During the first day of the Global Voices Budapest Summit 2008, many of the topics discussed had to do with the worst side of the relation between politics and the Internet. Topics such as censorship, the violation of freedom of expression rights and the lack of access were the main references. The positives examples started as actions destined to solve these problems, by promoting political action against governments that take these measures or by providing the users a greater possibility to publish anonymously, through projects such as Tor.
The starting up topic on the second day of GVSummit08 was quite different, and it had to do with the hopeful side of the use of tools related to the Internet and the Web 2.0. These are the projects that are being carried out by Rising Voices, Global Voices’ outreach arm, dedicated to promote communitarian activities that allow sectors -that have traditionally been marginalized from communication media- to have a voice in the Internet. Every year, Rising Voices convokes a presentation of projects about communitarian activities in the Internet; the selected projects receive financing, that goes from one to five thousands dollars, which helps them get started. Usually, these activities come up by proposals created by those who have Internet connection, the so called “digital activists”. But then this knowledge is shared with others, to allow new projects, blogs, communitarian sites.
The table Session 1: “Web 2.0 Goes Worldwide”, started with the presentation of the topic by David Sasaki, director of Global Voices Outreach, who introduced the objectives of the general project. Then, the table, who was moderated by Lova, a molecular biologist from Madagascar, became those who carried out the project: Collins Dennis Odour, from repacted.org, a project in Kenya; Catalina Restrepo, from Hiperbarrio, from Medellín, Colombia; Mialy Andriamananjara, from FOKO, in Madagascar; and Cristina Quisbert, from Voces Bolivianas, from El Alto, Bolivia.
At the session, many topics concerning these issues arose.
The difficulties of Internet access: something that was pointed out by Andriamananjara and Quisbert as a limitation to start their projects. The lack infrastructure is translated into low speeds to navigate the Net, along with high costs. One of the issues discussed was the difficulty to upload audio and video because of the scarce broad band available. One has to consider that, since many of these projects seek to install the use of the Internet as a communication tool in certain areas of the cities, the quality of the current infrastructure in these urban spaces is usually pretty bad.
The unequal access to the right to publish: in many countries, the communication media are mainly in hands of specific sectors of the society, usually linked to big economic interests. As Quisbert, Restrepo and Andriamananjara pointed out, for a long time the popular sectors have had their right to speak deprived. Blogs, carried out within a communitarian project, allow to break up this logic.
The search for a better quality of life: Catalina Restrepo mentioned that the Hiperbarrio project in the communities of Santo Domingo and La Loma, at Medellin, started from the search of new forms of expression in communities with a long history of violence. Today, the possibility of being able to express themselves is one of the issues that have taken these areas of Medellin to an improvement of their quality of life. This is the case, particularly with the young population, who have the opportunity to write about their own lives in the community.
The promotion of the cultural expressions that the groups consider their own: Odour pointed out that in the project carried out in Kenya not only do they use the Internet,many of their projects involve music and theater as a form to get closer to the communities. Quisbert also pointed out a similar issue for the Bolivian case, in which participants were very interested in publishing about their music and traditions.
The rapid growth of the projects: the need of expression by part of these communities was seen, for example, in the quick growth of the number of participants of the projects and the variety of topics involved. For instance, in the case of the Madagascar project, and despite the adverse conditions of Internet access, in few months there were 150 new blogs created from the promotion made by the project. It even allowed, in this case, to start promoting specific campaigns, such as helping a little girl that was born with malformations, as you can see at Diana Helps Baby Kamba From Majunga.
And this has been a small summary of the topics discussed at the table. If you want to know more about the Rising Voices project, you can read their goals, and get to know the conditions under with they give financing.
If you want to read more about the projects mentioned in this post, you can check the links below: