Your trusty correspondent from WSIS

by Maria from Geneva on December 10, 2003

First off, excuse the strange author name – an essential for a blogger whwo can’t be trusted to remember her own login while on the road.

As CT tries hard to keep its faithful readers up to date on all the news that’s new and improved, I am blogging from the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva. I’m here for work, so in the interests of keeping my job, I won’t be blogging about the really juicy political bits. But at an event like this, there’s so much going on that at least I can give a flavour of what it’s like.

apologies in advance – this is on the hoof!

What is it like? A zoo maybe. Or sheltered housing. WSIS is full of strange species and behaviours that would probably seem just weird anywhere else. A bubble. A human version of the Eden Project. Walking around the place, with its long halls and wide open spaces, and strange, strange tribes, it feels like the kind of unreal/hyper-real American high school Gus van Sant created in Elephant. It would be very easy to fall between the cracks here.

Upstairs are the plenary sessions where each country speaks for its alotted 15 minutes and people wander in and out. All sorts of political and territorial spats that have nothing to do with information and communcation technologies get played out here. Country leaders stand up and explain how their wide-armed embrace of the information society would be complete, if it weren’t for A.N. Other neighbouring country occupying their territory. In the protocol guide, the definition of a VVIP (in a place like this, a thirds of the 16,000 attendees consider themselves VIPs) is a head of government, head of state, crown prince, crown princess, oh, and the highest ranking representative of the Palestinian Authority…

A few things I have learned,

– The Crown Prince of Lesotho is impressively articulate, more so than most elected presidents we saw today.
– Kofi Annan is shorter than expected.
– Azerbayjanians speak Russian at the UN, they probably don’t like to, but it’s the only way other people can understand them.
– African leaders do really still go around with bodyguards dressed like stormtroopers.
– Walkie talkie things, they hurt your ears.
– Civil society speakers get cut off at about two minutes in sessions where everyone’s allotted three.
– It’s really hard to watch the president of Rwanda talk about ISP connection fees without wondering where he was back when it was all happening there.
– Fun people are here, Gus Hosein, Marco Cappato, Stephanie Perrin, my old boss, and the Irish delegation (but I haven’t found them yet…)

Ok, and as those fun people are screaming that they’re as hungry as Elvis, I’ll hold the political commentary till tomorrow.



CY 12.10.03 at 8:57 pm

You write:

“It’s really hard to watch the president of Rwanda talk about ISP connection fees without wondering where he was back when it was all happening there.”

Huh? He was fighting the Hutu Power government.


eszter 12.11.03 at 7:16 am

Thanks for the update, interesting. So why are you there? I’ll take the version without the political stuff. Please say hi to Gus for me.:)


dsquared 12.11.03 at 7:32 am

The “walkie talkie things” Maria is referring to are the headsets for the simultaneous translation and they do absolutely kill your ears.

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