[governance] A Report on the Santa Clara Meeting of the Global Alliance for ICT4D

Hakikur Rahman hakik at sdnbd.org
Sun Mar 4 00:24:37 EST 2007

Dear Michael Gurstein,

Thanks for an enlightened report I would rather say. I agree with you with 
a hundred percent about the participation of ICTD practitioners in this 
sort of events and what I have seen in my observations that in such events 
they have been missing. There were many events within the framework of 
WSIS, WSSD, DOTForce, UN ICT task Force and name them, however, poor 
representation from the grass roots ICTD practitioners made them a bit less 
ownership sense at the end, what I mean. The personalities who are working 
at the grass roots with hand on experiences and knowledge should be 
accommodated in these initiatives with whatever modification of action plan 
is needed. Unless, you have the real life experiences on the table (either, 
success or failure), it is always difficult to design, determine, align, 
re-align paths of ICT4D initiations, as this field is to me yet to be 
experimentally verified to give a perfect shape. They varies from 
continents, countries and even localities (withstanding laws, policies, 
economics, technologies, cultures, practices, etc. etc.). In good sense, I 
am glad to see the increased role of civil society representatives in GAID, 
but would encourage their active participation in forming action oriented 
programmes in LDCs, and incorporating effective achievements through 
current or previous (and future) programmes. In reality, ICTD practices are 
no more on the drawing board; many exist, many perished, and many waiting 
for realistic threshold.

Best regards,

Dr. Md. Hakikur Rahman
Executive Director
Sustainable Development Networking Foundation (SDNF)
web: www.sdnbd.org, www.hakik.org
email: hakik at sdnbd.org, icms at bangla.net

At 08:58 AM 3/4/2007, Michael Gurstein wrote:

>I'm just now back from a meeting of the UN's Global Alliance for ICT for
>Development (GAID) www.un-gaid.org/ in Santa Clara California (Silicon
>Valley) http://www.un-gaid.org/santaclara . The meeting was billed as
>the "UN meets Silicon Valley" and was hosted (and chaired) by Intel and
>specifically by Craig Barrett the Chairman of the Board of Intel.
>I attended the meeting as a member of the GAID's "High-level Panel of
>Advisers" where I continue (despite several attempts at correction), to
>be identified as representing the Global Telecentre Alliance.
>The meeting was divided into two parts, a "business meeting" primarily
>for the GAID Strategy Council (the organization has a very top down
>decision making structure with a Steering Committee (who make the
>on-going business decisions) appointed by the UN Secretary General and
>in turn selecting a Strategy Council (who are responsible for the GAID's
>Business Plan/strategy)).  The specific role for the Panel of Advisers
>is to "advise" the Steering Committee, while the Champion's Network is
>meant to be "a group of activists, experts and practitioners promoting
>development through the use of ICT. They echo and amplify at local,
>national and regional levels, the lessons learned and best practices
>identified through the work of the Alliance".
>Overall the GAID suffers from the same malady as its predecessors the
>DOTForce and the UN ICT Task Force which is, a more or less complete
>absence of any participation from those actually "doing" ICT4D on the
>ground in communities. My feeling is that the absence of such
>participation in a real and transparent governance structure by ICT4D
>practitioners and grassroots users is a very significant hindrance to
>the success of the GAID (as it was to the success of the DOTForce and
>the UN ICT Task Force) and I might add that it is not sufficient to have
>representation from those whose primary experience of such work is
>through funding, sponsoring or otherwise enabling these activities.
>There has been a significant reform in the approach to "development" in
>other sectors (as for example health or economic development) where
>there is a clear recognition that unless those most immediately and
>directly involved on the ground acquire "ownership" of the process and
>thus commitment to its success, then developmental processes however
>well planned, funded or implemented are almost certain to fail.  That
>such a recognition has not as yet penetrated into the area of ICT4D at
>least in official circles remains a significant mystery to me.
>However, the re-formed GAID differs from the UN ICT Task Force in now
>having substantive participation from the private sector in the form of
>a significant commitment of time and talent from Intel and the evident
>intention (as per the Silicon Valley meeting) to attempt to tap the
>private sector and particularly it seems the Silicon Valley private
>sector even further as a source of resources and energy to propel the
>creation of an Alliance for ICT4D.
>The first day presented several initiatives with which the GAID is
>associated (they were for the most part initiatives which had a
>significant level of development in advance of the GAID), such as
>Telecentres 2.0 of Telecentres.org and which perhaps were looking to the
>GAID for increasing the breadth of their activities through UN branding
>and accessing a UN based network. A second (in GAID parlance "Flagship
>Partnership Initiative") is the World Bank's Broadband to Africa
>initiative, which equally has had a significant level of development
>outside of the GAID.  The third as presented was what appeared to be a
>"new" development, that of a Cyber Development Corps which seems to be
>an extension of the Canadian Netcorps approach.   Others appeared
>equally to be extensions of existing efforts in the area of e-Education
>(the GeCSI initiative of the UN ICT Task Force) and IBM's sponsored
>G3ICT access (for the disabled) undertaking.
>Perhaps more novel but even less clearly defined at this stage are a
>variety of initiatives for creating what are being called Communities of
>Expertise (CoE's), which to this stage are a variety of virtual networks
>(most still only in the development phase) in areas such as e-Learning,
>ICT enabled agriculture, gender and ICT and so on. How these will
>operate, what they will accomplish, how they will be funded (if at all)
>remains to be determined.
>The second day saw an attempt to link the activities of the GAID (to
>this point a more or less traditionally structured UN initiated body)
>with the energy and skills to be found in Silicon Valley.  To achieve
>this a broad range of individuals and institutions were invited to "meet
>with the UN" and see what if any common ground could be found and
>whether there were areas of interest for collaboration and joint
>I think it is fair to say that this is still somewhat of a work in
>progress.  Certainly there is interest and commitment on the part of
>Intel and the continuation of interest and involvement from those such
>as Microsoft and Cisco who have been involved in these areas for some
>time.  I met several individuals (a female serial entrepreneur, a female
>College Dean, various Silicon Valley consultants) who were learning
>about these issues for the first time and seemed interested in learning
>more. How to move that interest forward into more practical activities
>and engagements was the subject of the closing workshops and plenary and
>while lacking in specifics there seemed to be an opening for some future
>A few more general comments:
>         There was a clear interest and recognition on the part of the
>participants--both UN and non-UN--of the requirement for ICT use at the
>grassroots as the basis for enabling effective economic and social
>development. This interest was focused on the role of telecentres as the
>means for accessing (and providing access to) the grassroots. However,
>there were virtually no ICT practitioners either from LDC's or domestic
>(to the US) in attendance.  The issue of travel funding for "civil
>society" (and specifically for ICT practitioners) has been an issue
>which has been brought forward repeatedly in the context of the GAID
>with little or no response.  A handful of "civil society"
>representatives from LDC's were evidently funded to participate but
>there was little apparent linkage between these participants and the
>larger practitioner ICT4D community.
>         The governance structure of the GAID itself is closed and opaque
>and there was even mention by Sarbuland Khan, Executive Director that a
>minimum contribution of $50 K US would be required from all members of
>the Strategy Council (which notably includes almost no representation
>from ICT4D practitioners.
>         It was mentioned several times in the course of the meeting that
>the GAID had no budget and no permanent (non-seconded) staff and didn't
>intend to get either.  Such an approach will be interesting to observe.
>Certainly, if the hoped for participation from Silicon Valley
>materializes, there would be the means from this source for a
>contribution of $1 a year staffing and so on (for how long of course,
>would remain to be seen), but whether NGO's or even the UN itself will
>be able to participate for any period of time through voluntary
>contributions of time and resources is certainly a very large question
>mark. As well, what if anything could be accomplished in this way
>remains to be seen. Money isn't necessarily the answer to all
>development problems but the absence of money certainly means that a lot
>of possibly significant questions and actions (and substantive and
>valuable players) are going necessarily to stay off the table and out of
>that particular game.
>         Those presenting also foreclosed one of the more suitable
>options for activity given the GAID's self-imposed constraints that is,
>it was several times mentioned that the GAID would NOT be concerned with
>"policy' but rather be "action" and "results" oriented.  How this will
>be accomplished without staff or budget remains an open question.
>         One very interesting (to my mind) development was the general
>acknowledgement by the GAID leadership of the absolute necessity of
>"civil society" participation for the GAID to achieve any meaningful
>results. The contradiction between this sentiment and the more or less
>complete exclusion of civil society from any meaningful participation in
>the governance structure of the GAID and the almost mandatory exclusion
>of active involvement by those from civil society doing real work on the
>ground given the above noted self-imposed constraints remains something
>which will, I think, become strikingly obvious in the fairly near
>future.  That it hasn't as yet been pointed out is a symptom of the
>overall passivity with which civil society seems to have accepted the
>formulation and formation of the GAID structure and operations to date.
>It needs also, I think to be pointed out, that it is extremely easy for
>those from civil society (and elsewhere) without actual working
>experience or on-going involvement with ICT4D on the ground to be drawn
>into the soothing "talk talk" UN environment (such as was prevalent in
>Santa Clara) where lofty words substitute for effective action and where
>at the end of the day little is accomplished other than the production
>of yet another set of unreadable and unread reports.
>Steve Cisler in his report describes at some length the side tables in
>the meeting room groaning with heaping piles of (presumably remaindered)
>volumes produced by the UN ICT Task Force--many of which it might be
>observed include contributions by civil society notables. That the UN
>ICT Task Force accomplished little if anything over its five years is of
>course unmentioned and swept aside in the novelty of the GAID.  It is a
>pity that no assessment of the Task Force has been undertaken, but on
>casual glance the stacks of multi-coloured documents beckoning another
>cohort of like-minded contributors is perhaps assessment enough.
>(As a closing note, it should also be observed that it is hard to see
>the rather more practical and results oriented folks from Silicon Valley
>staying around very long if, at the end of the day (or year), there
>isn't something more practical to show for their efforts than seemed to
>be emerging out of this meeting.)
>With best wishes to all,
>Michael Gurstein, Ph.D.
>gurstein at gmail.com
>Centre for Community Informatics Research, Development and Training
>Vancouver, BC CANADA v6z 2s1
>tel: +1-604-602-0624
>fax: +1-604-602-0624
>You received this message as a subscriber on the list:
>      governance at lists.cpsr.org
>To be removed from the list, send any message to:
>      governance-unsubscribe at lists.cpsr.org
>For all list information and functions, see:
>      http://lists.cpsr.org/lists/info/governance

You received this message as a subscriber on the list:
     governance at lists.cpsr.org
To be removed from the list, send any message to:
     governance-unsubscribe at lists.cpsr.org

For all list information and functions, see:

More information about the Governance mailing list