Creative internet-based solutions to social and economic development

2 May 2016 09:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]

At the start of the session, Ms Sylvia Cadena (Community Partner Specialist at Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre) briefed the audience on the purpose of the session. Cadena mentioned that the session sought to acknowledge the contribution of industry innovators to the development of the information society. She added that the session would also reflect the role of the Internet in contributing to achieving the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), while also discussing the related barriers and challenges that need to be overcome.

Ms Carolina Caeiro (Coordinator of Development Projects, LACNIC – Uruguay) spoke about the Seed Alliance and Frida initiatives, which are operating within the Latin America and Caribbean  region. With regard to the Seed Alliance, Caerio mentioned that it acts as a ‘broker’ by securing funds from the partner organisations and helping route them to small and medium enterprises or individuals involved in developing innovative information solutions using the Internet as a medium. She mentioned that the alliance is involved in a ‘tough exercise of match making’.

Dr Jovan Kurbalija (director of DiploFoundation and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform) talked about the channels of e-participation and online learning. Kurbalija explained how DiploFoundation uses technology tools such as Skype and WebEx to encourage the global community to engage in debates on digital policy issues.  He commented that ’with the recent developments, technology no longer remains a challenge, but the barrier has moved to be more of a context gap’.

Dr Marion Jansen (Chief Economist, International Trade Center, Switzerland) highlighted the need for small and medium enterprises to use e-commerce platforms to deliver services and goods both at national and international levek. She referred to the Global Competitiveness Report and commented that ‘access to information is a key determinant to development’.

Mr Stuart Hamilton (Deputy Secretary General and Director Policy and Advocacy, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) emphasised the role of libraries in making information globally accessible, through the use of Internet. Hamilton also highlighted that the thrill of technology sometimes overshadows the need for continual funding for libraries. He mentioned that increased efforts and research are required in the fields of big data and data literacy, in order to have sustainable access to information through libraries and the Internet.

Joining remotely from India, Dr Anja Kovacs (Director, Internet Democracy Project) talked about the challenges that the marginalised communities within the society face while coming onboard to new communication platforms such as the Internet. Kovacs quoted a case in India where unmarried women were not allowed to have access to mobile phones and Internet, due to social restrictions.  A lack of focus on increasing the literacy level was also mentioned as a barrier to enhancing Internet penetration within marginalised communities.

Mr Mwendwa Kivuva (Project Manager, AFRINIC), joining remotely from Kenya, explained the outcome and impact of a recent project, Make Every Woman Count, on capacity building efforts within the African sub-continent. Kivuva provided examples of alternate channels for community reach-out, such as physical newspaper advertisements, which are particularly effective for the remote communities that currently do not have access to Internet.

At the conclusion of the session, there was a broad consensus among participants on a number of issues:

  • Increased efforts and investments are required to develop institutional capacity. Current efforts are mostly limited to individuals.
  • Analysing the impact of funds and projects is needed in order to help decision makers to fine tune their funding strategies.
  • A comprehensive analysis is required to identify barriers and challenges to Internet access. Such challenges could include literacy, culture, language, etc. The corresponding impact of each of these challenges on the social and economic development has to be analysed, and appropriate actions need to be taken by the wider Internet community. 

by Mohit Saraswat