As a follow-up to the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), the WSIS 2009 Forum was held at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in Geneva from 18 to 22 May 2009. Among over 40 sessions on social implications of information and communications technologies (ICT), ICVolunteers participated in the High Level Panel of âAccessing Knowledgeâ, and Action Line C8 meeting on âCultureâ, that includes linguistic diversity.
The High Level Panel on Accessing Knowledge had a cross-disciplinary discussion attended by speakers with mixed expertise from Governments, libraries, the private and science sectors.
Dr Hoda Baraka, the First Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt introduced their national initiative to promote web contents in local languages. In the country, the Government intends to leverage resources in universities -- among students, professors and staff -- through ICT education and training to increase national capacity to create contents in Arabic.
Access to knowledge by people in rural communities will remain to be one of the largest challenges in the Information Society. Lack of network infrastructure and shortage of human resources who would use the knowledge obtained via the Internet are major reasons of the hindered access. The speaker from the private sector was of an opinion that Governments should take initiatives for the infrastructure development to facilitate the private sector investment.
On the technology side, the panelists have agreed that open standards is the key to make ICT beneficial for our society. Many people in developing countries however encountered copy right issues that are obstacles for them to take full advantage of technologies. This is another point on which Governments are expected to work.
Last but not the least, the moderator of the session reminded the potential of radio. He hinted, âLocal radio may be useful means of communication when combined with advanced modern technologies. Radios reach the public broader than computers. It is a cost effective mediaâ.
At the WSIS Action Line C8 (Culture, Diversity and Access) meeting, that followed the High Level Panel. The group moderators from UNESCO and ICVolunteers reported progress, about International Year of Languages (2008), Maaya (Global Network of Linguistic Diversity) and presented future plans, among which a number of actions involving the C8 group. An important piece in this is the new WSIS follow-up web portal launched by UNESCO:
Ms Viola Krebs, Executive Director of ICVolunteers and focal point for the Secretariat of Maaya spoke about the Network's activities: "In January 2009, at the occasion of the International Forum on Multilingualism held in Bamako, Mali, it was proposed that there should be a UN World Summit of Multilingualism.â
In the discussion session that followed the presentations, Mr. Hiroshi Kawamura, the President of Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium proposed to include in the C8 group actions the implication of linguistic diversity to the empowerment of people with disabilities, as well as indigenous peoples.