needs a secretariat and the WSIS Youth Caucus needs to come together with other efforts such as the ITU Youth Forum tracks, and TakingITGlobal’s efforts in order to recreate the energies of (and possibly on the platform of) Youth Creating Digital Opportunities! Well, lets see how we live out the action we’ve built over the past 36 (or so) months — but you can be sure that action is the name of the game!

Gba bee! Nigeria Rocks…

The meeting is practically over...

We hosted the “Nigeria Rocks!” session at 4pm on the 15th. After the opening introduction by Deolu Ashaye (the unofficial compere of WSIS Nigeria Youth Caucus events) :), participants saw the documentary (well, more like movie) tagged “Nigeria Rocks!” Myself and Titi Akinsanmi had brieft closing remarks and we also gave copies of the book and T-shirts to those who joined us for the meeting.

After the session, some good Nigerian music found its way into the speakers, and you should have seen us doing Nigeria proud! The mufflers, T-shirts and excited young Nigerians told the story… a lot of passers-by (including summit security personnel) stopped over to enjoy the view, the music and the souvenirs. We also had an informal post session ceremony where we decorated Nigerians who are here with us in Tunis — most of whom have been providing amazing support for our work. We had the priviledge of having Mr. Lanre Ajayi, Mr. Bayero Agabi, Mr. Vincent Olatunji, and … (I’ll fill in the gap just in case I missed anyone out).

We were at the ECA meeting on the African Regional Actiopn Plan for the Knowledge Economy (ARAPKE) and moven on from there to the Heinrich Boll Foundation’s side event, “Towards a Sustainable and Inclusive Knowlegde Society: How to Get There from WSIS?”, was quite interesting. It held on the 16th and it was great to hear people from different continents speak about what should be done after the WSIS process. I was on the first panel, and shared quick thoughts on what good young people have been able to draw from the process, and the need to build on existing frameworks and ensure sustainability — while also giving appropriate place to inclusion and the move from the Information Society to the Knowledge Society. I highlighted the following points during my presentation:

1. The good side of WSIS — platforms for networking, etc
2. Knowledge Society — Transforming raw data or information into relevant and appropriate knowledge
3. Inclusive — Bringing the “marginalised” groups on board
4. Sustainable — Meetings over, how about sustaining the action? Moving from pet projects to sustainable and social enterprises
5. How to get there? — Building on the “successes” of WSIS, and having a clear roadmap: Linking the WSIS process with other processes…
6. The youth example — National Youth Campaigns, RYNICs
7. AYIN — Networking efforts and replicating “little” successes
8. Nigeria Rocks! — Documentary and book…
9. Taking the Future in our Hands… Demanding action from governments, but ensuring the availability of the “last mile” regardless of situation

After the HBF meeting, I was at the Youth Caucus meeting where Ayo Olutuase and other campaign coordinators presented what had been done in the campaign countries. This was followed by the ITU/Youth Caucus session on “Beyond Tunis as Youth”. With several dignitaries (including the ITU BDT Director) and lots of young people in attendance, it was a great session that explored the role of the ITU Youth Forum and the need to consolidate efforts moving on from WSIS. After my presentation (actually, an animated public reading of the ITU Youth Fellows’ Declaration), four amazing young ladies took the floor as ITU Youth Fellows and representatives of their regions. Ayesha (Pakistan), Blagica (Macedonia), Aminata (Mali) and Lizzy (Mexico) told the story of what young people have been doing after participating in the ITU Telecom Youth Forum programs.

On the 17th, it was a very busy day (as if other days were lighter) 🙂 The day began with the “Empowering African Youth Social Entrepreneurs” session co-organised by ECA and GKP. I particularly found the meeting interesting because of the diversity of panelists — including young people in Asia who’re also doing amazing work on ICT4D! After Titi Akinsanmi and Leopold Armah, I spoke on Networking for Development: Creating an Enabling Environment for the Promotion of ICT-enabled Youth Social Enterprises in Africa, and then had to leave for the High Level Round Table with the theme, “Moving from Committment to Action”.

Myself, Tope Soremi and Deolu Ashaye were at the Round Table, and it was also attended by 2 Prime Ministers (Mozambique and Niger), the Togolese President’s representative, Ghana’s Vice President, Netherlands Deputy Prime Minister and 7 Ministers of ICTs (Bangladesh, Egypt, Malaysia, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Russia). The Round Table also had representatives of international organisations (UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN Economic Commission for Europe, UN Economic Commission for Asia and Pacific, and the World Bank), the business community (NASSCOM India, ICANN and Telecom Tunisia), and Civil Society (Junior Achievement of Nigeria and IT for Change, India). With so much energy and potential radiating in the room, I was asking myself why the world still has to battle with the digital divide. That’s why I went straight to the point when asked to speak on what would be most important after Tunis.

My answer was simple — two words, action and sustainability. I asked everyone to consider the contrast between the room and the world’s population in terms of youth population, and I think it helped make the statement as I then went ahead to ask for youth empowerment as a way of ensuring sustainability. The passion of young people, and the networks they have formed during the WSIS process would be excellent build-ons! My intervention came about 5 minutes after a brilliant input by Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi (UNCTAD) who lent his voice to the need to empower young people as they can help bring new ideas to the table and run with it. After my intervention, it was clear that the message was understood — and the only hope is that countries that supported the input really do something about it.

Egypt, Romania (with a very young Minister who emphatically said he was in the “same generation”), Malaysia and Portugal visibly supported the idea of taking up the challenge of youth empowerment as compulsory post-WSIS agenda while ICANN and UNCTAD also voiced their strong support — alongside the chairperson, Mr. Guy Olivier Segond (DSF President). We gave copies of the book, “Gobal Process, Local Reality” to the Round Table participants. TakingITGlobal hosted a dinner and it was really cool!

Today began with some logistics around book distribution, and was followed by participation at the Telecentre Leaders’ Forum. The forum was particularly exceptional today, as ideas were captured in images as groups threw up ideas that could help solve problems facing telecentres. And during the discussions, I learnt about two new ICT applications — ICT4T (copyright, Cyrus) and ICT4G (copyright, Ugo).

You can ask them about the inventions, but please allow me to tell you that T stands for ?oastin?, while G stands for Gathering. And just so that you know, the Internet Governance debate is yet to end. A last-minute agreement on the 15th left the oversight functions to ICANN (which reports to the United States), but created an Intergovernmental Forum to deliberate on Internet Governance issues — and would hold its first meeting early next year. Well, the thought is that the “agreement” on Internet Governance will at least leave room for discussions on the major issue of opening up Information Society opportunities for developing countries.

After writing all the earlier offline, I’m at the pleanry hall where the last session is ongoing — and Titi Akinsanmi has just made a presentation on what young people have been able to do in the last few years. Talk to you again soon…

So That You Know…

Yesterday evening, we got a taste of Nollywood in Tunis — at Avenue de Liberte.

We were on our way to a meeting put together by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, and hosted by Tunisia-based Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates (ATFD) at 67 Aveneude la Liberte, Tunis.

Arriving the venue of the meeting, we saw a group of people who stood at the entrance of the hotel and when we tried to make our way into the building, they kept telling us (in French and Arabic) that we could not go into the building. It became clear after a while that they were policemen (though most were not in their uniforms) who were bent on keeping us (everyone who was not in the building already) out of the meeting.

We made our way into the mall opposite the building just to try and gain access, but they were right behind us. Some little pushing (not so much) and raised voices made it clear that we had to make a call to Olga (WSIS coordinator for HBF) who came downstairs and tried to get us into the building, but … your guess is as good as mine. We had to leave for El Hana, and kept wondering if we were being followed 🙂

It was unbelievable and quite interesting! I would have tried to take a picture or two but my battery was flat (actually, truth is I wasn’t sure it was smart to try taking a picture at that time 🙂 I hope to keep the good news of WSIS coming — after this “so that you know” time out.

I’m at El Hana lobby at the Telecenters’ Leaders Forum (hosted by, waiting for the next bus to the Kram where the “whole show” will assume a “rocky” dimension today, as we’ll be hosting delegates to a “show” tagged Nigeria Rocks! at 4pm today. Copies of the book and a few T-shirts will make their way into the hands of guests. See you at the Youth Pavilion at 4pm!

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Ten Consensus Points on Internet Governance

Lets talk about IG!

If there’s one thing that is number one as far as the WSIS Tunis summit is concerned, its the concern about Internet Governance. Just this morning, the BBC relayed the story of how the “EU and the UN is trying to wrestle the control of the Internet from the US”. Clearly, there’s a lot of interest in the issue of Internet Governance, and this is the best time for some countries that have taken the different issues around Internet Governance lightly to wake up before they sell their future to the best called ignorance.

Yesterday, the WSIS Working Group on Internet Governance agreed on ten points, and I’m producing them below (courtesy of a Random-bits email from James Love from CPTech at 11:10pm Tunis time). This will be reported back this morning (9am) to subcommittee A, which is a sort of plenary for thee Internet issues:

1. Internet governance should respect the Geneva principles as set out in the Geneva declaration and plan of action;

2. Internet governance includes more than Internet names and addresses, issues dealt with by ICANN, it also includes other critical issues…(wording from WGIG report para. 12 to be considered);

3. There are many cross cutting international public policies that are not adequately addressed with the current mechanisms which require attention;

4. Importance of maximizing the participation of developing countries for development;

5. Countries’ legitimate interests regarding decisions affecting their ccTLDs;

6. Importance of the stability and security of the Internet;

7. Finding solutions to issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet of particular concern to everyday users;

8. Any Internet governance approach should continue to promote an enabling environment for innovation, competition and investment;

9. Agreement to creation of a forum (function) [pending conclusion of discussions on Internet governance and determination of its mandate] (based in multistakeholder participation);

10. the need for governments, on an equal footing, to be able to carry out their roles and responsibilities in international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet, but not in the day-to-day technical operation or arrangements

Did I hear someone say “this gets more interesting”?

See the Youth Pavilion and smile…

Youth Caucus Pavilion

After a few minutes of moving things around, the Youth Pavilion now has the look it had on computer screens ahead of today. With the help of quite a number of young people, the Youth Pavilion is already taking the shape of a major attraction around here. A number of meetings will hold here over the next few days, including the “Nigeria Rocks!” session that will hold between 4pm and 5pm on the 15th.

Get Ready...

Its great to see old friends again, and to meet a few folks I’ve always spoken with online. Now, email addresses and faces are matching… while I’m beginning to look forward to what may just be a grand reunion of young people who have taken bold steps in moving ICTs from the meeting rooms to the “ends of the earth”. The colour of the pavilion is fast getting richer as the exhibition of national campaigns, art works, and more are being put up!

Welcome to Tunisia!

Nigeria Rocks!

We left for the airport at about 7pm in two cars and 8 bags. The six of us (Edward Popoola, Deolu Ashaye, Tope Soremi, Timi Kenekayoro and Cyrus Olutayo) had one clear mission — to participate in the WSIS II meeting in Tunis as witnesses to the fact that “great things do come out of Nigeria”. Armed with the materials that would help tell the “Nigeria Rocks!” story in Tunis, we had an early check-in (that afforded the opportunity of ordering food from a location outside the airport without the fear of missing the flight). We met seven other Nigerians at the airport, and were all on the same flight 🙂

We arrived Tripoli before the first cock would crow, and spent time doing various things before it was time to join the flight to Tunis. During that period, myself, Deolu and Tope had an amazing discussion (whose results will soon be announced) with none other than one of Nigeria’s leading lights in the Internet Services Industry, Mr. Lanre Ajayi. We discussed the need to “upgrade” our advocacy tactics in order to increase efficiency, reward mechanisms and visibility. We saw the “Nigeria Rocks!” documentary together at the airport, and we were all once again prout to be Nigerians… believe me, its not just a slogan. Nigeria truly rocks!

Nigeria Rocks!

While waiting for the boarding announcement for the Tunis-bound flight, we had countless discussions on almost every topic under the earth — and I can recall listening to everyone speak from vantage positions. Honestly, Nigeria is blessed with Human Capital! We arrived Tunis at about 8pm local time and went straight ahead to sort out registration and accommodation issues. I finally settled down to sleep at about 2am after admiring the beautiful scenery from my room (which the receptionist didn’t waste time to recommend as “a great room with a view”).

This morning, we had a brief meeting at El Hana (where there’s wireless access at the lobby, so the blogs would at least be regular — and with pictures from the city’s beautiful view from you-know-where) to discuss strategies around the “Nigeria Rocks!” session, and other duties that will be of great importance while we represent Nigeria’s interest here in Tunis. Of course, you can be sure that I re-read a copy of the book, “Global Process, Local Reality” this morning (just before breakfast), and also took my time to go through the latest annual report from Junior Achievement of Nigeria — and I have a few copies here with me. Interested? See me 😉

Nigeria Rocks!

We arrived at the Kram (central location for the series of meetings that will hold in the next few days) a few minutes ago and you can be sure that after discovering that the room for the resumed PrepCom wouldn’t be able to accommodate anyone, we made our way to this interesting room — and the picture can tell the rest of the story. Talk to you again soon… but I’m just suddenly wondering if the next few days will bring smiles to the faces of nations and people who live in rural areas in Africa (and others). Well, whatever the entire process says in the next few days, we remain committed to the ideals of transforming words into action, and telling the true story of how the Information Society should be — a society that meets the needs of the PEOPLE.

Did I hear you say it… you’re right. Nigeria Rocks!