From Technology in a Wireless WSIS

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Intellectual Genuflection & How the CR-123 Taught me Humility

If you do not know what the CR123 is, allow me to explain very briefly. It is a 3V lithium battery that you use for your low-tech appareil photo, or camera. I specifically use "low-tech", because digital cameras being the rage now, it is very passé to see someone still angling around their low–tech camera—unless you happen to be called Emmanuel.K.Bensah. Ok, go on, laugh. I think I told you my Zire Palm 72 gave up the ghost just a few days before I got here, and didn’t have the time to do anything about it.

Well, today, I took my laptop along to the Civil Society Bureau (CSB) area at Palexpo Kram. My laptop said there was a device missing. The Wireless was supposed to be working, you see. I must have done something wrong, so I abandoned the whole idea and resorted to lugging it all the way around the place like a little kid I am. Honestly!!

Anyway, I sit myself at the cusp of historical change – smile! – cos I have finally found the battery I was looking for. The blasted CR123 was being sold literally minutes walk away from the hotel, yet this morning, shopkeeper after shopkeeper sent me going up and down the street like a madman. I almost thought this particular lithium battery was alien to Tunis! I cussed no-end, but I decided to persist tonight. I WAS NOT going to spend tomorrow morning sweating profusely walking up and down when I needed to attend a workshop at 9am on the role of institutions in the reformation of the digital divide.

Or something like that.

Anyway, it truly was a humbling experience. I had to go fifteen minutes drive away from my hotel to this place closer to the Palexpo, where the quintessential French chain of supermarkets is located. CARREFOUR it’s called. You can find their website here: When my colleague told me CARREFOUR was in Tunis, I could hardly believe my ears. If you have ever heard of BRICOBI, the do-it-yourself people that are even in Spain, well, back in Belgium, most of the GB shops ( were now being replaced by CARREFOUR. This revelation only went to confirm how UTTERLEY European this country is aspiring to be!

Anyway, at Carrefour, which is a HUGE department store, I thought I found what was the CR123, except that this was smaller. In my joy, I dismissed my initial reservations, and just picked it up. I have wasted a good 8 Tunisian dinars. Divide that by 1.35 and you get the dollar equivalent. Sorry, am getting tired again.

I thought you knew I am slow…

With regards to the workshops today, well, after the midday submission, I have to say that I was better inspired. I attended one on Regional perspectives and ICTs, where all the UN’s regional commissions (UNECA, UNESCAP, UNECE, ECLAC) provided an overview of their regions, and the extent to which ICT had empowered the region or not.

This session had the newly-elected Executive Secretary of UNECA there; UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panikpadi, former monk, and former director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) there; as well as His Excellency the President of the Republic of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who has made magnificent strides for his country in, primo, making the country bi-lingual after the egregious 1994 genocide, as well as propelling Rwanda through very good governance, and avant-garde ICT empowerment.

The Rwandan story is rather humbling. I spoke to two Rwandans at the Rwanda stand yesterday, and chatted with them. They did not want me recording what they were saying, so I took notes and assured them I was not going to quote their names. I got a bag of fresh Rwandan coffee.

Good stuff!!

I have to say if ever you get the chance; go to the country they call the land of "Milles Collines", or a Thousand Hills. Anyone who thinks Rwandans are primitive and still fighting has not yet matured from their atavistic state.

Harsh? Well, so is assuming Rwanda is so backward that they have not moved on ten years after the genocide. They are an example of a country that has done it, and a testament to man’s capacity to re-deem himself after horrific events happen to him.

One more act of PR: Rwanda is the only country on the sub-continent—not sure about the world, but possibly—that I know that has more women in Parliament than men—circa 49%.

Now, intellectual genuflection was what popped into my mind in the wake of all these revelations, because I realise that the more I read and talk to people about WSIS, the less I realise I know.

I am really not worthy. I am but a small bee buzzing around on the…yes, yes…cusp of this historical change blowing through the information society.

One concrete development: 12 May will from hereonin be designated World Information Society Day.

Gosh, it’s midnight twenty-two now. Another day gone. Another pizza—of a normal kind, sissoula!!

Till tomorrow, or as that should be, till much later today…


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