Africa Grassroots Caucus has prioritised the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as part of development. This was the outcome of the second Grassroots Caucus Regional Consultation that took place in Lusaka, Zambia on 26-28 July 2005.
The first regional grassroots consultation was conducted in Delhi with 240 grassroots representatives from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. About 15 grassroots representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo participated in the African consultation.
The Africa Grassroots Caucus addressed the serious omission of non-representation of grassroots issues in the WSIS Action Plan. One World Africa Director, Priscilla Jere said the consultations were made to make sure that grassroot concerns were taken on board by the forth coming WSIS to be held in Tunisia. With the help of One World Africa, South Asia and Latin America grassroots people from Africa were given the necessary skills to push for the issues in the WSIS process.
“The gap between the rich and the poor, North and South, rural and urban and all the other divides can get even wider in the information society,” observed Priscilla.
The Caucus identified priorities to be health, livelihood, education and environment. Gender, culture and traditional access to information were identified as cross-cutting issues.
They agreed HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, malaria, skin diseases and tuberculosis are major health concerns. Issues underpinning priorities include high poverty levels in communities, lack of infrastructure facilities, underdevelopment in agriculture, poor economy, early marriages, and no equitable flow of information among many others.
The Grassroots Caucus also observed the kind of information that was required for grassroots development. Grassroots people need information on preventive measures, fighting stigma, access to anti-retroviral medicine (ARVs), drugs, nutritional issues, income generating activities like crafts, basket-making from sisal and grass. The importance of information on causes of drought, employment opportunities, education, potential sources of funding, girl child rights, and effects of environment on community development, health and food security was also emphasised.
The Grassroots Caucus identified the role of ICT-enabled knowledge centres at the community level to accelerate the MDGs and influence policy-makers through posters, radio drama, and live radio, provide internet connection to assign health information packaged as per grassroot needs, support newspapers production in local languages, and educate groups how to improve quality and market of their products.
The Grassroots Caucus also identified the need for affordable user-friendly, and appropriate technology such as access to radio and TV. “Radio stations are there but there is no coverage to reach all areas,” observed Martha Nthenge, a representative from Kenya. “Grassroot communities in Africa need introduction of new technologies at primary levels such as solar-powered computers,” said Tangu Nyirenda, a representative from Zambia.
African grassroots people also need increased capacity to be able to use computers and mobile phones. There is also need to introduce learning exchange programmes and hands-on training about these gadgets. Caucus representatives called on NGOs to train grassroots communities in ICT skills.
Regarding access to information and knowledge, the African grassroots said they needed to develop their livelihoods. The grassroots also need content that is relevant and aimed at empowering communities.
The Caucus called for the introduction of “good legal frameworks” to safeguard local traditional practices and knowledge and to maintain cultural diversity and ethical practices at the grassroots.