Rohan Samarajiva and Divakar Goswami from LIRNEasia chaired back-to-back Forum sessions at the ITU World 2006 in Hong Kong on December 7.
The Building Digital Communities session, chaired by Divakar, covered a wide-swathe of topics. In his opening remarks [PDF], he outlined on some of the issues that would be covered in the presentations and discussion to follow.
In his Keynote address, the Indonesian Minister of Communication & IT, Sofyan Djalil proposed that global equipment manufacturers should adopt a new business model where they share some of the investment risk with operators while deploying infrastructure in financially unviable areas in developing countries. He suggested that the current model where developing countries are only purchasers of high cost equipment and services, breeds dependency and is unsustainable in the long run. In the second Keynote address, the Hungarian Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Economy & Transport described Hungary as having a highly trained ICT workforce, extensive telecom infrastructure but very little digital communities. ICTs were more part of industry rather than society. He posed the puzzle as to why that was so and how to develop bottoms-up initiatives to create digital communities.
Panelists Les Hales, President of HK Knowledge Management Society, explored the various ways in which digital communities will impact how business is conducted, emphasizing how digital communities are transforming top-down industrial model into more bottoms-up and flexible models embodied by the open-source community; Rudd Smeulders, Innovation Manager at the Rabobank Group, Netherlands, gave the unique example of a digital community, Neunen that had community TV content developed by the residents of village delivered via fiber to every home; Heather Hudson, Director of Telecom Management & Policy program at Univ of San Francisco, demonstrated how broadband access in most of developing Asia was limited and prices were high, making the task of building digital communities challenging. The question and answer session that followed generated interesting discussion the most significant outcome being the number of new measures proposed by the Indonesian Minister to stimulate Internet growth in his country.
The video of the Building Digital Communities session can be downloaded here [138Mb!].