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Forum on ubiquitous computing

21 November, 2005

As a side-event to the World Summit on the Information Society the Institute for Information Industry and AFACT organised a Forum on the Advancement of e-Trade & Ubiquitous Society in the Africa Hotel in Tunis.

Following the welcome address by Dr. FC Lin, Chairman of the Institute for Information Industry, and the opening remarks of Kenneth Lim, Ex-Chair AFACT, the morning session was dedicated to the advancement of a ubiquitous society and ICT for All. The afternoon session focussed on e-Trade Facilitation.

Njideka Ugwuegbu-Harry, Founder of the Youth for Technology Foundation presented the vision and activities of the Youth for Technology Foundation towards bridging the Digital Divide. Through cooperations with major international ICT companies the Foundation managed to benefit over 4.000 youth since its establishment in 2000 and pioneered a digital village movement in and for Nigeria. Mrs. Njideka Ugwuegbu-Harry stressed the importance of a people-centered, inclusive development and focus on young people when introducing ICT in remote rural areas.

Mrs. Cynthia Waddel, Executive Director of the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet, focused her presentation on the accessibility of ICT for people with disabilities. Disability law and public policy historically reflected what she termed 'medical model', indicating a focus on diagnosis and disability rather than ability and human rights for equal opportunity. ICT design therefore did not include user interfaces for people with disabilities. Now, Mrs. Waddel explained, signs of an inclusive society shift become visible. A growing recognition of significant social cost if the divide remains, the emergence of technical standards for accessible design and economies of scale contribute to this goal.

Mrs. Saloua Mahmoud of the Higher Institute of Documentation of the University of Manouba, Tunesia, spoke on the topic ICT & Social Transformations. She presented an overview of the evolution of communication and the Internet and explained the principles of information technology and the way they changed our lives starting from new research possibilities to telemedicine, electronic voting and e-payment.

In my presentation I focussed on future developments of ubiquitous computing and the potential dangers stemming from the transformation of computers from relatively large machines that serve in the center of our work, demanding our attention to small very specialised gadgets serving unobtrusive in our surroundings. If not carefully designed the concept of ubiquitous computing will not only endanger our privacy but also intensify the digital divide. It will introduce new questions regarding (intellectual) property rights related to the ubiquitous generated information and the computing equipment in our surrounding, information security and unsolicited information.

In conclusion, the morning session demonstrated foremost that the term ubiquitous computing includes a wide field of important issues, depending on the geographical, societal and technological area one chooses to examine.

(Contribution by Andreas Krisch, EDRI-member VIBE!AT)



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