Preface

Back with more optimismIf time makes us aware of our moving images on earth, it equally awakens us to the actual fact as to how to enrich our lives and make the world a better place to dwell. This is what the time gap between the first WSIS meet in Geneva in 2003 and the second meet in Tunis this year politely reveals today. In two years time aren’t we have been more enlightened to the fundamental essence as to how ICT can transform our lives manifold?

The truth is ICT and its disseminating mode of e-content is gradually becoming our living partners, sharing our day-to-day basics in various manifestations. If the developed nations of the world has already experienced a higher stage of this ICT intervention, the rest is also following the suit, albeit at a varied pace.

We are all aware of ICT and its contribution in enriching the information base and strengthening the communication networks in the West and elsewhere. We are witness that these societies have been enriched manifold socially, economically, culturally and otherwise through large scale intervention of ICT networks while enabling enormous content generation that is usable, reliable, prompt, enriching, enlightening and what not. The result is obvious – these societies are information rich than others and are at higher phase of growth and development. No one to blame for this growth enabling role of ICT in these selected group of countries world over.

Look the other way round and we are witness to a shallow, tepid, slow motion of growth and empowering role of Information, Communication Technology in a vast number of countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America though many countries of the developing and Third world have accelerated their pace of ICT use in various domains of national developmental process. And the resultant effect is far less than optimum generation and use of e-content for use in daily life cycles. This is what information poor society all about.

The definition of ‘Information Poor’ society has no single yardstick for application. Yet certain basic elements make say about it all. Poor level of telecommunication networks, low level of PC use, less number of Internet service users, little or no penetration of latest technological innovations and applications make societies and nations poor in information. Many countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America fit the bill. Take cases of Tanzania, Albania, Peru, Romania, Bulgaria, Nepal, Maldives, Fiji, Iran and many more, one will find how ICT networks and its application is still at a much lesser level of operation and existence and so is the use of e-content, especially use of latest techno devices for bettering lives while getting rich in information. However, the use of ICT devices like radio, TV, Internet, Community radio and other modes in these countries differ in terms of usability, yet the scope remains at the macro level for more efficient use of even the traditional mode of ICT mechanisms in these countries.

The story could be somewhat different in developing societies like Brazil, Argentina, India, China and other emerging countries. Here, the ICT framework is being toned up to meet the increasing demands. Apart from the traditional mode of radio and TV, use of community radio, internet services and other latest innovations is being practiced at a wider level. These countries are experiencing the generation and use of e-contents in many ways and domains- e-culture, e-governance, e-business, e-health and so on. Yet these societies are still to reach a level of content stature wherein people turn active to use qualitative contents for necessary jobs. The content gap is still discernible within these societies. The content gap is evident here in terms of generation, use and accessibility of content. The so called information gap cuts across these emerging societies, not to speak in those countries where the ICT network is still to take firm roots.

So we have differences between the developed the developing and underdeveloped societies; between the developing and the underdeveloped societies; and differences within each categories of societies all in terms of ICT structure and use of it in content forms, both quantity and quality wise.

In the midst of all these vivid pictures, what is more concerning is the ICT network operations and its applicability in the underdeveloped and developing societies. Content generation, use and applicability remains as major issues. To blame poor and underdeveloped ICT infrastructure for this state is equally logical with other bottlenecks viz., poor literacy level, lack of awareness, and disinterestedness. That the process of ‘social engineering’ to utilise and take advantage of ICT networks through effective content generations is a major inhibition.

The issue is not of scope of ICT penetration and its applicability for the general masses in the information poor, marginalised and developing societies. The fact remains that there lies a huge pool of information resource, content reservoir in these societies that lies unexplored and unscratched. It is here that ICT and its various modes, especially Internet services; community radio can be progressively and yet gradually applied to generate enormous level of relevant contents for daily and valuable uses.

What is tempting to write here is if the ICT developed societies have reached a potential/near potential level of information use and application, the potential and near potential level of ICT applications in developing and underdeveloped societies remain wide open to be explored. The pyramid of information is yet to be constructed in the latter while the base with enormous information sources, resources, knowledge base lies bare to be explored and utilised.

It is here, one can see the stupendous and vibrant role of investing time, resources and policy concerns for making enabling environment for ICT penetration in the information backward societies. One can see here the effective role of information rich societies and nations to pitch in their valuable role in generation and use of e-contents of fundamental utility in the underdeveloped societies. Not to deny the fact that the developed societies interest lies in making their marginalised brethrens information rich while assisting them in assimilating and pilling up huge and rich source of content banks from their untapped backyards. Also the role of international bodies like ITU, WSIS seems to fit in to their stature of bridging the information gap in content generation and applicability.

I see the second round of WSIS meet in Tunis (November 14-19, 2005) a relevant platform to discuss these basic issues of a globally enriched information society where the global village do not see any gap in sharing and utilising information for bettering and strengthening lives.

Nevertheless, this book looks into all these aspects of information rich – poor divide, the ICT scenario in various countries and the strategies; the limitations and potentials in ICT delivery and use and role of individuals and organisations in playing an enabling role in creating an information rich country and a world.

I hope the book will provide an interesting reading to all in knowing countries across the world and continents are making and improving methods and standards in making ICT a happening event in respective countries and societies.

For everything you want to say, I am at osamam@gmail.com

Thanking you,

Osama Manzar
New Delhi/Tunis – November 2005
Director – Digital Empowerment Foundation, India [www.defindia.net] Board of Director, World Summit Award, Austria [www.wsis-award.org] Chairman, The Manthan Award – Best e-Content & Creativity in India [www.manthanaward.com]

 

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