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OECD: June 16, 2008 Civil Society-Organized Labor Forum Impressions

(This is a re-post of the blog I previously posted in the Diplo Community Blog).

Ahn Neyong Ha Seyo (Hello!) from Korea ! :)

The Korean government through the Korea Communications Commission did a wonderful job of organizing the event. I have to commend the organizers for sticking to the time limit for each session so everything was always on schedule.

I just want to share my impressions on the OECD Civil Society-Organized Labor and the Ministerial Meeting here in Seoul.

Last June 16, was the Civil Society-Organized Labor forum (Katitza Rodriguez, who headed the Public Voice coalition, has shared the civil society declaration, I believe, to the Diplo community). I would like to point out specific interesting points here during the session that I have jotted down. This is more or less the gist of the forum so for easier reading, let me enumerate these thoughts:

[1] Technology should be used with good intentions. By this, we mean the quality by which technology should be used for better consumer benefits. This would also mean to seek ways to good strategies. I think the point that was being presented was to focus more on consumer protection.

[2] Roland Schneider of Trade Union Advisory Committe (TUAC) said that “power” comes from the people. He pointed out an aspect by which social unrest or protests are spreading to the Internet. It would challenge us to think of how the Internet can make democracy better - like how civil society participants can promote democracy. He feels that there is still room for improvement in this case. I think that if we talk about democracy in general, we not only push for democracy per se, but we also push for social policies.

[3] The president of Consumers Korea, Jaoik Kim, made a good point when he said that IT should continually contribute to the improvement of human life, even if we simply talk about consumer protection. I think the general idea here is that if we aim to improve the quality of life in general, then it also raises the quality of life.

[4] With regards to the human and political dimension of the Internet in general, Ambassador David A. Gross of the US Department of State made significant points here to ponder. He mostly talked about the transformation of the Internet in terms of its impact in our social lives. He talked about this transformation in the impact of free flow of information that can politically drive challenge. It was interesting when he said that in the Phase 1 of the WSIS, he was quite disappointed. I think he was referring to the 1948 human rights declaration which he feels suppresses freedom as much as those who forwarded them. But he was quite pleased, according to him, on the 2005 WSIS because of the powerful language used that referred to paragraph 4 of the Tunis agenda (reiterating that the US is for openness).

[5] Ambassador Gross also shared that in February 2006, US secretary of State C. Rice, created a state task force to look at the tools that the US already have with regards to Internet freedom and raise the following issues: a) revising the document of human rights by raising this issue explicitly with bilateral meetings with other countries; and b) that the issue of Internet freedom is powerful only if you have access to the Internet which leaves other countries behind so there is a need to work with other countries to advance access, create/enable partnerships and hopefully in the next few years the number of Internet users would reach more than 1.4 billion (as he mentioned that in the year 2000, there were 300 Million Internet subscribers only). Ambassador Gross also reiterated the need to advance political freedom, and advance access. I think by advancing access, I previously thought he was merely talking about forging partnerships to bridge the digital divide. But I think he was pointing out on the issue that we shouldn’t confuse people about access in general. By access, we mean that people in all walks of life can have that access to the Internet because it is important that people speak clearly. This is the more reason that we include discussions of all voices.

[6] Laura Newman of the Carter Center talked about “digital disconance.” I initially thought if there was such a word “disconance” maybe refering to “content.” But she clarified that she was talking about “digital chaos.” Ms. Newman was pointing out about a panacea for effective right of access to information. I have to agree with her on this one when she mentioned that people tend to just dump information to the Net and then say you were into openness even if the information is not reliable.

This is so far for the stakeholder’s meeting from the Civil Society point-of-view.

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