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No. 68 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Roundtable: The Information Society vs Basic Infrastructural Needs

Tracy Hackshaw

Internet Society Trinidad & Tobago Chapter

IGF 2014 sub theme that this workshop fall under

Internet as an Engine for Growth & Development

Description

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Roundtable: Do the elements required to promote the Information Society/Knowledge Economy complement "basic" infrastructural development needs?

Running concurrently with the 2014 IGF is the 3rd International United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which will be held from 1 to 4 September 2014 in Apia, Samoa (preceded by activities related to the conference from 28 to 30 August 2014, also in Apia, Samoa). The Conference will focus the world’s attention on a group of countries that remain a special case for sustainable development in view of their unique and particular vulnerabilities.

Indeed, this focus is more than timely, given the increasing interest in the economies of SIDS by international Telecommunications companies, matched with the ongoing social, economic and environmental challenges faced within.

Within small island states, basic infrastructural challenges at the social and economic levels have often taken precedence of what may termed "higher order needs".

In other words, issues such as the availability of affordable healthcare, free universal primary and secondary education, safe, potable drinking water, food security, roads and transportation, crime and safety, among others will, in any Government national agenda, naturally take precedence over the development of a knowledge economy, increased and more equitable access to information and knowledge as well as the ability to compete, on more equal terms with counterparts in the developed world.

The 2014 SIDS Roundtable will tackle this constant dilemma and profer solutions to countries engaged in this balancing act on a daily basis and answer the provocative question - "How can issues relating to Internet Governance and Development in Small Island Developing States contribute to solving social and economic challenges?"

AGENDA

1. Opening & Introductions : Moderator (10 mins)

2. Discussant Statements: Maureen Hilyard/Ellen Strickland, Carlton Samuels, Patrick Hosein, Karim Attoumani Mohamed, Deirdre Williams, Anju Mangal (20 mins)

3. Roundtable Discussion with "Kickstart" Questions (30 mins)

- How can issues relating to Internet Governance and Development in Small Island Developing States contribute to solving social and economic challenges?

- Do the elements required to promote the Information Society/Knowledge Economy complement "basic" infrastructural development needs?

4. Discussant Final Responses and Statements (15 mins)

5. Setting the Research and Action Agenda - Next Steps and way Forward (15 mins)

Name(s) and stakeholder and organizational affiliation(s) of institutional co-organizer(s)

Tracy Hackshaw
Technical Community
Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago Chapter

Patrick Hosein
Technical Community
Trinidad & Tobago Network Information Centre (TTNIC)

Has the proposer, or any of the co-organizers, organized an IGF workshop before?

yes

The link to the workshop report

http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/2013/scripts/wks2013/report_view.php?xpsltipq_je=94

Type of session

Roundtable

Duration of proposed session

90 minutes

Subject matter #tags that describe the workshop

#ICT4D #Development #Infrastructure

Names and affiliations (stakeholder group, organization) of speakers the proposer is planning to invite

Patrick Hosein
Technical Community
Trinidad & Tobago Network Information Centre (TTNIC)
Caribbean - Trinidad & Tobago
CONFIRMED

Maureen Hilyard
Civil Society
Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC)
Pacific Islands - Cook Islands
CONFIRMED (remote)

Ellen Strickland
Civil Society
Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC)
Pacific Islands - New Zealand
CONFIRMED

Carlton Samuels
Academic Community
University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica
Caribbean - Jamaica
CONFIRMED

Karim Attoumani Mohamed
Government
Assistant technique en Télécommunications et en passation de marchés
AIMS Region (Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea) - Comoros
CONFIRMED (via Remote)

Deirdre Williams
Civil Society
Co-Cordinator, Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus
Caribbean - St. Lucia
CONFIRMED

Anju Mangal
Technical Community
Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Pacific Islands - Fiji
CONFIRMED

Name of Moderator(s)

Tracy Hackshaw

Name of Remote Moderator(s)

Internet Society 2014 IGF Ambassador - To be named

Description of how the proposer plan to facilitate discussion amongst speakers, audience members and remote participants

Using the Roundtable format, discussants will introduce key points on the topic, and Roundtable participants will be invited to contribute by the Moderator. Remote Participation will be encouraged through the posting of advance questions/topics and will be fully integrated into the Roundtable through full participation of the Remote Moderator as a Discussant.

Description of the proposer's plans for remote participation

Full Remote participation will be encouraged through integration of the Remote Moderator as a Discussant as well as inviting questions prior to the event through Social Media and similar channels.

Background paper

background paper

Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions

REPORT ON WS 68
SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES (SIDS) ROUNDTABLE:
THE INFORMATION SOCIETY VS BASIC INFRASTRUCTURAL NEEDS
NINTH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE
INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM 2014
ISTANBUL, TURKEY
"CONNECTING CONTINENTS FOR ENHANCED MULTI‑STAKEHOLDER INTERNET GOVERNANCE"

Tracy Hackshaw the Vice Chair of the Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago Chapter (ISOC-TT) chaired the session and highlighted that this was a Roundtable and not a Workshop and everyone has an equal seat and thus a place to speak at the table.

Maureen Hilyard, Chair of the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC) participated as a Remote Panellist and introduced two challenges faced in the Cook Islands and many other countries in the Pacific and potentially other Small Island Developing States.

The first one was the cost of Internet connection, and the impacts that has on isolated island communities. She stressed that cost was an enormous challenge for local end users in the developing economy and the sad thing is that this impacts users who most want or need to connect, those for whom connectivity would be both a social and economic enabler.

The second main challenge was the lack of political will by some governments to actually support Internet Governance. She posed this as a main contributing factor to the delay of Internet development in the Pacific. She stressed the lack of political will and perhaps even a lack of understanding by some governments, the main decision makers in developing countries.

Ellen Strickland, Vice Chair of PICISOC focused on the concept of information society and knowledge economy and that and how at times this focus has created assumptions with the best of intent that neglected the realities and needs of basic development. In New Zealand for example, more government services are moving on‑line, and the digital divide in New Zealand has become not just an exclusion of some benefits or opportunities but become an issue of real social inclusion. She posed that to not be on‑line is a deep disadvantage in terms of accessing services meant for ALL citizens. She argued that there isn't one specific model or an information society or a knowledge economy but a deep variety of specific places that need to to be understood.

Anju Mangal, from Fiji and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) raised the issue of access as one of one's democratic right to access the internet. She also brought up the theme of multi-stakeholder participation observing that in Vanuatu there is success in government application of ICT because they are not only engaging the ICT sector but also other sectors, like agriculture, health sector. They are also looking at all wider development issues in terms of targeting sectors such as agriculture, health and education instead of solely taking an ICT focus.

Deirdre Williams from St. Lucia and Co-Coordinator of the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus added an end user perspective. She spoke on the challenge in convincing people that ICT is a very useful tool here that can help other development issues, relaying the tendency to separate the ICT and the Internet from the rest of life. The ICTs and the Internet are tools that you can use to essentially live your everyday life. She issued a call to stop having a digital divide between Internet and ICT on one side and the life that we live on the other side.

Patrick Hosein, Senior Lecturer in the University of the West Indies and the TTNIC (.tt ccTLD) administrator of Trinidad and Tobago gave a concrete example of how investment in better broadband infrastructure could benefit quality of lives in Trinidad and Tobago. He outlined the huge traffic problem that creates a terrible commute is terrible. If the government wanted to reduce commute time by 50%, the transportation infrastructure improvements required would be huge outlay. But if a portion of the spend was instead made on improving the broadband infrastructure it would allow people to telecommute and significantly reduce traffic at a much lower cost than if transportation infrastructure was pursued. He stressed the need then for governments to understand the benefits that could be gained by introducing ICT and improving the broadband infrastructure in order to make a good case for investing in it.

Carlton Samuels, Independent consultant and Chair of the National Advisory Council in Jamaica, noted that Caribbean governments have embraced the idea that ICT is critical to dealing with underdevelopment as they have come to realise that sugar and bananas bauxite and aluminum, even oil and gas is not enough to erase persistent poverty. He outlined three areas of policy being pursued. One is the infusion of ICTs in education and there is everywhere a very big effort to improve social capital by making investments in ICTs. Secondly government services and government interaction through e-Government. And thirdly, Caribbean governments have begun to understand that they don't much understand how these things work. He outlined the main issue as a contention between what we know can help the traditional and the means by which we can apply the help.

Ang Pen Hwa, Vice President of Internet Society Chapter in Singapore saw the issues being discussed in the Roundtable as very complex. He questioned first of all, how important is ICT and Internet access, in the range of priorities the Small Island Developing States have when competing with other issues like global climate change. He also argued that in focusing on infrastructure, you will be missing other possible threats and dangers such as risks of Internet addiction, gaming addiction and exploitation of children on‑line. We therefore need to consider not just physical infrastructure but the social and political side as well. He called for some kind of ranking of priorities so that the issues can appear realistic to the policy makers.

Sebastian Bellagamba, Regional Director for the Internet Society in Latin America and the Caribbean and Ellen Strickland spoke of ISOC’s eagerness to understand the needs associated with bringing the internet to everyone. Ellen Strickland recognised that there are infrastructure barriers and technology barriers, but questioned whether there may also be some policy barriers that it might be possible to be overcome.

Mark Carvell, of the U.K. Government and also speaking as a chartering member of the Commonwealth of Nations, pointed to the issue of support for national policy makers as a challenge, and the need for the Commonwealth Secretariat and the CTO to talk about this and review they we might develop some medium or channel for sharing best practice for Small Island States.

Rakesh Luchmun, Director in the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) added that one of the issues that CTO also has to work on is securing funding as this remains an issue for all of its members, many of whom are Small Island States.

Dr. LIU Chuang, Director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and representative from the International Organisation For Science and Technology indicated that SIDS have been an area under analysis for some time now. Based on their research, there are four (4) specific areas for focus:

1. Connectivity
2. National policy and Strategy
3. Local Content (especially to open resources)
4. Capacity Building

In the area of Capacity Building, there are several training workshops which are available, and are co-hosted with the United Nations which should continue. Support is also offered for the development of National Strategies and Policies.

Link to images from the workshop: http://goo.gl/qPdwVz

Conclusions drawn from the workshop and possible follow up actions

Some specific conclusions and follow-up actions:

1. While there is recognition that ICT, and Internet technologies, in particular can solve larger social and infrastructural problems, ICT is at the stage where it is simply Policy and Strategy based - and often "left on a shelf" while the more "tangible" infrastructural initiatives get the attention and funding both from Governments and International Donors. In addition to focusing on the big, national projects (National Strategies etc.), there should be similar focus on smaller, community-based, more feasible and likely impactful technology initiatives by Governments and Donors with a view to making ICT interventions more meaningful for the majority.

2. Partnerships and synergies across the SIDS are important - International developmental agencies could perhaps examine expanding regional projects beyond the region (from the Pacific to the Caribbean, for example) to promote collaboration, sustainability, sharing of resources and capacity with a view to contextual solutions to shared problems - as opposed to leaving the follow-up actions to each Small Island to attempt to solve on its own (with a likely lack of resources and capacity).

3. Policy recommendations that would facilitate the creation of neutral Community Networks with interconnection to public networks. These networks can be wireless, broadband networks, built on Open Technology and a source of Open Data - an area of focus which is currently in its infancy in the SIDS.

Estimation of the overall number of participants present at the workshop

25

Estimation of the overall number of women present at the workshop

about half of the participants were women

Extent to that the workshop discuss gender equality and/or women’s empowerment

it was not seen as related to the workshop’s theme and was not raised

A brief summary of the discussions in case that the workshop addressed issues related to gender equality and/or women’s empowerment

No information provided

Reported by

Tracy Hackshaw

Workshop transcript

transcript

Youtube video

video

Attachments

No attachments provided

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