Africa`s media gear up for Information Society Summit

By Stephen Whitford, ITWeb contributor
Johannesburg, 05 Dec 2003

A special African multimedia news team has been assembled to cover the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva next week. The newly-formed Highway Africa News Agency (HANA) will send 12 journalists and students from six African countries to the summit, which begins on Wednesday.

The team will comprise a mixture of reporters, radio anchors and journalism students from Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and SA.

The HANA journalists will listen in on high-level discussions, interview world leaders and take photographs. Articles, photographs, graphics and audio packages will be posted on their website, which will go live on Sunday.

Some of the key issues at the WSIS will be Internet governance, the digital divide and how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can address human development issues. The conference is expected to be attended by 40 heads of state and governments.

The domain name debate

President Thabo Mbeki last month called for a change in domain name system, which is administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in California, saying that until the situation changes, the world of domain names continues to be governed by California law.

Michael Geist, Canada research chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, says many developing countries worldwide have echoed this view saying all governments should share in the administration of the domain name system.

Geist says critics point out the Internet`s remarkable growth has come largely without governmental regulation believe the domain name system is best left to a decentralized, self-regulatory approach.

He says the regulation of domain name system will therefore be an important debate at the WSIS and may shed more light on governments` future involvement in Internet governance.

Further discussions

The Human Development Agenda and the Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme (APDIP) will highlight some of the key issues relating to developing nations and their specific human development needs at the WSIS.

James George Chacko, APDIP Programme Specialist says it is increasingly important for global leaders and representatives from civil society, governments and the private sector to examine critical questions on how ICTs are actually able to address global, regional and national human development issues. 

Chako says two major initiatives will be showcased at WSIS. Firstly, a report on promoting ICT for human development in Asia will be previewed. Chako says the report is a systematic study across nine countries in Asia exploring the potential uses of ICT in human development, using the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as a benchmark.

A Cyber Summit Debate will also be held to enlighten policy-makers and the public internationally to realise the potential of environmentally sound development and the efforts to improve lives and raise the status of poor and disadvantaged groups, he says.

The conference will also see an hour long debate on the digital divide with a panel including General Jose Maria Figueres, former President of Costa Rica and Chair UN ICT task force, Kris Holverson, HP VP, Lyndall Shope-Mafole, SA chair of the Presidential Commission on ICT for Sustainable Development, Leo Moggie, Malaysia`s Minister for Energy, Communications and Multimedia, and Kanak Dixit, editor of Himal South Asia.

Other issues expected to be discussed human rights, the protection of intellectual property, Internet security, the media and the Internet and financing to get poorer countries up to speed with connecting to the Internet.

SA has sent around 70 delegates including members of government, civil society and business to the WSIS.

The conference in Geneva will be the first of a three-phases. The second phase of the WSIS will take place in Tunis, hosted by the Government of Tunisia, in November 2005.