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The second part of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was held from November 16 to 18 in Tunis, Tunisia. The first part was held in 2003 in Geneva. Xavier Leonard of the non-profit Heads on Fire traveled to Tunis from San Diego to participate in this summit. This post contains a video that the SDIMC did some minor editing on and a report from Xavier's blog. I met with Xavier at a presentation he did prior to going to the summit. He stressed the importance of being involved with this process to insure that access to the internet and other communication is a right for the people of the world.

Update from global Indymedia: The second part of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is held from November 16 to 18 in Tunis, Tunisia. The first part of the UN sponsored event was held in Switzerland in December 2003, where people from all around the world gathered for meetings and actions during the official meeting in Geneva expressing protest under the slogan 'WSIS - we seize'.

The choice of place for the second part of WSIS - Tunis - is more than hypocritical for a summit on information society: While Tunisia is catching up economically with the capitalist North, it is far from any information society if you are talking about the freedom of information (report). Furthermore - and different to 2003 - it seems almost impossible to express protest against this summit. Nevertheless some initiatives and organisations called for alternative meetings. Some Human Rights Groups take part in the "Citizens Summit on the Information Society (CSIS)". Others try to bring in their ideas within the WSIS itself.

Free access to knowledge for everybody is not the goal of WSIS, and the summit organizers' plan is to concentrate on governmental and corporate use of information and communication technologies. This approach fits the choice of place. Yet, the summit does not only give legitimacy to a repressive regime, its focus also ignores the social and technological situation in the Magrebh region. The majority of people in this part of the world do not have access to communication tools and the authoritarian regimes in the region are reliable allies to the european governments in supressing freedom of movement.

Update 16 November:It is reported that Tunesia is blocking unofficial websites related to the WSIS. People said that they could not access Websites as wsisblogs.org or the CSIS Website from hotels or other places outside the official media centre. ( study on Tunesian internet filtering ). Furthermore there were reports of repressiv actions by Tunesian authorities against groups claiming freedom of speech in the days before the conference started.

2005:'Tunisia and WSIS' dedicated page of the WSIS CS Human Rights Caucus| CSIS Website | IP Justice | from the region(fr):tunezine |nawaat | reveiltunisien | Wikipedia On WSIS | IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group | Some Blogs: one | two | three | four | five (de) |

2003: Feature on the WSIS 2003 at Indymedia UK | World Forum on Communication Rights in Geneva 2003 | Some IMC UK articles on 2003:one | two | three | four | five | San Diego Indymedia WSIS Coverage 2003

"Inside the WSIS" quicktime 7.1 MB -

presentation by $100 Laptop team
presentation by $100 Laptop team

$100 Laptop Team Presents at WSIS
by Xavier Leonard
So I guess I'm starting with my most recent experience and at some point I'll blog my way backwards. That actually may be appropriate since the Club of Rome's presentation of the $100 Laptop team really had a tone that I feel was unique among the WSIS events.

There's been a grip of passion in the room for all of the Parallel Events I've popped into and, at WSIS, intensity is even a part of standing in line to buy a sandwich. Even so, the super-charged atmosphere in the room as Nicholas Negroponte and his team spoke was undeniably special. Their work is just soaked with so much hope-inspiring innovation, that the team's enthusiasm is powerfully infectious. I've found this to be a pretty common characteristic of projects that come out of MIT's Media Lab, which is, itself, undeniably special. I find so much value in all of the events here, that it's been my practice to take the first sensible moment to exit one session so that I can squeeze in some of another that's happening simultaneously. I couldn't pull myself away from this presentation and stayed through the last word following the Q and A. Understandable, maybe, guven my background and interests, but the German actress/geo-sociologist whom I'd just met was equally gripped to the very end.

One thing that made it so exciting is that the $100 price tag is just one of many innovations that are a part of this project. The team detailed many more, including built-in mesh networking, but I got the sense that there are more still that didn't even get mentioned.

I think the team refers to the project as "One Laptop per Child" and Negroponte emphasized why this concept was central to their innovative vision. In explaining why they want everone the school to have their own laptop, rather construct a series of laptop labs, Negroponte referenced a parable told by Media Lab co-founder Seymour Papert. The parable invites us to imagine a school and that that is an entire country. In the school, the only form of communication is speech. Then, one day, someone invents writing and everyone thinks it great. Trying find a way for students get the greatest benefit from this new technology, the school administrators first discuss putting a single pencil in each of the classrooms. Then they decide that a better idea is to take 10 pencils and put them all into one room, called a "pencil lab." Each student would be able to access a pencil two hours a day, two days out of the week.

Also see:

Homepage:: http://www.digitaldivide.net/blog/xleonard/

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