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WSIS Kicks Off

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is underway in Geneva. Lots of world leaders giving short speeches about the value of peace and cooperation (and hinting that the Internet would be a much nicer place if only it was under the control of the UN). In many ways, the fact that the declaration of principles and plan of action drafts are only being made available on the WSIS website as Microsoft Word documents sums up the whole thing.

Far more interesting than the conference itself are the various WSIS-related web observers, news sites, and side-conferences which have sprung up. My favorite is a particularly interesting side-conference simultaneous to WSIS called the World Forum on Communication Rights. It describes itself as an independent civil-society led initiative, focusing on demonstrating, documenting, and developing a coherent articulation of universal communication rights.

The World Summit on the information Society seems determined to turn a blind eye to many issues central to an information society that puts people first. Who owns information and knowledge? Who controls the production process? Who rules the circulation of knowledge, and in whose interests? Who is able to use it, and for what ends?

Many believe that communication must be at the core of any information society — some call for a communicating society. They believe that securing communication rights should for all be high on all our agendas. Yet the concept of communication rights is new. What do electronic surveillance, concentration of ownership of media, the failure to meaningfully address the Digital Divide, the privatisation of knowledge in the public domain, and the apparent non-existence of the poor in mainstream media have in common?

They all reflect the growing importance of communication to society, culture, politics and the economy, and an attempt by powerful governments and corporations to control them for their own ends. Asserting communication rights not only a practical response to these threats, but also a positive effort to realise the huge potential of old and new communication media and technologies for all.

I like these guys. They get it in a way that the WSIS doesn't.

Information about the WSIS can be found in various places. OneWorld.net, a group of young video journalists from India, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay, are providing daily video reports from WSIS (requires RealVideo; video starts playing immediately). The Daily Summit gives live coverage from the conference, engagingly written, along with links to other WSIS-related sites. The writer of KnowProse, a blog with a focus on Free Software and digital freedom, isn't at the summit, but has plenty of interesting observations anyway.

Finally, if you have something you really want to say to the summit, but can't get to Geneva in time, check out the Hello World Project, which will allow you to have a brief (<100 word) message written in laser across a mountainside in Geneva (as well as on buildings in Mumbai and New York, and a hillside in Rio).

Comments (4)

Yeah, I agree. The WSIS is really an Anti-WSIS. No real Information seems to be apparent from the majority of the particular subset of our societies.

I bet you that the food is pretty good.

Here's a good piece from Newsweek - did I really just say that? - about how proposals like Microsoft's Palladium and Trusted Computing could break the Internet:

"Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet."


Zaid Hassan:

HereĊ½s a kick-ass article on the Summit called Unzipping the World Summit, from MetaMute.


Great grab, Zaid. I don't necessarily agree with all of it (frankly, I not entirely sure I even understand some of it), but it's packed with interesting factoids and historical background.

Any other recommendations for further reading, anyone?


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