فهمي الباحث

إنســــــــان عــــــــادي جدا!

Street-Art-Sanaa-Yemen

Yemen is one of the countries with the lowest Internet penetration in the region owing to the different challenges the country is facing in the infrastructure or the legal system, not to mention the current political situation.

 The ICT infrastructure is owned mainly by the state-owned Public Telecommunication Corporation, and it is fragile and weak in many cities, especially with regard to the Internet. Moreover, because of the increasing demand and government monopoly over the Internet, there is no sufficient capacity to meet new applications for Internet services.

 Concerning the legal system, the Yemeni law is almost devoid of any legislation related to the Internet or any of the new technologies since it was constituted on the pre-Internet era. The only exception is a law on the right of access to information that was adopted this year under influence and pressure from some civil society organisations. Despite this however, no real activity was noticed on the ground. There is no legislation governing cybercrimes, regulating access to Internet services, or protecting freedom of expression.

 Politically, Yemen is currently going through an interim period. The most important milestone in this transition process is the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) tasked with drafting the basic features that will shape the future of Yemen. The output of the NDC is in a form of recommendations that will serve as the main reference upon which the constitution as well as other laws will be drafted by different committees.

 Several political parties and groups are participating in the NDC that is formed of eight working groups; two of these groups are related directly to the Internet and telecommunications in Yemen, namely the Rights and Freedoms Working Group and the Comprehensive Development Working Group.

 In its final report, the Rights and Freedoms Working Group underscored two important recommendations. The first is related to intellectual property rights in all its forms and manifestations, which is considered a progress in the (online) rights and responsibilities given that the intellectual property is one of the main issues in the digital world.[i] The second article is concerned with the right to contact and communicate via modern technologies, among which the Internet, and includes the criminalisation of hacking and spying on these technologies unless through due process.

 Personally, I have contributed in drafting proposal for these recommendations; however what was published in the final report of the working group[ii] was something different. For that reason, I have reviewed these recommendations with some Internet Governance experts, while participating in Hivos’ Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme.

 There was an important note from Marília Maciel, Researcher and Manager of the Center for Technology and Society of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (CTS / FGV) in Rio de Janeiro. She stated that a strong text is necessary to avoid over-criminalisation of everyday life situations (i.e. breaking the Digital Rights Management system of your own cell phone to install some programmes) or even the practices of hacking and activism.

 As for the Comprehensive Development Working Group, it has focused basically on the telecommunications sector and successfully managed to spiral out a range of vital recommendations despite a strong opposition from some members. Some of these recommendations deal with the community involvement in telecommunications companies, implementation of e-government project, and obliging service providers to their services across the country – including Yemeni Islands and isolated areas (some of which are still without telephone service or Internet). In fact, there was considerable opposition, for political reasons, to end the monopoly over Internet services. However, some of the working group members with technical background had to take the lead to clarify to the politicians the importance of ending this monopoly and how this will benefit the country in general. Eventually, they passed the recommendations.

 Another important recommendation made by the Comprehensive Development Working Group to found a national telecom regulatory authority as an independent entity responsible for regulating the telecommunications sector and ensuring the effectiveness and transparency between the service providers and the consumers. The entity will also be in charge of protecting the society from radiation damage, preparing ICT policies and monitoring the Ministry of ICT. [iii]

 Generally, the NDC deliberations revolved mostly around the current political problems plaguing the country with mundane focus on some technical issues. Many have justified this by the pretext that Yemen has not reached yet the required stage to start tackling these technicalities, however they overlooked the fact that they are planning the future of Yemen for years to come, and the constitution will be drafted for once.

 The NDC that was supposed to present the reports within six months has extended this due date on account of disagreement between the southern secessionists over basically political issues. This delay will consequently be reflected on the time frame set by the Gulf Cooperation Council for the transition process. In the light of this situation, the UN Secretary General called all parties in Yemen to cooperate together for a better future and to “refrain from any obstruction of the transition process.”

 On a related note, the Yemeni civil society has made significant achievement with the launch of the Internet Society – Yemen Chapter. In this regard, an official NGO was established in Yemen and is considered as the first non-governmental entity of its kind in the country. ISOC-Yemen joins nine other Arab ISOC chapters in the region.

 In conclusion, I believe Yemen started its first steps on the right path towards a better future of the Internet, and though it is moving at a slow pace; it is deemed a progress in a complex political environment as the one we have in Yemen.

 


[i] The final report of Rights and Freedoms Working Group [Arabic], article no. 13 http://www.ndc.ye/ndcdoc/human_rights_report.docx

[ii] The final report of Rights and Freedoms Working Group [Arabic], article 145 http://www.ndc.ye/ndcdoc/human_rights_report.docx

 [iii] The final report of Comprehensive Development Working Group [Arabic], articles 46-55 http://www.ndc.ye/ndcdoc/development_report.docx

 * Originally published on igmena.com

* Photo By Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia (Street Art, Sana’a, Yemen  Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

فهمي الباحث فى 25 - ديسمبر - 2013

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