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Internet and Global Civil Society

” 1. How does the Internet help to facilitate Global Civil Society?

Internet helps to facilitate Global Civil Society through easing access to information, lowering barriers to publications, making global rapid communication easier and quicker, facilitating share of information and creating virtual communities. Internet gives us opportunities to become one; to become a real global society. It narrows geographical, cultural and time borders between us. It makes it possible to communicate with people from another side of the world, to have access to information from everywhere about almost (!) everything, to unite after all.

2. What are three significant limitations on this facilitation?

I think the first limitation is inequality of access to Internet. For example, governments of some countries may restrict access to popular sites if they feel potential threat from sites. But in other countries there are no such restrictions. this imbalance of access to information creates obstacles in communication.

The next limitation is over-regulation of Internet. New laws and rules are made quickly, but the problem is that it complicates the whole process of Internet usage and publication issues. Government wants (and needs?) to control the population of country, and Internet was not an easy-to-control thing at the beginning. Now government can look after citizens’ “virtual lives.”

And the third limitation comes from development of online businesses. With online commerce there comes even more control over Internet users.

3. Why should we care?

We should care about these limitations because they affect our lives. These limitations affect our communication and understanding. I think that in Global Civil Society rights should be equal for everyone, but it can hardly be reached with all regulations and restrictions, unique for each country. Internet gives us opportunity to really become that Global Civil Society, but for creation of that we should soften all angles of this medium. Unfortunately, I think, it’ll take a long way to do that, because process of globalization started not so long ago and not all countries are emotionally and physically ready for this transformation.”

By Rakhmanova Zhanna

Bar Camp (www.barcamp.org) – an international network of conferences, which is created by its participants. Conference is open to all, in the form of reports, trainings, presentations and discussions. All material is provided by the participants. Often, the main topics of these activities are: new media, social networks, blogs, etc. BarCamp was founded by Tim O’Reilly, who organized the event for his friends. First BarCamp was held in 2005, August 19-21 in California. And since that time more than 350 BarCamp [un]conferences were held all over the world.Yevgeny Morozov is a founder of BarCamp in CIS region.

This year the conference was held in Almaty city 16-18 of April- BarCamp Central Asia 2010. More that 600 people have been registered + none registered (journalists,tv media,etc) Was presented: • 60 presentations of the participants at 8 simultaneous sections, • Two presentations of major sponsors: Microsoft Kazakhstan, Opera Software; • Two panel discussions: Stella Systems, Internews Kazakhstan; • 21 projects were presented in the startups section BarCamp Ideas Market.

A lot of “national” participants like: Canvas.kz – Social photo-hosting. The project is almost ready for launch. The developer is Rustem Musabekov. According to him, this is the usual photo-hosting service which is similar to many others, but which will outperform them because of its functionality; Wormie.kz – Tools for reading, storing of electronic books. Wormie will help us in reading books. This service creates by team Whitehill, too, they love to create all sorts of characters for their projects (bird kiwi), which leaves a good impression to all users. In my opinion, this presentation was probably the best and been awarded justly. If they implement all the useful functions of service, which were told, perhaps a new era in Kaznet will begin. One of the main points, which I remember – to convert e-books in all formats in text form. And, most importantly, the developers will pay maximum attention to the readability of the text, to reach the maximum effect of convenience and similarity to the traditional paper book. Appartamenty.kz – This project represents by developer from Astana – Darmen Amanbaev. The main purpose of the site – is to help to find the flat, which can be removed at any time of the day. This site will be very useful for foreign visitors, newcomers, passionate lovers. I am sure that the site will find its admirers. Also, there is wap version of the site that makes it an indispensable tool when searching for apartments. It is very pleased that Kazakhstan is developing the NET Media. Kazakh sites started to rise, not only in quantity but in quality.

Presentation #1 Kiwi.kz by Stanislav Ignatyev I have attended the presentation on kiwi.kz. Kiwi.kz is Internet portal of video and audio made by the users. For me, kiwi.kz is “our” version of Youtube.com. Technical director told about advertisement on kiwi site, about types of advertisement and how to post it on ‘kiwi’ portal. He listed types of video advertisement. They are: • Pre-roll advertisement is shown before the basic video; • Post-roll advertisement is shown after the basic video; • Middle-roll; • Context advertisement in player; • Pause-banner is shown when you click the pause and you can see video advertisements shown in video list. Then, Stanislav Ignatyev turned to opportunities: • Geo targeting- division of advertisement due to regions, cities with the the help of geo IP. (Information about the citizens’ attendance and advertisement rate) Also, Stanislav Ignatyev told the development strategy of kiwi.kz. They are going to add advertisement from other cities. • Targeting by site map- division of advertisement on particular topics and themes. • Demographic targeting-by sex and age. Finally, Stanislav answered some questions on related topic. It was nice to see that people are interested in this topic.

Presentation #2 Yandex Alexander Lavrentiev, head of marketing communications services, told about widgets on the main page of Yandex and regional widget program. Anton Volnukhin, head of service “Blog Search”, told about how to use the service for applications, and about the main trends in the world, Russian and Kazakh blogosphere. Roman Ivanov, head of communication services, which can explain what is useful in Yandex.Mail for the domain is and how to attract more audience through Yandex.Bar. Despite some problems in the organization of the event, a mess, and difficulties with languages (Kazakh-English-Russian) the atmosphere was positive, people were friendly and communicative. It was a great experience for me to communicate with people who have different points of view on various themes. Conference was full of interesting and successful people like: Eserkegenov Askar Alibekovich- chief commercial manager Kazakhtelecom (Almaty, Kazakhstan), Andrew Beklemishev- head of the IDC Kazakhstan (Almaty, Kazakhstan) , Asel Ibraimhanova- product marketing manager of operating systems, Microsoft Kazakhstan (Almaty, Kazakhstan) , Sergei Martynov- Technical Director Notamedia (Russia, Moscow) ,Igor Mahanek- software engineer of Google (Switzerland, Zurich) , Peter Didenko- independent expert (Moscow, Russia), Jaroslav Azhnyuk- director of Internet Social Media Agency and head of the “Internet Initiative” (Kiev, Ukraine) and others. They were easygoing and very glad to be a part of all that. Also,I attend some evening events: in Coffeedelia, Pinta. I have I lot of fun there, met a lot of new friends, learnt some interesting and useful information. I tried to attend as many presentations as possible, but unfortunately due to some problems I could not attend some of them. Thanks to kiwi.kz for posting some parts of conference on site. Thank for all participants, organizations, sponsors for such a great event. There should be more similar events in the world and Kazakhstan in particular.

Kazakhstani authorities have recently begun practicing Internet
censorship, according to an announcement by the analytic-
informational center “Eurasia” on November 6, 1999. (There is no
relation with The Eurasia Foundation or with The Eurasia Bank).

Beginning on November 4, it has been impossible to connect to the
opposition-sponsored website “Eurasia” (http://www.eurasia.org.ru)
within Kazakhstan. This website features material on events in
Kazakhstan, and offers a critical perspective on its government and
president.

During a telephone interview conducted by Internews Kazakhstan,
technicians for the Internet provider firm Nursat said that access to
the “Eurasia” website is and will be impossible for the foreseeable
future, for “technical reasons”. They also said that the same
“reasons” exist for all of Kazakhstan’s Internet providers. Employees
of Nursat refused to be more specific about the technical problems,
saying that only the director of the company could respond in detail.
A request to speak with the management of the company was met with
the response that they were at present unavailable.

In a telephone interview, an employee of the Committee for National
Security (KNB) who is responsible for mass media said that prior to
the interview he had not heard of problems connecting to that
website.

However, for several days access to the opposition site on the
territory of Kazakhstan has been closed.

In September Rakhat Aliev, the husband of Dariga Nazarbaeva, the
president’s daughter, was appointed chief of the Almaty KNB. Since
the beginning of 1997 Rakhat Aliev and Dariga Nazarbaev have played a
highly visible role within Kazakhstan’s mass media market, running or
controlling numerous prominent private newspapers and television and
radio stations. Thus on the eve of the presidential and parliamentary
elections in 1999 the most important mass media in Kazakhstan were
under the control of the government. The bias and dependence of
Kazakhstani mass media were noted by OSCE observers during the last
elections.

It is interesting that, according to the news agency Interfax, on
November 4 President Nazarbaev sharply criticized the OSCE, saying
that Kazakhstan might leave that organization. “The leader of
Kazakhstan stated that today he was ‘not interested’ in what others
‘said somewhere across the ocean’ about Kazakhstan. ‘I am interested
in Kazakhstan and the order of its people.’”

President Nursultan Nazarbaev recently signed a new law placing blogs, social media networks, and chatrooms under the rubric of “mass media”, effectively creating criminal liability for users of these internet communication platforms and permitting the government to shut down and censor websites as it sees fit. The government denies this law as being any kind of tool for repression, framing the law as benefiting Kazakh citizens by granting protection from extremist literature, piracy, and 2009’s ultimate cliche excuse-pornography. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had urged Nazarbaev not to sign the law into effect. Miklos Haraszti, OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, criticized the legislation as contrary to both OSCE and international standards. Kazakhstan is set to chair OSCE in 2010-a decision that has been criticized by groups such as Human Rights Watch ever since the decision was made by OSCE’s council in 2007. Watchdog organizations have repeatedly questioned Kazakhstan’s ability to lead and uphold OSCE’s commitment to human and civic rights and the passing of this new internet law only reaffirms the apprehension. Kazakhstan’s relationship with the internet is complex, with attempts to strengthen internet usage and boost the Kazakh telecommunications sector coexisting with efforts to monitor and suppress online content. Nazarbaev has been openly ambitious in regard to development of the Kazakh IT sector, which in the past decade has become the clear frontrunner and main internet service provider in Central Asia. That being said, online access is still accessible only to a minority, and Kazakh citizens living outside of major cities are well beyond the reach of the internet. Also, long before the enactment of the recent internet law plenty of legislation was already in place placing limitations on internet content (and aiding in the encouragement of self-censorship). More than 300 legislative acts exist that control information and telecommunications in Kazakhstan in one way or another. Although a few competitors do exist, Kazakhtelecom effectively holds a monopoly in the country and exerts an extraordinary amount of control. Traffic of all first-tier ISPs go through Kazakhtelecom’s channels, permitting an easy, centralized way to filter content. Furthermore, since Kazakhtelecom is the main provider of internet in countries like Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan it censors content for its Central Asian neighbors as well. In 2008, livejournal.com was blocked, with Kazakhtelecom denying any role in the matter. Oddly enough, the Russian-language version of the site, livejournal.ru (which also happens to be the most popular blogsite in Russia), remained accessible. Speculation on behalf of media outlets such as The Moscow Times was that the block had to do with Nazarbaev’s former son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, who has openly criticized (and blogged about) the Nazarbaev government. Other websites such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have been blocked since last year.

EURASIANET.ORG

EURASIANET

EurasiaNet provides information and analysis about political, economic, environmental and social developments in the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus, as well as in Russia, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia. The web site also offers additional features, including newsmaker interviews and book reviews.

Based in New York, EurasiaNet advocates open and informed discussion of issues that concern countries in the region. The web site presents a variety of perspectives on contemporary developments, utilizing a network of correspondents based both in the West and in the region. The aim of EurasiaNet is to promote informed decision making among policy makers, as well as broadening interest in the region among the general public.

EurasiaNet is operated by the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute.

EurasiaNet offers daily news under

  • Today’s Wires which consolidates of news and information from outside sources, including the British Broadcasting System, Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty and Interfax. Every day, reports from these and other news services are also posted on the Resource Pages of all the countries in the region
  • Regional Datebook keeps you ahead of the curve on upcoming events throughout the Caucasus and Central Asia.

EurasiaNet has seven different departments that feature original content on political, economic, social, cultural and environmental developments through an extensive network of contributors providing material that keeps readers on top of regional developments. The departments include:

  • Eurasia Insight: Analytical articles on current events that place emphasis on anticipating future developments.
  • Business and Economics: Articles geared towards closely examining deals and trends and their possible impact on economic development.
  • Q&A & Recaps : Interviews with news makers and opinion shapers on regional issues.
  • Civil Society: Covering environment, human rights and culture thoroughout the region.
  • Resource Pages provide comprehensive data and links to other news sources on the web.

EurasiaNet also features a variety of other resources as well. Indeed, EurasiaNet is perhaps the most comprehensive source for news and information about the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia found anywhere on the World Wide Web.

Electronic News Media

The two principal Internet service providers (ISPs) are government-controlled: Kaztelecom and Nursat. The opposition website Eurasia has faced repeated blockage of its content, although proxy servers have continued to provide viewers with access to the Eurasia site. According to the U.S. State Department, “In September [2001] human rights monitors alleged that Kaztelecom and Nursat users were unwittingly viewing a ‘mirror site’ of the opposition Eurasia page. On the ‘mirror site’ users view a page that mimics the original, but without material highly critical of the Government.” Another opposition website, Aziopa, was blocked by the government ISPs in 2002.

The Internet had provided unprecedented publishing access to the opposition press, and many independent journalists used the Internet to convey their views and critiques of politics and society in Kazakhstan. However, amendments were added in May 2002 to the Law on Mass Media to make free expression via the Internet considerably less free.

The National Kazakh Security Committee, the successor to the famed Soviet KGB, has been empowered by the ruling regime to “monitor e-mail traffic, access to the internet, faxes and phone calls by any organization, company or person it deemed suspicious,” according to BBC Monitoring. In May 2002 the president approved amendments to the Mass Media Law, already a restrictive piece of legislation. The amendments essentially labeled web sites as “mass media,” shifting them to a new category and making them subject to state monitoring and censorship.

Editorial Influence on Government Policies

Little influence by editors on government policies can realistically be achieved in Kazakhstan’s present climate of government intimidation, harassment, and control of the media. However, a large social protest movement directed against environmental and health degradation from decades of nuclear testing and its ramifications in the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan has had some effect on government decision-making. A law was passed to guarantee health services to those most adversely affected by the years of nuclear testing in the region, but funds have not been sufficiently allocated to back up government promises of health assistance. Countless persons now suffer from severe birth defects, cancer, and other deformities and diseases as a result of the testing program begun in the Soviet era and continued into the 1990s.

Print Media versus Electronic Media

The electronic media have had much greater success in dispersing a range of perspectives, information, and commentary in Kazakhstan, due to the general government imposition of restrictions on the print media. However, starting in 2001, even Internet news sources found themselves limited increasingly by Nazarbayev and his government, which reclassified the Internet as a form of “mass media” and thus subject to government scrutiny and electronic eavesdropping.

www.vkontakte.ru

http://www.vkontakte.ru is the most famous online community in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and other CIS countries. It was created by Pavel Durov, Russia. I can say that Vkontakte.ru is the Russian version of Facebook.com. Community is very big, counts in millions of users. All my friends have their blogs in this community. It allows communicating by using different applications, like: messages (private message, wall message). It allows sharing interests in groups, share video and music.

Technical issue. Site is very comfortable to operate. You, as a user, can use Vkontakte as a Winamp player, to listen to music. Also, you can watch movies (Unfortunately, speed is low in Kazakhstan, and you have to wait for loading.)

Social issue. I have made a lot of new friend by interest (music,education,theatre,films)  That makes this community socially interesting.

Vkontakte.ru involves people of different cultures, different age, and get all to participate somehow. My mother has her own pages in the community. She has her group “Yoga for mind body”, where she has 887 members. They all communicate, sharing their experience and important information.

It shows the importance of this community.

Issue of privacy. Privacy is very important for this community as for all its members. You have a lot of options in order to protect your privacy. You can open or close your pages. You can create your Black List. Also, you can send “anonymous opinion” that will hide the name of sender.

I find this community very successful, also in getting MY participation.

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