The Caribbean ICT Stakeholders Virtual Community (CIVIC) was established as an outcome of the Caribbean ICT Roundtable held in Barbados in late 2002, with the support of Institute for Connectivity in the Americas (ICA) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The meeting brought together stakeholders from the region representing the public and private sector as well as NGO's and regional bodies that had an interest in promoting the use of ICTs in the region. The discussions which started prior to the event were carried forward following the event and culminated in the establishment of CIVIC, which initially comprised of participants of the workshop, but quickly opened up to all active ICT stakeholders in the Caribbean intent on sharing information and knowledge on ICT for development issues affecting the region.
The common description of CIVIC is a "virtual forum of Caribbean ICT stakeholders and a venue for sharing information, holding discussions, networking and linking ideas, actors, projects or initiatives on ICTs and development in the Caribbean". The aims and objectives soon became articulated in a Charter which was discussed and agreed to by the then existing members (January 2003). The objectives of the organisation continue to be "To contribute in the building of a common vision/perspective on ICTs, and to promote Caribbean strategy and/or regional Caribbean-wide actions."
Profile of CIVIC
The CIVIC membership has grown from the 50 participants in the initial meeting to just about 300 members currently. Persons with interests in ICTs in the Caribbean are joining at a rate of 4-5 per month. The survey on CIVIC carried out in 2006, in which 20% of the membership participated showed that majority of members were native English speaking (69%), male (62%) and mainly Caribbean nationals (64%). The majority of those surveyed have an advanced degree (71%) and mainly comprised persons who are in the upper echelons of their organization (CEO, President, etc.). Almost 70% are involved with International and /or regional issues and approximately 42% are focused on civil society work, some 35% are focused on government work, and 22% are in the private sector.
In terms of the extent of participation in online discussions, statistics showed that 75% of CIVIC members are lurkers, 20% contribute somewhat and 5% contribute a great deal to discussions. These figures are favourable in comparison to the norm which is 90:9:1 .
Up to 75% of members polled agreed that the organization enables/fosters collaboration, with the majority stating that they use the information retrieved/received from CIVIC to keep up to date in their fields of interest. Just over 70% reported that CIVIC impacts "Communications and Information dissemination", and more than 40% said that CIVIC impacts by providing "Professional Networking, Learning, and Development". In addition, the vast majority of the respondents indicated that CIVIC was a useful vehicle for regional integration and exchange and a tool for advocacy in national and regional policy making.
Developments to Date
Over the five plus years of CIVIC's existence, a number of activities have been carried out. These include the following:
- Collaborative development of a position paper for WSIS
- The Carisnet project – Strengthening the Caribbean ICT Virtual Stakeholders Community - which was undertaken between Jan 2004- March 2006 by a consortium of four organisations and facilitated:
- the revitalization and sustaining of the existing online communication forum with improved communication across languages.
- promotion of membership in CIVIC among French speaking countries.
- creation of a regional ICT clearinghouse to include resources and documents on ICT related policies, initiatives, skills, resources and funding
- Establishment of a mechanism to ensure CIVIC participation in the Caribbean Information Society Steering Committee (CISC)
- Hosting of working group discussions on
- Caribbean telecenters that contributed significantly to the hosting of a regional workshop, and a project proposal to establish a Caribbean Telecenters Network.
- CIVIC Diversity Enhancement which identified mechanisms for outreach and addressing the linguistic imbalance in the organisation.
- The CIVIC Technical Platform which recommended various utilities necessary for the platform and suggested open source options which could provide the utilities required by the group
- Developing the terms of reference and validation for a survey of CIVIC:
- Rubric definition (for scoring) and evaluation of ICT4D stories
- Definition of a communication policy
- The future organizational format of CIVIC, which culminated in the development of a charter /constitution for a registered entity to represent ICT issues in the Caribbean
Rationale for CIVIC 2 event
While much has been achieved since the inception of CIVIC, it is felt that additional skills and modes of effective operation are required to enable the community to make the impact necessary to galvanise action in the region to promote ICTs for development. There are a number of members still on the fringes of discussions and emerging opportunities which need to be grasped. Virtual communication, although an invaluable tool for entities a diverse as CIVIC has its own limitations, and must be supported by periodic face to face encounters for effective long term success. After 5 years, a face to face meeting with CIVIC members is felt to be necessary in order to facilitate further discussions and exchanges on critical issues, and undertake capacity development that will lead to a deepening of impact by CIVIC on ICT for development in the region.
The challenges ahead for CIVIC are to find the ways to:
- Increase the impact on regional and national public policies trhough enhanced advocacy capacity and effectiveness,
- Keep and widen its unique multi-stakeholder composition that includes members who are high and medium ranking governments officers, business and entrepreneurs, academics, program officers in regional agencies, concerned NGO and social activist
- Increase the participation of non English speaking Caribbean stakeholders
- Better increase of the regional collaborative initiatives and projects
- Better structure and facilitate knowledge production, research and dissemination In specific thematic areas
- Increase the capacity of stakeholders for the conceptualisation, design, implementation and evaluation of ICT4D project and programs.
- Increase the sustainability of the overall CIVIC mechanism
Proposed objectives of CIVIC 2 event
The main objective of the event is to
- Identify and elaborate the components of a 2 year strategic plan for CIVIC to address the challenges mentioned above (advocacy, governance, participation, regional collaboration, knowledge production, capacity, sustainability)
- Launch the new CIVIC web site and facilitate volunteer thematic facilitators training in the moderation and facilitation of thematic channel/web sub-groups moderation and content management techniques,
- Facilitate methodological training in mainstreaming ICT into 3 priority development sectors identified by participants
It is proposed that a 5 day event be convened in the Dominica Republic in September 2008. The event would consist of:
- Workshop sessions over 2 -3 days to:
- Provide training in facilitation and moderation of discussion groups on topics relevant to ICTs for development
- Capacity building in integrating ICTs in various development sectors eg : health education, disaster management- the exact sectors will be determined by vote of CIVIC members.
- A conference over 2 days that will involve broader discussions and lead to the development of a 2 year strategic plan for CIVIC.
Planning process for event
The planning for the event will commence in earnest with the convening of a discussion group that will be asked to:
- Determine the criteria by which participants should be selected for the event
- Determine the specific sectors to be addressed in the Integration of ICTs into development training workshops
- Propose an agenda for discussions in the conference component that would lead to the framing of a 2 strategic plan for CIVIC.
A working group will take these proposals and finalise the agenda and design for the capacity building workshops
Invitations for the event will be distributed in July and selections made by mid August.
Fifty (50) participants will be sponsored by IDRC/ICA under the CARISNET 2 project to attend. Support will be for airfare and accommodation for the duration. A number of other resource persons from relevant agencies will be invited
Provisions will be made for translation and interpretation into English, Spanish and French for the various sessions. Group activity will be facilitated by "whispering" interpreters
Logistical and technical support
Location The proposed venue is the Dominican Republic. This will provide an opportunity to increase the level of participation of the Spanish speaking of the region in CIVIC and further integrate DR stakeholders with rest of CARICOM. It is to be noted that although the CARICOM regional ICT steering committee, and several regional bodies presently include the DR, exchange and cooperation in this field are minimal and ICTs are both a focus area and a means to better integrate the region
Facilitation and Moderation training will be undertaken by Stephane Bruno and Yacine Khelladi.
The ICT4D training will be undertaken by persons to be identified.
Logistical support for the event will be undertaken by Taigüey
Technical logistics support will be undertaken by JSDN
Reporting and Follow up
A report on each of the workshop training sessions as well as the outcomes of the CIVIC conference will be compiled as part of the Event proceedings
The CARISNET team will be responsible for finalizing the 2 year strategic plan for submission to various agencies for support.