Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Discussion Notes Part 1: Intro's and Andy Carvin's International Perspective

Here we are! Our panel is all set up and Fred Johnson has started with an explanation of the Community Media and Technology Program at CPCS at UMass Boston.

Telecom policy reform is going to impact us on several levels, but it's only symphtomatic of some larger changes with the way our government approaches our future as an information society. The panel tonight strives to start with broader perspective (even internationally) and drill down to a more local or specific perspectives.

The crowd includes folks like Curtis Henderson from Boston Neighborhood Network and George Stone from MNN.

If you want to hear more

Andy Carvin will offer an international perspective, from his work with the Digital Divide Network. Alyce Myatt pub media (both TV and radio) in this country while Dan Coughlin will be filling us in on the threat to PEG access channels.

Andy started with the thought that it's easy for us to be focused only on our local issues. In 1998 a process began in the United Nations to try and figure out where we want the Internet to go. The International Telecommunications Union decided to set up the World Summit on Internet and Society. The second one happened recently in Tunsia. These events included heads of states, representatives from "civil society" and members of the private sector. The goal was to create a set of policy understandings all the members of the UN can understand. The result - there is a huge difference in mindset between the developed and the undeveloped countries around how to regulate the Internet. Developed countries argue that they already have programs to bridge the digital divide, but the developing world is fighting for funds from the UN that are not doled out easily. The fund, as it is, is voluntary, which leaves it far from large enough to cover all the costs of even setting up the basic telecom infrastructure in developing countries. According to Andy, when you add it up, it's probably less than the city of NY budget for education.

Meanwhile, there is also some fights around "internet governance" - basically who controls the Internet. Several countries are fighting for freedom of expression online, while some countries (such as China) are very against these freedoms. Some of this goes back to disagreements on the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Finally, the Summit became a way for some countries to just heavily publicize their current efforts.

The UN also recently released the Millenium Developing Goals (MDG) - a long list of goals for improving human dev around the world, such as cutting poverty in half and internet access for every village by 2015. These goals have spurred creation of CTCs or "telehuts" in places like Hungary and India. (A CTC/telecenter is public community space where people can do technology and their goal is to serve the public good. They are not only funded by the government and they don't always include the making of content. Andy shared a copy of his new book on the subject "From the Ground Up: Evolution of the Telecentre Movement," which is also available online.)

In addition, the World Intellectual Property Org (WIPO) has a proposal on the table to change the definition of who has ownership of multimedia content. Usually, bloggers have copyright on their own content - but this new proposal suggests the distributor would also have some intellectual rights. So if you post to Blogger or YouTube, that network would have a say in how the content is used. Unfortunately it looks like this proposal might go through, but it should be a wake up call for "mom and pop" producers that their rights might be stripped away.

ALERT - Rep Markey is having a phone call with Moby tomorrow - ask Andy for the #!

Questions from the audience included "what is an infoshop?" and "what is it a telecenter?"

Also asked is how these CTC's help to fight poverty and encourage grassroot development. Andy responded that they are NOT centers that just provide internet access for the sake of access without any input from the community (for example AOL/PowerUp). The CTCs that have survived are the ones housed in alreay existing organizations (such as YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, etc). The best centers didn't "drop out of the ether" but instead respond to an existing challenge in the community that people want to solve; and internet is added as a new tool to already do the work of the community group.

The next question revolved around if a CTC is funded by someone like the Chinese government or big companies like Microsoft, possibly with some ulterior motives - is it really embracing the spirit of the telecenter movement?

So on to the next speaker...

1 comment:

Andy Carvin said...

Yeah, that's pretty much what I said. :-)