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<nettime> how was the summit? a helpful list in case your friends ask yo
geert lovink on Fri, 19 Dec 2003 17:12:12 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> how was the summit? a helpful list in case your friends ask you


How was the summit? A helpful list in case your friends (or any reporters)
ask you

Geneva/Berlin, 16 December 2003. Compiled by Rik Panganiban and Ralf

The Good

ICT4D Exhibitions
It was quite inspiring seeing the hundreds and hundreds of great
exhibitions and stands in the ICT4D. Comparing this fair to the Geneva
Telecom 2003 last month, one can see how colorful and vibrant are the many
activities being engaged in by civil society, governments, international
institutions and businesses. It makes you think that we need more frequent
gatherings where people and groups developing ICT applications to meet
real human needs can assemble and celebrate each others work.

Civil Society Declaration
Great work all around assembling such an ambitious document, representing
a diverse assemblage of views and vision of hundreds of groups of civil
society. Kudos to Sally Burch and Bill McIver for guiding the process, all
the drafting committee folks, and caucus and working groups for their
input and refinements.

Parallel Civil Society Events
It was incredibly frustrating knowing that there were at any time several
interesting meetings going on that you wanted to attend. We hope that groups
will make reports, powerpoints, videos and other materials available, so we
can see a flavor of what we missed. We went to lots of great events,
including the CPSR meeting on ICT governance, the AMARC community media
forum, the TRP meeting on "democracy, freedom and digital divide", the World
Forum on Communication Rights, and the UBUNTU meeting on global governance
and WSIS. Congrats to all the organizers for their great work.

Helping Hands
An whole number of people - especially from but not limited to civil
society - were extremely helpful during the whole week. Be it the geeks who
set up the free wireless hotspot around the civil society offices, the
people who coordinated the press conferences and plenary sessions, the ones
who spent nights in smoke-filled hotel rooms finalizing joint press releases
and other documents, or the volunteer translators - thanks to all of you!

The Bad

Turns out there was plenty of room in the plenary hall, hundreds of
available seats. So making us come up with these complex distribution
systems, fight with each other, and put poor Robert Guerra (who helped
getting it structured) through the wringer, was all for nothing.

WiFi / Internet Access
This was abyssmal how substandard our internet access was. We confess to
being guilty of assuming that at the information society summit that we
would have in place adequate information technology. WiFi barely worked,
even after having to pay exhorbitant amounts for it. SMTP never worked, so
sending email was impossible for most of us. The biggest scandal, though,
was the fact that we had no free wireless access, as this had been the case
at all the PrepComs.

The noise factor was a significant and constant nuisance the entire week,
with no soundproofing of any meeting spaces and frequent loud music, booming
noises, and the overall buzz of a thousand conversations. Many people
commented that they had never been at a meeting of this stature where the
noise level was so bad.

Official Roundtables
We understand that the roundtable speakers only got 3 minutes to make their
interventions. What exactly was the point of bringing all this expertise
together if no actual dialogue was going to happen? A number of speakers who
had taken the effort of coming to Geneva from distant continents for these
roundtables told us they had never felt so useless at any other conference.

The Ugly

Civil Society Speaker Selection
We had selected our speakers in a fairly transparent and democratic manner
before the summit. Then somebody in the ITU just took the list and
arbitrarily picked and dropped people. We neither know who took this
decision, nor why. But it denied civil society its right to choose who
speaks on its behalf and brings its points across. This was especially clear
in the opening ceremony. The selected speaker from the World Blind Union was
nice, but had not participated actively in overall civil society discussions
and therefore did not make our points. She even had been under pressure from
the ITU secretariat to include specific sentences in her speech. Oh, and by
the way: This was even against the rules of procedure.

Tunisian Influence Efforts
According to several reports, the Tunisian government had sent a whole
number of people to the summit and accredited them as "civil society"
members. Many of them tried to mess up civil society discussions related to
the second phase of the summit and especially to the bad human rights record
of Tunisia. Some of them were even caught red handed in attempts to steal
hundreds to thousands of copies of the critical summit newspaper Terra Viva.
This is not only a violation of human rights such as free speech, but it is
also very stupid and backfires if you get caught.

Police Repression
The Geneva Police closed down the Polimedia Lab of the Counter Summit "WSIS?
We Seize!" downtown Geneva on the day before the summit started. They also
surrounded and stopped a demonstration held against the summit on its last
day. Protestors using their right to free speech and assembly were
questioned and their personal data taken. Those who refused or did not have
their passports on them were taken into custody.

Censorship Efforts
The security guards at the entrances of the summit venue also censored
radical material activists wanted to distribute. Sometimes this was even the
case with material produced by organizations with consultative status at the
United Nations like the alternative news agency IPS. The Summit Special
Advisor to the UN Secretary General, Nitin Desai, even tried to picture a
joint civil society protest note against these measures as lies. "I think
these people were attending a different conference," he said. Probably he
was at another summit himself.

Privacy Violations
The name badges produced for every summit participant at registration
included a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. The personal data of
the participants, including the photograph, was stored on a central
database, and the times when and where they left or entered the summit venue
were also recorded. There was no privacy policy available, and nobody could
or would tell us what happens to the data after the summit.

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