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Published On: Wed, Oct 22nd, 2014

Global ICT community meets in Zapatista (III)

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By Y. Z. Ya’u

The congress theme was Building the Digital Age Together, so that every person on earth shares in its benefits ended up with the Guadalajara Declaration. In the declaration, WCIT calls upon each individual and stakeholder group to commit to building an inclusive Digital Age, by playing a collaborative role in the evolving Digital Age. It also charged the ICT Industry will continue to be actively engaged in addressing impediments of infrastructure, affordability, accessibility, protection and security. As critical stakeholder, Governments are asked to develop digital agendas, enabling regulations and legal frameworks, equitable taxation models and market rules. Governments should also embrace ICTs and to consider them at the core decision-making. Governments and industry must cooperate to establish equitable partnerships in building and sustaining a viable ICT industry in order to better serve societies. International organizations are encouraged to continue investing and funding ICT development, especially in emerging economies, and to open up a closer relationship with the ICT industry.

“The model of transparent, open multi-stakeholder structures and processes, which is working successfully to enable effective governance of the Internet, is an example of successful collaboration based around consensus to achieve constructive public policy outcomes”. This was a reference to the issue of internet governance for which so far no major international consensus has been reached to develop an inclusive and democratic framework for the governance of the internet.

The Congress asks governments, educational institutions and industry to close the global skills gap by providing employment opportunities to young people around the globe, and to enhance employment opportunities for women in all roles, while meeting industry and market demands. It finally appealed to all delegates to work diligently to address the challenges that the vast growth of information itself presents through big data; the application of data analytics and artificial intelligence. It also agreed on the host countries for the next five years with Brasilia in Brazil (2016), Taiwan (2017), India (2018), Armenia (2019) and Malaysia (2020). This was a major departure in that as from 2016, the congress which has been holding every two years will now hold annually. It was a compromise given the level of interest shown by many countries to host the event.

So where is Zapatista? I couldn’t find any and did not get to us our hosts, perhaps because I was learning to be a diplomat. After all, my visa granted for me to attend the IT conference, not to have meeting with the combatants of the Zapatista movement. As a largely rural movement, Jalisco indeed is not where to encounter them, with its high level urbanization. Zapatista movement is operational mainly in the state of Chiapas, although it has presence in a number of other states, especially in its cultural expression. The state of Chiapas is in the extreme south east of the country bordering Guatemala. Crossed by the Sierra Madre mountains range, in spite of the turmoil, it is still a major site to behold. Just around the end of the congress Zapatista had called for protests and rally across many cities in solidarity with missing youths who were said to have been abducted, much like our Chibok girls.

Travelling to Mexico was simply no fun. It was a long and tortuous journey passing through Johannesburg in South Africa, Sao Paulo in Brazil, another 10-hr flight to Mexico City before finally making the one hour flight to Guadalajara, the venue of the congress. In all, it was a total of 28 hours of flight time done in three days. It was the same way back. That is not to say this was the only way to Mexico from Nigeria. Some went through Dubai using Emirate and spent virtually the same hours; others went through Frankfurt, and had similar hours. Those who went directly through USA had a much shorter deal.

Not being Nigerians, the organizers did not think about holidays. For this, we had to spend our sallahon flight. Those pilots could not slaughter rams for us. The South African Airlines (SAA) is not the wonder kids we are told they are. We discovered to our chagrin at Murtala Mohammed International airport that they had left our luggage being in Sao Paulo. In a saner clime we would be promptly addressed, solution provided and offer of mitigating expenses proposed but here we were trying to get the attention of the luggage manager who simply was distraught all the time and sounding too unconcerned. He probably had seen many of these experiences and there was nothing new in our case. We left and for the next three days, it was simply a bad experience. I thought of suing them and even spoke to Barrister Festus Okoye to actually file suit but like every typical Nigerian, once I got my bag five days later, I was in no mood of wasting my energy in litigation.

The South Africans knew us better. They knew we could complain and do nothing thereafter. Otherwise, why should we be in the first place flying other countries’ national carriers and there is nothing being said about Nigerian national carrier? There is even the small thing like the fact that AT International Airport is simply not Murtala Mohammed International Airport. The former is orderly, well provisioned, efficient, the other is disorganized in the extreme, dirty, stippling with heat, inefficient with officials hunting for extortion.

Would ICT change this? I doubt it, for ICT is only a necessary but not a sufficient condition for development. That in fact can be seen from the irony of the global ICT community, which has been preaching e-everything only for it to engage in face-to-face congress. The ring of ironic is clear as it tells us that there are many things that ICT cannot replace, which include systems, principles and rule of law. These are the things that ICT cannot give you. They have to be developed and that is the key development challenge of Nigeria. Concluded

Y. Z. Ya’u via


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