Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Prepcom 3 Update - 27th September

So � I have been rather remiss with the blogging from the WSIS Prepcom 3 meeting in Geneva, but that�s been because of the very heavy workload I have been subjected to.
As I arrived, straight from the airport after a full 24 hours of traveling, I get pulled into a drafting session for gender language in Chapters 1 and 4. Shortly thereafter, I start off on the Internet Governance (Chapter 3, Subcommittee B) Track.
On Friday, the Chair submitted a draft text for Chapter 3, based on the discussions of the issues that had been going on. We�ve so far gone through a first reading. The real work starts today. But before that, we�ve been lobbying with our talking points.
This week is a lot of hard work, but unfortunately we have fewer and fewer people on site. We�re down to 3 and one part-time. This, at a time when the meetings have been extended to 9 pm every day.
Anyway, I read the Gender Caucus statement on IG last night in the Subcommittee A Plenary (at 9 pm). We got moved up from Tuesday morning, as our statement was ready, and they were in session (unplanned) and we were present!
So the statement is below. You can also find it at the WSIS Gender Caucus website at http://www.genderwsis.org/node/48.

Statement on Internet Governance
Submitted by AMARC (World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters) Africa, FEMNET African Women�s Development and Communication Network, and TERRE DES FEMMES on behalf of the WSIS-Gender Caucus.

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Thank you Mr. Chairman and Good evening.

The WSIS Gender Caucus considers Internet Governance to be a crucial global Information Society issue. We have a shared responsibility to billions of people, both now and in the future. It makes no sense therefore not to acknowledge over 50% of theworld's population.  We believe that gender equality and women�s empowerment are fundamental principles in Internet Governance as are the right to freedom of expression and human rights. Without these, it is impossible to achieve a just, participatory and equal information society.

Unfortunately, we note with dismay the lack of gender equality and indeed, any reference to gender in the Chair�s Draft of Chapter 3.  World leaders have recently reaffirmed the vital and central position of the principle of gender equality, in the Outcome Document of the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly, and the WGIG report includes, in Para 43, language on ensuring �equal representation of women at all levels�. The WSIS Gender Caucus would like to see this recommendation included in all governance mechanisms and arrangements.

The WSIS Gender Caucus believes that Internet Governance functions will require decision-making about substantive public policy issues. Women�s equal participation with men is vital in this decision making.

The Gender Caucus appreciates the emphasis given by the Chair to the development aspects of Internet Governance � infrastructure, capacity building, promoting participation from developing countries and multilingualism, and the Gender Caucus would like to see specific action on including women in these activities. Governments should make explicit commitments to implementing appropriate Internet Governance structures that are multi-stakeholder, inclusive, and transparent and that have the equal participation of women and men.  

The issue of inter-connection mechanisms needs to be addressed urgently to contribute to the empowerment of developing countries, and their disconnected populations, which are predominantly female, rather than disadvantaging them as at present.

The Gender Caucus urges continued work on multilingualism as a way to promote local content and diversity on the Internet. Women�s� voices are particularly at risk of being muted if multilingualism is not promoted.

The GC looks forward to engaging with other stakeholders in developing the WSIS recommendations on IG in a way that is consistent with the above stated principles that will contribute to achieving gender equality in the Information Society.  

We have submitted written comments with specific text suggestions to the Secretariat and we hope that these will be well received and incorporated in the final documents.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Google faces massive copyright suit

http://news.zdnet.co.uk/0,39020330,39219611,00.htm
Elinor Mills
CNET News.com
September 21, 2005, 08:55 BST

The search giant stands accused of 'a plain and brazen violation of copyright law' over its plan to digitise the world's books
A group representing more than 8,000 authors on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against search engine Google, alleging that its scanning and digitising of library books constitutes a "massive" copyright infringement.
As part of its Google Print Library Project, the company is working to scan all or parts of the book collections of the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, the New York Public Library and Oxford University. It intends to make those texts searchable on Google and to sell advertisements on the Web pages.
"This is a plain and brazen violation of copyright law," Nick Taylor, president of the group, the New York-based Authors Guild, said in a statement about the lawsuit, which is seeking class action status. "It's not up to Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of these copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied."
Last month, Google said it would temporarily halt its book scanning in the project in response to criticism from publishers and others. It said at the time that it also was making changes to its Google Print Publisher Program, in which books are scanned at the request of the publisher so people can view excerpts.
The individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which seeks damages and an injunction to stop the digitising, are former New York Times editorial writer Herbert Mitgang, children's author Betty Miles and Daniel Hoffman, the 1973-1974 Poet Laureate of the United States.
Google did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the lawsuit.
(Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET News.com reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised b a previous story.)

Day 3 at the Prepcom

Day 3 at the Prepcom
I arrived yesterday afternoon, and went straight into a Gender Caucus drafting team meeting. As I hadn�t slept for a couple of days with the traveling, and am also recuperating form a bad bout of the flu, it was difficult going, but I believe that we did get some consistency and sense into the GC contribution on Chapter One of the Operational Part � at least up to Para 7. More needs ot be done. There�s a awful lot of writing that has t happen here, and it needs to be fast.
After a good night�s sleep ( almost 14 hours!) I have fought off the fever that attacked me last night, and an currently in the IG Subcommittee A meeting room.
As there is no draft or even a drafting group yet, we are still in the process of hearing general statements on the WGIG report and such.  Civil Society wants to submit their general document on Friday, so the various caucuses need to finalise soon. The Gender Caucus� submission is in drafting stage, despite leaks of draft copies to certain mailing lists.
So � while I�m in this room I have to make lots of edits.
Unfortunatley, the GC has also decided to have daily meetings � I certainly won�t be able to make those, as I have already agreed to a full schedule, which included 4 GC events. (3 main meetings and 1 joint panel with APC)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Caribbean Internet Governance Forum

Last week the CTU and the CARICOM Secretariat hosted the Caribbean Internet Governance Forumin Georgetown, Guyana.
I was a speaker, on the topic of Internet Governance and Development,as well as co-moderator for the second day's workshop session.
The aim of the workshop was (to my mind) to primarily inform people in the CARICOM region of the issues surrounding Internet Governance, as well as to advise on a CARICOM position for these Internet Governance issues for the Governments to take to Prepcom 3 of the WSIS Tunis phase (starting Sept 19 in Geneva)
First, a few general points:
For an Internet Governance meeting, there were woefully few laptops in the room. This may be because of the same divide problem that we have with respect to the cost of laptops and availability of same in developing nations, but these people should have been the haves.
Similarly, the setup of the meeting did not allow for WiFi in the meeting room unless one was a hotel guest and chose to pay US$15 per day for such access. I did, but there were very few other takers.
The gender balance in the room was, as always, tilted towards the male, but also, especially as it was AmerIndian Week in Guyana, there were no indigenous people, no youth representatives, and only one female invited speaker who wasn't from CTU or CARICOM - me!
Taran Rampersad has done a decent job of reviewing what went on in the room over the two days, but I disagree with a lot of his conclusions. Probably because I come from a different part of the process.

The organisers overbooked the schedule with speakers, thus not allowing time for discussion on the topics raised. There were many statements that needed explanation and discussion, such as a statement on internet security that basically said - "As a multimedia platform, the Internet is inherently insecure" ??!??!!!!??
Anyway - will write on that later.

But basically, as most of the people in the room were new to the WSIS process, the work of the WGIG and the concepts of Internet Governance, the discussion in the first workshop roamed very wide, with a lot of non-Internet Governance issues making it into the discussion.
As co-moderator of the second day, I discussed the process with Teny, my other co-moderator, and the CTU staff, and we determined a method of getting a document out of the meeting that would assist the CARICOM governments in the Prepcom Negotiation process.
The Chairman Designate of PrepCom-3 Sub-Committee A, Ambassador Masood Khan (working on Internet Governance at the Prepcom) had posted a "Food for thought" document. This was used as the basis for the discussion on the second day, mainly because it would probably form the structure of the discussion at Prepcom3. With this structure and a firm hand on the timing, we managed to get valuable directed input to form a non-consensus input to the IT ministers of CARICOM.

There's been some discussion re the lack of consensus at the Forum. In my opinion, with the group that was in attendance, of whom many had little or no experience with the WSIS process or with the WGIG or Internet Governance issues, a consensus would have been impossible. There was not even agreement on the WGIG definition of Internet Governance, as many of the attendees were now discussing these issues in the context of Internet Governance for the first time.

Even so, there was valuable input, and the document that can go to the CARICOM Ministers will have many varied points of view (more valuable to politicians entering a negotiation than a single point of view).

A major success of the Forum was the interaction and networking among Internet professionals in the CARICOM region.

However, the region still has a long way to go - a lot of capacity building is needed to allow us to take our seat and participate in the Internet Governance discussions that are taking place internationally. I've suggested to the CTU and to the CARICOM secretariat that this meeting should be the first of a series that lead towards the development of a regional Internet Governance mechanism. We need to follow up on this seriously. There are several models already in other parts of the world, for example Brazil, and we need to work on this ASAP.

We are late to the game, but not too late - the elevator hasn't started moving yet, so we can still get in on the ground floor.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The .iq Debacle - how long has Iraq been a nation? Hmmmm?

I saw this today...
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3207
Ali Uzri, an Iraqi technology consultant, has been waiting for his country to get on the information superhighway for a long time.'"Near my house in Baghdad, there'?s an Internet cafe called Dreamnet.iq,"? says Uzri. "?The sign has been up for over a year ?even though for most of that time it was the .iq part that was just a dream."? That's because, despite the fact that Iraq has been a sovereign nation for some 15
months, its top-level Internet domain, .iq, has been in a legal limbo.

This is from an article. Now - big question. Was my geography wrong? Or has Iraq been a sovereign nation for longer than most of the ex-British colonies? Since when has Iraq been a sovereing nation for less than 2 years? Was it a colony (Whose?) for most of my 40 years and somehow I missed it?

Ignorance is multiplying! Or is it a case of rewriting history to suit personal (or national) needs?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina aftermath - Race and Class issues

This was sent to me by a friend. Thought I should add it here.

Lost in the Flood
Why no mention of race or class in TV's Katrina coverage?
By Jack Shafer
Posted Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005, at 4:22 PM PT

What the newscasters didn't say

I can't say I saw everything that the TV newscasters pumped out about Katrina, but I viewed enough repeated segments to say with 90 percent confidence that broadcasters covering the New Orleans end of the disaster demurred from mentioning two topics that must have occurred to every sentient viewer: race and class.

Nearly every rescued person, temporary resident of the Superdome, looter, or loiterer on the high ground of the freeway I saw on TV was African-American. And from the look of it, they weren't wealthy residents of the Garden District. This storm appears to have hurt blacks more directly than whites, but the broadcasters
scarcely mentioned that fact.

Now, don't get me wrong. Just because 67 percent of New Orleans residents are black, I don't expect CNN to rename the storm "Hurricane" Carter in honor of the black boxer. Just because Katrina's next stop after destroying coastal Mississippi was counties that are 25 percent to 86 percent African-American (according to this U.S. Census map), and 27.9 percent of New Orleans residents are below the poverty line, I don't expect the Rev. Jesse Jackson to call the news channels to give a comment. But in the their frenzy to beat freshness into the endless loops of disaster footage that have been running all day, broadcasters might have mentioned that nearly all the visible people left behind in New Orleans are of the black persuasion, and mostly poor.

To be sure, some reporters sidled up to the race and class issue. I heard them ask the storm's New Orleans victims why they hadn't left town when the evacuation
call came. Many said they were broke�"I live from paycheck to paycheck," explained one woman. Others said they didn't own a car with which to escape and that they hadn't understood the importance of evacuation.

But I don't recall any reporter exploring the class issue directly by getting a paycheck-to-paycheck victim to explain that he couldn't risk leaving because if he lost his furniture and appliances, his pots and pans, his bedding and clothes, to Katrina or looters, he'd have no way to replace them. No insurance, no stable, large extended family that could lend him cash to get back on his feet, no middle-class
job to return to after the storm.

What accounts for the broadcasters' timidity? I saw only a couple of black faces anchoring or co-anchoring but didn't see any black faces reporting from New Orleans. So, it's safe to assume that the reluctance to talk about race on the air was a mostly white thing. That would tend to imply that white people don't enjoy discussing the subject. But they do, as long as they get to call another white person racist.

My guess is that Caucasian broadcasters refrain from extemporizing about race on the air mostly because they fear having an Al Campanis moment. Campanis, you may recall, was the Los Angeles Dodgers vice president who brought his career to an end when he appeared on Nightline in 1987 and explained to Ted Koppel that blacks might not have "some of the necessities" it takes to manage a major league team or run it as a
general manager for the same reason black people aren't "good swimmers." They lack "buoyancy," he said.

Not to excuse Campanis, but as racists go he was an underachiever. While playing in the minor leagues, he threw down his mitt and challenged another player who was bullying Jackie Robinson. As Dodger GM, he aggressively signed black and Latino players, treated them well, and earned their admiration. Although his Nightline statement was transparently racist, in the furor that followed, nobody could cite another racist remark he had ever made. His racism, which surely blocked blacks from potential front-office Dodger careers, was the racism of overwhelming ignorance�a
trait he shared (shares?) with many other baseball executives.

This sort of latent racism (or something more potent) may lurk in the hearts of many white people who end up on TV, as it does in the hearts of many who watch. Or, even if they're completely clean of racism's taint, anchors and reporters fear that they'll suffer a career-stopping Campanis moment by blurting something poorly thought out or something that gets misconstrued. Better, most think, to avoid discussing race at all unless someone with impeccable race credentials appears to supervise�and indemnify�everybody from potentially damaging charges of racism.

Race remains largely untouchable for TV because broadcasters sense that they can't make an error without destroying careers. That's a true pity. If the subject were a little less taboo, one of last night's anchors could have asked a reporter, "Can you explain to our viewers, who by now have surely noticed, why 99 percent of the New Orleans evacuees we're seeing are African-American? I suppose our viewers have noticed, too, that the provocative looting footage we're airing and re-airing seems to depict mostly African-Americans."

If the reporter on the ground couldn't answer the questions, a researcher could have Nexised the New Orleans Times-Picayune five-parter from 2002, "Washing Away," which reported that the city's 100,000 residents without private transportation were likely to be stranded by a big storm. In other words, what's happening is what was expected to happen: The poor didn't get out in time.

To the question of looting, an informed reporter or anchor might have pointed out that anybody�even one of the 500 Nordic blondes working in broadcast news�would
loot food from a shuttered shop if they found themselves trapped by a flood and had no idea when help would come. However sympathetic I might be to people liberating necessities during a disaster in order to survive, I can't muster the same tolerance
for those caught on camera helping themselves in a leisurely fashion to dry goods at Wal-Mart. Those people weren't looting as much as they were shopping for good stuff to steal. MSNBC's anchor Rita Cosby, who blurted an outraged if inarticulate harrumph when she aired the Wal-Mart heist footage, deserves more respect than the broadcasters who gave the tape the sort of nonjudgmental commentary they might deliver if they were watching the perps vacuum the carpets at home.

When disaster strikes, Americans�especially journalists�like to pretend that no matter who gets hit, no matter what race, color, creed, or socioeconomic level they hail from, we're all in it together. This spirit informs the 1997 disaster flick
Volcano, in which a "can't we all just get along" moment arrives at the film's end: Volcanic ash covers every face in the big crowd scene, and everybody realizes that we're all members of one united race.

But we aren't one united race, we aren't one united class, and Katrina didn't hit all folks equally. By failing to acknowledge upfront that black New Orleanians�and perhaps black Mississippians�suffered more from Katrina than whites, the TV talkers may escape potential accusations that they're racist. But by ignoring race and class, they boot the journalistic opportunity to bring attention to the disenfranchisement of a whole definable segment of the population. What I wouldn't pay to hear a Fox anchor ask, "Say, Bob, why are these African-Americans so poor to begin with?"

*******

Note to Al Campanis' departed soul: Al, if you had endowed a foundation to build a 50-meter pool in an urban neighborhood and hired some good coaches, I bet that pool would have spawned Olympic-caliber swimmers.
Send your Katrina nuggets to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.
(E-mail may be quoted unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Related in SlateClick here for a full roster of Slate's Katrina coverage. Last year, Daniel Engber explained how reliable hurricane forecasts are. And if you're more interested in class than race, click here to read Shafer's analysis of two special series on the topic in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Jack Shafer is Slate's editor at large.
Sidebar graphic courtesy U.S. Census Bureau.
Photograph of Katrina survivors by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Hurricane Katrina and relief efforts

In 1993, I worked for a consulting company that sent a proposal to FEMA for a disaster plan - a lot of the issues that are arising now would have been mitigated if that proposal or something like it had been implemented. It included having a load of stuff including generators, portable radio towers, satellite phones, etc stored in pods around the country that could be transported into the areas by helicopter, boat, truck, etc and set up very very quickly to have a communications infrastructure in place to be able to coordinate relief efforts.

Right now they are talking about reconnecting electricity. I wouldn't want to be in a flooded area if they turn back on that electricity! To me, they had better plan on running solar and diesel generators for quite a while. But where are those? Where are those big army helicopters that can transport loads of people? Where are the Navy ships to run communications? (Or help house ppl)

After Hurricane Ivan destroyed 90% of Grenada last year, the first things in were soldiers, tents,water, food, generators and backhoes. Power restoration was not one of the first things on their minds at all. They got the refugee camps up and running, and then started doing the clearing and reconstruction.

I think for the relief and rescue ppl, the shock of the scale of the damage that Katrina did took too long to get over, and now the rescue and relief are playing catch up. For the sake of the people who stayed to "ride out" the storm, lets hope that they manage to get going very very soon.

Disaster planning means that they should plan for a disaster, not a little rain! Why did they not think that something of this scale could hit the area?