Philippine Greens' Programme for the Information Sector

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Discussion

Roberto Verzola:

"Within the Philippine Greens, we have developed a critical analysis of the emerging global information economy and have formulated what we believe is an appropriate set of responses to the entry into our country of the Internet and various other information and communications technologies (ICTs). This set of responses contains many of the elements discussed above, as well as other policies which, we hope, represent a well-rounded policy framework for the information sector.

These information policies include:

1. The right to know. It is the government's duty to inform its citizens about matters that directly affect them, their families or their communities. Citizens have the right to access these information. Neither the State nor private corporations may use "national security", "confidentiality of commercial transactions", or "trade secret" as reasons to curtail this right.

2. The right to privacy. The government must not probe the private life of its citizens. Citizens have the right to access information about themselves which have been collected by government agencies. The government must not centralize these separate databases by building a central database or by adopting a unified access key to the separate databases. Nobody should be forced against their will to reveal any information they do not want to make public.

3. No patenting of life. The following, whether or not modified by human intervention, may not be patented: life forms, biological and microbiological materials, biological and microbiological processes, genetic information.

4. The moral rights of intellectuals. Those who actually create an intellectual work or originate an idea have the right to be recognized that they did so. Nobody may claim authorship of works or ideas they did not originate. No one can be forced to release or modify a work or idea if he or she is not willing to do so. These and other moral rights of intellectuals will be respected and protected.

5. The freedom to share. The freedom to share and exchange information and knowledge must be recognized and protected. This freedom must take precedence over information monopolies such as intellectual property rights (IPR) that the State grants to intellectuals.

6. Universal access. The government will facilitate universal access by its citizens to the world's storehouse of knowledge. Every community needs access to books, cassettes, videos, tapes, radio and TV programs, software, etc. The government will set up a wide range of training and educational facilities to enable community members to continually expand their know-how and knowledge.

7. Compulsory licensing. Universal access to information content is best achieved through compulsory licensing. Under this internationally-practiced mechanism, the government itself licenses others to copy patented or copyrighted material for sale to the public, but compels the licensees to pay the patent or copyright holder a government- set royalty fee. This mechanism is a transition step towards non-monopolistic payments for intellectual activity.

8. Public stations. Universal access to information infrastructure is best achieved through public access stations, charging subsidized rates. These can include well-stocked public libraries; public telephone booths; community facilities for listening to or viewing training videos, documentaries, and the classics; public facilities for telegraph and electronic mail; educational radio and TV programs; and public stations for accessing computer networks.

9. The best lessons of our era. While all knowledge and culture should be preserved and stored for posterity, we also need to distil the best lessons of our era, to be taught -- not sold -- to the next generations. There should be a socially- guided, diversity-conscious selection, undertaken with the greatest sensitivity and wisdom. It is not something that can be left to a profit-oriented education system, to circulation- or ratings-driven media, or to consumption-pushing advertising.

The information economy is growing at a phenomenal rate, often independently of the capacity of communities to absorb it, or of governments to control it. This growth is driven mostly by global forces external to our own society but very much present within it.

Left by themselves, these global forces will simply treat our country and our communities as fodder for their relentless drive in search of profit and growth. On the other hand, we want the balanced development and interaction of our agricultural, industrial and information sectors in a way that enhances the overall quality of life in our communities. These are often orthogonal, if not opposite directions.

To be able to attain that dynamic balance between these sectors so that they enhance each other and contribute to the overall health and sustainability of our communities -- this is the challenge of the information sector." (http://mailman.apnic.net/mailing-lists/s-asia-it/archive/1999/10/msg00043.html)