The panel I never attended
  About a journey of a WSIS participant who tried to seize the day
  As the summit had reached its final hours, I intended to select carefully which event I should attend at this afternoon's last time slot for parallel events. My choice was the panel "IS & sustainable development" which was announced to take place in the room "Sidi Bou Said" at 15:00.

I arrived right in time, eager to learn which organization would organize the event, as my instructive Official WSIS Guide just read "International Institute for.". However, when I entered the room, nobody was there except two tired-looking participants having a late lunch consisting of the ever-present Golden-Tulip-Sandwich. Luckily I had already prepared a second preference for such a case: "ICTs for empowerment" organized by the NGO "Action Aid International". The room called "Le Kram" was fully crowded at 15:05, but as I managed to squeeze myself in, I sharply deduced from the letters "thank you" on the projector screen, that this was still the prolonged question round on "Governance for development" hosted by the Internet Society of China.

I seized the opportunity to run over to room "Amilcar" where - as my third preference - the "Association Mondiale des Regions pour la Societee de l'information" who was going to present the "results on the parallel World Summit of cities and local authorities on the information society". Finding one abandoned mobile translation headphone and switching to the translation of the arab speech I learned after another five minutes, that this too was still the end of the table round of the previous event, namely the panel on "citizen communication".

On the way back to "Le Kram", I threw a glance at "Sidi Bou Said" once again to see, if the panelists already arrived - no, even the lunch couple had left. As the Internet Society of China in "Le Kram" still seemed to be busy on their topic I found myself running out of alternative preferences. So I consulted my official WSIS guide and then determinedly steered ahead to the promising "Last Meeting of the ICT Task Force". It came back my mind only when Tunisian security monitored me sharply at the front door, that this had been announced as a closed event. No matter which of the multi-colored badges was required to enter that room, I clearly didn't have it.

Once again I headed back to "Amilcar" where to my utmost relief the previous meeting had been finally adjourned and the next panelists prepared to have their seats while other staff members were hastily hanging up some big posters on "World Summit of cities etc.". Now I was going to hear some interesting input at last! However, the chairman destroyed my enthusiastic hopes by announcing that he decided to hold this meeting in French. I grabbed the headphone and began switching channels, but a short look over my back revealed the reason for my vain efforts to get any translation - translators had left their cabins obviously required to serve in some event elsewhere. Once more I condemned myself for not spending more time on the improvement of my French language skills.

Again studying my comprehensive Official WSIS guide I discovered, that an International Organization called "UIT -Question 14-1/2" (who invented that name?) had booked two attached time slots for "ICT applied to health care" from 13:00 to 17:00 in room "Hammamet". So at least I would be able to attend a good part of that meeting. Just about to enter the door - now the clock reading 15:35 - I ran into participants ready to leave, informing me that the event had just ended. Calm, I told myself, there's no need to get impatient. This is a world summit, there must be an valuable event experience somewhere in this conference center! I decided to give room "Le Kram" another chance.

Yes, the Chinese auditorium had left and some people who had already been waiting at the door at 15:05 where patiently waiting for the upcoming event to begin with over half an hour delay. Obviously that's what people came for from all ends of the world, just to hang around in a hot room waiting for some panel to begin! If the event management by these organizers is a blueprint for how they do their implementation and follow-up work on the Information Society when going back to their offices overseas, I am not optimistic about bridging any divide, be it digital or not, in the upcoming millennium. Desperately turning back to my true and faithful Official WSIS Guide, I now focused my interest on "Internet Governance: Co-development actions" organized by the French government in room "Mahadia". It turned out beneficial that I already had discovered the quite hidden pass way which led to the section outside the main hall, in which the small "Mahadia" was located, otherwise I would have lost precious time.

One of the red-skirted Tunisian information ladies sitting at the room door however informed me in French, that this meeting had been transferred to room #3. Room number 3? Where was that? I never heard of numbered rooms at all as all event room so far had names of Tunisian cities. And unfortunately due to my poor French (kids, do pay more attention at school!) I couldn't retrieve any further information on the matter. So I went all the way back to the information desk where I was told that room #3 was located at the other end of the exhibition area. Ok then. I managed to make my way through the overcrowded exhibition full of people who probably also had not managed to find their preferred events. Finally, I discovered the rooms with the numbers 1 to 10. Entering room number 3, I realized that I should have been wiser. The French government would never hold a meeting in another than their native tongue. And naturally, rooms which don't have real names don't deserve translator cabins. I considered cutting a bloody note in my forearm to remind me taking up comprehensive French lessons the first day I am home again.

Tired, disillusioned and empty, I headed back to the Civil Society office rooms where a surpassingly delicious Golden-Tulip-Sandwich would wait for me to wash away all my disappointment, tiredness and anger. It was half-way when I passed a room sign reading "Sidi Bouzid". I startled. I checked the monitor which declared that this room was hosting the meeting on "IS & sustainable development". My unbeatable Official WSIS Guide confirmed that in "Sidi Bou Said" no event was scheduled but that my first preference event was taking place in "Sidi Bouzid" right here. 16:15 now. Too late to still get the grip of a panel discussion now. Firing my dumb and uselesss Official WSIS Guide into the next bin I suddenly felt complete peace about the fact that I will never find out which ominous nameless international institute was hosting the panel I never attended.

Johannes Schunter

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