Anonymous on Sat Apr 21 00:07:30 2001

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In fact it is "Civil Society" who are the folks who are working otg/itc who can
actually make the technology work in the ways it could work to improve living
standards and bridge the multiple divides--digital and other.

Which is why it is so important that the Civil Society chairs in these forums
are not occupied by individuals (appointed by the old folks) but rather are
links between these forums (and funding/resource opportunities) and otg/itc real
life experience and  capacity to make these things work in useful ways.

There are real opportunities for using the technologies to improve living
conditions, extend education, raise the standards of rural health care, help
sustain local cultures.  It is the responsibility/opportunity for Civil Society
in contexts such as the DotForce and the World Bank's portal effort to ensure
that these become something more than simply another way for Governments to
"provide" information or to extend the reach of electronic consumerism into ever
more distant and remote regions.

Civil Society in these contexts must insist on building and using local
capacity, on communities creating community content, on using community networks
as delivery systems, on identifying and propagating community best practices.
And overall, it must ensure that whatever grand programs result that they are
designed so that resources flow in useable ways to communities, that local
technical capacity is built and not supplanted, that ownership of community
information rests with communities, that local languages are protected, that
local commerce is enhanced.

Overall Civil Society has the opportunity and the responsibility to ensure that
communities are respected in the process of technology deployment and that the
opportunity to use the technology to enable communities to achieve their
objectives and to participate more effectively in the decisions which affect
their daily lives is realized.

(Anyone wishing to join the discussion around the DotForce and other initiatives
for Civil Society can review the archives and subscribe at

Mike Gurstein

See also M. Gurstein (ed.) Community Informatics:  Enabling Communities with
Information and Communications Technologies, Idea Group, 2000 (ask for the 50% discount)

----- Original Message -----
From: John Horvath <>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, November 24, 2000 12:51 PM
Subject: <nettime> Closing the information technology gap

> [The following is from a EC document which deals with the French EU
> presidency and their attempts at implementing the "information society."
> Ironically, no mention is made of minitel which, although crude by
> present standards (unless you compare it to the back-to-the-future-
> technology called WAP), at least deserves at least a word or two.
> -J]
> From: Euroabstracts, Volume 38, Number 4, European Commission, 2000.
> Pp 12-3.
> Closing the information technology gap
> The new information and communications technologIes (ICTs) are the
> driving force behind the "new economy" upon which many hopes are placed,
> particularly in terms of competitiveness and employment. They also pose
> major challenges to society as a whole, particularly in education,
> culture and governance. Two years ago, the French government launched an
> energetic policy to mobilise pubIic and private sectors and propel
> France into the information society. It is working.
> In 1997 France was some way behind in the use of information
> technologies, as was shown by the small numbers of households with
> persanal computers or Internet connections. This was perhaps the result
> of inadequate provision orquality services on the new networks and
> inadequate support for SMEs and innovative enterprises in this sector,
> as well as France's weak computer culture.
> But the changes brought about by convergence have affected many sectors:
> telecommunications, audio-visual, publishing multimedia, infornnation
> technology and advertising, inter alia. This is all borne out by a work
> called "information technoIogy and the information society - a
> statistical survey". Given the rate of change in the ICTs, this
> compilation by the French industry ministry of the main statistical
> indicators available on this wide range or activities might be thought a
> little dated (1998). Nevertheless it still enables one to gauge the
> take-up rates of these new techniques by France's businesses and
> households.
> Need to catch up
> It is the telecommnunications equipment, television and printed circuit
> makers who are one of France's best performing industrial sectors but
> there is a weakness in computers and their peripherals, hi-fis and video
> recorders. As far as the spread of new technologies is concerned, France
> is still lagging some way behind its northern European neighbours: in
> 1998 Internet penetration into French HouseHolds stood at a mere 2.4%,
> with fewer than half of SMEs connected to the net; there were 560
> French commercial sites on the web (2%). France was however more
> advanced in the mobile telephony sector (10 million subscribers) and
> in the television market, with 7.5 milILon subscribers to pay TV (cable
> or satellite). The French audio-visual industry was growing at 9% per
> year.
> For the last two years the French government has made preparing for
> France's entry into the information society a policy priority. The
> stakes are high indeed, as the brochure "La France dons a Societe de
> l'information - 1999" published by the Prime Minister's office,
> explains. Information and communication technologies are today a lever
> for growth and employment, and their use underpins the growth of the
> whole economy. However, sight must not be lost of their implications for
> national solidarity, the diffusion of knowledge and culture, education
> and training and for bringing citizens and public services closer
> together.
> Fast work
> An ambitious action programme, PAGSI (Governmental Action Programme for
> the Information Society) has therefore been set up, with six priority
> areas: education, culture, the modernisation of public services,
> enterprises and electronic trading, research and innovation and the
> changes to the legal tramework required.
> After a year 7O% of the objectives have been achieved and a new phase
> was proposed for 1999-2000.The accent was put on areas such as the
> development of educational and cultural multimedia content, universal
> access to technologies and networks (with the support of local
> duthol-ities), and ongoing work on electronic administration. Last July,
> the government also announced that it intended to invest FRF 3 billion
> (EUR 450) million) in training for IT piofessionats and FRF 1 billion
> EUR (150 million) in research to prepare for the next generation of
> lCTs. This second action phase (2000-2003) is intended to push France
> still further forward into the era of new technologies.
> As well as its necessary involvement in supporting the development of
> the most competitive and harmonious information society possible, the
> state also has to consider its own organisation and its role in this new
> environment.
> As the Telecommunications Schools Group explains in its collective work
> "Nouvelles technologies - nouvel etat", globalisation, the
> internationalisation of trade, the European integration process, the
> advent of a network economy and a network society, represent a
> considerable challenge to a state with as centralising and regulatory -
> not to say paternalistic - a reputation as France. Furthermore, the need
> to respect the convergence criteria for European economic and monetary
> union requires the state to set up a highly detailed accounting system
> and the information systems that support it. In addition a wide-ranging
> operation to reform and modernise the state was launched in 1995, which
> set objectives for the government and its staff regarding
> simplification, accessibility, service quality and closeness to the
> citizen. To maxinisse its effectiveness it was vital to monitor and
> evaluate this modernisation process before, during and after the
> implementation of public policies.
> Citizens on line
> New communication technologies played a major role in this. Increasing
> the effi- ciency of the state's internal and external operations, among
> other things by net-working within and between the various departments,
> is given pride of place in the government action programme (PAGSI). The
> government has also improved services to individuals and businesses by
> opening up a broad range of on-line services to public access using
> digital data, administrative forms and "teleprocedures". A workshop was
> held to discuss the issue of publishing public data over the Internet,
> Diffusion des donnees publiques et revoIution numerique. Held within the
> Commis- sariat General du Plan the workshop recommended that basic
> public data should be digitised and made available, while a certain
> degree of flexibility should be retained, and private sector
> partnerships brought in for "non-essential data".
> Finally network technologies are opening up new routes of exercising
> democratic control. Government and parliamentary websites are making the
> principle of transparency in public affairs a reality - for the
> 'cyber-citizen' at least.
> This digital environment does however raise a number of major legal
> issues, and the French government has taken the lead in guaranteeing the
> security of systems and data, in stepping up protection for data
> concerning citizens' private lives and in maintaining the conditions for
> fair competition.
> Pubic support for the infosphere?
> Another report drawn up by the Commissariat General du plan,
> "L'infosphere strategies des medians et role de l'etat", sets out the
> reasoning behind a recent measure which aims to help media enterprises
> and citizens to get the most out of the torrent of digital content
> which, as a result of convergence, is now gushing from a multitude of
> media and terminals. This new media environment is here dubbed the
> "infosphere". The report's first section describes ths strategies,
> options and economic models which underlie the activities of enterprises
> and media as they play the global game to capture the stock of
> subscriptions and control the flow of services and content. It is the
> state's role in this context to defend pluralism, diversity, quality and
> accessibility of content, which are all held to be fundamental
> liberties. The report recommends a tough approach, involving new types
> of action by the public authorities, but which should not threaten the
> development of this industry through over-regulation. A whole range of
> incentives (tax breaks, support for R&D, export credits) and more
> flexibility in anti-trust measures could be considered.
> In the world of information and entertainment, there is a real
> opportunity for French and European companies and creative talents to
> occupy new niches despite the pre- dominance ofthe American industry. A
> resolutely optimistic message, with a touch of foresight about it, when
> we consider the recent alliances which have kept the media pages filled.
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