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ICT Success Stories

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E-DEMOCRACY, E-VOTING & THE ENHANCEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS


With the rapid growth of technological and digital opportunities, established value systems such as democracy and voting are being challenged and are adapting to the new dynamics of the Information Society. ICTs are moving beyond the basic protection of civil and human rights to the next level, introducing innovative means of empowerment and greater transparency and accountability. New dimensions to civil society are emerging, promising a greater voice and justice for peoples around the world.

 

ICT stories from the field


 Out-of-court Complaints Network – European Union

Success strategy: The European Commission has launched on 1 February 2001 an out-of-court complaints network for financial services to help businesses and consumers resolve disputes in the Internal Market fast and efficiently by avoiding, where possible, lengthy and expensive legal action. This network, called FIN-NET, has been designed particularly to facilitate the out-of-court resolution of consumer disputes when the service provider is established in a EU Member State other than that where the consumer lives. The network brings together more than 35 different national schemes that either cover financial services in particular (e.g. banking and insurance ombudsmen schemes) or handle consumer disputes in general (e.g. consumer complaint boards). Both on- and off-line services are covered. The difficulty of obtaining out-of-court redress is a barrier to the development of cross-border services, particularly in the financial sector where it risks undermining the growth of electronic commerce.

There is a growing demand for alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (ADRs) that do not involve formal legal action given the range and sophistication of services available to European consumers and the development of cross-border trade. Both supply and demand for such services are likely to increase with the introduction of euro.

Background documents: Memorandum of Understanding on a Cross-Border Out-of-Court Complaints Network for Financial Services in the European Economic Area (PDF-File, 40 kB)

Source: the website of the activity

For more information: see the European Commission website and the website of the activity


Public Domain Information Centers

Success Strategy: The Public Domain Information Centers Programme (united and extended Public Legal Information Centers Programme and Public Business Information Centers Programme) is aimed to create the network of community centers for free public access to the different kind of public domain information, e.g. legal, consumer, business, ecological, educational, etc. across the Russia and CIS countries. The website of the programme has till now connected more than 1350 telecenters throughout the CIS region and provides useful information about ongoing and forthcoming initiatives related to the dissemination of legal information concerning all aspects of life.

Partners: UNESCO IFAP National Committee of Russia, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Russia, Ministry of Culture and Mass Media of Russia, Special Communications Service, Garant Co., Ltd, Kodeks Co., Ltd, Konsultant Plus Co., Ltd

For more information: see IFAP website and the website of the activity


 ACI Child Labour Project - Latin America and Caribbean

Success strategy: The Canadian International Development Agency supports the IACI Child Labour Project, in its goal to advance children's rights in the Latin America and Caribbean regions, by strengthening institutional capacity and developing a dialogue website.

Partners: Canadian International Development Agency - CIDA

Source: WSIS Stocktaking Database


 Colombia’s laptop warrior- Connectivity for Peace and Progress

Success Strategy: Vilma Almendra, a 23-year-old Paez Indian from Colombia, represents what Canadian Aboriginal Chief Dwight Dorey recently referred to as the modern "laptop warrior." Almendra coordinates the community information service, or telecentre, in the town of Santander de Quilichao in southwest Colombia. The telecentre — part internet café, part library, and part meeting place — is housed at the headquarters of ACIN, the Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca [association of Indigenous governing councils of North Cauca], and is one of three internet-equipped information services in southwest Colombia supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Vilma Almendra says that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are playing a key role in denouncing human rights abuses in Colombia — a country plagued by civil war for the past 39 years. Almendra is part of a growing movement using internet communications as an antidote to violence against Indigenous peoples.  She and Dorey addressed a Canadian-Latin American aboriginal forum on information technology and connectivity, held in Ottawa from March 24th to 26th  2003. The three-day meeting, sponsored by the Institute for Connectivity in the Americas (ICA) and several Canadian federal government departments, was webcast live on the internet via the Aboriginal Canada Portal

For more information: see IDRC website


 Online complaints

uccess Strategy: Approximately 50 years ago, Rameshwari Nehru founded an organization to help Indian women in distress.  Over the years the project has transformed into the Nari Raksha Samiti (NRS), and has become a twenty-first century resource for protecting women from human rights violations.  In April 2001, the NRS launched an online service designed to provide women an outlet to report violations against them.  From domestic abuse to illegal police searches and sexual harassment, the electronic complaint system serves as an important tool for protecting Indian women.  Upon submission, women’s rights advocates and government officials review the complaints.  The NRS also empowers women by offering training in a variety of topics ranging from fashion designing to computer operation.  So far NRS has trained more than 400 women throughout India, thus helping to raise awareness about women’s rights. 


 Justice and Human Rights Support Fund - Canada

Success strategy: The Justice and Human Rights Support Fund is intended to support initiatives promoting the access to justice services and the respect of justiciable rights in Haiti.  

The fund works to support consistent initiatives from civil society entities and develop community and civil society capacities in the judiciary field. A key element of the Fund’s strategy is the enhancement of the internal dialogue within the Haitian society as well as the positive communication between public institutions and citizens’ organisations. A broader overall goal of the Fund’s activities is to foster Haitian civil movement potential and contribute to his role of major stakeholder.

 Partners: Canadian International Development Agency – CIDA

 Source: WSIS Stocktaking Database


Democracy and SMS

Photo #000076Success strategy: SMS, or short message service, enables mobile phone users to send short text messages to each other. Filipino users are responsible for about 10 per cent of total global SMS traffic or 50 million SMS messages per day, making it the largest society of SMS users in the world.  In early 2001, SMS played a crucial role in the revolt called “People Power 2”, whereby Filipinos used SMS to coordinate demonstrations that eventually led to the ousting of President Estrada, thus demonstrating one of the many democratizing uses of ICTs. 

For more in-depth information: see the ITU website


 Using Information Technology to Promote Good Governance – Peru

Success Strategy: Capitalizing on the power of the internet, citizens in three Peruvian cities now have the ability to learn how their local governments are structured, to access information on municipal officials, to see how public funds are spent, and to obtain information on procedures for obtaining a birth certificate, restaurant permit, or other official documents. Whereas such information was previously unavailable to the public, or difficult to get, now it can be retrieved in minutes through a customized web search. What is known as the Public Window is ushering in a new era of transparency in a nation where scandals and corruption have contributed to widespread distrust of government.

The Public Window is a window for transparency in public management aimed at strengthening democratic participation,” says Carlos Wendorff, Chief Executive Officer of PUCP’s Center of Technology Transfer and the main architect behind the Public Window project. Previously, Wendorff helped create a similar web strategy, the Civil Society Window, to enable civil society organizations in Peru to network with one another, share information, and disseminate tools to strengthen their work.

The widespread publicity surrounding corruption in the Fujimori government as a strong catalyst behind the creation of the Public Window and the current government’s willingness to participate, organizers say. Nevertheless, it was a major constraint throughout the implementation phase. In addition to promoting public sector transparency, the project sought to strengthen the capacity of local government organizations (LGOs) through using technology to streamline their operations. Now, as a result, electronic database systems store important records, and email, previously scarcely used by government administrators, has become a popular communication tool within local government.

A benefit is the vital sharing of information and ideas when it comes to solving community problems. In Huamanga (Ayacucho), for example, citizens complained that garbage removal was not meeting local needs. However, increased dialogue and research made possible through the Public Window project pointed out that while the city had insufficient staffing and resources to meet demand, there was much that citizens themselves could do, not only to cut down on the amount of garbage they produce, but in paying local taxes on time so that the service could be properly budgeted. The garbage collection issue provided a potent example of how citizens, civil society organizations, and government could work together to address urgent social problems.

Building on the success of the project, discussions are underway with the Peruvian government to expand the program to twenty additional Peruvian cities and potentially in other Latin American countries grappling with similar issues.

Partners: Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (PUCP), the World Bank, local civil society organizations (CSOs), and the municipal governments of Cajamarca, Ayacucho, and Tarapoto, funding by The Development Marketplace

Source: the World Bank website and the website of the activity


 E-Voting Project - Switzerland

Success strategy: In 1998, the Swiss Cabinet defined a strategy to make Swiss government part of the information society. Today, Switzerland is at the forefront on cyber-administration worldwide, and e-voting is one of the main projects of the national e-strategy. In cooperation with the federal government, three leading cantons are developing and testing e-voting pilot projects.

The trial period will last until 2006, at which time the government will decide whether to make e-voting an official practice. Progress is already apparent, as electronic votes are included and counted in several Geneva elections since 2003. The project is significant as a new opportunity to urge citizens to make use of their political rights.

The e-voting as a democratic best practice has a great potential to benefit to the Swiss political system. Switzerland is a federalist state with 26 cantons and about 3,000 communes. There are popular votes on all three levels at least four times a year. Voters also have the right to initiative and referendum, which means that they can request a popular vote by collecting the requisite number of signatures. E-voting refers to remote voting through the internet rather than electronic machine voting (as recently used in Florida). Some 52% of Swiss have internet access, usually both at home and at work. One in three Swiss residents surfs the web daily. This high access opportunities are an important pre-condition for future successful implementation of e-voting in Switzerland.

Target group: Swiss voters at all levels

Partners: Switzerland - Swiss Federal Chancellery

Source: WSIS Stocktaking Database and the website of the activity

Background materials: Cyber Administration Strategy of the Swiss Confederation, 2002 [183KB}


 Kubatana: Making Voices Heard

 

Success Strategy: Press freedom has always been a key area of control for more oppressive regimes, and in Zimbabwe the effects have made it more difficult for the press to expose human rights abuses and threats to democracy.

The internet provides an obvious and accessible means of circumventing the clampdown on the printed media in Zimbabwe, and the Kubatana Project's website, Kubatana.net, aims to do just that, providing a web presence to 230 Zimbabwean civil and community-based organizations. Kubatana.net—with the help of its members—has become an important conduit for accurate, up-to-date information about the country, both locally and internationally. The project also carries information about important legislation. It uses its front page and extensive e-mail address list to provide news, advertise public meetings, mobilize support for campaigns, and distribute information about a range of civil society issues. Recently for instance, readers’ attention was brought to the diaries of political prisoners that were hosted on its website. The e-mail list was also used to provide Zimbabweans with information about the voter registration process during Zimbabwe's elections in March 2002.

Young people are targeted through graphics, song lyrics, and poetry that inspire them to join the Kubatana network. In addition, the project facilitates “electronic activism” training workshops. It hires internet cafés (and in the process supports local businesses), brings together young student activists from colleges and universities, housewives, retirees, political activists, etc. and teaches them how to use ICTs to advocate, lobby, and mobilize. A significant amount of time is also given over to discussing people's fears about using e-mail, and government interference with their communications.

 Link to RAISA/VSO newsletter

For more information: see the Kubatana website

 

Background materials: see the Bridges.org case study report


 Judicial Training and Institutional Support - Haiti

Success strategy: The Government of Haiti has presently difficulty to adequately meet the demands of Haitians for judicial services. From birth to death, citizens can spend their entire lives without access to government services. The Haitian armed forces, which represented the principal tool of repression, has been dissolved. However, the vacuum left behind has not been filled by civil institutions capable of assuming their responsibilities. Moreover, the results of years of injustice have left an almost indelible mark on the Haitian mentality. Haiti's justice system is characterized by incompetence and corruption among judges, outdated laws, costly procedural delays, and the lack of basic infrastructure.

Canada has built 14 trial courthouses and district attorney's offices in Haiti with financial resources from the "School, Clinic and Courthouse Reconstruction Project". A total of $5 million was allocated to this activity. Under the "Judicial Support Training in Haiti" Project, moreover, CIDA has begun to train the non-judicial staff of these 14 courthouses. This staff includes secretaries, security guards, bailiffs and court registrars. CIDA has allocated about $1.8 million for this training activity. USAID and the European Union are training the judicial staff of these 14 courthouses (lawyers, attorneys and clerks).

A second CIDA project aimed at reforming the justice system in Haiti should start up on July 2, 1998. Estimated at $5 million for three years, the project is designed to continue training the staff of the 14 trial courthouses and district attorney's offices.

Partners: Canadian International Development Agency - CIDA, USAID and European Union

Source: the CIDA website


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