The information society: large and small initiatives

October 2003 -

This autumn, ICT as a means for improving people's independence and assertiveness and promoting development is attracting interest. Reason for this is the first part of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) being organised at the end of this year in Geneva. Some fifty heads of state will meet there to sign a plan of action and a statement. The second part of the summit will be held in Tunis in November 2005.

The conference in Switzerland is intended to give participants better insight into the impact of the information society on the manner in which knowledge is dissipated in politics, media and education. This is also a topic of popular discussion in the Netherlands. Hivos and OneWorld Nederland, for example, signed an agreement for strategic cooperation on 25 September. These organisations will set up internet discussions regarding the importance of ICT for development, human rights and sustainable development. They also compiled recommendations for the Dutch WSIS delegation and are organising public meetings on New Media and International Cooperation, the first of which will be held on 27 November.

They are also developing small-scale initiatives that recognise the force of ICT and put it into practice. One of these excellent initiatives is Nairobits. This initiative started in Amsterdam, targeting young people from the shanty towns of Nairobi. It is intended to broaden their opportunities by teaching them to work with computers and training them to be web designers. The young people who were trained as web designers four years ago are now teaching others.
Emer Cronin, one of Nariobits' founders, says: 'All of the truly innovative initiatives in this area are reasonably small. In my opinion, the WSIS conference places too much emphasis on hardware, is too far from actual practice and still has a perspective that is too western. Projects like, BongoToons and are excellent, I believe.'