Winding up……………..
The effort in the second edition of the ‘e-Content- Voices from the Ground’ is to give an overview of the efforts in different societies across the continents in bridging the content gap cutting across intra and inter societies in countries of the globe. It is showcasing e-Content practices in 40 countries whose prime objective is to create an information rich society where everyone, irrespective of race, religion, community, region, gender divisions are empowered to create, receive, share and utilize information and knowledge for their economic, social, cultural and political upliftment and development.It is information which is taking us ahead not technology alone. This book could be a well reminder that the information society that we are making efforts to create will remain empty concept if one talks solely about technology, network and access issues and no talk of well and meaningful contents, especially in developing and underdeveloped societies. We need not only to consider the general use or impact of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs), but also discuss the various dimensions of e-contents generated, utilized, disseminated both in quantity and quality perspectives. This book guides you to the efforts in e-contents from across the world which stands out due to their excellence in carrying message and creative knowledge.

It will be observed while surfing the book that the goal of the nation wide efforts is simple: strengthening the e-contents practices that already exist as well begin new processes and thus demonstrate the richness and diversity of content creativity to those interested in understanding and planning the Global Information Society.

The book is also a revelation to the fact that the existing range of creativity and excellence in the use of the ICT tools and communication networks is a varied one. It might confirm your conviction that access to networks and ICT platforms is beneficial to the high quality and value of e-contents which are produced and available. It might also lead you to consider that quality contents, their production and economic sustainability require changes to the way society changes, markets operate and governments act.

The book emphasize the importance on cultural diversity and identity, the creation of varied information content and digitalization of educational, scientific and cultural heritage.

The book is one of its kind initiatives which will open doors for global recognition and support to the national initiatives. Innovation comes from the ground. It is created by people wishing to communicate. In order to extract and recognize excellent content, initiatives should be taken to select and promote creative content developers in all world regions.

Despite the differences in the definition of e-content, one aspect comes out open. It is that the level of information status of a country is well depended on the socio-economic-cultural dimensions of any society along with a well developed political culture. This is something that society, the government and other stakeholders must keep in mind while making out efforts in using ICT as a medium to make their society rich in information while creating and storing contents for growth and development. What is more pertinent to note is the overall perception and attitude of the people to make use of ICT for their own benefits. Well one can see the role of government, organizations and others here in a more substantive way in generating and creating awareness.

Giving insight of the e-content roadmap, which is organized country wise in this book, is also organized continent wise, so that e-content trend can be analyzed as per the continent.

» Africa e-content
» European e-content
» South and Latin American e-content
» North American e-content
» Asia e-content
» Oceania and Australian e-content
» Russia

This distribution makes it easier for the readers to identify e-content practices conveniently country wise.

E-Content in Africa

Africa is no longer ‘Dark Continent’. It has come a long way driving on the wheel of growth, development. Countries from this part of the world have introduced several vital programmes to see their societies surge forward in ICT parameters though the scope remains vast open. Country wise ICT initiatives vary with gap witnessed between North and South Africa, East and West. Also because of differences in cultural, social aspects, developing e-content is not that easy task.

The countries that we have included in this book under the heading of Africa e-content are:

» Burundi                » Tanzania
» Burkina Faso        » Togo
» Tunisia

The development of e-content in most of the countries varies, ranging from Health and Education to Business governmental works. Both the public and private parties are creating base for ICT infrastructure and penetration. The role of private bodies is ahead in developing contents.

Unlike European countries the scope of development for e-content in Africa is quite high. The reason behind it is growing socio-economic indicators where demand for products, services etc are increasing every year.

Various fields of e-content are being explored in these countries such as:

» Business        » Government        » Learning
» Culture           » Health                » Science
» Entertainment » Inclusion

Slowly but steadily the continent is approaching towards a huge technical leap, which is surely to bypass all the developed nations at one point of time. The only hurdle is social and political stability at times which are gradually becoming things of the past.

E-Content in Europe

The continent of Europe might be small in size but is one of the most diverse and intellectual in opinion. To bring the whole continent under one umbrella is more or less creating another Noah’s Ark.

As most of the countries in Europe are either developed or are in the last stages of their development, e-content has very specific roles to play in these countries. By now these countries have had enormous use of e-content in various domains of national growth and development.

The countries that have been scoped here are:

» Austria       » Bulgaria                » Romania    » Germany        » Estonia
» Ireland        » Slovakia                » Croatia      » France            » Moldova
» Italy           » The Netherlands    » Belgium     » Norway

As we can see from the list, most of the countries are developed and also economically stable. Despite similarity in the forms of e-content in Europe as that of Africa, the reach and utility of ICT and content management and flow is far ahead in the former than the latter. It is obvious that a higher level of socio, cultural and economic plus political development contributes in embracing technology to the full.

Strikingly what makes it amazing to think is the higher rate of computer penetration in European countries which is more than 90 percent in contrast to the African countries. This picture should illustrate the basic fact about the information rich-poor gap or reality of information poverty for many and information overload for some.

Nevertheless, the roles of the private parties are seen to be more active than the government initiatives in extending the network and use of ICT and its content process. Exceptional cases are there like in Romania, Bulgaria and others where government is still playing an active role. One can see reason in this to the lower level of growth and development in some countries of Europe than the rest.

E-science and e-entertainment have also shown quite a good amount of increase in these countries and the market for these sorts of products have also been established.

E-Content in South and Latin American

Despite the enormous size of the continent, e-content is not widely spread. Brazil is an exceptional case , which has shown a considerable development in the field of e-content. 20 percent of the population has access to computers. The country has set in motion the network of ICT infrastructure. More companies are developing e-content for the Internet and mobile devices. E-government and e-business lead the e-content production in Brazil. The country is sure to have one of the highest rates of interactivity in the world, according to international standards. However, most of the digital contents are available only in Portuguese, the need is to produce content in international language. Nevertheless, both government and private sector are very active creating e-content.

Argentina is another South American nation that has seen results for its efforts to ensure ICT reaching corners of society. It is estimated that since mid 2005, 8.5 million internet users from different backgrounds, are connected to the internet. A possible explanation for this considerable growth can be found, mainly in the setting up of locutorios and cybercafés. It is also worth highlighting the increasing number of Internet users that subscribe to the Net, reaching 2 m people at the end of the year 2004.

Argentina is the 3rd producer of Spanish e-content in Latin America and the 27th in the world. From the very beginning, Argentina has been an important creator of Internet Portals. Electronic commerce has increased during the last semester and it is expected that it will develop even more. There is no doubt that e-learning is the category that has best developed in Argentina. The tendency is that the private and business sector is the one that has the most aggressive growth.

We terribly missed the contributions of other South American countries like Ecuador and Venezuela who could not contribute in this book by the time it was sent to print.

E-Content in North America

The world’s most developed nations form a part of the North American continent – United States of America and Canada are well developed in content innovation and production in the world and in its use.

In the case of Canada they state “Canada is clearly a leader in content innovation and production in the world”. Truly so, they also claimed maximum number of entries among the 40 finalists of World Summit Award.

In Canada the highest growth rate in the field of e-content is seen in the field of information technology and innovations in science. In all other fields also the country has shown a very rapid growth rate, like health, business, entertainment etc.

However it is not to deny the issue of digital divide even in advanced countries of the US and Canada, where earning capacities make it so happen.

Interestingly, US and Canada are at a stage of e-content development, where they need to look at the quality and effect of their e-content on the rest of the world. Needless to mention the influence should learning and healthy.

Mexico is a unique case in North America. The main developer of e-content in Mexico is definitely the government, who has known how to extend the development to all of its sectors. The private initiative has yet to find the formula to have a significant participation in the development of e-contents.

E-learning has had a very important development in Mexico.  In the same way, e-government has been another area with significant growth due to the introduction of the e-Mexico program.

E-Content in West & East Asia

Asia is one of the largest continents in the world and also probably the most complex of all. Asia is a continent of conflicts and paradoxes, diverse ethnicity, co-existence of multi-racial and multilingual, extremely diverse situation of infrastructures and development.

The countries that have been interviewed here are:

» Bangladesh   » Bahrain         » India
» Israel            » Japan            » China & Hong Kong
» Nepal            » Pakistan

In all the above-mentioned countries I would rate Israel, Singapore, Japan, China and Hong Kong, and India as the most developed in the field of e-content. The most important reason for the development of e-content in these countries is, ‘people want to know’, and their ability to adjust with situations and also due to higher level of technological developments in countries like Japan.

The terms ‘hi-tech’ and ‘Israel’ are almost synonymous. Many initiatives developed in Israel became international success stories. In Japan the market for e-content, including music, games and newspaper articles that are distributed to PCs and mobile phones through the Internet and mobile networks (network-based distribution market) expanded to about 500 billion yen in 2003, increasing by about 200 billion yen in three years. Report suggests there is a trend to create new e-content by combining materials from different sources in Japan.

Internet utilization rate increased to 98.1% at the end of 2004 in Japan. The figure for internet connections in India stood at 5.45 million in December, 2004 while it was 103 million in China. . Thus there remains gap in ICT networks in Asia with different levels of content generation and usage. Countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan have to gear up in promoting content network in a big way.

What we need to learn from China and Hong Kong is to how to create quality content. Although, China and India’s problem is quite similar in terms of language technology as a barrier to mass-produce content; India, however, has been successful in showcasing some of the best prototypes of ICT usage in rural sector. India also has the credit to have more than 40% of ICT for Development related projects deployed all across the world.

E-Content in Arabia

The very name Arabia suggests that something exciting is coming up. Usually this part of the world takes our mind only to deserts, but it would be highly interesting to know that these countries are also on a march towards development. Especially countries like:

» Bahrain
» Lebanon
» Iran

Arabian countries are a unique set of countries, where one can find fairly established infrastructure, but the effort to leverage the infrastructure to create knowledge society or e-content is sub-standard.

Individual and private sector’s effort is poor and alarming. However, it is interesting to note that most of the Arab countries are largely managed by outsiders and it is difficult to expect outsiders to work on local e-content. Therefore the business content is well represented, but localized, cultural, heritage, and educational content is scarcely available.

Some proactive governments, however, has been showing some interest in the information economy, and e-content is becoming a necessary issue of attention for the concerns.

Special mention can be made of Middle East and West Asia.  Usually this part of the world takes our mind only to deserts, but it would be highly interesting to know that these countries are also on a march towards development. Especially countries like Bahrain, Lebanon and UAE. These countries are a unique set of countries, where one can find fairly established infrastructure, but the effort to leverage the infrastructure to create knowledge society or e-content is sub-standard.

E-Content in Oceania and Australia

This part of the globe is completely segregated from the rest of the world. Hence the feeling of competition is not very well developed in these countries, which are:

» Australia
» New Zealand
» Canada

Education is probably the biggest player in this part of the globe when it comes to e-content. Private players including the government specifically limit themselves to culture and the banking sector. The government is the user of e-content in Australia and it is ranked among the top five countries in governance, health and defense.

E-Content in Russia

Russia has been separately mentioned as it is specially a case of Eurasia.  E-Content industry in Russia is currently in its early stages of development.  While small-scale efforts have been made by the public sector over the past ten years to develop eContent in the eLearning, eCulture, and E-government areas, the private sector has concentrated its efforts over the past five years on the more commercially-viable e-Business and e-Entertainment areas (mostly via internet and mobile/wireless media).

At the same time, it is difficult to overlook the potential for Russia’s e-content development:  a rich and vibrant content base (historical, scientific, educational, cultural, etc.), design and technology resources recognized for their skills internationally, a developed ICT infrastructure in major cities, a highly educated multicultural technology-adept population.  Should these factors combine to work together, Russia is bound to leapfrog several stages of e-content development and become one of the world’s top e-content producers.

Overall, Individual and private sector’s effort is poor and alarming in many countries. It is interesting to note that most of the Arab countries are largely managed by outsiders and it is difficult to expect outsiders to work on local e-content. Therefore the business content is well represented, but localized, cultural, heritage, and educational content is scarcely available.

Some proactive governments, however, has been showing some interest in the information economy, and e-content is becoming a necessary issue of attention for the concerns.

I would like to conclude by mentioning that each continent has specific advantages and experiences, which could be shared with other continents to overcome the content gap. This will be mutually beneficial given the higher level of content development in advanced countries and the enormous scope for content development in underdeveloped and developing countries. Sharing of ICT knows how and content basics between Europe and Asia or Africa is an instance how countries of the globe can cooperate in e-content revolution and dissemination at a universal level.

We have reached a level of firm conviction that e-content has enabled and will indeed enable every citizen to have complete information about his/rights, privileges, strengths, and how he/she can become self reliant on the basis of information prowess.

We would also take it further by encouraging the development of e-content at every level and enhancing the e-content production capabilities to bridge the wide gap in information. The world is a vast pool of resources and information that awaits its full utilization for each and every section of the world population.

For benefit of WSA and others, we have built a dedicated website for the global e-content scenario through the local voices represented by individual country experts selected by UN’s World Summit Award. The idea of the website is to constantly update the latest development in each country as far as e-content is concerned.

The web destination of the e-content movement is The spirit of e-content would be futile if we do not share our thoughts and knowledge. Do contact me

Osama Manzar

• Syed S Kazi made the conclusion easier by doing research.


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