The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) organised a regional consultation meeting on ICT Policy in South Asia from the 19th till 21st April, 2006 at BRAC Centre Inn, Dhaka. The meeting was organised by APC and was hosted by BFES in Bangladesh. Information and communication technology (ICT) experts, researchers, professionals and development practitioners from Australia, Japan, South Korea, Philippines and South Asian countries participated in the meeting. The objectives of the meeting were (i) to engage in surfacing ICT policy priorities and advocacy strategies in countries of Asia, particularly in South Asia, (ii) to exchange information on ICT policy related work, research activities, development agendas, innovative solutions etc., (iii) to explore new ways of networking and coordinating issues that can influence ICT policy research and advocacy in South Asia.
The purpose of the workshop was described by Willie Courier, Communication and Information Policy Manager, APC in his welcome address. Karen Banks, Networking and Advocacy Manager, APC mentioned about the main ICT policy issues to be highlighted and APC activities towards the goal of achieving the goal of effective ICT policy implementation. Dr. Mizanur Rahman Shelley, Adviser, BFES and Chairperson, Centre for Development Research, Bangladesh chaired the session and he described the important role of NGOs in Bangladesh in brief.
The chief guest, Dr. Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Government of Bangladesh said that poverty alleviation and good governance can be taken care of by ICT implementation in the developing countries of the world. There is a national task force in Bangladesh headed by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, he explained the significance of it. Also he mentioned about the digital divide problem in the developing countries and also the bad impact of this divide. He emphasised on the requirement of infrastructure for ICT. Also he gave emphasis on the private sector initiatives to promote ICT in the development sectors.
Mian Mustaque Ahmed, Secretary, Ministry of Science and ICT, Government of Bangladesh, narrated the initiatives taken so far in Bangladesh to make Dhaka ‘hi-tech’. He stated that ICT has gained importance in Bangladesh, but there is long way to go. Shelley concluded the inaugural session stating that our world is changing beyond recognition and the growth is being seen. Apparently there are changes of context and situation, but the problems remain the same and technology is a factor to serve the community to solve the problems. He stated that ICT could be used in a way as mentioned by Dr Siddiqui and it may solve many problems related to economy building with poverty alleviation and good governance. With the blog initiation by Dr Siddiqui the inaugural session was over.
Open space sessions and presentations on 1st day
After the introduction to participants, the workshop methodology was introduced. There were open space sessions, on some interesting topics like ‘CCTLD’, ‘Open Source Enabling Policies’, ‘ICTs for Peace’, cctld, ‘Importance of Knowledge Products’, ‘ICT Policy Advocacy for What’, ‘Localisation and FOSS’, ‘Human Rights Issues in Relation to the Internet’, ‘ICT Policy’, ‘Awareness Raising and Engaging with the Governments’, ‘Infrastructure, ‘Asia ICT Policy/Governance Research Network’, ‘Integrating Gender in ICT’s, Knowledge Sharing and Policy Implementation through Media’, ‘Liberate the Airwaves’! ‘Pro-Poor ICTs and the Digital Divide’.
After that, the presentation sessions to exchange the experiences/advocacy strategies were held. Policy and regulatory issues were discussed by Rohan Samarajiva, LIRNEAsia, Sri Lanka, Rekha Jain, Centre for Telecom Policy Studies, Indian Institute of Management, Shahidul Alam, Drik, Bangladesh, Rishi Chawla, GIPI India, Centre for Communications Law and Policy Research, India, Mahesh Uppal, Telecom researcher, India , Joseph Wilson, Lahore University of Management Science, Pakistan , Jeongwoo Kim PatchA, JinboNet, South Korea . There were presentations on Infrastructure and connectivity issues by Vickram Crishna, Radiophony, India , Dr. Anwar-ur-Rehman Pasha, FOSS advocacy in Pakistan , Lochan Lal Amatya, Deputy Manager, Nepal Telecom (IPP Computer Association of Nepal), and Monjur Mahmud, The Daily Star, Bangladesh.
Panels and presentations on 2nd day
On second day of the meeting, the open discussion was held on piracy. Then the presentations were started in Panel 2. Mr. V.Chrishna from Radiophony talked about the wireless freedom and facilities. Dr. Pasha from FOSS Academy, Pakistan emphasised on the human resources for effective use of technology. He mentioned the latest research indicators in India and he emphasised on the need of integrating the higher education and undergraduate programmes through FOSS. ICT Scenario and Lessons Learned from IT Policy Formulation was the theme of the paper by Lochan Lal Amatya from Nepal. He described the ICT infrastructure in Nepal and e-Readiness of Nepal.
The Panel 3 consisted of the papers related to the media related issues. There were two presentations on the community radio initiatives in Nepal by Suman Basnet, AMARC Asia Pacific, Nepal and Kishor Pradhan, Panos South Asia, Nepal. AHM Bazlur Rahman, BNNRC, Bangladesh explained community radio initivatives in Bangladesh. Saswati Paik, i4d Magazine presented paper on media advocacy strategies for changing policy environments with special mention on the initiatives taken by Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS) India. Elle Rennie presented his paper on Community Radio Taskforce when he explained the role of community television, its programming innovations and advantages. Ahmed Swapan, VoiceBd, Bangladesh discussed on ‘Communication Rights and/or Right to Information: Perspective of Bangladesh’ on the same day which also focused on the media issues.
There were presentations on ‘Localisation, Free/Open Source Software and intellectual property rights issues’ by Fouad Riaz Bajwa, FOSS in Pakistan, Bal Krishna, Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya, Nepal on simplified Nepalli Typing to the operating system in Nepali, Namita Malhotra, Alternative Law Forum, India on creative interrogation of intellectual property, Ravikant Sharma, SARAI, India on Indic Computings with experiences at Sarai. Shahzad Ahmed from Pakistan discussed ‘ICT and Disaster Mitigation: Experiences in Pakistan’ while talking in the panel on ICT and environment issues. In another panel on ICT and Peace initiative issues, Hilmy Ahmed, Young Asia Television, Sri Lanka discussed on ICT and Peace, giving examples from YATV initiatives towards peace initiatives in Sri Lanka.
Last day of intensive interaction and discussion
With the theme ‘Advocacy and critical overview of ICT4D issues’, the presentations on the third day were started. The speakers were Parminder Jeet Singh, IT for Change, India, Mridul Chowdhury, Research Affiliate, Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, Harvard University, Nalaka Gunawardene, TVE Asia Pacific, Sri Lanka and Al Alegre, FMA, Philippines. There were open space sessions for intensive interaction and discussion. In the panel entitled ‘Economic implications of ICT tools and micro-credit issues’, the speakers were Nazneen Sultana, Grameen Bank, Bangladesh, Abu S. Khan, telecom researcher, Bangladesh and Ayesha Zainudeen, LIRNEAsia, Sri Lanka. The last presentation session was on ‘Education and capacity building issues’ where Jehan Ara, Pakistan Software Association, Pakistan discussed ‘Capacity Building and inclusivity for overall development’ and Nazrul Islam, Schools Online, Bangladesh discussed on ‘ICT and education in Bangladesh’.