Friday, June 27, 2014

Access To Knowledge For Development Workshop: The Networked Public Sphere and Civic Engagement, Reflections on Egypt and Tunisia

By: Heba Alam El-Din, Refan AbdelNabi, Sarah Abaza and Toleen Mohammad AlJobeh

The link to A2K4D Workshop slideshow on Picasa album.

Access to Knowledge for Development (A2K4D) held its fourth annual workshop on Monday, June 16, 2014 and began its second session at 11 a.m. The session expanded on developing a better understanding of the role of public network sphere. The speakers: Rob Faris, Jazem Halioui, Fares Mabrouk, and Lina Attalah elaborated on how different activities are taking place in research.

We’re considered to be in the era of mobilization and social networking. Mobilizing over a cause raises the question of “whether the cause is a progressive or a regressive cause, so you can mobilize to support, for example, a regressive legislation.” Said Attalah, chief editor at Mada Masr.

For example, you can rally for a leader to use violence against citizens, which is a negative utilization. Progressive mobilization aims to things such as a regime change.

Mabrouk, from the Arab Policy Institute in Tunisia, emphasized on the reasons why people mobilize and a large-scale example is the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. So mobilization is an act that doesn’t have a value judgment in and of itself. The cause is what matches what you’re mobilizing over. Mabrouk also highlighted that we need to understand how collective actions are organized online and offline.

The government and other forms of authority are naturally intimidated by the power social media has given the people. This is where civic engagement comes into life.

The people form a community that is capable of discussing and collaborating to create needed social change to improve. These powerful institutes have trouble infusing their strength on online spaces because they tend to support citizens.

The way Internet and mobility are approached has improved because of sociology, “which relates to how the mobility in the Egyptian society, you can find many things but (not) up-to-date in globalization.” Said Dr. Nouran Fouad Ahmed, director of copyrights office in relation with the Ministry of Culture in Egypt.

If the authorities managed to control these spaces eventually, it is by trying to crack the system as it exists. States now are using Facebook to, somehow, control their citizens, which is a regression.

Creating a Facebook page for a certain cause, people who see the posts or comments on a group tend to take these insights in as their own opinions, then others start mimicking them.

There is a responsibility, both as a mobilizer and as a journalist, to distinguish between narrative and fact. “The questions is: how to transform this information into a narrative that is supportive to your cause. This is when, not necessarily the issue is opinionating, the issue is rather, how you become convincing through turning information into narrative so it is a different story.” Attalah explained.

This slideshow is composed of the live-tweets that were tweeted live during the session.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A2K4D Discusses Research, Advocacy and Policy at AUC

Thursday, June 19, 2014
By Nourhan Abdel Hamid, Tarek Beltagy, Nora Seweify and Mahmoud Elsaeid


   Cairo, Egypt - On Monday, June 16, 2014, three diverse scholars discussed Research, Advocacy and Policy during Access to Knowledge for Development’s (A2K4D) fourth Annual Workshop. The workshop was held at the American University in Cairo’s Moataz El-Alfi Hall, and consisted of five sessions.
The fifth and final session of the workshop included three speakers who each gave their own insights about the topic. The three speakers were: Heba Ghannam, a community outreach manager at Tahrir Academy, Pranesh Prakash, an Access to Knowledge Fellow at the Yale Information Society Project and Tobias Schonwetter, director of the Intellectual Property Law and Policy Unit at the University of Cape Town's law faculty.

 Schonwetter mentioned during the session, “Policy makers don’t necessarily come from the same area,” and seeing how diverse the panel at this session was; his point was proven right.

 The three critical thinkers spoke about the importance of research and what each of them are doing or aim to do in order to reach their initiative. All the speakers adopted different techniques and had diverse approaches towards their research; however they each made compelling arguments.

 Prakash mentioned how he believes that his approach is much more research oriented; not to say that advocacy is not important. However, he explained that achieving thorough research is the main aspect in his point of view.

 “Our dream is to have a new Egyptian generation of critical thinkers,” Ghannam said. She then went on to discuss how she wants her project to influence every child in the country, as one can’t expect to have new innovators if the material being taught to them is outdated. Her initiative has adopted new and fun ways of teaching kids, which have enabled children to learn in diverse ways.

 Another important point was one raised by Schonwetter, which was “Don’t preach to the choir.” This point was emphasized throughout the entire conference, seeing as what good would it make if one addresses people who already have an idea.

 Schonwetter also mentioned how fixing instead of solving is the main aim that should be achieved. Throughout this session, there were several questions, such as; does the law have to change before research is done? How can these scholars influence the government? And how long will it take for an actual change to happen? These questions were certainly answered by the panel with emphasis on research, advocacy and policy.

Open A.I.R. Comes to A2K4D Workshop at AUC

By Mirit Agaiby, Seif Issa, Wadie Zakhary and Yasmin Ashmawy

Cairo, Egypt - Law and business faculty members in the annual Access 2 Knowledge 4 Development Workshop discussed intellectual property and innovation to enhance development in Africa, on Monday, June 16, 2014, at the American University in Cairo.

Members of the Open African Innovation Research Network (Open A.I.R.) who joined the session as panelists were: Nagham El Houssamy, as chair, and Nagla Rizk, an economics professor from AUC’s School of Business. Faculty of Law members at the University of Ottawa, Canada, Jeremy de Beer and Chidi Oguamanam, were also present. The other panelists included Research Fellow Douglas Gichuki from Center for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law at Strathmore University, Kenya, and Dick Kawooya, assistant professor at University of South Carolina, United States.

Open A.I.R. aspires to better the economies of African countries through emphasizing the evolution of knowledge governance, innovation and intellectual property, starting now until the year 2035.

The workshop’s focus was to discuss the two books that the panelists either co-authored or edited: “Innovation & Intellectual Property: Collaborative Dynamics in Africa,” and “Knowledge & Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future.”

The presenters displayed two short movies, explaining their developmental works in Africa, and summarized the findings of both books.

The first book, “Innovation & Intellectual Property: Collaborative Dynamics in Africa,” tackles case studies on the complex relationships between innovation and intellectual property from nine countries in Africa.

During the discussion of this book, Kawooya stressed on dividing “the Collabrative Intellectual Property into formal and informal interactions.”

“Knowledge & Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future,” discussed three possible scenarios for Africa’s future; “wireless engagement,” “informal is the new formal,” and “sincerely, Africa.” Both books are available for free download.

Shirin Elahi, Open A.I.R Scenarios consultant, illustrated that everyone creates future scenarios in their own heads.

“If I do this, this might happen. Whilst if I do this decision, the route is more likely to be that,” Elahi explained in the video. 

Open A.I.R. spent three years researching scenarios in Africa to better predict the population’s future. Its first draft of the report on these scenarios was revealed at a conference in Cape Town in 2012. 

“We hope that this research would be very useful in practice. We did not do this research so that it could sit on libraries’ shelves,” related de Beer, during an interview.

Open A.I.R. will also participate in next year's A2K4D Workshop at AUC, which will be held in June 2015, to summarize their latest findings and research. 

Below is a slideshow with all the tweets that were live tweeted during the session.

A New Book Covers Censorship Obstacles Worldwide

By Alia El-Mohandes, Nourhan El-Bery, Rana Hassan and Sherwet Salah


Cairo, Egypt – On Monday, June 15, 2014, the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) at the American University in Cairo (AUC) held their fourth annual workshop in Moataz Al Alfi Hall.

The A2K4D consisted of five sessions. In the third session, Access to Knowledge Global Academy (A2KGA) speakers’ explained their contribution to Access to Knowledge (A2K) movements and the collaboration between the Information Society Project (ISP) at Yale Law School and the A2K initiatives at AUC.

Valarie Belair-Gagnom, executive director of ISP and one of the speakers, talked about the role of ISP in A2K movements. Belair-Gagnom said, "ISP believes that A2K is about intellectual property, but it is far more than that, it should be about human flourishing, economic development and human freedom."

ISP deems that A2K is a demand for justice and an issue of "individual participation in human liberty. Producing books and participating in making policies," which would have been difficult without global collaboration, explains Belair-Gagnom.

Professor Nagla Rizk, founder director of A2K4D in AUC, talked briefly about the historical development of the collaboration between A2K and ISP. A2K holds and discusses workshops and case studies from all over the world. In Egypt, they are called "A2K Egypt country studies," Rizk clarifies.

A2K Global Academy’s new book discusses different case studies on censorship worldwide, "the book will be published in the next few days," says Rizk. She stated that censorship could take many "complex formations" due to the access to new technologies.

Pranesh Prakash, resident fellow at Yale ISP and one of the speakers, provided detailed information about the upcoming book and mentioned the shift that happened in censorship. "Private actors are now the main issue when it comes to censorship, it is no longer in the hands of the state," says Prakash.

Rizk stated, “When you think of development in its wider sense it’s beyond economic growth so you look at growth of incomes but you are also thinking of health, education, democratization, political well being and all of these issues are in one way or another affected by technology and knowledge.”

A2KGA’s main goal is to promote A2K as a framework for policy making and advance economy research that reflects to immediate needs. A2KGA would help in developing model curriculum to teach students based on their research activity, Rizk concluded.