The ICT policy and civil society workshop was
held in Addis Ababa from 6 to 8 November 2002. It was organized
by the Association for Progressive Communication (APC), Economic
Commission for Africa (ECA), and Article 19. Eighty-two African
civil society representatives drawn from twenty-five countries,
regional and international organizations (UNECA, UNESCO and the
ITU) participated in the workshop to strengthen the role of Civil
Society Organisations (CSOs) in national, regional and global ICT
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
received a clear mandate from the UN Secretariat to outline a clear
vision of the way human kind wants to build societies free from
poverty, oppression and imbalances of all kind and exclusion from
the benefits that can be derived from information and communication
technologies and their fair utilization.
- the important role that civil society plays
in development and formulation of national ICT policies,
- that the WSIS should be people-centered,
gender-redistributive, youth-friendly and concerned with communities
well being and their access to, and ownership of, communications
tools, processes, services, technologies, training, education
- that the use of ICT as a mechanism for
eradicating poverty should be key in this international drive
for economic and social justice,
- that there is urgent need to strengthen
civil society and private sector inclusion in the national, regional,
and international ICT policy forums,
- that NEPAD is the main regional framework
addressing Africa’s development, · that the NEPAD consultation
process has lacked adequate civil society involvement.
- WSIS Youth Caucus Statement to PrepCom
1, Geneva, July 2002 (http://projects.takingitglobal.org/wsisprepcom1)
- The Kampala Know How Declaration, July
- The African Charter on Broadcasting (ACB),
- APC Internet Rights Charter
- The Bamako 2002 Declaration – African
preparatory meeting to the WSIS, May 2002.
- The African Declaration on Freedom of
- The African Information Society Initiative
- The statement resulting from the UNESCO
consultation with Civil Society conducted prior to the African
WSIS Bamako preparatory meeting, May 2002.
- WSIS Gender caucus statement to PrepCom
1, Geneva July 2002.
- The African Children’s Broadcasting Charter
Made the following recommendations:
Given the centrality of civil society to the development
of an inclusive information society, and the proximity of CSOs to
the needs of people and society at large, CSOs need to be play a
central role in developing and implementing ICT policy.
Therefore it is important that we define our priorities
for building an inclusive information society in partnership with
The details of what should be done are given in
the attached Action Plan.
The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental
individual right that includes the right to communicate and to access
all means of communication. These principles must be the basis of
regulation, legislation and infrastructure development.
Radio is an ICT tool of particular importance
in the African context because it has the capacity to reach large
populations in a cost effective manner and to overcome barriers
to communication such as illiteracy and linguistic diversity.
All policy regulation, legislation and infrastructure
development should be gender sensitive and adjusted to meet the
needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups such as women, the youth,
the illiterate, the economically disadvantaged, differently-abled
and rural peoples.
States should ensure that all businesses operating
in the field of ICT infrastructure development should be required
to invest in and deliver services and infrastructure to under- and
un-served areas with particular sensitivity to the needs of marginalized
and vulnerable groups in society.
States should develop national infrastructure
policies that are affordable, sustainable, upgradeable and expandable
and that enable ICT to develop without restrictions created by current
Civil society organizations in each country should
gather knowledge about the policy processes, meet in order to discuss
a policy position and then lobby governments to adopt and implement
fair policy processes in relation to ICT.
Government should enact legislation and help create
an enabling environment that would give communities the ability
to develop relevant capacities to use ICTs for their own well-being
The principle of Universal Access should be applied
to include cultural, information/communications and educational
Civil society should organize together and engage
in the governance of the Internet and other information and communication
media, at local, national and regional perspectives. At the international
level civil society should engage further with ICANN in the Internet
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) need to be
included in all consultative processes including government-led
delegations in regional and international forums, especially the
The principle of the Information & Communication
Society should include issues of human rights and equitable and
sustainable socio-economic development, and not just be restricted
to technological and financial matters.
CSOs are encouraged to create a flexible coordinating
mechanism with readily available regional networking and outreach
capabilities. The mission of such a mechanism will be to encourage
discussions, work towards a much broader inclusion of other CSOs
and interested stakeholders and defend common positions on outstanding
Participants called attention to the fact that
developing information and communications societies entail the promotion
of free and fair flow of information and communications as well
as the implementation of support and access to local ICT manufacturing
capabilities especially with regard to open source, low cost, appropriate
and people centered technologies.
Participants recognized that information and communications
processes and technologies should be primarily utilized to tackle
outstanding challenges related to peace and security, education,
cultural empowerment and democratic and sustainable human development.
We acknowledge the existing imbalances in media
content and the dominance of Colonial languages, which have hindered
the cultural expression and socio-economic development of the majority
of African people.
A major opportunity presented by ICTs is a diversification
of existing ownership patterns in terms of barriers to market entry.
Measures should be put in place to ensure access by new players
/ entrepreneurs to services and opportunities regardless of gender,
geographic location, age, economic status, literacy, religion or
disability. Any market restructuring must ensure that adjustment
policies do not lead to further external dependency.
Given that Africa is under-represented in the
global knowledge economy, there is a need to develop and encourage
local information resource centres and to build capacity to produce
and collect accurate and relevant local content in official and
national languages and lingua franca taking cognizance of oral and
traditional forms of communications.
The African enabling environment requires a convergence
of media legislation that takes into account the convergence of
modern and traditional technologies.
It is essential that ICT is pro-actively used
to address the gaps between government and civil society, the information
rich and poor, and that cross-platform compatibility facilitates
information flow that bridges divides and creates equality.
Tariffs must be affordable and facilitate access
to all. This could require subsidies for those who are marginalized
In the face of rapidly changing technological
advancement, and the exorbitant cost of proprietary hardware and
software solutions, which discriminate against CSOs that are attempting
to participate in ICTs for development, the need for open source
solutions has emerged.
There is a global trend toward open source solutions,
which have become viable, cost effective and sustainable options
for CSO participation in ICTs for development.
We strongly recommend the creation of the Open
Source Foundation for Africa to explore and advance open source
solutions for ICT development for our communities.
The youth of Africa represent the hope for Africa’s
future and losing them through the continued brain drain does not
bode well for Africa and its future. African youths must be empowered
and motivated to contribute to the development of their continent.
They should also be included at all levels of decision-making that
will impact on their lives and those of generations to come.