Geneva, Switzerland 2003



Geneva, Switzerland - 2003 On 10 December Andrew Greene and other non-profit leaders throughout the world joined such notables as the wife of U.N. President Kofi Annan and Swiss president Pascal Couchepin to present and discuss issues related to IT accessing and the bridging of the digital divide. This very prestigious event helped i*EARN to convey its message of peace through global interconnectivity while offering a world of new ideas and contacts. Pascal Couchepin, President of the Swiss Confederation, noted that "many people around the world have no access to communication networks. Information and communication are the most important pre-conditions for the economic and cultural development of any society. It is therefore our duty to bridge the digital divide." Greene summoned to attend the WSIS event after being accredited by the organization Taking IT Global and as part of the 'Youth Creating Digital Opportunities' (YCDO). His presentation was scheduled for the 10th of December, which is also World Youth Day. His presentation took place amongst a series of workshops, forums and panel discussions also scheduled for that youth day. The themes varied from education to media, employment and human rights etc. Many of the day's events portrayed what was important to young people in an information society, and seeking answers to how ICT's can be harnessed by young people for development goals. Greene's colleague from Sierra Leone, Sylvanus Murray, who is the current Coordinator of Taking IT Global in Sierra Leone, had the singular honour to showcase through a Powerpoint presentation the whole gamut of pre-conference interactive forum activities that were locally held in Freetown, as a runner-up to the WSIS events. Through out Sylvanus' presentation, he was able to throw light on the need for better access to Information Communication Technology in a country like Sierra Leone recovering from the ashes of war. Also, highlights of the Youth Caucus activities included national WSIS youth campaigns, the launching of new projects and partnership, and WSIS Youth Award Winners. Greene was allotted the task of speaking at a panel on the topic of Human Rights and the role of ICT to strengthen Human Rights with Post-conflict and peace Building Process. Greene dwelled on the urgent need for the appropriate use of ICT to contribute towards dialogue and peace building. Through first hand experience, he was able to show how his involvement in human rights projects has helped in the on-going human rights campaign and peace process amongst many Sierra Leoneans and those across the vast cultural divide. The experiences shared by the co-panellist and the feedback from the audience helped a great deal to further create a forum where the ideas can be developed into concrete action. With poor access to ICT, a prerequisite for an inclusive information society, if Sierra Leone is to share in this digital revolution and the information age, its capacity in terms of ICT and usage must be boosted. As Kofi Annan, Secretary General Of The United Nations puts it, "these technologies are a tremendous force for creating opportunities, and for integrating people and nations into the global economy. But too many of the world's people remain untouched by the information revolution. A digital divide threatens to exacerbate already wide gaps between rich and poor, within and amongst countries." view photos from the summit

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World Summit On The Information Society (WSIS) Report.

I have been tempted by this World Metropolis but intimate city. Geneva has proven to all attendees of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) event that this is not a contradiction. It has a visible wealth of history present in her new form. Despite its relatively small population, I realised it’s a big city that enjoys an international recognition that has developed over the centuries.

Inspite of the extreme cold weather at this time of the year, Geneva
delights me with a host of attractions and cultural events, shopping
centres and hotels all allotted in the heart of an exceptional natural setting. The birth place of The International Red Cross that has served humanity for over a century, this city prides itself as a reputable safe haven. I witnessed the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society held from the 10th to 12th December 2003 at Geneva, Palexpo Exhibition and Conference Centre. It did not find it hard to get on to Palexpo, as it is strategically located in the Geneva airport area, which is just 5 to 10 minutes walk from the airport arrival building. This is the first time that Switzerland has had the honour of hosting and co-organizing a global summit as a full member of the United Nations. Pascal Couchepin, who is President of the Swiss Confederation, noted that “many people around the world have no access to communication one networks. Information and communication are the most important pre-conditions for the economic and cultural development of any society. It is therefore our duty to bridge the digital divide.” I was summoned to attend the WSIS event after being accredited by the Taking IT Global, and as part of the ‘Youth Creating Digital Opportunities’ (YCDO). Sponsored by the 'International center for Rights and Democracy' in Geneva,
my presentation was scheduled for the 10th of December which was the World Youth Day. My presentation was to take place amongst a series of workshops, forums and panel discussions also scheduled for that youth day. The themes vary from education to media, employment and human rights etc. many of the day’s events portrayed what was important to young people in the information society, and seeking answers to how ICT’s can be harnessed by young people for development goals My colleague from Sierra Leone Sylvanus Murray, who is the current Coordinator of Taking IT Global in Sierra Leone, had the singular honour to show case through a PowerPoint presentation the whole gamut of pre-conference interactive forum activities that were locally held in Freetown, as a run-up to the WSIS events. Through out Sylvanus’ PowerPoint presentation, he was able to throw light on the need for better access to Information Communication Technology in a country like Sierra Leone recovering from the ashes of war.
Also highlights of the Youth Caucus activities included national WSIS youth campaigns, the launching of new projects and partnership, and WSIS Youth Award Winners.

I was allotted the task of speaking at a panel for the duration of 10
minutes on the topic of Human Rights and the role of ICT to strengthen Human Rights with Post-conflict and peace Building Process. I was opportune to speak amidst several human rights notables and activist and engaged the attention of over 50 participants.
In my speech, I dwelled on the urgent need for the appropriate use of ICT to contribute towards dialogue and peace building. Through first hand experience, I was able to show how my involvement in www.childsoldiers.org and the current http://peacereconcile.virtualactivism.net has helped in the on-going human rights campaign and peace process amongst many Sierra Leoneans and those across the vast cultural divide. The experiences shared by the co-panelist and the feedback from the audience helped a great deal to further create a forum where the ideas can be developed into concrete action. As I strive to report the human rights abuses of children used in armed conflict , I did not loose sight of identifying the barriers to the achievement of reaching a audience through access to ICT. I knew that the Information society is still to make its presence more adequately felt in Sierra Leone. With poor access to ICT which is a prerequisite for an inclusive information society, I realized that if my country Sierra Leone could share in this digital revolution, and the information age, its capacity in terms of ICT and usage must be boosted. As Kofi Annan, Secretary General Of The United Nations puts it, “these technologies are a tremendous force for creating opportunities, and for integrating people and nations into the global economy. But too many of
the world’s people remain untouched by the information revolution. A
digital divide threatens to exacerbate already wide gaps between rich and poor, within and amongst countries.”
I was opportune to meet and speak with many of those who made the summit happen, including H.E Adama Samassekou, President of the WSIS Preparatory Committee, and former Minister of Education of Mali.
Through interactions with Adama Samassekou, I came to realize that his “vision and aspiration of the World Summit on the Information Society represent an immense challenge for human kind”. As founder of the People’s Movement for Human Rights Education, I found the brief moment of speaking to him very insightful.

The presence at the Summit of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in Sierra Leone, Prof Septimus Kaikai revealed the motivation, urge and determination for Sierra Leoneans to be part of the very progressive changing trend of our information age. There has been a growing concern from the Ministry of Youth and Sports as well as the Information and Broadcasting Ministry towards the demands of young people to see some progress made in ICT in Sierra Leone. At the three days interactive forum organized by Taking IT Global Sierra Leone, iEARN Sierra Leone, that was held at the British Council in Freetown prior to the WSIS event in Geneva; an event that I chaired, the Minister of Information was very supportive of the initiative and moved to distribute certificates to young people involved in the brainstorming and finding of youth-friendly strategies to tackle the growing digital divide that still hits Sierra Leone.

Many of the moments at the WSIS events in Geneva were spent interacting and intermingling with like minded colleagues who were part of the Youth Caucus. Their warmth, their passion for the work they do in promoting ICT in their various countries and locales was very inspiring, and moving. It was time to learn from one and other, at the youth Caucus, where youthful energy, talents, resourcefulness, courage and commitment were all immersed into one small ‘hub’.
Andrew Benson Greene

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