Developing Countries are Still Not Able to Reap the Benefits of Cloud Computing - UNCTAD

A report titled ‘Information Economy Report 2013: the Cloud Economy and Developing Countries’ that was recently released by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlights the importance of investing in cloud computing and broadband infrastructure and formulating related laws and regulations to uplift socio-economic conditions of developing countries. With cloud computing, SMEs are able to outsource some of its information technology skills and concentrate on core competencies. Prior to the emergence of cloud-related infrastructure, the SMEs had to make huge investments to develop their own internal IT capacities.
The report also points at the widening gap in availability of cloud-related infrastructure and affordable broadband Internet access between developed and developing countries. It is necessary for developing countries to mobilize their financial resources towards development of cloud-related infrastructure (data centers, broadband access etc).  At the same time, developing countries should also consider addressing legal and regulatory concerns to promote cloud computing and enforce appropriate laws and regulations emphasizing on key reforms areas such as privacy, data protection, information security and cyber-crime.



The report can be downloaded from [here]

Democracy 3.0 - The World's First Internet-based Open Ministry Opens its Virtual Doors to all Citizens of Finland.

Joonas Pekkanen is the founder of Open Ministry. It is a non-profit organization based in Helsinki, Finland with a mission to promote/facilitate crowd-sourcing legislation, deliberative and participatory democracy and citizen’s initiatives.  The ‘Open Ministry’ helps citizens and NGO's with national citizens' initiatives, EU citizens’ initiatives and develop online services for collaborating, sharing and signing the initiatives. He is also the co-founded of several Internet and mobile start-ups  He is a member of the ‘Open Government Partnership’ committee in Finland and also serves as a member on the board of ‘Open Knowledge Finland’. He has a degree is finance and currently studying law. 

1. Can you tell us about the ‘Open Ministry’?
The Open Ministry is a non-profit non-partisan civil society organization that aims to crowd-source legislation. It helps citizens and civil society organization in preparing law proposals to the parliament. The ‘Open Ministry’ platform is designed to facilitate open preparation process, attract volunteer lawyers, and campaign experts.

2. How do you fund the ‘Open Ministry’?
There is no funding for democracy-related organizations in Finland, so we currently work on a volunteer basis.

3. Earlier in 2012, the Finish Government enabled something called ‘citizens’ initiatives’ through which registered voters can come up with new laws – if they can get 50,000 of their fellow citizens to back them up within six month? Can you tell us more about this initiative?
This constitutional amendment caused the founding of the Open Ministry. We wanted to ensure that this new democratic tool became powerful commanding wider usage. The legitimacy by the government and an ability to involve citizens through online mechanism is what makes it different from other citizen initiatives in other countries. 

Government Legitimacy and Online participation makes it different from other citizens’ initiative systems in other countries. 

a) Legitimacy: the initiatives are given the same process as government bills in the parliament (not just a cursory discussion or official reply).

b) Online participation: supporters can sign proposals online using the bank codes.

4. What was the first proposal that reached 50,000 votes?
It was for the banning of farming of animals for their furs. It was voted down in parliament, but given due process.

5. What proposals are in a pipeline?
There are four more that will be processed soon:
a) Updating the copyright legislation in Finland (including less strict sanctions)
b) Making Swedish language non-mandatory in schools (there are two official languages in Finland and it is mandatory to learn both by everyone in schools)
c) Allowing same-sex marriages (we got more than 100,000 online signatures on the first day!)
d) Changing the ‘Energy Certificate Law’ for detached homes.  Since last summer, it is necessary to get energy certificates and this proposal suggests changes in the way the energy consumption is reported in the certificates. 

6. Can you briefly tell us about the challenges of developing this type of infrastructure designed to support discussion, campaigning and lobbying?
We have developed in-house open source software relying on ad hoc tools for the collaborative part. People inherently aspire to work together, but are not able to do so due to lack of familiarity of the tools. We have used tools like Facebook groups, Google groups and documents, Etherpads, Wikipedia in different projects. We are currently part of a big EU funded project designed to develop an open citizen participation platform for everyone with features like social networking.

This platform will allow people to organize civil movements by garnering support of 50,000 citizens through both online and offline campaigns. The open citizen platform is a two and half year’s long project. The project will be shortly up http://dcentproject.eu/

7. Do you think it will be possible to replicate this Finish model across the planet?
The idea is to support Open Ministries in other countries by sharing lessons learned from Finland. The Open Ministry will be soon launched in Slovakia. 



8. What is the future of crowd-sourcing?
It is a useful tool for harnessing collective intelligence. However, it is in early stage of development. Therefore, we are still exploring processes and ways of engagement that make people want to participate. 


democracia, الديمقراطية الإلكترونية, электронная демократия,  電子民主主義, 電子民主

Open Government Partnership: Driving Growth, Ingenuity, and Innovation Through Open Government Data.

The concept of an agency was pioneered in Sweden in 1650 and most of the modern day agencies are direct descendants from that historical period. Democratic paradigms such as freedom of press and access to public documents are early Swedish concepts that have been exported around the world. Sweden was also the first country to formulate ‘Access to Information Laws’ more than 200 years ago. This Swedish concept of citizen’s right to information is rapidly becoming main stream around the world. More than 70 countries now have some variation of this type of law in place to ensure that public sector comply with their duties in relation to transparency and accessibility. The citizens are now expecting to know more about their government, forcing government to prioritize transparency and accessibility.  Growing number of citizens are also looking for opportunities to play a greater role in influencing public policies and public service delivery. This socio-economic transformation has driven governments to publish government data pertaining to governance and public affairs resulting in an increased transparency and value co-creation that empower citizen. This new paradigm is commonly known as ‘Open Government.’

The OECD defines ‘Open Government’ as ‘the transparency of government actions, the accessibility of government services and information and the responsiveness of government to new ideas, demands, and needs’.  The ‘Open Government’ agenda has gained momentum across the planet as it is now widely accepted that greater openness benefits not only citizens, but also government. The government benefits by promoting efficient record management, decision making, and service delivery. This development is transforming the way governments conduct their affairs.

The term ‘Open Government’ is now synonymous with transparent, accessible, and responsive government system where information is able to flow freely both to and from government. This type of information flow from government to citizens and critically back from citizens to government is at the heart of well-functioning ‘Open Government’.  A recent World Bank study on the impact of transparency on governance found that greater access to information significantly improved risk management, economic performance, and bureaucratic efficiency in governments. Other studies have shown that high rate of GDP growth is also related to government openness as informed and empowered citizens can contribute to more cohesive community relations, trusting citizens, and more effective public services. One important requirement for realizing this ‘Open Government’ principle is ‘Open Government Data’.

Data that can be freely used re-used and redistributed by anyone is known as ‘Open Data’. Governments collect wide range of data and most of it is public data by law. However, they are not made open and available for others to use as governments inherently tend to be secretive.  With ‘Open Government’ movement, the data collected by the government is made freely available for public use. The data made open by the government is known as ‘Open Government Data’. According to a World Bank survey, there are several areas where ‘Open Government Data’ is creating value. Some of these areas are as follows:
  •          Transparency and democratic control
  •          Participation
  •          Self-empowerment
  •          Improved or new private products and services
  •          Innovation
  •          Improved efficiency of government services.
  •          Improved effectiveness of government services
  •          Impact measurement of policies
  •          New knowledge from combined data sources and patterns in large data volumes.

The ‘Open Government Data’ is not only useful to the citizen, but also create value for government. For example, the Dutch Ministry of Education recently published all of their education related data online for re-use. As a result, the number of queries received by the ministry dropped significantly resulting in a reduced work-load for civil servants.  

The ‘Open Government Data’ is already creating socio-economic value for both government and citizen. New combinations of data can create new knowledge and insights leading to a whole new field of applications. Dr. Snow was a pioneer in finding new meanings by combining different government data. In the 19th century, Dr. Snow discovered the relationship between drinking water pollution and cholera in London by combining data about cholera deaths and location of water wells. Based on Dr. Snow’s findings, the government of UK was able to curtail the disease by building safer sewage system in London. The safer sewage system dramatically improved the general health of the population. Similarly, with ‘Open Government Data’ it will be possible to see such developments occurring frequently as unexpected insights flow from the combination of different data sets. 

The governments around the world have started to embrace ‘Open Government’. As a result of ‘Opening Government Data’, the Russian Government was able to discover errors in over 20 million procurement documents. Similarly, ‘Open Street Map’ volunteers corrected locations of 18,000 bus stops in UK and corrected 1800 street names in Denmark. It would have cost millions of dollars to mobilize civil servants or hire private firms to correct the locations of the bus stops and street names. 

In order to harness the opportunities of ‘Open Government Data’, the government of India has also officially launched ‘Data Portal India’ to allow public to access and use dataset provided by ministries and departments. The portal is a single access point for ‘Open Government Dataset’ and has 3500 data sets from 49 government departments in various sectors such as  agriculture, commerce and industry, defense, finance, health, energy, transport and water resources among others.  

Singapore Government has also announced that it will release more government data-sets as Open is the way forward. More importantly, the Singapore government is going a step further my making all data sets on the data portal machine-readable by the end of 2013. By doing this, Singapore government hopes to fuel social innovation and co-creation. Utilizing the Singapore’s ‘Open Government Data’, private sector and community groups have developed more than 100 apps ranging from apps to find car park availability to clean public toilets. It would have been impossible for the government to come up with so many innovative apps in such a short time.  
In the 21st century’s information society, it is obligatory for the government leaders to position their agencies for success in an increasingly data driven globalized world. However, prior to embarking on this ‘Open Government Data’ part, it is necessary to understand several Open Data principles. The principles are listed below.  

1.      The data should be easily accessible online.
2.      Data needs to be available in accessible format.
3.      Ensure collaboration between government departments.
4.      The government should be open about being open. 

Relevant links
Open Government Partnership 
Open Government Data
Open Gov Data  




開放政府, открытое правление, Gobierno Abierto, الحكومة المفتوحة, Pemerintah Terbuka, 開かれた政府

60% Still Without the Internet Access - State of Broadband 2013: Universalizing Broadband

The UN Broadband Commission for Digital development's new report titled “State of Broadband 2013: Universalizing Broadband” states that mobile broadband is “growing faster than any technology in human history.” More than 70 countries have Internet penetration level of over 50 percent and, despite overwhelming increase in broadband penetration, the report reminds us that broadband adoption is far from universal.

40% percent of the world's population have access to the Internet and in less than 10 percent of the population in least developed countries have access to the Internet. Therefore, in order to make broadband access universal, the UN Broadband Commission's "State of Broadband 2013" report highlights progress made towards achieving the Commission's five goals by 2015:
  1. Making broadband policy universal. Currently 134 countries have national broadband plans.
  2. Making broadband affordable. 95 countries currently have fixed broadband prices at less than the target of 5 percent of monthly GNI per capita.
  3. Connecting homes to broadband. In 2013, 28 percent of households in developing countries have Internet access, while the target is 40 percent.
  4. Getting people online. By 2015, Internet user penetration should reach 60 percent worldwide (currently 39 percent), 50 percent in developing countries (currently 31 percent) and 15 percent in LDCs (currently 10 percent).
  5. Achieve gender equality in access to broadband by 2020. Currently sex-disaggregated statistics are not available, but the Commission's Working Group on Gender identified key recommendations this last week to jump-start progress to achieving this goal.
The report can be dowloaded from [[ here ]]

Open Data 2.0: Effective Mantras of Open Government Data

Modern day information-savvy constituents are expecting increased transparency from the government by demanding open government data. Open Data means data which can be freely used, re-used, and re-distributed. For example, finance data, health data, data on civil servants and politicians. 
Even though, many in developing countries would argue against Open Data for reasons related to national security and sovereignty, government data should be open for three main reasons. First, citizens should be able to find out what their government is doing with their tax money.   Second, in a digital age data is the key resource for socio-commercial activities. Third, by opening up data, citizens are better informed and thus, can be effectively involved in government's decision making process.

Government looking to release the data-set will benefit if they follow the following Open Data mantras. The government should start small and simple. The government should continuously engage with the potential users and re-users of data. Out of fear, civil servants and politicians might become reluctant to Open Data, therefore, it is necessary to identify their fear up front and address them as quickly as possible.  The government should determine the intellectual property rights that exist in particular data-set, make the data available in bulk and in a machine readable format, and more importantly, post the data on web to make it easily discoverable. 

data Terbuka, البيانات المفتوحة, 開放數據, 오픈 데이터, נתונים פתוחים, 

VINNOVA, i2010 strategy, and EU policy framework with Madeleine Sišsteen Thiel


Madeleine Sišsteen Thiel is a Program Manager at IT-applications and Services Department at VINNOVA. She has a Bachelor degree in Economics and Business Administration from Stockholm School of Economics. She has taken interdisciplinary courses at the Stockholm university. She was an analyst in in Africa and Latin America and  Swedish Export Credits Guarantee Board. In 1981, she was a trainee at OECD-Developing countries division. She was also a Program Manager in International Division of STU and NUTEK, Swedish Governmental Agencies. From 1988-1997, she was a COST National Coordinator  at  EU. 

This interview is from 2008.

1. Can you briefly tell us about VINNOVA (Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems)?
VINNOVA (Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems) aims to promote growth and prosperity throughout Sweden. Our particular area of responsibility comprises innovations linked to research and development. Our tasks are to fund the needs-driven research required by a competitive business and industrial sector, and to strengthen the networks that are such a necessary part of this work. The Government also wants to simplify contacts with authorities and make the use of tax revenues more efficient. VINNOVA is therefore investing in research and innovation projects that provide efficiency enhancements in public organisations. However, VINNOVA is not the main national agency for implementing eGovernment policies.

2. What are your responsibilities as the Senior Program Manager at VINNOVA?
I am strategically responsible for funding and developing e-Government research and development. In this work the projects have big consortia including research persons, representatives from public administrations and businesses.

3. Can you please tell us about the VINNOVAÕs focus areas for the next decade?
VINNOVA is elaborating on the focus areas for the next planning period. Much focus will be on sustainability matters and applied research.

4. Earlier this year, UNDESA published a report titled UN E-Government Survey 2008:  From E-government to Connected Governance and Sweden ranked first e-government readiness index. What do you think are the reasons behind Sweden's success?
Sweden has a large and rather effective public sector which is a big part of the GDP and state budget. The public administrations on the national, regional and local levels have started to work together and exchange knowledge and experiences. The country is highly computerized and people are using internet to a high extent. Both the public and private sectors in Sweden are undergoing major changes whereby services are becoming increasingly more important. Service innovations can lead to efficiency enhancements as well as new goods, services and processes. Public and private services are also becoming more integrated. Sweden has long been a leading country within electronic public administration, and research and innovation efforts are necessary if Sweden is to maintain that leading position. The Government also wants to simplify contacts with authorities and make the use of tax revenues more efficient.

5. However, on the Web Measurement Assessment 2008, Sweden ranked second after Denmark. What do you think Sweden did not get number one  position?
Denmark has had a very strict national policy and set out targets for the public administrations, specially the local municipalities. These targets have been connected to budget targets.

6. On the E-Participation Index 2008, Sweden is ranked 9th after many countries like USA (1st), Republic of Korea (2nd), Denmark (3rd), Mexico (7th), Estonia (8th), and Singapore (10th).  What do you think are the reasons behind Sweden's lower ranking on among the top ten countries and what are VINNOVA's strategies to improve this situation.
The users are in focus in the VINNOVA E-services in Public Administration effort E-services that provide efficiency enhancements and improve social services, the municipalities customer service, automatic language tools and the vaccination of patients from other countries. This is the content of some of the projects financed by VINNOVA in an endeavor focused on innovations within electronic public administration.

7. Can you please tell us about i2010?
The i2010 strategy is the EU policy framework for the information society and media. It promotes the positive contribution that information and communication technologies (ICT) can make to the economy, society and personal quality of life. The i2010 strategy has three aims:
* to create a Single European Information Space, which promotes an open and competitive internal market for information society and media services, 
* to strengthen investment and innovation in ICT research, 
* to support inclusion, better public services and quality of life through the use of ICT. 
To achieve those aims there are various actions such as regulation, funding for research and pilot projects, promotion activities and partnerships with stakeholders.

8. On the europa.eu website that the European Commission consulted on how to put Europe into the lead of the transition to Web 3.0? Can you tell us more about this and tell us about the Web 3.0? Web 3.0 seems to be one of the terms used to describe the evolutionary stage of the Web that follows Web 2.0.  It refers to aspects of the internet which, though potentially possible, are not technically or practically feasible at this time. I am not so interested in  technical development but mainly the effect on users needs etc .

9. Do you think the private sector should be involved in the implementation of the e-government project? Is private sector involved in e-government projects implemented in Sweden?
Yes, and in the projects VINNOVA is financing we ask the provate sector to take part in the research stage as well as in the implementation stage. PPP-Public-Private-Partnership is the expression. Also we have the idea of innovative procurement.

10. How do you see the role of mobiles in government reaching out to citizens and vice versa? Can you tell us about Sweden's experience?
In many agencies and municipalities there have been tests and projects for mobile new e-services. It is a growing are but it is more developed in the private service sector.

11. Do you think developing countries need to give more emphasis towards m-Governance?
 As far as I understand many developing countries use mobiles for developing public services. I think it is  a good idea.

12.  Any words of wisdom for governments of developing countries? 
It is important to focus on the user  when  developing an effective e-Government. The user is the citizen and the  employees in the Public Administration as well as businesses . My advise is too develop a good coordination between different stakeholders and take advantage of knowledge transfer.

ICT for Development Contributing to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and beyond.

In September 2000, leaders of the world gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City for the Millennium Summit to adopt UN Millennium Declaration. During the summit, the so-called enlightened leaders committed their nations to a new global partnership to address extreme poverty by the year 2015. There, they formulated a series of time bound targets that are known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an aggressive response to the perceived failure of “neo-liberalism”, a set of economic policies  supporting a hegemonic agenda that  favor  markets, the private sector, and globalization  over-powering the world's poor.

Over  a decade later,  despite enduring political and economic challenges, there has been significant progress towards meeting the individual targets. However, there is still a looming threat that the fragile and conflict-affected countries with pervasive corruption and extremely inadequate performance  are not in a position  to meet the targets by 2015. Therefore, it is necessary to  redouble efforts immediately and acknowledge the importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs)  towards meeting the targets. 

Even though the international community have always understood ICTs potential for poverty reduction, we have not yet been able to move beyond the  cross-sectoral donor-funded ICT for Development projects (pilot) that came about at dawn of the new millennium. By and large, it is accepted  that the pilot projects have successfully  generated  social, economic, cultural, and political changes, even though quantification of ICTs impacts on poverty reduction is not quite as straightforward as the measurement of good governance and economic growth. 

A growing body of evidence exists to support the claims of ICTs overwhelming impact on macroeconomics suggesting that it has served as a key resource essential for achieving broad-based development goals. At the same time, it is still not clear to what extent it has directly aided to improve  major development concerns reflected in the MDGs, because the targets have only been monitored for the past couple of years. Despite lack of supporting data, a review of the international community, academia, civil society, and government's publications hint at ICTs positive contribution towards  realizing the goals and targets set by the MDGs.  Even though, it is too early to  assess the impact of ICTs on the MDGs,  the role of using ICTs as a tool for storing, processing, and disseminating the statistics used to monitor the eight targets of MDGs in developing countries  is indispensable. One notable component of ICT for development movement that has made impacts towards meeting the MDGs targets are tele-centers. The promise of tele-centers were so big that, in 2003, the Geneva Plan of Action also recognized the importance of tele-centers to bringing the information revolution to developing countries in a cost-effective way. 

A tele-center is a public facility where community members can access computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies. The tele-centers enable people to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills necessary for  the 21st century. It is estimated that there are currently 500,000 tele-centers serving approximately 1 billion users worldwide. It is also possible to find one in almost every country with different names:  information kiosks, community technology centers, info centers, community-multimedia centers, village knowledge centers, school-based tele-centers, etc.  Due to the rapid technological advancement, tele-centers are deployed in a very dynamic environment. This has forced  faster evolution of  tele-center business models and the ones that could not adapt to the new  socio-techno environment were forced to close too. 

Despite the fast evolving technology, stakeholders of the tele-center movement  seem pretty optimistic about its contribution towards development. And, there is a logic behind this optimism. Tele-centers are  still the best option for  taking ICTs to the rural mass.  Past experiences have shown that it is not feasible to operate tele-centers only in few pockets. The cost-benefit ratio only becomes attractive when tele-center numbers and local content increase  significantly,   Therefore, it is critical for policy makers and program designers to understand local ICT ecosystem and plan accordingly, if  successful ICT intervention in undeserved areas are to be materialized.

But, what can government do? To start with, the government should review the following points before engaging in an ambitious ICT for Development interventions designed to contribute to elevating socio-economic conditions of the marginalized communities. First, tele-centers  should opt for delivering mix of services optimized for the local market and context that provide value to different stakeholders. Second, it is necessary to experiment with different organization model in order to understand strengths and weaknesses of different models. Third, it is necessary to devise robust and affordable technology  to ensure success and sustainability of tele-centers. Fourth, networks, associations, and partnerships should be formed among government, academia, private sector, civil society, and development agencies to develop appropriate technology, relevant services, and useful content. Finally, external factors such as policy and regulatory environment that are outside the direct area of influence of the tele-centers initiatives, can have a significant positive or negative impact on the success or failure of tele-centers initiatives. Therefore,  without sound policy and regulatory instruments, ICT for development will only remain a rhetoric in developing countries.Therefore, the  essence of ICT4D 2.0. is to adopt according to the socio-technical change.   

الأهداف الإنمائية للألفية وتكنولوجيا المعلومات والاتصالاتИКТ и Цели развития тысячелетия, 信息和通信技術和千年發展目標, Objetivos de Desenvolvimento do Milênio, Objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement

Peer to Peer (P2P) Movement will Change the World - Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens is an active writer, researcher and conference speaker on the subject of technology, culture and business innovation. He is the founder of the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives and works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property. He has been an analyst for the United States Information Agency, knowledge manager for British Petroleum, eBusiness Strategy Manager for Belgacom, as well as an internet entrepreneur in his home country of Belgium. He has co-produced the 3-hour TV documentary Technocalyps with Frank Theys, and co-edited the two-volume book on anthropology of digital society with Salvino Salvaggio.Michel is currently Primavera Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam and external expert at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (2008). Michel currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

1. Can you briefly tell us about the Foundation for P2P Alternatives?
The Foundation was created in 2006 as a global research collective around peer production, governance or property, or in other words, to study the emergence of open and free, participatory, and commons-oriented practices in every field of human activity. We operate an ecology of online resources such as a wiki, a blog, a ning community forum, and a delicious tagging network. In addition, we have held to international  meetings for an informal group, the Association of Peer to Peer Researchers, one in Louvain, Belgium, and another in Nottingham, UK. Through my own lecture tours, I get to meet sympathizers in nearly every continent. Our research is pluralist, but also ‘political’, as we do want to promote peer to peer modes of knowing and being, not just study them.


2. You usually mention an era of ‘nonrepresentational democracy’. What do you mean by that?
I see democracy as group-negotiated allocation of public resources, through the intermediation of representatives (likewise, a command and control hierarchy and a market are ways to allocate scarce resources). But peer production is concerned with allocating resources through the free aggregation of abundant immaterial resources, without prior coercion, and founded on direct participation by the peer producers. So peer governance is quite different to democracy. It is sometimes an alternative, sometimes complementary, and often will result in hybrid formats, depending on whether the project operates in the sphere of abundance (where self-allocation works) or scarcity. For example, the productive work can happen through self-aggregation, but may need a ‘infrastructure of cooperation’ requiring funds, which may be managed by a separate, democratically governed, nonprofit foundation. But the crucial point is that this foundation does not ‘command’ the cooperative work. Most peer production consists of a peer-governed community, a democratically governed for-benefit institution, and an ecology of businesses practicing ‘benefit-sharing’ towards the community and the commons that form the basis of their profit-making abilities.


3. Why do you think peer-to-peer is an improvement over capitalism?
I think if you want to know what is wrong with capitalism and how peer-to-peer is an improvement over it, you have to look at the history of motivation and cooperation. Pre-modern societies were based on coercion / force - a slave had to give everything and serf had to give half or more of what was produced.

The dream of capitalism said that instead of forcing you, why don't we create mutual self interest, so we will just exchange things of equal value with each other. In a way that is great progress because we go from external negative motivation (fear) to external positive motivation (money). The problem with that is that if you don't have money - if you don't have positive motivation on the outside, you don't do it. Also the problem is if you have a system based on self interest then no one looks at the other consequences. No one looks at pollution. And no one wants to do anything that is not paid.

Furthermore if you look at the way innovation works in a company you want to innovate and improve because you don't want to be buried under competition. If you don't have competition because it's a monopoly for example, then you don't improve. Look at Microsoft's Internet Explorer...nothing really moved for 5-7 years because Netscape was dead.


Now think about a peer production like Mozilla Firefox. These people want to innovate not to be better than the other guy, but because they just want to make the best possible browser. Firefox doesn't have to protect its property rights; anyone can make a plug-in. So Firefox is innovating all the time. It is moving all the time.

The genius of peer-to-peer is that it filters out negative outside motivation / positive outside motivation and focuses on internal motivation - voluntary passionate production. Your individual interest in improvement corresponds with the values of everyone within that organization. And the whole project is available to all of humanity via the network.

When a for-profit institution competes with a for-benefit institution, the for-benefit institution like the Mozilla Foundation can draw on a community so the for-profit companies lose a competitive advantage. I think in those ways peer production is an improvement over for-profit production models.

Similarly, if you have two for-profit companies competing, it is the one that opens up and invites user participation that will do better than the one that doesn't. That means that for-profit companies are adopting peer-to-peer practices. If you take any two communities where one is locked and isolate while the other says we can collaborate with companies and cooperate with others (individuals, corporations) the second will have an advantage. What that points to is that peer production and for-profit are not antagonistic, they are complimentary in many ways.

But I would still argue that peer production is post capitalist because it is not about commodities, wage relationships, or about producing for the marketplace with commodities and exchange value. So in many ways if you do that, part of you is already outside of the market. You are learning to do things differently and not just out of pure self interest.

 4. Why are big corporations and sometimes government afraind of P2P?
They are both afraid of it, but also need to adapt to it, because its hyperproductive nature undermines closed proprietary strategies.The reason they are afraid is that its logic is alien to the standard way of operating. Companies are based on a command and control paradigm, with workers that do not possess their own means of production, and are therefore dependent, unable to ‘self-aggregate’. But peer production is based on the new condition that the means of intellectual production, the computers and the networks, have been largely socialized, at least for one billion people (and growing steadily). Mixing two such different logics is a challenge, as it means abandoning command and control, and entering in a relationship with a ‘community’ which has its own values, strengths and desires. So we can imagine two polarities, the corporation/institution on one hand, and the community at the other, depending on the precise nature of the relationship, and who is ultimately in control of it, many different hybrid formats will emerge.

We can also witness a new type of enterprise, for which I coined ‘netarchical capitalism’, where intellectual property is abandoned, and replaced by the creations of platforms which enable or empower sharing or participation. Think of Google, YouTube, Flicrk, as companies which do not produce value themselves, but represent to us our productive work, in exchange for monetizing our attention. Think about the Linux economy model and crowdsourcing as also new modes of adaptationt afraid of P2P?

5. You also wrote an essay titled “The next Buddha will be a collective: spiritual expression in the peer to peer era.” Can you briefly shed some light into this concept?
Traditional religions are born in a particular social situation, and take on the social organization that is dominant in their society, which in the past has been based on patriarchial and other social values. But self-aggregation also works for spiritual practice, i.e. you can associate with other spiritual searchers, agree on a methodology for cooperative inquiry, and build a open and common spiritual collective intelligence based on the experiences of the group. Again this can be both an alternative, or a complement to traditional spiritual practice, and we can expect many hybrid formats to emerge, which I describe in that essay.

An important point is that traditional approaches are based on an idea of spiritual scarcity, i.e. salvation or enlightenment is seen as dependent on a specific path or belief, which gives the power of allocation to a spiritual hierarchy. Here also the idea of abundance creates new forms that do not accept this type of control. Peer to peer is based on the principle of equipotentiality.

This means that everyone can potentially cooperate in a project, that no authority can pre-judge the ability to cooperate, but that the quality of cooperation is then judged by the community of peers, i.e. through Communal Validation. In equipotential projects, participants self-select themselves to the module to which they feel able to contribute.

Let me share a quote by Jorge Ferrer: equipotential participants, he writes, are "equals in the sense of their being both superior and inferior to themselves in varying skills and areas of endeavor (intellectually, emotionally, artistically, mechanically, interpersonally, and so forth), but with none of those skills being absolutely higher or better than others. It is important to experience human equality from this perspective to avoid trivializing our encounter with others as being merely equal." (http://www.estel.es/EmbodiedParticipationInTheMystery,%201espace.doc)


6. You also talked about the new forms religion taking in and through the internet. Can you please tell us more?
Let me cite two examples. (I mention others, such as the internet-based ‘chaos religions’ in the essay you are referring to).

The first is by  Mushin, a spiritual master who may have been the first to change his own behavior from ‘teacher’ to spiritual facilitor and mentor. Here is how he expresses the discovery of the we, as part of the story of his conversion towards a leader concerned with helping others achieve autonomy-within-cooperation :

“So it is very beautiful and makes deep sense that obviously this space is not empty at all; it is flowing over with the We that embraces all. And as I said, the We is making itself felt, understood, intuited all over this globe and is manifesting in many different ways - as people wanting to cooperate, to collaborate, to be in community and communion, seeing that the time of heroes (central suns) is definitely over, the time for the saviors and lone leaders that could set things right again. The world and its problems have become so complex that we can only hope to find adequate answers in “circles”of very different people where we can meet eye to eye and heart to heart - in a sort of collective leadership maybe. And this is underfoot already on a worldwide scale. The place here would not suffice to mention all the initiatives that are going on all over the world. Yet, this is one aspect of We manifesting.

Another aspect is the sense of spiritual or soul families or clans finding each other again across countries and continents. It is as if we have chosen ages ago to come together in this critical time on the planet to be midwives to what is wanting to emerge. Whatever may be the case we do recognize each other and there is an immediate connection beyond words, even beyond understanding; all we do is accept it.

A third aspect manifests through what has been called the Circle Being, manifesting as a higher order of being together with an incredible coherence that draws in the individuals participating. This certainly is We, being highly coherent.”

Here’s a second example, which refers to a new breed of spiritual facilitation, referring to the collective intelligence of the group, rather than to the expertise of a particular spiritual master:

As the consciousness of relationality and the collective We field has gained currency, so have tools and practices been developed which allow individuals to grow within it. Some of the better known are Bohmian Dialogue, John Heron's and Barbara Langton's cooperative inquiry, Steven Wirth's Contemplative Dialogue, Almaas' dyadic and triadic inquiry, etc … These stand in contrasts with the individual spiritual growth approaches that mostly ignored the relational and collective fields.

To illustrate just one of this new breed of group-based facilitation techniques, here is a description of Bohmian Dialogue by Bruce Alderman:

“In Bohmian dialogue, one strives to be mindful of the movement of thought in several dimensions simultaneously: as the subjective thoughts and “felts” that arise at any given moment; as the objective manifestation of sensations and contractions in the body; as the gestures and body language of members in the group; as the particular content of the discussion at hand; as the patterns of interaction and conflict that emerge over time (not only in one session, but over multiple sessions); as the conventions and rules which may inhibit the flow of dialogue; and so on. In the beginning, this is a rather difficult practice. But one approaches it simply: starting from a position of open listening and letting dialogue unfold in the space of awareness that the group establishes. Certain deeply held beliefs, presuppositions, “unwritten rules,” fears and insecurities, and so on, will gradually make themselves manifest through this process, as perceptions of individuals in the group fail to line up and various conflicts emerge. These implicit beliefs, these forms of psychological and cultural conditioning, are not readily apparent in the practice of solitary meditation; but in Bohmian contemplative dialogue, particularly if it is sustained over a period of days or weeks, these patterns will emerge over time in the intersubjective field and can be cognized and processed by the group as a whole (or privately by individuals after a particular session has concluded).

Bohm contends (and I can confirm) that sustained practice of this form of dialogue, particularly if certain ground rules are followed, can lead not only to the emergence of insight for individuals in the group, but to a sort of collective intelligence that manifests in between participants - a creative flow of awareness and inspiration that can guide the group to deeper and deeper levels of understanding and communion. The unconscious conventions and habits of thought, the conditioning which usually drives our reactions and our social negotiations, opens onto a living field of responsive intelligence - in Bohm's terms, the birth of group intelligence out of the largely unconscious field of “group think.

7. What is the free culture movement?
The basic idea of the P2P Foundation is that the world is presently based on a combination of two totally wrong assumptions: that the natural material world is infinite (pseudo-abundance), and that we need to create artificial scarcity to insure intellectual-property based progress. Rather than promoting innovation, it slows it down as it impedes the kind of permission-less cooperation that is the basis of peer to peer dynamics. You can’t cooperate ‘freely’, if you need permission, or if you need to pay for intellectual property. The free culture movement directly addresses this question, and wants to create a culture, and the conditions for such a culture to emerge, by diminishing artificial barriers to such cooperation. It does this by fighting for copyright and patent reform, back to the reasonable restraints that existed before the emergence of neoliberalism, and by creating its own legal means, such as the General Public License and the Creative Commons. The latter allows for the emergence of a thriving culture of free music for example. You should see culture in a very broad sense, in which I also include the emergent open design communities that want to collaboratively design products that are meant to be physically produced.

8. You have mentioned that “the P2P dynamic has created three new social processes: peer production, peer governance and peer property. Can you please elaborate?
P2P does not refer to all behavior or processes that takes place in distributed networks: P2P specifically designates those processes that aim to increase the most widespread participation by equipotential participants. We will define these terms when we examine the characteristics of P2P processes, but here are the most general and important characteristics.

P2P processes:

(a) produce use-value through the free cooperation of producers who have access to distributed capital: this is the P2P production mode, a 'third mode of production' different from for-profit or public production by state-owned enterprises. Its product is not exchange value for a market, but use-value for a community of users.
(b) are governed by the community of producers themselves, and not by market allocation or corporate hierarchy: this is the P2P governance mode, or 'third mode of governance.'
(c) make use-value freely accessible on a universal basis, through new common property regimes. This is its distribution or 'peer property mode': a 'third mode of ownership,' different from private property or public (state) property.

9. Why do you think P2P-based society would be a better option?
Once you have tasted passionate production, as meaningful and non-alienated work practice, and realized yourself as well as a common artifact through it, it is very difficult to go back to the alienated conditions of salary-dependent work.

But it is not an utopia. First of all because peer to peer dynamics create their own difficulties. We are in a system of a higher complexity with more freedom for the participating agents, but we are still conflict-ridden humans. Think of the problems with Wikipedia deletionism and the power of the editors as exemplary of power issues in peer governing communities. But the important point is that faced with such problems, it still makes no sense to return to command and control or market pricing. You need to solve p2p issues on a p2p basis, by creating social structures that protect diversity, and marry individual and collective interests in a mutually reinforcing way.

Another deep problematic is economic. Peer production means the ability to exponentially increase use value, while monetary value is only increasing linearly at the margins. In other words: you still need money to survey and the money isn’t there. This creates a problem not only for mainstream capitalist logic, because the profit rate goes down (Linux creates a lot of economic value, but also destroys proprietary models and their monopolistic profits) but also for the peer producing individuals and communities. Peer production exists as a germ form within the present society, but for it to thrive and expand, it needs to find its own institutional answers to the crisis of value that it creates.

So, yes, it produces more happiness, but in a complex and problematic environment, where it emergence is conflictual.

But we have no choice, as the infinite growth machine that we have is a physical and logical impossibility in the long run. So we need a steady-state material economy, coupled with infinite growth through free culture and open design communities.

I see two possible scenarios, which I call the high road and the low road. The high road assumes that the enlightened individuals in the current global establishments, the Gore’s, Krugman’s and Soroses, or in the South Asian context, the Sen’s and the Yunuses, successfully create a new global compact, based on green capitalism, which itself cannot exist without promoting a participatory society, which will give more room for peer to peer to grow, eventually to parity level, then at some stage become the core of a new society and political economy.

The other scenario is the low road. The financial meltdown and its cost creates hollow states making social policies unsustainable, and there is a dislocation to a regional and city level, in which ‘resilient communities’ take on p2p aspects to survive in turbulent times. In that case, think of the 500 years it took to go from the slave-based Roman system to the new feudal system that consolidated around the first millennium. I’m of course hoping for the first.

But in any case, the feudal scenario is illustrative, because it shows both relocalization of the economy around the domains, but within the context of cultural globalization through the Church. I expect a relocalization towards more local production units (current globalization is not sustainable), connected to global open design communities.

10. Imperative data show that majority of e-government projects fail in developing countries. What do you think are the reasons behind this mishap?

’m sure there are many reasons, but I  would assume one of the main causes would be a ‘built it and they will come’ philosophy, with two issues, the financial interests of IT companies, and the desire to keep control by the government officials.

Successful e-government needs an integrative approach, not just technology but also subjective and intersubjective facilitation, a ‘literacy of participation’ which requires many individual and collective changes. There are also various models to adopt, from mere transmission belt from government to population, from highly controlled input and constrained dialogue, to a true peer to peer dialogue between community and institution, which is not controllable by the latter.

The key issue is: you can’t abstract egov technology from the social structures in which it is embedded, and true change requires work on all levels.

11. You believe that the environmental movement and the free and open movements share some commonality of purpose. Why do you think so?
The environmental movement needs to create a steady-state economy (you can only take what you put back) based on strongly protected environmental commons; the free and open movements create the conditions for global social innovation and cooperation. To find environmental solutions that can’t be enclosed and derailed by proprietary interests, we’ll need open designs that can be used by the whole of humanity and build on each other. We lost 30 years of progress against global warming, when the environmental companies of the 70’s where bought and closed down by the petrochemical giants, something they could do because the designs were patented. We cannot afford such a catastrophic slowdown in technical innovation in the future, so we need open and free designs. The Linux economy will become a model for the alternative energy based economy of the future.

It is vital to the very survival of humanity that those two movements, one directed against pseudo-abundance, the other against pseudo-scarcity, both create a society based on true abundance and scarcity. 

12. Any words of wisdom for governments of developing countries?
Historically, though new modes of production and social organization have always started in the dominant countries, it is the countries at the margin which could gain more, and therefore effect the revolutions by making the new modes dominant. Developing countries have both - relatively less knowledge workers, but also huge reserves of unemployed knowledge workers - who may be frustrated, and often engaged in destructive activities such as computer cracking. What if the policy makers understood that they could empower and enable the direct social production of value and that such individuals could engage in socially constructive projects, for which they would be recognized, and which may lead to the self-creation of new business niches?  In other words, the analogy of the state as parent will have to be transformed to a vision of the Partner State , and public authorities would create the infrastructure necessary for more social innovation to occur. This could not only motivate new layers of people for social collaboration, but would in its wake create an ecology of businesses that can draw on such knowledge commons and open designs. It is my contention that developing countries will make much more relative gains from adopting such practices, than the already privileged western countries.  

Countries like India and China are now living the capitalist dream (of course some others would call it a nightmare), oblivious to the fact that we are already consuming two planets, and that parity with the Western lifestyle would demand four planets. Preparing for these coming limits, they would do well to develop policies that can draw from the new forms of social innovation, which are creating dramatic gains and positive externalizations from social cooperation, and can also contribute to thriving market ecologies.

Challenges of E-government and ICT for Development in developing countries- with Helani Galpaya.

Helani Galpaya is LIRNEasia’s Chief Executive Officer, a role she assumed in January 2013.  Until December 2012 she was Chief Operating Officer of LIRNEasia.

Helani leads LIRNEasia’s 2012-2014 IDRC funded research on improving customer life cycle management practices in the delivery of electricity and e-government services using ICTs.    She recently completed an assessment of how the poor in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka use telecenters to access government services.   For UNCTAD and GTZ she authored report on how government procurement practices can be used to promote a country’s ICT sector (forthcoming) and for the World Bank/InfoDev Broadband Toolkit, a report on broadband strategies in Sri Lanka . She has been an invited speaker at various international forums on topics ranging from m-Government to ICT indicators to communicating research to policy makers.

Prior to LIRNEasia, Helani worked at the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka, which is implementing the World-Bank funded e-Sri Lanka initiative.  Prior to her return to Sri Lanka, she worked in the US at Booz & Co., Marengo Research, Citibank, and Merrill Lynch.

Helani holds a Masters in Technology and Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Mount Holyoke College, USA.

1. First, can you tell us about  LIRNEasia?
LIRNEasia’s mission is “to improve the lives of the people of the emerging Asia-Pacific by facilitating their use of ICTs and related infrastructures; by catalyzing the reform of laws policies and regulations to enable those uses through the conduct of policy-relevant research, training and advocacy with emphasis on building in-situ expertise”. So at its heart, LIRNEasia’s aim is to advance evidence-based policy making and regulation in the ICT sector in Asia Pacific. In order to achieve this, we do several things. First we do research that is timely, high quality and policy-relevant. Second we spend a lot of energy getting this research (the “evidence”) in front of the relevant stakeholders (this includes policy makers, the private sector operators and those that influence them such as the media).

This is so that they are able to use our data in making sound policies or developing new products and services that increase peoples’ access and use of ICTs. And finally we to engage in capacity building work for policy makers, regulators and operators.

In doing all this, our focus is the poor, or more specifi-cally those at Bottom of the Pyramid (or BOP, definedas those belonging to socio-economic classifications D and E). We believe ICTs can help make their lives better.

2. Is LIRNEasia also working in the field of e-government?
As an organization our primary focus is on making the livelihoods of those at the Bottom of the Pyr- amid (BOP) better, through the use of ICTs. Citizens, specially the BOP need to be able to access government services transparently and at low cost, because the lack of transparency and high cost affect the poor disproportionately, given their low incomes. E-Gov promises to both. How do citizens at the BOP access e-Gov services? What are policy and regulatory barriers to them using such services? What is the best way to deliver e-Gov services to them? Are current policies appropriate in ensuring that those at the BOP are able to reap the benefits of e-Gov? These are some of the questions we try to address in our research. In this sense, e-Gov is within our core research and advocacy area. We will research, and work with citizens, policy makers and implanters in order to answer these questions. However, we do not directly implement e-Gov systems.

3. What are the global trends in e-Government and what are the opportunities and
challenges of e-Government in developing countries?
I think the need for, and benefits of, e-Government are generally established and accepted by now. Funds spent on e-Gov initiatives is on the increase. The developed countries have been implementing e- Gov solutions for much longer than the developing countries. This enables us (the developing countries) to learn from the mistakes made by others. In addition, technology is changing fast and becoming cheaper. Therefore developing countries have some opportunity to leap-frog – not only catching up to developed countries, but also to provide better solutions to citizens. However the challenge for us is to adopt the western (developed world) e-Gov models and solutions so that they are appropriate to our cultural, governance and economic structures.

4. Imperative data show that majority of egovernment projects in developing countries fail. What do you think is the main reason behind this occurrence?
In general the concept of e-Gov comes from the developed world – where labor is expensive (and therefore replacing some labor with technology is sensible), where internet is available to a majority of the population (therefore expecting citizens to interact with government via the internet is feasible) and banking and credit cards are commonly used (therefore citizens making/receiving government payments online is realistic).

In developing countries these 3 conditions are not satisfied: labor is relatively cheap (and technology for e-Gov, which comes from the developed countries is more expensive on a relative, purchasing power parity basis), the internet barely reaches the top economic classes of society and only a small percentage of the population has access to banking and credit card facilities. It is in this environment that developing countries implement e-Gov. So apart from the “usual” problems of e-Gov (naturally emanating from any attempt to change the way governments think and work), developing countries face additional barriers.

Of course there is also the constant accusation of corruption – in some countries this may be a factor. The lack of political will, or more importantly constantly changing government policies that come about as a result of frequent power-changes in governments of developing countries is also a factor.

5. What are the change management issues in implementing e-Government projects in developing countries? How can they be overcome?
I think the core set of change management issues faced anywhere are the same, and they are significant. However, around these core issues, developing countries perhaps face additional peripheral challenges. These are often country or region-specific. For example, the lack of very basic computer literacy among government employees is a challenge in developing countries. So is the lack of competent IT specialists and managers within government, given the booking IT outsourcing markets in India and Sri Lanka, as an example. These impact the ability to manage change as well as to implement change.

6. What is your opinion regarding importance of publicity and awareness generation among the public about e-Government services?
In general, publicity is a required element of citizen-centric (G2C) e-Gov projects. People need to know about a service in order to use it. But publicity has to be handled with care. Too much publicity without the corresponding service level improvements can have the opposite effect, and create a negative cycle where trust in new e-Gov systems decline.

7. What role can the public-private partnerships (PPP) play in e-Government project implementation in developing countries?
The private sector is even more crucial to developing countries (when compared to developed countries). The financial resources available to developing countries are limited, and many depend on multilateral and bi-lateral donor funds that have to be repaid. There are always competing priorities for these funds: it is hard to justify why a government should spend its funds on IT systems when clean drinking water and immunization programs are being demanded by the public. Limited funds can, and should, be channeled towards the latter (drinking water, immunization), because if thegovernment doesn’t do it, no one else will. 

However, the funding-gap in IT can be bridged by the private sector. Experience has shown that the private sector is able and willing to participate in such projects. Even from a competency point of view, the private sector is way ahead in the use of IT, in implementing IT systems, in marketing them and in coming up with innovative financing solutions to fund them.Therefore their abilities should be utilized to bring best-practices into e-Gov. Of course they expect a reasonable return on investment in order participate in the provision of e-Gov services, and there are many options (BOO, BOOT and so on) that can be explored for this purpose. They can be successful if the right balance of risk and reward is met for both parties. I’m not saying this is easy – but for developing countries this is the only way to increase the number of e-Services offered to citizens.

8. Can you please tell us briefly about the future plans of LIRNEasia in the area of e-government?
Our recent Teleuse@ the Bottom of the Pyramid survey we know that the mobile phone is the only device in the hands of the poor. Our next research cycle starts in April 2008. The main theme is “Mobile 2.0”, where we will explore the phenomenon (and potential) of the mobile phone delivering more than communication services to the masses at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Obviously, government content and services are a big part of that. It is not only a tool for e-Government, but for e-governance. Therefore both the qualitative (case study and focus group based) and quantitative (large sample survey based) parts of our new research will have e-Gov as a topic . We will work in about 6 – 9 countries in South Asia and South East Asia in depth