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Web Foundation Workshop in Egypt

Stéphane Boyera · November 17, 2009

While those in Boston were working day and night preparing the new Web site and speaking with the press, I was with Tim Berners-Lee and Daniel Dardailler in Sharm-el-Sheik, at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting, to participate in the launch of the Web Foundation and to organize a workshop on the Web Foundation. This workshop was very useful, and helped me to understand where we should focus as we ramp-up WF operations. The savvy and enthusiastic participants had lots of questions and comments.  Four major points emerged:

  • There is a need for actions at levels of technology, awareness, capacity-building and tool.  It was interesting to hear different messages from different participants. Some believe strongly that there are gaps in the Web technical ability to support access for all, particularly in terms of support for people reading and writing in certain language support and for people with low-reading skills. Some others think that the issue is not technology, but more a lack of awareness and capacity building. This is very interesting. We believe that actions are needed at both levels, and this discussion support our belief and program structure.
  • The importance of vendor-neutral technical leadership: Some participants welcome the Web Foundation as one of the first organizations with a strong technical background, and that could help non-governmental and civil society organizations that do not have this expertise to identify and implement the most relevant standardized, interoperable ICT solutions.
  • The importance of organization to connect and link existing initiatives: Many participants mentioned  that this community-organizing function is lacking now. Many projects have no visibility on where to start, or are reinventing the wheel in their corner while others have done similar work in another corner. It is critical today to connect the different initiatives together, and offer them a place to share, collaborate and exchange.
  • The importance defining a clear and strong Web Foundation position: We had a series of questions on the role of the Web Foundation compared to the World Wide Web Consortium and the Web Science Trust, but also as compared to other organizations working in the field, or researchers working in technological solutions for social development. I believe it is critical for us to explain better where we focus our action, and why we believe we are filling a hole not covered today by the other actors working in the technology for development domain.

Another key discussion was around intellectual property, and the importance of open source and free content, not only at the tools level, but also in the different materials and tools developed by the thousands of projects in the field. This is an area we will surely investigate further.

This workshop was very instructive, and gave us good feedback on where to focus. It convinced me to that we should start as soon as possible to establish communication channels between the Web Foundation and the community at large to receive comments, and views on our programs and actions.  Above all, the positive energy expressed by all participants are very promising for the future.

Now, we are off to Kenya and Uganda!

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  1. Anthony Makumbi

    November 17, 2009

    Thanks very much for this insight, just one other point that should be carefull considered and does affect web access in Africa is the cost associated with accessing the web. In East Africa they just launch the landing of the Seacom fibre cable that is projected would drastically reduce the costs of accessing the internet. There haven't been any direct results sofar as many players in Governement and private sector are looking at this as an opportunity to make bigger mergins and are now transparently declaring the true costs of accessing the internet. Its still costly..Governements are not doing much to help as many of they do have stakes in some of the big internet providers particularly Mobile web access. many of the mobile service providers are run by governements and have played a major role in aleanating many communities from even thinkng of accessing the net. Net for major policy influencing at various levels globally.


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    1. Steve Bratt

      November 21, 2009

      (posted for Stephane Boyera, traveling in Kenya and Uganda)The cost of accessing internet and therefore the Web is indeed a barrier. I just want to make two comments:- the prices are largely impacted by regulations, taxation and competition. It is essential that government promote access and use of the Web by adopting appropriate regulatory framework. This is a point we are making each time we are meeting with officials and government.- the second point, which is more in the scope of the Web Foundation, is on the notion of return on investment. It is indeed expensive to access the Web today, but it is far more important to note that there is a lack of content and services that could really improve the lives of people accessing them. As a comparison, telecom operators thought 6-7 years ago that people in developing countries would not be able to afford mobile telephony. We know the situation today. This was due to both a change in the business model (prepaid vs postpaid) and to the fact that person-to-person communication really is a critical service in many activities, and really ease and improve people lives.I believe that it is possible to create a circle of value where new locally-oriented content and services will motivate more people to use the Web, which in turns will extend the market, bring more players and competitions, and attract entrepreneurs, lower price of access, enable more services to be developed, and attracting more people (and so on).For more details on this topic, you might be interested to look at the related section in the W3C Mobile Web for Social Development Roadmap.


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    2. Anthony Makumbi

      November 23, 2009

      Thanks steve i do love your optimism and i think thats the way to go. I d hope you do encourage public prvate partnerships to see this through. I am yet to understand what this whole internet governanec thing is all about. Wish you the best and do support your current move a the WWW foundation.


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