cis-india – This is a book section written for the third volume (2000-2010) of the Asia Internet History series edited by Prof. Kilnam Chon. The pre-publication text of the section is being shared here to invite suggestions for addition and modification. Please share your comments via email sent to raw[at]cis-india[dot]org with ‘Civil Society Organisations and Internet Governance in Asia – Comments’ as the subject line. This text is published under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.
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Preparations for the World Summit on the Information Society
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) conferences organized by the United Nations in Geneva (2003) and Tunis (2005) initiated crucial platforms and networks, some temporary and some continued, for various non-governmental actors to intensively and periodically take part in the discussions of governance of Internet and various related activities towards the goals of inclusive development and human rights. Many of the civil society organizations taking part in the WSIS conferences, as well as the various regional and thematic preparatory meetings and seminars, had little prior experience in the topic of Internet governance. They were entering these conversations from various perspectives, such as local developmental interventions, human and cultural rights activism, freedom and diversity of media, and gender and social justice. With backgrounds in such forms of applied practice and theoretical frameworks, members of these civil society organizations often faced a difficult challenge in articulating their experiences, insights, positions, and suggestions in terms of the (then) emerging global discourse of Internet governance and that of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as instruments of development. At the WSIS: An Asian Response Meeting in 2002, Susanna George, (then) Executive Director of Isis International, Manila, succinctly expressed this challenge being faced by the members of civil society organizations:
For some feminist activists however, including myself, it has felt like trying to squeeze my concerns into a narrow definition of what gender concerns in ICTs are. I would like it to Cinderella’s ugly sister cutting off her toe to fit into the dainty slipper of gender concerns in ICTs. The development ball, it seems, can only accommodate some elements of what NGO activists, particularly those from the South, are concerned about in relation to new information and communications technologies. (George 2002)