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The Netsquared Regional Conference for Cameroon and Nigeria (Central African Republic ) was a multi stake holder event to articulate on issues related to the social web and nongovernmental diplomacy, involving other local  Netsquared groups, civil society, diplomatic institutions, government and the tech world. Among other aspects, the aim was to address the difficulties faced in introducing the social web for social development in the sub region, Difficulties in mobilizing local sponsors and Low access to the Internet and high cost of services.

The main activities included:

Capacity building, public discussions and TV talks on the impact of social developing the sub region. Due to circumstances beyond our control, the camp originally scheduled for 8am started a little later but as programmed, the Nigerian consul inaugurated the occasion with a very inspiring speech which emphasized the importance of information exchange especially across borders, as events somewhere could resurrect else where in this highly globalised world or activities that require cross border security such as Human trafficking, smuggling with require fast and efficient notification of stakeholders.

The welcome speech that also introduced the Netsquared platform, from the president of I-Vission international Mr Excel Asama, President of I-Vission International highlighted the fact that ICTs easily link problems to solutions which relied on building Trust between people without which nothing can get done. The Net2 group was noted as an international platform whose mission in Cameroon is to train, to indentify social problems and oriented these problems using ICTs towards where the solution is found and working hand in glove with I-Vission international. The video replay from the CEO of Techsoup global emphasized this aspect of Trust as well as the fact that Combined effort can yield more fruit than an individual striving to raise funds or achieve any goals on his own.

The Question/Answer session with the press that followed at about midday involved question like:
• Is French is a handicap in ICT/Netsquared? ICTs are made in various languages as well as Net2 member come from all over the world, indiscriminate of country or culture.
• What is the base of Netsquared and how is it different from other such networks like facebook etc? Nettsquared is a platform that integrates all of those other social network like facebook, tweeter, flickr etc because you can navigate to and from any of these using the online platform.
• How do we obtain finances for a single project? Considering that Cameroon government is strict on private institutions importing, how do we bring hardware here? Things that facilitate foreign aid are the number and the urgency. However it is still much easier to obtain aid if you group yourself and form a common interest group which can earn you more trust from the funders. We only have to do our part like transportation; customs etc and we can get even computers and other hardware across to us.
• What types of projects involve Netsquared? Projects that make use of ICT. The aim of Net2 as well as I-Vission is to connect the need to the solution using ICTs.
• What can I-Vission do to assist institutions striving to grow? I-Vission is not a funding organisation, we are looking for funds ourselves but we can help you find funds, computers, and sponsors worldwide so long as you are willing to put in your own effort and be committed.
The coffee break at about 12:22 with at least a hundred people present was followed by a presentation by Excel Asama at 1:30pm on Strategies for social mobilization and civic engagement through new media.

Mr Excel Asama started by talking on Interactive dialoguing which referred to a two way communication between people at different locations using their different experiences. This he demonstrated by various pictures including Teachers in school, child listening for sounds in her pregnant mother’s tummy, a bicycle carrying a car, looted elephants and obesity. This was an indication of communicating through pictures using ICTs involving applications like Flickr. In this way, people worldwide can have an idea of a given situation far from them and be able to react.

Participants were also trained to use other applications like Ushahidi (crowd mapping – using web 2.0 to communicate). This application is used to gather community alerts in a short time interval that can be used to track events etc . Tweeter and Facebook are applications that facilitate communication, as well as reporting of information of different magnitudes on a platform for a defined set of individuals to view and react. The formation on these applications was just a few out of many others involve in the ICTs to ease livelihood.

At 14:00pm the debate commenced with the panel including - in alphabetical order
• Excel Asama – I-Vission International
Eboumbou Patience, Telecom Engineer
Harrison Tamfu – Equinoxe TV Editor in Chief (English Desk)
Philip Soteh – DBS TV Editor in Chief (English Desk)
• Lise Polla OGNONG (Secretary, UN MONDE AVENIR)

Theme of the debate: “ICTs for social development in a multi stakeholder context”

1. Eboumbou Patience, Telecom Engineer
ICT does not only mean internet, it involves all forms of media. It is meant for everybody, everywhere and at every time . Everyone can learn how to use each aperture of ICT and adapt it to suit his or her own needs or be left behind because the world of ICT is moving ahead. Today we have e-commerce, for example where marketers and social scientists can make use of the internet. Marketafic for example is a platform created to ease production and sales of agricultural products and it is facilitated by the internet. You can find a buyer and seller for whatever you produce by creating a site and getting linked. Still we need to note a few things: security in publications and transactions (financial and otherwise) against hackers, logistics in terms of finding the physical products and transportation, international regulatory terms etc.

2. Tamfu Harison Tamfu: ICT has reduced the size and scope of the world such that information is dissipated in no time. We should therefore take advantage of this and learn it. Telecentre communautaire: taking ICTs to the rural communities, such as markets that need public intervention, where the villager can make his wishes and share his opinions.

3. Excel Asama “ICT is the language we speak today”. ICT have increased security and correctness of transferred information. It creates a way for situations to be made known to funders and sponsors for aid, to be current on important issues and it is so cheap, it is relatively free. We can get educated without being displaced and we can get informed with ease. Many people have biased minds against ICTs… some are reluctant because they are afraid of change as a whole, others are afraid to enter a network but despite all these, the number of internet users keeps growing day by day.

4. Philip Soteh: Although the western world gave us the knife before the yam….the computer before proper knowledge of how to use it… we found our ways to adapt and resorted to negative uses like pornography and other social deviances. Now the knowledge has come and we need to find a way to fix our mentality to adapt to the new era. That is why it is very important to educate the young generation that is still growing so that they learn the importance of proper use of ICTs and put it into action for social development as well as in other sectors….hence the term multi stakeholder context.

General discussions with regard to the presentations were:

1. How can we upgrade Cameroon to meetup with international  ICT standards? It’s a step by step process and eventually we will be there… it takes time and innovation. to grow in ICT, but a skeleton of the plan is:
• Get a computer
• Get a formation/education
• Enter into a network and use it positively to learn and to gain exposure

2. Does ICT not retard the natural skills of  human beings? ICTs simplify our tasks while giving us time to focus on other activities, so that we can achieve more in less time.

3. How do we talk about ICTs in a setting where even feeding is a problem? ICTs are solution providers, not a problem. If we fold our hands because we have not eaten, we will stay hungry. ICTs provide in the short and long run; take for example “Call Boxes” and Cyber cafes are now job opportunities thanks to ICTs. People can find jobs and schools in and out of the country using ICTs.

4. What are the indicators that technology is having its desired effect? After all the conference and talks and formation, what shows that it yielded fruit? More people are now aware of the necessity of the technology. That is why many answered positively to our invitation to attend this camp. We have held events before and each time, the number keeps rising. We have people coming to see us at our office, requesting for our services, many companies are going online and expanding business thanks to the Internet. Communication today is easier, faster and more efficient.

5. We have a lot of shortcoming like power failure and high costs that hinder the good and efficient use of ICTs. How do we overcome these? ICTs are a way forward, and so we need to get equipment like computers, power, and we need to make sacrifices within our reach to attain these. Apart from that, these are problems that hinder all of us in this setting and so we have to learn to adapt.

After the debate, the last two presenters talked on the working group for women and girls in ICT( WICTWoK.)
Laura Sunjo spoke on the importance of educating the woman and the girl child, not only on a global basis but in ICT as it will then be easier to pass it down to the children considering the mother’s effect on the child. She also spoke about “The Girl Effect” which enumerated a list of things that could happen to a girl that would hinder her development on various levels…including illiteracy, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, Marginalization etc. finally, she introduced WICTWoK and invited women as well as men to sign up for this group so as to ensure that ICT knowledge is spread without bias.

Mme Sende Dora, the other presenter on this said that women should know that it is never too late to learn. To be educated/ informed, all the woman needs is courage and a little encouragement from our families. In fact, to study ICT, one does not need to have diplomas. “I can’t believe myself when I see what I am doing with Telecommunications now, it is fantastic.” She said. To involve women in ICTs, all we need is to change mentalities because we can travel in the world without moving. All you need is a computer and the Internet to get an education/formation because with ICTs you can plan everything anywhere.
Finally, the lunch break was taken and the conference closed at about 17h30. According to commentaries and reactions from participants, the event was a success and they are all looking forward to another such event to enlighten them some more on the uses of ICTs.
This programmed was covered by the press.
Special thanks to:
Equinexe Television:
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