The Royal St. Kitts Marriott resort was the venue for the inaugural UNESCO Conference held under the theme, The Ethical Dimension of the Information Society and Internet Privacy, which began Wednesday 23rd September.
The Opening Ceremony received remarks from St. Kitts and Nevis Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education & Youth The Hon. Shawn Richards and the Attorney General, Min. of Justice, Legal Affairs & Communications The Hon. Vincent Byron Jr.
The Key Note Address was given by St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association President Mr. Charles Wilkin CMG, QC. His presentation was punctuated by his experience of growing up in an era without the telephone and television to one where today, one routinely makes use of a smartphone which has more computing power than was available to put men and women into space and a man on the moon. His observation that while access to information was becoming rapidly increasing and the pace at which information bombards us, our mental ability to process that information has not improved and will unlikely ever be able to catch up.
Son of the soil, Paul Hector – Programme Specialist at UNESCO made a presentation on the work of the Information For All Programme (IFAP) which develops and implements intervention programmes intended to assist communities in developing countries get access to the internet, produce materials and be fully engaged in the digital society as contributors as well as users. His presentation gave some useful insights and offered potential models which could be replicated in the region.
Fellow and Director of Youth & Media at Harvard University’s Berkman Centre, Sandra Cortesi offered perspectives on the research carried out by the Berkman Centre on the internet habits of youths in the US. A strong advocate for a free and unrestricted access to the internet she offered a perspective which was very much at odds with many of the delegates at the conference.
During the two day conference it was clear that regionally there are challenges and awareness gaps, which have led to uncomfortable and embarrassing situations being played out in the public domain where there has been no legal or other recourse.
One of the recurrent themes however, particularly when debating whether to monitor, filter or otherwise restrict the access to the internet of children and even adults – teachers and employees – was one of instilling values and ethics and allowing persons to “self-police”.
This notion of “self- regulation” based on instilling values of sense of fairness may well be the way to go. Why, because the legal route or enforcement route will not. I’m reminded of a quote I heard several years ago, “Cain had killed Abel, before the commandment, “thou shalt not kill.” was issued!” That in essence is the challenge with an enforcement or legal route, the law will always be playing catch up.
However, the realities in the Caribbean are that most households are headed by single parents – particularly mothers – who often work at least two jobs and the TV or even the very same internet is the “child sitter” and so whose values are being instilled? Are parents availing themselves of resources to keep up to date of the challenges and dangers of the internet? More than likely not!