Bloggers have been commenting on the World Summit on the Information Society. While in many ways the conference has degenerated into a forum for the undeveloped world to take potshots at the developed nations over notions of equality, it has concerned many due to both potential effects on the internet, and a misunderstanding by many of exactly what the internet is which prompts world leaders to call for regulation and change.
“There is a content divide. Much of the information on the web is not relevant to the real needs of people,” he said.
“Nearly 70% of sites are in English, at times crowding out local voices and needs.”
The BBC writes: “The UN, through the International Telecommunication Union, is keen to take over from the semi-private Icann organisation.” Here I have to agree with many that this very statement represents a basic misunderstanding of what the internet is and how it is setup. The internet is a NETWORK whose value lies in it’s connections and infrastructure. It is an agreement. You can choose to make your website/service/network available to other networks connected to the internet or you can choose not to.
The notion of a “content” divide on the internet is curious. It seems to me that the issue is a shortage of local and non-english content, not a barrier to the production of non-english content (outdated non-Unicode encoding aside). If adequate local and native-language alternatives to internet services were available, surely people would be interested in using them?
More telling, how does this compare with an overall content divide in printed matter? What are the statistics for the number of publications, and amount of mass media content produced in English versus other languages? How many journals, paper, movies and other items of content are produced in english exclusively or first?
The only real element of value to the conference seems to be hope of establishing a fund in developing countries for digital infrastructure, though I wonder if digital infrastructure is truly so earth shattering as to require a seperate fund? Surely existing WorldBank and IMF funds and deals would allow investment in communications infrastructure, or education and training programs?