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December 2003 Membership Newsletter

The article below from BBC outlines some of the issues for next week's United Nations World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva, Switzerland. It's being sent to everyone to set the stage for the role we, Digital Workforce Education Society (DWES), and a number of our partners are providing as an accredited NGO partner in this important global summit on the roles of government, NGO's, the private sector and individuals, rich and poor, in the digital world we now live in. The link to all the major international organizers is here for those interested in details on this event: http://www.wsisgeneva2003.org/home.html

DWES will be the principal provider of live, interactive content providing the world's rich and poor with access to events during this five day event through a variety of technologies and partnerships. First, our partners in this unique online event:

First and foremost, City Colleges of Chicago, District Office, with whom we have worked in providing similar international events for a number of years. www.ccc.edu
The World Electronic Media Forum, who has accredited us to be one of their satellite downlink sites into City Colleges District Office's facilities for our rebroadcasts out to the world down to the desktop/laptop. www.wemfmedia.org/ Now remote users unable to attend this event in Geneva will have access to many of the live programs and workshops and in some cases will be able to participate live with the various world leaders as they discuss the future of our Information Society.
SRI International To further facilitate access to remote users in countries or areas where high speed internet service is poor we have also partnered with SRI International's Center for Technology and Learning
http://www.ctl.sri.com/ and their Tapped In Organization http://ti2.sri.com/tappedin/ .  Tapped In is a Global Community of Practice of over 16,000 distance education professionals supporting and mentoring each other in their work of distance education. 
Finally the Illinois Century Network,
www.illinois.net  providing us with the World's largest telecommunication private education network and technical support to insure our content can be accessed by this global audience, brief details on this Illinois Technology Resource can be found here: www.alado.net/chicagostop/id11.html
Digital Partners
www.digitalpartners.org/home.html Digital Partners provides professional services and financial support to visionary social entrepreneurs interested in effectively utilizing IT to benefit the poor through a portfolio of influential collaborating institutions and individuals.
The Benton Foundation
www.benton.org The mission of the Benton Foundation is to articulate a public interest vision for the digital age and to demonstrate the value of communications for solving social problems.

For anyone interested in tuning into this historic event next week or attending our City College facilities in downtown Chicago, details will be available through DWES' website at www.digibridge.org this weekend. A listing of sites where remote users can login to participate through the variety of technologies we will be supporting will be listed with links at the www.digibridge.org website.

Our role in next week's event is simply to provide the technology and opportunity for as many people as are interested in participating in this gathering of 98 Nations, over 250 Government, NGO, private sector and over 6,000 individuals and to provide them with an opportunity through Illinois' rich technology resources to have a voice in shaping the debate albeit, a virtual voice. DWES takes no position in the debate included in this email below from BBC News, we only provide all stakeholders the technology to voice their opinions during the event through our technologies and partnerships.

Rifts mar digital divide summit

By Alfred Hermida - BBC News Online technology editor

Political wrangling is threatening to derail the first United Nations summit aimed at bridging the digital divide.

The aim of the World Summit on the Information Society is to come up with a global plan to ensure everyone has access to information and communications technologies.
With the summit due to kick off on 10 December, last ditch efforts are continuing to reach agreement on key issues such as the role of the media in the digital age and who should run the internet.

Groups representing some of the world's poorest people fear that the talks will result in a bland declaration with no real political or funding commitments.

Digital funds

The World Summit on the Information Society, (WSIS), was first proposed in 1998, as the UN sees technology as a must for developing nations to help them educate citizens, make them healthier and escape poverty.

The first phase is due to be held in Geneva between 10-12 December, marking the culmination of months of detailed planning and preparatory meetings.

But as world leaders and thousands of delegates from hundreds of organisations and community groups head for the Swiss city, there are still big differences on how to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor countries.

One of the main obstacles is over whether rich countries should provide funds to help poorer ones to get more computers and install networks.
The African countries, led by Senegal, have been championing the idea of a "digital solidarity fund", run by the UN to provide money for technology projects in the developing world.

Europe, Japan and the US are suspicious about the notion of yet another UN body, preferring instead to channel aid for such projects through existing development schemes.

Instead the EU has talked about what it calls a "digital solidarity agenda", dropping any mention of funding.

Swiss Communications Minister Mark Furrer, the chief negotiator on the declaration, has hinted that the question of funding may be left to be sorted out after the summit.

But there are suggestions of progress on one of the other main stumbling blocks, the questions of media freedom.

Countries like China, Egypt and Vietnam are reluctant to see the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the summit declaration, whereas the US and the EU see free speech as a fundamental principle of the internet.

As the clock ticks towards the summit, the Swiss minister has suggested that a compromise may be found to incorporate human rights and press freedom.

Net rule

Agreement on the thorny issue of who should run the internet could be much harder to reach.

We now have the feeling that there is no political will to agree on a common vision
Civil Society
Currently the net is managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, (Icann), a semi-private body created by the US Government in 1998.
It oversees major domain names such as .com and .net, as well as helping set the technical standards for how the net operates.

Developing nations such as Brazil and China, are pushing for the United Nations to have a greater say over regulation of the internet.

Western countries, such as the US, the business lobby and others are opposed to the idea of handing over responsibility for how the net works to a UN body.

They fear that this could give more power to governments and politicise technical decisions, which could affect the free flow of information.

Groups representing social movements, trade unions and aid bodies say the political squabbles are diverting attention from the original aims of the summit - giving a helping hand to the world's poorest.

"If the governments want to agree, they can agree in five minutes," said a statement by the non-government groups, represented under the banner of Civil Society.

"We now have the feeling that there is no political will to agree on a common vision."

Story from BBC NEWS: