News, views and what I choose to dos




Making the world a better, more synergistic, substantively co-ordinated place

Category : Internet governance · by Jul 20th, 2006

At the conclusion of the [tag]WSIS[/tag] process – where the world’s governments, non-governmental organisations, businesses and so on discussed how to use the Internet to better the lot of everyone on the planet – there was a sense of irritation and disappointment that many issues had been lost amid the power struggle for control of the domain name system and the root zone file.

And so I vowed to myself, while drinking a nice cold beer overlooking the beautiful Tunis harbour at the end of the World Summit, that I would keep checking to see if there was a way I could promote these other, less newsworthy elements. Things like new networks in developing countries, educational systems bringing the world’s experience to those unfortunate enough to have been born on the wrong patch of ground on this planet, and so on.

To that end, I have signed up on several mailing lists and I regularly do a scan of various websites to see what is going on. And I have learnt since November exactly why there is hardly ever any press coverage of these events.

I always thought it was because newspapers and newspaper readers are an incredibly parochial lot, interested only in their backyard, and preferably in something dreadful happening in their backyard. And there is an element of that. But I have to confess, possibly just as big a factor is that all information coming out of the United Nations and from NGOs says nothing and is virtually incomprehensible.

I think the best example for sometime has just popped into my inbox. It sounded promising: “International steps taken to build global Information Society.” Okay, now we’re talking, I thought, what’s really going on down on the ground?

This is what it said: “Implementation of the outcomes of the recently concluded World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) gathered momentum with the launch of the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS). High level representatives of twenty-two UN agencies met on Friday, 14 July 2006 at ITU Headquarters in Geneva under the chairmanship of ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi to facilitate the process.”

So, seven months after the agreement in Tunis, various groups have had a meeting. Not only is that unimpressive in itself, but wait until you hear what was decided.

“UNGIS will serve as an inter-agency co-ordinating mechanism within the UN system to implement the outcomes of WSIS. The Group will enable synergies aimed at resolving substantive and policy issues, avoiding redundancies and enhancing effectiveness of the system while raising public awareness about the goals and objectives of the global Information Society. UNGIS will also work to highlight the importance of ICTs in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.”

Now forgive me if I’m confused here, but what the hell does that management bullshit actually mean? It’s taken seven months to have a meeting to decide that they will have a new body to decide what to do. And that body will “enable synergies”, “resolve issues”, “enhance effectiveness” and “raise public awareness”. None of this *means* anything.

What I want to know is:

  • How much money does it have?
  • Where and how is it going to spend that money?
  • How many projects are there?
  • Where are they?
  • Who will benefit?
  • What are the expected benefits and when will they start being visible?

This is real detail, not opaque and obtuse wording and bureaucratic gibbering. If you then check out the UNGIS website you find two things:

  1. More mindless management speak
  2. That it is a password-protected website

If this is extent of what was lost amid the political machinations in the Kram Conference Centre, I feel entirely vindicated in spending all my time covering that story.

I have no doubt that, unbeknown to me, I was in fact enabling my synergies and enhancing my effectiveness while raising public awareness as the others in the room resolved issues. The only difference was that there was something to see, people to talk to and something tangible at the end of it.

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(1) Comment

Keith Burnett
15 years ago ·

Just a thought, but top down will never amount to much. Surely the progress is going to be bottom up? Small scale projects in many countries. The hole in the wall project in India is one I use to challenge teachers – vicarious learning and a whole new vocabulary to describe computers.

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