From Technology in Tunis...to a Wireless WSIS

Emmanuel.K. Bensah Jr. has 59 followers on Google Buzz

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

How the Ghanaian Media Missed the Masters of the Internet at IGF IV

So the Internet Governance Forum has come and gone like it never happened—and none of the media in Ghana covered it. I cannot quite understand how the Ghanaian media can pick up feeds from the BBC on all and sundry, but somehow miss issues like these? If it is about building capacity, then perhaps a shake-up of the Editors who manage news content ought to be done so that particular kind of news can be covered.

I do not know about you, but last time I looked, technology had assumed an important factor in the development of most nations. That we have the beleagured Vodafone; Tigo; MTN; and Zain in the country and that they are reputed to making tongues of observers of that sector wag could be construed as a sign that the market is saturated, given that Globacom is yet to take-off. That in itself should probably give more of the media food for thought on the future of technology beyond value added services to our mobile phones. These days, for example, mobile internet has become de rigeur, and I am wont to believe that it is only a non-discerning media that will want to leave the debate on technology at the door of mobile phones!

Truth be told, some papers have started to get their act together on reporting technology and ICT. Though I can only think of two out of many of the private press, it is at least a start. Then again, even one of the state-owned sister paper’s that does a great job on reporting technology every week failed to touch on the Internet governance forum, preferring to do an interview of the boss of the International Telecommunications Union(ITU) Dr Hamidou Toure.

Why Internet Governance matters

Perhaps one of the cardinal benefits of the internet is its ability to serve as a source of information to people all over the world. That it is generally free once one overcomes the hurdle of internet café fees and whatnot makes the appeal all the more greater. While I understand it is very easy to appreciate the value of the Internet and its utility for all sorts of uses, I also understand that it is very easy for all of us to take it for granted.

This is where Internet governance comes in, because it enables policy to be formulated so that people worldwide can continue to enjoy its benefit. Even more critical is the Internet governance forum, which I touched on last week. Its value is found in the fact that it is a multi-stakeholder forum monitoring the work of the Internet, and therefore making it easier for policy to be produced around it.

The naysayers of the internet governance process might speculate that after the World Summit on Information Society in Tunis, the UN just needed another excuse to spend inordinate amounts of money on a process that does not get anywhere. Before we accept this idea lock, stock and barrel, let us read what is officially written about it.

Wikipedia says that it was a working group established after a United Nations-initiated World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that proposed the following definition of Internet governance as part of its June 2005 report:

Internet governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.

Wikipedia maintains that “Law professor Yochai Benkler developed a conceptualization of Internet governance by the idea of three "layers" of governance: the "physical infrastructure" layer through which information travels; the "code" or "logical" layer that controls the infrastructure; and the "content" layer, which contains the information that signals through the network.”

In other words, looking at how the Internet works through how governments themselves do their work is probably one of the ways in which we can better-appreciate the work of the Internet Governance Forum.

In the final analysis, if the impression I am giving is that the Ghanaian media does not cover these issues because they are apathetic to them, then I would be way off mark. The truth of the matter is that I should have known that having failed to cover the past three Internet Governance Forums (2006-2008), they were hardly going to change tack and suddenly begin covering it. At least, one has to commend the consistency!


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