Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth

October 31, 2005

Calling All WSIS Bloggers

Filed under: WSIS — Andy Carvin @ 2:31 pm

Hi everyone… I’ve spent a couple hours today updating the WSISBlogs.org website, which I originally set up last February. The site is a digest of blogs and photos from bloggers attending the World Summit on the Information Society. I’m aggregating blogs from around the world that are covering WSIS, along with relevant photos posted to Flickr.com. So if you’re a blogger and you wish to contribute content to the site, send me an email with your RSS file, which I’ll need to add your blog to the aggregator.
To make it easier for people to contribute to the blog, I’ve also set up a WSIS community blog on the TakingITGlobal (TIG) website. Anyone who’s a member of TIG can post a blog entry to it. If you’re not a TIG member, go to TakingITGlobal and sign up. Once you’re registered, post a new blog entry, selecting the WSIS group blog listed under your “post to” menu. It’ll then be added automatically to the community blog, as well as to the WSISBlogs site. -andy

October 28, 2005

Text of the Dhaka Declaration

Filed under: WSIS — Andy Carvin @ 9:47 am

The text of the so-called Dhaka Declaration from this week’s WSIS conference in Bangladesh has been published. Here’s a copy of it for your convenience. -andy

DHAKA DECLARATION
We, the ICT stakeholders representing Governments, Private Sector, Academicia and the Civil Society, having come from six continents of the world, assembled in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 23 to 25 October 2005 in an International Workshop entitled “Building an Information Society : Road 2 Tunis”, organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Science and Information & Communication Technology, Government of Bangladesh in collaboration with UNDP Bangladesh and in association with World Summit Award (WSA), Austria;
after extensive deliberations on the issues of e-governance, transparency & accountability, public and private sector partnership, internet governance, security vis-à-vis privacy, e-content & creativity, holistic ICT education & training for all, rural & universal ICT access, ICT4D leading to poverty alleviation and inclusion of women, children, the underprivileged & people with disabilities as well as the financing aspects of the solidarity fund;
hereby declare our common desire and commitment to build a free multi-stakeholder, people-centric, inclusive and development-oriented knowledge based Information Society in the world at large :
emphasizing that a primary aim of the Information Society must be to provide basic information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure to people to facilitate full utilization of ICT at all levels in society including the grass roots and hence enable the sharing of social and economic benefits by all by means of ubiquitous access to information networks, while preserving cultural diversity and heritage of humankind all over the world;
endorsing the important role that ICT can play in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which describe a fundamental set of principles and guidelines for combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and gender inequality;
recognizing that the concept of a knowledge-based Information Society is one in which affordable access to information & communication technology through content in accessible language and formats can help people achieve their full potential, promote sustainable economic and social development, facilitate participatory decision-making processes in sustaining democracy and good governance and improving quality of life for all;
appreciating the efforts of the UN in convening the WSIS and of the ITU in implementing the summit in two phases, Geneva 2003 – Tunis 2005 and
committing ourselves to the Declared Principles and Plan of Action at the Geneva Phase of the Summit and leading to the Tunis Phase of WSIS.
This Dhaka Declaration adopted at the conclusion of the International Workshop entitled “Building an Information Society : Road 2 Tunis” 23-25 October 2005, Dhaka, Bangladesh and is submitted as input to the Second Phase of the WSIS in Tunis during 16-18 November 2005 through the Secretary General of the ITU and will also be disseminated through governments, civil society, private sector, NGOs and the media.
Dhaka 25 October 2005
The Workshop deliberations and views expressed shall be made available to all ICT stakeholders on the website http://www.mosict.gov.bd/road2tunis.

October 26, 2005

Dubai Layover

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 9:59 pm

It’s just before 7am in Dubai… Arrived here from Bangladesh around midnight; Emirates airlines gave me a room at a hotel, where I think I got four or so hours of sleep. If all goes well I’ll be home in less than 24 hours… -andy

Departing (and Pronouncing) Dhaka

Filed under: Bangladesh,Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 5:19 am

My final podcast from Bangladesh. I talk about the close of the conference, shopping for souvenirs and learning the right way to pronounce Dhaka. -andy

Scenes from a Bangladeshi Telecentre

Filed under: Bangladesh,Travel,Video — Andy Carvin @ 5:12 am
girls using computers

Video montage of a telecentre based at a girls school in Comilla, Bangladesh. The telecentre is run by Relief International’s Schools Online program, which coordinates 20 telecentres across the country.

Aarong: Shopping for Economic Development

Filed under: Bangladesh — Andy Carvin @ 5:09 am

Over the course of the last week, several people including my friend Osama Manzar had suggested I go shopping at a place called Aarong. They’d commented on the high quality of clothing and handicrafts available there, saying that the store even had a fashionable outpost in London.
During the iftar on the last day of the conference, Shahiduddin Akbar suggested we go to Aarong after dinner. He was planning to go with a friend, and wanted to know if I’d like to come along. Word soon spread around the table, and my colleagues Josie and Milton expressed interest in coming along. So the five of us said our goodbyes to everyone at the banquet and jumped in Shahid’s pickup truck for the ride to the store, located in Dhaka’s Gulshan neighborhood.
Arriving at Aarong, we passed a group of security guards before entering. Inside, literally hundreds of Bangladeshis were shopping at a furious pace. It’s tradition to shop at night during Ramadan, purchasing clothes and other items for Eid, the holiday immediately following the month of fasting. The store was a cross between the fair trade handicrafts store Ten Thousand Villages and Filene’s Basement in Boston: aisle after aisle of clothes and handmade goods, with shoppers creating heaps of their Eid booty.
We decided to fan out and regroup by the entrance in 30 minutes, then re-evaluate whether we needed more time. I headed straight for the men’s clothes department, where I thumbed through several hundred shirts. The t-shirt selection was excellent, while the button-down shirts were the Bangladeshi equivalent of Hawaiian shirts, featuring elaborate, colorful prints. I eventually settled on five shirts averaging around four dollars each before moving on to the handicrafts section, where I purchased a 12-piece set of hand-woven table settings, costing another four dollars. The bargains here seemed bottomless.
As I stood in the checkout line, I noticed various signs referencing BRAC, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. BRAC is an enormous NGO focusing on economic development and women’s empowerment at the village level. I asked Shahid if Aarong was affiliated with BRAC; it turns out the store is one of their biggest projects. Rural villagers craft all of the goods available at the store, receiving a fair wage while generating revenue for BRAC’s economic development work. I’d been to similar handicraft stores in other parts of the world, but none of them had the crowds and the vibrancy seen here.
The prices at Aarong may be a little higher than your average Bangladeshi shop, but spending the extra takas was well worth it. Nothing like buying souvenirs to help lift people out of poverty. -andy

Experiencing Iftar in Bangladesh

Filed under: Bangladesh — Andy Carvin @ 5:00 am

One of the pleasures of being in Bangladesh this time of year is that I’ve gotten to experience my first Ramadan, or Ramzan as it’s known here. Most Americans simply associate Ramadan with fasting: Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for an entire month, avoiding even water or swallowing one’s own saliva. But the flip side of this is Ramadan at night, when Dhaka and other predominantly Muslim cities really come alive.
Each day of the conference, we’ve ended the proceedings in time for everyone to make it to iftar, the traditional meal served at sunset to break the daily fast. The conference attendees gather in a banquet hall, sitting at tables that have been pre-set with plates of assorted foods. Then, everyone waits, until the muezzin makes the sunset call to prayer. The moment you hear him singing, everyone in the room simultaneously reaches to their plate, picking up a morsel to break the fast. Following iftar, a full dinner is served, so the foods included in the iftar plate are generally light in nature – unless you manage to go for seconds, of course.
I’ve experienced three formal iftars this week. There’s been some variation of what’s served on each plate, but generally the foods are similar. In each case, at least half a dozen foods are served together, including dates, chickpea fritters and grilled meat patties. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s the Bangladeshi equivalent of jalabi, a syrupy fried sugar treat shaped similarly to a German pretzel. But one of my favorite parts of iftar was feasting on gram, a nutty legume similar to a chickpea, but smaller, darker and crunchier. The gram are served in a spicy sauce, reminiscent to Indian chana masala. But there’s an added twist: at each table there’s a large bowl of puffed rice for mixing in with the gram. Yes, it’s just like Rice Crispies, but without any sugar added. It seems like a bizarre combination, but the tactile sensation of crunchy puffed rice exploding in your mouth as you savor a nice curry will be one of my most pleasurable memories of Bangladesh.
During my final iftar at the conference, we went to the Sheraton hotel for a banquet sponsored by Microsoft. Our van from the Pan Pacific hotel ran a little late, so by the time we got to the Sheraton, all the tables in the hall were taken up by journalists covering the release of the Dhaka Declaration, which had been drafted at the end of the conference. So around a dozen of us went down the hall to have our iftar in the main restaurant.
We sat in a row of booths along the side of the restaurant. As I sat down and began eating, Belgian Internet Society president Rudi Vansnick turned to me and said, “Do you see the men praying?” I looked around the room and saw lots of men standing at the buffet stations or finishing their iftar plates, but no one praying. He then pointed towards the wall. Somehow I had managed not to notice that the wall was mostly glass, and on the opposite side of the wall were rows of men in Islamic skullcaps kneeling in prayer. They were facing Mecca, of course, but the direction of Mecca just happened to be our table.
For a while I felt somewhat awkward about the situation; I had always regarded praying towards Mecca as a highly personal, intimate moment, and felt that stuffing my face just a couple of meters away from these men was invading their privacy. But I looked up and down the row of booths, many of which were full of Bangladeshis eating and talking and laughing, paying no attention to the men behind the screen. After a few minutes I got used to it, eventually forgetting about them.
Near the end of our meal, my friend Shahiduddin Akbar arrived, after finishing iftar with his family at home. As we left the restaurant to return to the main banquet hall, I turned to him and commented on the large number of men praying on the opposite side of the window. Shahid laughed and insisted it was perfectly normal: restaurants hosting iftar typically make a space available for people to pray prior to their meal – the Ramadan equivalent of saying grace before dinner. Suddenly it made perfect sense. I imagine that similar prayer rooms must have been set up at the two previous iftars, but since I wasn’t seated by a glass wall in those cases, the prayers went unnoticed.
Tonight I leave for the airport at 6pm; iftar at the hotel takes place just before 5:30pm. Maybe I’ll have one last iftar before I leave. -andy

October 25, 2005

Drafting of the Dhaka Declaration

Filed under: WSIS — Andy Carvin @ 5:55 am

Right now here in Dhaka, Bangladeshi ICT minister Abdul Moyeen Khan is moderating a plenary drafting session for the “Dhaka Declaration” that will be published at the conclusion of this week’s WSIS forum hosted by the Bangladeshi government and UNDP Bangladesh. The current draft of the document is very brief, just one page long, though it is possible that there will be appendices summarizing the results of each panel from the last three days. The ICT minister is encouraging the drafting group to make the document as succint as possible.
We are currently going through a series of interventions. Zahid Jamil of Pakistan requested that the document make reference to multi-stakeholder partnerships as key to bridging the digital divide, while removing the word “appropriate” from the phrase “appropriate content,” so there nothing in the document that could be perceived as being counter to freedom of expression. I seconded both of his interventions, as well as requesting the inclusion of the phrase “people with disabilities” when discussion the notion of creating an inclusive information society, along with women, children and the underprivileged, as originally drafted. These interventions were all adopted by the drafting group. Meanwhile, Josie Cacdac of the Philippines has just proposed the inclusion of the concept, “Holistic ICT education and training for all,” which was adopted unanimously.
Once the final version is complete, I will post a link to it. -andy

Shahiduddin Akbar Discusses the Bangladesh Digital Divide

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 2:50 am

Earlier this morning I sat down with Shahiduddin Akbar of Katalyst to record a three-minute podcast. I interviewed him about the digital divide in Bangladesh, the role civil society can play in bridging the divide, and his expectations for the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society. -andy

Dhaka Police Station

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 2:39 am

This morning I went to the local police station here in Dhaka to file a police report regarding the theft of my Treo and my digital camera. In general I prefer to avoid having to deal with police, but there was no way getting around it. Fortunately, I had an official from the ICT ministry accompany me, which helped make the visit a three-minute stop rather than an all-day affair. They accepted my affidavit, signed a copy of it and stamped it as an official document submitted to the Dhaka police. And yes, I recorded a podcast to document the experience – and for my own protection, just in case. -andy

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