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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Example of Corporate Internet Authoritarianism - Amazon does not allow Pakistan to download Kindle Software for PC's

*Access Denied to Pakistan by Amazon.com!
I would like to share an example of how Corporate Internet Authoritarianism may affect us from the developing world that I recently encountered. The case presented is that Amazon.com's Kindle, an e-book reader device available for - Amazon does not allow Pakistan to download Kindle Software for PC's. The IGF in Sharam El-Sheikh was a very fascinating event. Apart from the many issues and arguments that arose this year, the participants displayed use of some fascinating devices for recording or following through the proceedings that many of us developing world people have neither seen nor have access to. The major fascination for me was from small FLIP HD Camcorders and various types of E-book Readers. During the IGF or while flying over to the event, I saw many kinds of wireless e-book readers like Amazon.com's Kindle and some other European models in the hands of people from the developed world. Upon asking them the price of their devices they were all US$300 and above. Click here for the link to Amazon.com's Kindle.
Bringing my fascination of Wireless E-Book Readers back to Pakistan, I have been trying to figure out how do various e-books and reports appear on an e-book reader and whether some special format is required to view books on such readers. I attempted to access the report "Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age (Kindle Edition) by The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy" through Amazon.com Kindle version.  
In order to read such a report on a Kindle device without a Kindle, one has to have the Kindle E-Book Reader software installed on their PCs. The following is the message that was displayed on the link given below in a test attempt to download the Kindle Software for my PC in order to read the Kindle version of the report "Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age (Kindle Edition) by The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy":  
  1. For the Kindle Software Link, click here.  
  2. For Knight Commission's Report Link, click here.  
  3. Kindle Software Denial Link, click here.  
Resulting Message on Amazon.com Kindle Software Download Page: 
"We're sorry. Kindle for PC is not currently available in Pakistan. 
Are you traveling outside your country? 
Sign in to see if Kindle for PC is available for download in your country. 
›Continue shopping the Kindle store"
The print screen of this message is given below. Would this mean that if I actually had a Kindle, I would not get support for it or would not be allowed to have a PC version of the Kindle software program? Interestingly Amazon.com allows you to continue shopping but doesn't allow Pakistani's to download the Kindle Software. Isn't that a wonderfully incredible approach from the one of the world's e-commerce giants that continue to contribute to increasing the digital divide over software offerings that they give in the developed world for free but we from the developing world cannot access it!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Google Wave - The wonderful new collaboration and communication tool from Google.com

I just received an invitation to join the Google.com preview launch of the Google Wave, its an amazing new virtual collaboration and communication tool. It's like Gmail and Gtalk combined with Google Docs on steroids and beats all those programs like Microsoft Outlook etc. Google Wave comes out as an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. The concept of a wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

Google defines its wave to be equal parts conversation and document where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. The intention of the wave is to be shared among any participant and they can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add more participants at any point in the process. Wave also provides playback that lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when. The wave is alive, and with live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

With Google Wave you can managing the Organizing events, group projects, photo sharing, meeting notes, brainstorming and playing interactive games. I can send you an invitation to join and experience Google Wave for yourself, just leave me a comment or send an email to fouadbajwa [at] gmail.com

No, Google didn't pay me to make this post!


Do you want to become a leader in ICANN? Are you at the IGF? Then this meeting is for you!

A special thanks to Olivier MJ Crepin-Leblond ICANN NomCom 2010 member to share the following information about an important ICANN related event taking place during the IGF'09. If you attend, you will have a chance to meet Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's new President & CEO, ICANN Directors, selected by previous NomComs and ICANN staff. The session will be moderated by Wolfgang Kleinw├Ąchter, Chair of the 2010 NomCom.

Here is the info:

Do you want to become a leader in ICANN? Then you should join the ICANN NomCom Outreach meeting on Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 1.15 p.m. - 2.00 p.m. in Room 6 (Biblioteca Alexandria). The session will explain how you could become more involved in ICANN's multi-stakeholder bottom up policy development process and what you have to do to present a "Statement of Interest" (SOI) for one of the leading positions within ICANN. In 2010, ICANN's Nominating Committee will appoint three ICANN Directors, one ccNSO and one GNSO Council member and two members of the At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC).

See you there!

In Sharam El-Sheikh for the IGF but without luggage - Yeah Emirates Airlines lost it from Dubai to Cairo!

Yes, I made it safely to Sharam El-Sheikh yesterday evening but without any luggage. The credit goes to Emirates Airlines that has done this with me twice this year now, last time while returning to Pakistan from the IGF consultations in Geneva in May 2009. The carrier lost 650 bags including the luggage of many other IGF participants travelling that particular flight. Imagine, you just load a hundred bags when you are carrying more than 200 passengers and the flight took of with a delay and arrived in Cairo with a delay. Pathetic! It was a huge chaotic situation at Cairo Airport when over more than a 150 passengers were at the luggage complain counter bashing the three poor Egyptian Ground Staff Emirates Airlines.

This stupidity in my personal opinion is my worst luggage loss because I have got nothing else to wear during the IGF as well as missing some of my important documentation for the meeting. Emirates Airlines is really really loosing its personal and responsible touch I used to confide in during the past 5 years. I would now prefer Etihad Airlines for any of my future travelling because they have become what Emirates was as the number one airlines in the region. Okay the Abu Dhabi Airport facilities are not as hip as Dubai Airport but still they are a responsible airliner.

On my way back I have an Etihad booking already arranged. Well, apart from the crying business over my luggage, the pre-IGF day has started with ISOC IGF Ambassadors Meeting on the 14th of November and I have been able to interact with some new wonderful people as well as meet up with old friends. So far so good without the luggage, interesting. Okay I am frustrated like many other people that lose their luggage on a daily basis across the world but I will get over it as I get busy over the day till the moment I have to get the same pair of clothes washed for tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All packed and ready for IGF'09 in Sharam El-Sheikh & a bit about Internet Rights at the IGF

I am all set to head down to Sharam El-Sheikh from Lahore, Pakistan to attend the UN IGF 2009 within a few hours and wanted to share this post before heading off to the Airport. Going through the work that we at the MAG (Multistakeholder Advisory Group) had accomplished so far in organizing the current IGF, I was reflecting upon the fact that the event this year should have carried a main session in the main program on Internet Rights or simply said, Human Rights on the Internet. Why? Well if you look at the global trend, it feels like that a year or two back, we Civil Society people were nuts beating the Human Rights Declaration drum to recognize it over the Internet but now we see the debates surrounding rights on the Internet popping up literally in every continent of the world.

In my opinion, the recent stances on Internet related Human Rights adopted by the European Commission and the European Council on different occasions signify the importance of this issue as a basic right that has to be recognized by hook or crook otherwise future Internet Public Policy making will be facing a great deal of hurdles. Within the context of IGF, I am still very optimistic that with the discussions and evaluations of its continuation, the IGF will face some immediate and important transformations that will bring into focus the issue of Human Rights and the Internet.

Before ending this post, I would like to congratulate everyone in the IGF Internet Rights Dynamic Coalition for the wonderful work they have put into redraft and improve the previous Internet Rights Charter released by the APC, the Association of Progressive Communications. When the Dynamic Coalition met earlier this September in Geneva at the European Broadcast Union premises, it was unanimously decided that the Human Rights Declaration should also be recognized on the Internet and where necessary, suggestions should be shared for its lingo. Now looking at the final Internet Rights Charter draft that will possibly be released during the current Internet Governance Forum in Sharam signifies the importance of the Human Rights Declaration within the context of the Internet. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First set of "REAL" Internet Rights by EU Commission? How much Freedom on the Internet?

Internet Rights is a critical debate today in the Internet Governance circles. This news bit is not so late one must follow it if you are interested in Internet Rights or Human Rights on the Internet. For those readers that have not followed this through:

Earlier there was a famous case filed against iiNet Australia. iiNet was on the strangle after it was nabbed (case filed on 20th November 2008) by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) for allegedly allowing 100,000 illegal film, TV and music downloads through BitTorrent to occur during a 59 week period over their service. This Australian copyright case recieved all the fame it could because it tested provisions laid out in the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement's resultant copyright law and could set a precedent for many more similar lawsuits concerning the responsibility of Australian internet service providers with regards to copyright infringement via their services. [details of the case on Wikipedia.org]

Of course alot must have happened after that but I've been following the European Commission on this and on the recent proceedings of this case, I found out that the European Union has passed into law a set of internet rights to protect users from arbitrary crackdowns on people who illegally download music and movies. Whether or whether not the EU was encouraged by iiNet's example, I've been really looking forward to such news after Civil Society globally stepped in on promoting human rights on the Internet and encouraging countries, Internet governance structures and global organizations to recognize our basic human rights and their protection over the Internet.

You can read in more detail about the reforms on the IHS Website here but here is the provision presented for your information:

Annex 1 - The New Internet Freedom Provision

Article 1(3)a of the new Framework Directive: "Measures taken by member states regarding end-users' access to or use of services and applications through electronic communications networks shall respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and general principles of Community law.

Any of these measures regarding end-users' access to or use of services and applications through electronic communications networks liable to restrict those fundamental rights or freedoms may only be imposed if they are appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society, and their implementation shall be subject to adequate procedural safeguards in conformity with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and general principles of Community law, including effective judicial protection and due process. Accordingly, these measures may only be taken with due respect for the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to privacy. A prior fair and impartial procedure shall be guaranteed, including the right to be heard of the person or persons concerned, subject to the need for appropriate conditions and procedural arrangements in duly substantiated cases of urgency in conformity with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The right to an effective and timely judicial review shall be guaranteed."



From what I have learnt so far, this reform was made after exploring the space for encouraging stronger consumer rights, an open internet, a single telecommunications market for Europe and improved bandwidth for consumers in future. This freedom provision comes out to eliminate the 'Three Strikes laws' enforced by many jurisdictions in EU to cut off repeat ‘offenders’ from the internet. The Three-strikes legislation allowed countries to disconnect internet users who were suspected of unlawful file-sharing of copyrighted material such as music or films, of course after sending them two warnings. Thus along with other consumer protections, the consumers are protected against having their internet connections arbitrarily cut-off as part of a government response to illegal downloading.

The controversy that surrounds the governments in the region would be that according to the no European member state might be able to cut off one of its citizens from the Internet without applying a due process of law taking into account "enshrining the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy into the application of online policy", meaning, all trials - must allow that EU citizens are entitled to a prior fair and impartial procedure, including the right to be heard, and they have a right to an effective and timely judicial review. Just like trials in our real world. For Civil Society this would be accepted with mixed feelings but not in its completeness. Let me see what the EU representatives at the IGF'09 have to say on this.


Global Voices Online not accessible anymore in Pakistan

Either this is some kind of technical issues with my DSL Internet Service by CyberNet in Pakistan or it's true that I cannot access the Global Voices Online blogs from my country. For those that might know, Global Voices Online is an international network of bloggers and citizen journalists that follow, report, and summarizes what is going on in the blogosphere in every corner of the world. It's a non-profit website and/or project started by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, growing out of an international bloggers' meeting in December 2004, and is founded by Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon.

Okay so its clear we've seen lots of other websites getting censored and banned in this region but I am feeling rather disappointed after I've find out this while trying to seek people's comments from around the world on the Internet Governance Forum IGF2009 taking place next week in Sharam El-Sheikh Egypt that I too am attending. There must have been some interesting discussions on the Global Voices Online blogs that I could have read and shared at the IGF.

The last resort I have now is to use Google's or some other website's online blog feed reader to read what's happening at the Global Voices Online website with regards to the IGF'09. If you scroll down this blog page, you will see posts from some of the blogs that I am following and find the first update from Global Voices Online. These bans Uhhhhh!

Need to further bridge the dialogue between IGF and ICANN

I've been amongst the few people that have attended both the IGF and ICANN meetings and my understanding of issues pertaining to Internet Governance have been enlightened to a great extent. After participating in the IGF Open Consultations twice, the WSIS Forum and the 12th Session of the Commission on Science and Technology, United Nations, I felt a strong need to see with my own eyes and participate with what goes on in ICANN to explore what all the rhetoric has been about. Interestingly, consider it a wish come true when I received a fellowship to attend ICANN's 36th International Meeting in Seoul, Korea that helped me to understand what all the chaos about ICANN has been within the IGF multistakeholder circles.

From what I have perceived so far, its about realizing what needs to be done according to the needs of today within a very interconnected and decentralized world of communications. ICANN is a governance system that is in transformation that needs a lot of improvements. It needs to interact more within the Internet Governance community despite the fact that it has a multistakeholder advisory and consultation model in place but it itself is not the only caretaker of the Internet. I must admit that I have had mixed feelings though, a few that the staff composition of ICANN is not multistakeholder within the sense of having lots of people from the developing world on staff. Secondly the board composition also lacks a great deal of developing world composition. Similarly too much contracting is being done with host country companies and institutions from the developed world.

There are a lot of things to share and further explore from this point onwards and that's where the motivation to create and run this blog specifically on international Internet Governance came to my mind. I will be commenting on the state of Internet Governance on a regular basis on this blog including coverage of the actual meetings of the United Nations organized Internet Governance Forum and future ICANN meetings taking place. I am also in the process of creating a constituency under the NCSG Charter of the ICANN so I will keep my readers posted. Yes, this is a very practical blog on current issues in Internet Governance.