Introduction

Networking for the World’s Best
Bridging the Content Gap  

The World Summit Award 05 is been held in Tunis, Tunisia from 14 to 19 November.

The event is a witness to participation by 168 countries from around the world with the displaying of 20.000 to 25.000 creative products and innovations. Applications were screened, viewed, tested and evaluated in the process of selecting the world’s 40 winners in the eight categories of the contest.

This process has been unique and has achieved the ideal of creating a network of global partners.  In terms of initiating national and regional processes of selection and evaluation of best practice in the use of ICTs for innovative contents and applications, it has led to inspired action in 168 countries.

The book “e-Content – Best Practice from the World Around 05” tells the stories of the people who organised these contests. It presents the efforts, vision and  circumstances of the national winners, and describes the process of selection while exploring the institutional, social and business context of e-content production in the country. It profiles the jurors and eminent experts involved in the selection for the WSA 05.

A unique global initiative inspiring the Information Society

This book is the only overview of events which have selected the best interactive contents and innovative applications, showcasing them at the World Summit conference in Tunis in November 2005.

Forty products were selected in five rounds from each of these 168 countries. The selection included national evaluations, a Grand Jury review of over 750 nominations and a six-day long deliberation by the judges. The overall process meets near-scientific requirements of independent, inter-subjective judgment and of establishing the best available expert views.

This book has a clear objective: to document for you and everyone else the fairness and transparence of the global effort and to showcase the existing richness and diversity of quality e-Contents from around the world.

The need for quality content

Contents and their quality are difficult to judge, more than technology. In the case of technology, the parameters are clear and objective; the performance of chips can be measured in Hertz, the throughput of networks in bits per second, and the storage capacity of disks in bytes. Such simple parameters do not exist for the quality of content. Yet, quality needs to be assessed: users need to know what they get or buy, clients need to order according to certain standards, producers and designers need to have best practice models and quality comparisons.

This is where the World Summit Award (WSA) and this book meet a real demand.  The WSA is the only existing mechanism to search and find quality content around the world and examine how they meet criteria such as depth of content, ease of use, value adding of interactivity, aesthetics of design and interface, and technical realisation.

A worldwide networking effort

The World Summit Award is an Austrian initiative in the context of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). It is an activity, not a new organisation. Started in 2003 for the Geneva Summit conference, the WSA has been an unprecedented success brought about by strong networking of professional associations, national chapters of the Internet Society, multimedia education and research institutions, electronic chambers of commerce, non-governmental groups and foundations, government offices for IT and Information Society development and many others.

The WSA is the result of an active engagement of all these players in WSIS and of the shared conviction that quality contents are essential for a quality Information Society. Contents inspire, inform and allow the exchange of information and knowledge. Technology offers tools. It is a fundamental fact that in the development of Information Society, the performance of tools increases faster than the human capacity to use them. This creates the Content Gap: ICTs offer more scope to produce, store and transmit than humans can use, fill, read or consume.

The content gap is growing

Over the last 50 years, Information and Communication Technologies have become exponentially more powerful and radically cheaper and smaller. E-Content does not keep up with technology in terms of speed of development, economies of scale and simplicity of consumption. This results in a dynamic structural gap. This gap widens as we move into the Information Society.

The content gap is not just one of technological versus human capacity. The nature of economic and social structures and general awareness are also important determinants. There is an imbalance of pay and an inequity of investment. Post-industrial societies spend enormous sums of money on equipment, gadgets and ‘tech things’. They invest far less in quality stories, knowledge and insight.

Content industries are local and regional, technologies are global

In the context of the global economy, it is the content industries which offer the opportunity for local and regional economic development. Basic software, hardware and netware have become global industries with a high degree of global concentration.

Contents are tied to culture and language. They are largely local and regional. Most creative producers – save the ones working for the Hollywood industries and in English – have culturally restricted audiences and markets. This gives countries opportunities to develop economically. The WSA is strengthening these opportunities by giving exposure to the best producers and showing a way for the development of the content industries.

Narrowing the digital divide

The digital divide adds a further dimension to the content gap. The ‘information poor’ have not only less or no access to Internet and other digital platforms. They also get lower quality contents and applications. The digital divide widens the content gap, as info trash clogs networks and quality contents move to pay-modes.

The threat of a widening content gap runs counter to the promise of the Information Society. The capacities of technologies, systems and tools to generate, distribute and store content increase exponentially, but content markets are not transparent or open.

WSA showcases the high-quality contents that exist and thus counteracts oligopolies in the sector. It demonstrates the cultural diversity of and the opportunities for small and medium sized producers to be successful. In addition, it increases the capacity of individuals to gain an overview of what is available in the markets, thus decreasing the marketing powers of a ‘chosen few’.

Cultural richness – bridging the gap

The World Summit Award and the activities described in this book emphasise cultural diversity and identity, the creation of varied information content and the digitalization of educational, scientific and cultural heritage. These are core issues of a high-quality Information Society in which people might live happily.

The goal of the WSA is to break the awareness barrier and the marketing deadlock where big promotional budgets or market dominance decide what is available and known in e-Content. It also aims to help overcome linguistic and cultural barriers and the smallness of national markets, to generate an international forum and stimulate an interchange of quality multimedia.

It is a curious fact of the emerging Information Society that many people – even the ones who are deeply involved in industry and policymaking – have little information about what quality contents are. They lack opportunities to see, use and experience the power of great e-Contents.

An invitation to readers

This book also invites you to join in the effort and get involved. You might not be totally convinced, but you might at the same time be wanting to give recognition to those who work creatively to produce new and innovative contents and applications with IS technologies.

The WSA is an invitation project. It wants to engage you and all readers – experts and diplomats, civil society activists and policy makers, entrepreneurs and students – to come together for the sake of creativity and excellence in new interactive media.  Please let us know your suggestions, comments and feedback at wsis-award@icnm.net

Peter A. Bruck
Salzburg/Tunis, October 2005
Chairman, World Summit Award
and European Academy of Digital Media
Hon. President, International Center for New Media, Austria

 

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