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Côte d'Ivoire: Controversy during 2012 Tech Conferences

[All links forward to French articles or videos unless stated otherwise]

Côte d'Ivoire recently played host to two important technology conferences in the space of three days. ‘Google Days’ [en] and JNTIC 2012 [en] (National Days of Information and Communication Technologies) took place between May 15 and May 18, 2012, causing a great deal of excitement in the local blogosphere. According to the official JNTIC website:

Les «Journées Nationales des Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication» (JNTIC) sont un Salon annuel dédié aux Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (TIC). Ce Salon est organisé par l’Union des Entreprises de Télécommunication (UNETEL) de Côte d’Ivoire, à l’occasion de la Journée Mondiale des Télécommunications et de la Société de l’information instituée par l’Union Internationale des Télécommunication (UIT).
Pour l’Edition 2012, le thème central arrêté par l’UIT est « Les Femmes et les Filles dans les TIC », le salon se déroule au Palais de la Culture d'Abidjan à Treichville, du 15 au 18 mai 2012.

The JNTIC is an annual conference dedicated to ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). This conference has been organised by UNETEL, the Union of Telecommunications Companies of Cote d'Ivoire, to take place during World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, an event started by ITU, the International Telecommunication Union.
The 2012 conference takes place between May 15 and May 18, 2012, at the Abidjan Palace of Culture in Treichville, with a central theme of ‘Women and Girls in ICT’ decided upon by ITU.

Although the JNTIC has matured and become established within the minds of businesses, professionals and the public, several difficulties arose during organisation of the 2012 event. Ivorian internet users complained about the lack of organisation as well as the proposed content.

Blogger Yehni Djidj wrote a post condemning:

le désordre monumental et le parcours du combattant pour avoir le badge d'entrée gratuit qui s'est vu affubler d'une taxe obligatoire de 1000 F CFA.

the monumental confusion and the hurdles you have to jump to acquire a free entry pass which then has a compulsory tax of 1000 CFA francs slapped on it.

She then published a complaint made by one of her readers who had decided to leave JNTIC 2012. This person condemned the absence of innovation, the parade of the same old Ivorian businesses with the same old products, and, above all, the lack of consideration shown to local requirements:

On ne nous montre que du réchauffé français ou américain ou encore asiatique et souvent même pas adapté au petit peuple que nous sommes. La preuve, après 20ans de téléphonie on a encore des problèmes de réseaux basiques. On se précipite pour nous identifier, alors qu'on est incapable de nous fournir un service conséquent.

They are just showing us French, American, or even Asian leftovers which often have not been adapted for our small nation. The proof? After twenty years of telephony we still have basic network problems. They rush to identify us even though they are incapable of providing us with a consistent service.

Official Poster for

Blogger Israël Yoroba told of his disappointment in a post entitled ‘Why I Did Not Attend JNTIC’:

Je me pointe au troisième jour de l'évènement aux alentours de 11 heures et j’aperçois à l’entrée un long rang au soleil. J’use de ma« carte de presse » pour que le vigile à l’entrée après deux hésitations me laisse pénétrer dans la cour des JNTIC.

Grâce à des pôtes à l’intérieur j’arrive à obtenir deux badges. (Un pour mon épouse et l'autre pour moi). Je m’apprête à franchir les portes des stands d’exposition lorsque que je suis brusquement sommé de ne pas avancé. La raison : « il vous faut un badge avec sticker », me fait dire le vigile à l’entrée. Je suis surpris. « Il faut vous rendre sous la tente d’inscription. Et payer 1000 francs », m'indique une autre dame également à l'entrée. Je n’ai pas chercher à savoir pourquoi l’entrée était payante ce jours-ci mais je pense qu’avec toute la campagne médiatique qu’il y a eu, ils auraient pu nous avertir et mieux s'organiser. En tout cas j’ai constaté qu’au stand des inscriptions, c’était la bagarre et le désordre.

I headed along to the event on the third day round about 11am and noticed a long queue in the sun at the entrance. I used my press card and the entrance guard eventually let me into the JNTIC hall.I had managed to get two badges (one for me, the other for my wife), thanks to friends on the inside. I was just getting ready to go and see the exhibition stands when I was brusquely ordered not to go any further. The reason? “You must have a badge with a sticker on it”, said the entrance guard to me. I was surprised. “You must go to the subscription tent and pay 1000 francs” said another woman at the entrance. I haven't tried to find out why entry cost money that day but I think with the whole media campaign there has been, they should have been able to warn us and to be better organised. In any case, I could see it was a chaotic free-for-all at the subscription stand.

To this chaos was added an internet connection problem in the conference halls as mentioned in this tweet by Miss Kadio:

@Onorynk: je rapel ke je tweet avec mon phone, priere regler le probleme de connexion pour les autre ‪#civtech‬ #jntic2012‬ ‪#insecdays‬

@Onorynk: I remember that I can tweet with my phone, pray they sort the connection for the others.. #civtech #jntic2012 #insecdays

Regarding the content, internet users also condemned the lack of women at the conference, despite the announced theme. Mariam Diaby wrote the following on her blog:

Il est malgré tout dommage de remarquer que le thème féminin ne l’est que de façade. Sur la dizaine de sujets de conférences, combien y touchent réellement? Une seule a tourné autour de l’implication des femmes dans les nouvelles technologies de l’information et de la communication, à ma connaissance. Les filles sont utilisées de manière décorative, en tant qu’hôtesses, toutes filiformes pour répondre à je ne sais quel critère…

Even so it is a pity to realise that the female friendly theme is only a facade. Among the dozen or so subjects, which one really covers this theme? To my knowledge, only one has focused on the involvement of women with new information and communication technologies. Girls are used in a decorative way, as hostesses, all of them skinny, meeting some unknown criterion…

No women were honoured at the closing ceremony. Twitter user Nguessan Wilfried condemned the absence of a prize to encourage women:

@wilfriedn‪#jntic2012jemeplain‬ #jntic2012‬ pourquoi pas eu de compétition pour recompenser des femmes ? ‪#civtech

@wilfriedn #jntic2012jemeplain‬ #jntic2012‬ Why not have a competition which rewards women? #civtech

Nevertheless, the item which caused the most controversy was the ‘hacking competition’ organised during the conference. The conference room provided for this was too cramped to hold all those who wanted to see the ‘pirates’ at work. This competition raised questions on Twitter, including the following from user G.K, known as @nightsnake1975:

@nightsnake1975@Ceschod Hacker ou Cracker ? Parce qs'il s'agit de trouver juste une faille sans apporter une solution ca sert a quoi ? #civ‬ ?

@nightsnake 1975: @Ceschod To hack or to crack? Because if it's just a question of finding a fault without providing a solution, what's the point? #civ?

Mariam Diaby wrote about the ‘worst moment’ on her blog:

Le point le plus négatif, qui au moment même où j’écris cet article, reste cette démonstration de Hacking, qui a fait l’objet de grande publicité. On aurait pu penser qu’il s’agirait de mettre à nue les failles des systèmes informatisés, mais ceci ressemble plutôt à “un cours de broutage officiel”. Salle plus comble que jamais, avec des jeunes à la face plus patibulaire qu’innocente, ils sont tous venus “admirer” les techniques de piratage. Pour en faire quoi? Surtout quand les exposants utilisent des expressions telles que “frapper à tout moment”, et que la foule applaudit chaudement. Se rendent-ils seulement compte de ce qui se passe?

The worst moment at the time of writing remains the hacking demonstration which had been the subject of a great deal of publicity. You would have thought that this would have exposed the faults of IT systems, instead it was more like an official ‘phishing’ competition. The conference room was busier than ever, the faces of the young people who had come to ‘admire’ pirating techniques, some looking more suspicious than usual. What was the point? Especially when the exhibitors used expressions such as ‘to strike at any moment’, which were warmly applauded by the crowd. Did they even understand what was going on?

There was so much interest in the pirating competition because the Côte d”Ivoire is cited more and more often in internet scams known here as ‘le broutage’ and in English-speaking countries as ‘phishing’ [en]. This interest led to a raging debate about an article by a blogger called Macmady in the comments section.

Jean Patrick Ehouman managed to see the positive side of the incident in this tweet:

@jpehouman‪#JNTIC2012‬ … l'incident d'hier aux Insécurity Days a permis de faire encore + d buzz à propos de cet évènement. Q'en pensez-vs? ‪#kpakpatoya‬

@jpehouman: #JNTIC2012 ….yesterday's incident at Insecurity Days created a lot more buzz about this event. What do you think? #kpakpatoya

The following video posted on YouTube shows the Google team dancing the ‘coupé-decalé’ during the Google Days event in Côte d'Ivoire:

The positive aspects of these days was also brought to the fore by the Akendewa website, which posted a portrait of an an Ivorian woman described as ‘a beautiful illustration of the JNTIC 2012 theme’. Along similar lines, Twitter user Cyriac Gbogou described a success for women on the Ivorian internet:

@cyriacgbogou@ayana_webzine est une vrai success story des filles ds les TIC #jntic‬ ‪#Akendewa‬ ‪#kpakpatoya‬

@cyriacgbogou: @ayana_webzine is a real success story for women in ICT #jntic #Akendewa #kpakpatoya

For further reading on this subject, the Akendewa blog has a post which includes links to 26 articles to help people understand and relive JNTIC 2012.

To find out more about cybercrime in Côte d'Ivoire, visit the Battle against Cybercrime website.

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