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12.28.11

Cablegate: Indian Ambassador Criticises UNESCO for Signing a Software Agreement With Microsoft (Updated)

Posted in Cablegate, Microsoft at 7:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Cablegate

Summary: A cable from 5 years ago shows that UNESCO deals we often criticise meet opposition behinds the scenes too

WHENEVER UNESCO promises to promote Free software we quickly see Microsoft showing up and turning UNESCO into what seems like corrupt imposition of Microsoft software on children. According to the following Cablegate cable, we are not alone with these concerns and to quote ¶6, ” The Indian Ambassador criticized UNESCO for signing a software agreement with Microsoft, stating that such an agreement had resulted in UNESCO abandoning efforts to develop open-source software. (COMMENT: It is not clear whether the Indian Ambassador is motivated by anti- globalization ideals, as she might like to suggest, or national interest, though we suspect the latter. The UNESCO open-source software project “Enrich” is being developed, in large part, by Indian software engineers. END COMMENT.) ADG Khan defended this partnership by stating that developing software is vital for capacity building, and added that UNESCO continues to work on open-source software. The Tunis Agenda, he reminded the audience, calls for private sector partnerships in this area, and UNESCO plans to increase them. The DG stated that UNESCO must maintain momentum in building partnerships with the private sector in areas covered by WSIS. The agreement with Microsoft does not mean that UNESCO will stop pursuing the idea of free and open software.”

Here is the full cable:

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 001007 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FROM USMISSION UNESCO PARIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958:    N/A 
TAGS: KPAO [Public Affairs Office], ECPS [Communications and Postal Systems], ETRD [Foreign Trade], 
ECON [Economic Conditions], EINT [Economic and Commercial Internet], ETTC [Trade and Technology Controls], 
UNESCO [UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization] 
SUBJECT:  FOLLOW-UP ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE TUNIS AGENDA 
FOR UNESCO 
 
REF:  PARIS 431 
 
¶1.   (SBU) SUMMARY:  On February 2, 2006 the UNESCO Director 
General (DG), Koichiro Matsuura, and Assistant Director 
General (ADG) for Communication and Information, Khan, held 
an information session for UNESCO's permanent delegations to 
outline the implications for UNESCO of the World Information 
Summit on the Information Society's (WSIS) Tunis Agenda. 
UNESCO's strategy at WSIS featured four key principles: 1) 
Freedom of expression, 2) Universal access to information 
and knowledge, 3) Respect for cultural and linguistic 
diversity, 4) Quality education for all.  According to the 
DG, UNESCO's delegation to Tunis clarified which action 
lines it would work on, distanced itself from the Internet 
governance debate, did not rule out the creation of new 
normative instruments, and reiterated its commitment to 
private sector partnerships.  END SUMMARY. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
IMPLICATIONS OF THE TUNIS AGENDA FOR UNESCO 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
¶2.  (SBU) The Tunis Agenda designates UNESCO as a 
moderator/facilitator for 7 Action Lines: 1) Access to 
information and knowledge, 2)E-learning, 3)E-science, 4) 
Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and 
local content, 5) Media, 6) Ethical dimensions of 
Information Society, 7) International and regional 
cooperation. The DG stressed that UNESCO expects to actively 
participate along with ITU and UNDP in the overall 
coordination of multi-stakeholder implementation of the WSIS 
outcomes. 
 
--------------------- 
INTERNET GOVERNANCE 
--------------------- 
 
¶3.  (SBU) UNESCO will participate in the Internet Governance 
Forum (IGF) as established by the Tunis Agenda.  Any 
preference that UNESCO had for the location of the IGF 
Secretariat was not discussed. The Brazilian Ambassador 
 
SIPDIS 
asked how "enhanced cooperation," as mentioned in the Tunis 
Agenda, would be addressed, noting that the language was 
deliberately imprecise.  The DG stated that UNESCO would 
play a role in identifying what was meant by enhanced 
cooperation, so that all parties are involved.  (COMMENT: 
He did not offer specifics.  END COMMENT.)  He also affirmed 
that UNESCO would be engaged in three aspects of Internet 
governance: 1) Openness, 2) Linguistic diversity, 3) Access 
(meaning interoperability). 
 
--------------------- 
CALL FOR INSTRUMENTS 
--------------------- 
 
¶4.  (SBU) The Japanese DCM asked if the DG saw scope for 
normative instruments in the area of Internet governance. 
The DG responded that at the moment he does not envisage any 
normative instruments in the Communication and Information 
sector, but UNESCO's important mission is to formulate 
normative instruments in key areas.  If there is further 
need for instruments in Communication and Information, he 
added, UNESCO should not shy away.  ADG Khan noted that the 
IGF could advance areas of concern with member state 
support.  The Communication and Information sector did not, 
he said, need normative instruments today, but since 
technology was changing so fast, he could not say that 
UNESCO would not consider them in the future.  (COMMENT: 
World Press Freedom Committee Representative Rony Koven's 
reaction to this comment was, "We'll worry about the future 
when we get there.  The main thing is that he sees no need 
for instruments now."  Koven is a thirty-year advocate of 
media freedom at UNESCO, an active WSIS stakeholder, and 
seasoned observer of the UNESCO scene, who will participate 
as a stakeholder in the Internet Governance Forum.  END 
COMMENT.) 
 
--------------------------- 
UNESCO'S ROLE INADEQUATE? 
--------------------------- 
 
¶5.  (SBU) Delegates from Brazil, India, and Japan questioned 
whether UNESCO had been given its "due" role in the process. 
The Indian Ambassador stated that, according to the Indian 
delegate at WSIS, UNESCO was not allowed to play the role it 
wanted to have because of "certain key delegations." 
(COMMENT:  Is this the same Indian Delegate to WSIS that the 
USG worked well with?  We wonder if the Indian Ambassador is 
articulating her own version of WSIS events here.  END 
COMMENT.)  This echoed concerns that UNESCO ambassadors, 
including the Indian Ambassador, raised with Ambassador 
Gross on January 18, 2006 (reftel).  The DG responded that 
while he shared this concern, it was useless to complain. 
UNESCO, he stated, had wanted to represent member states in 
the WSIS process and its only ambition was to fulfill its 
mandate. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
CRITICISM OF PUBLIC SECTOR PARTNERSHIPS 
------------------------------------------ 
 
¶6.  (SBU) The Indian Ambassador criticized UNESCO for 
signing a software agreement with Microsoft, stating that 
such an agreement had resulted in UNESCO abandoning efforts 
to develop open-source software.  (COMMENT:  It is not clear 
whether the Indian Ambassador is motivated by anti- 
globalization ideals, as she might like to suggest, or 
national interest, though we suspect the latter.  The UNESCO 
open-source software project "Enrich" is being developed, in 
large part, by Indian software engineers.  END COMMENT.) 
ADG Khan defended this partnership by stating that 
developing software is vital for capacity building, and 
added that UNESCO continues to work on open-source software. 
The Tunis Agenda, he reminded the audience, calls for 
private sector partnerships in this area, and UNESCO plans 
to increase them.  The DG stated that UNESCO must maintain 
momentum in building partnerships with the private sector in 
areas covered by WSIS.  The agreement with Microsoft does 
not mean that UNESCO will stop pursuing the idea of free and 
open software. 
 
¶7.  (SBU) COMMENT:  While it is disturbing that the DG 
stated that the Communication and Information sector "should 
not shy away" from new instruments, we note that some 
Communication and Information junkies at UNESCO find little 
evidence that this will happen in the next biennium.  The 
Mission will remain vigilant in its efforts to promote media 
freedom and Internet status quo at UNESCO.  END COMMENT. 
Oliver

It is reassuring to see that some politicians too let their opposition be known. The Microsoft/UNESCO PR needs to be countered.

Update: There is also a cable that says: “UNESCO staff noted the “Preservation of Digital Heritage” program, UNESCO-sponsored open source software for digital libraries, and a 2003 declaration on Multilingualism and Cyberspace.”

The cable in full:


UNCLAS PARIS 001733 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FROM USMISSION UNESCO PARIS 
FOR IO/UNESCO 
E.O. 12958:    N/A 
 
TAGS: KPAO [Public Affairs Office], ECPS [Communications and Postal Systems], ETRD [Foreign Trade], 
ECON [Economic Conditions], EINT [Economic and Commercial Internet], ETTC [Trade and Technology Controls], 
EAID [Foreign Economic Assistance], UNESCO [UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization] 
SUBJECT:  UNESCO AND THE WORLD DIGITAL LIBRARY 
¶1.   (SBU) SUMMARY AND GUIDANCE REQUEST:  Deanna 
Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services and 
Chair of the Memory of the World Programme 
International Advisory Committee met with the UNESCO 
Communication and Information Sector and the Director 
 
General (DG) on March 8, 2006 to discuss the Library of 
Congress' (LOC) initiative to develop a plan for the 
World Digital Library (WDL).  She also discussed the 
UNESCO Memory of the World Program with the Director 
General. The DG and other senior level staff were 
enthusiastic about the WDL project, but working level 
staff, who discussed the LOC's initial planning stage 
with Marcum, were suspicious of Google motives to fund 
the WDL plan.   Marcum stated that Google had stepped 
out of the picture after making its donation. The 
UNESCO Secretariat is confused as to whether Marcum is 
the point of contact on the WDL, or another LOC 
staffer.  Marcum has told post that, in her view, her 
meetings at UNESCO Headquarters were "unofficial," and 
mentioned that another LOC staffer would be designated 
as the project manager and would come to UNESCO to 
discuss the WDL further.  Mission requests guidance on 
who is going to be the LOC's WDL point of contact and 
what its vision of the WDL is, and asks IO/UNESCO to 
remind U.S. officials request country clearance from 
the Mission rather than setting up their own meetings 
at UNESCO.  Mission notes that the UNESCO Secretariat 
does not consider meetings between U.S. officials and 
the DG to be "unofficial."  END SUMMARY AND GUIDANCE 
REQUEST. 
--------------- 
MEETING THE DG: 
--------------- 
¶2.  (SBU) Marcum met with the UNESCO Director General 
Koichiro Matsuura on March 8.  He stated his strong 
support for the WDL and noted UNESCO's desire to 
contribute to the project.  Marcum stated that the 
question was how to formulate a partnership with UNESCO 
on the WDL, noted that Google had provided 3 million 
USD in finances, and stated that Project Manager John 
van Oudenarem would be in contact with UNESCO to follow 
up.  The Communication and Information Sector's 
Director for the Information Society, Elizabeth 
Longworth, cited UNESCO's experience and familiarity 
with digitization, ability to provide a neutral 
platform, interest in building standards around 
metadata, expertise on governance and interoperability 
issues and commitment to spreading digitization. 
Matsuura instructed Longworth to continue to work with 
the LOC on an agreed-upon approach to the WDL, and 
stated that UNESCO could hold an international meeting 
to promote the WDL. 
¶3.  (SBU) Marcum brought up her recent election as 
Chair of the Memory of the World Programme 
International Advisory Committee and indicated her 
interest in encouraging U.S. institutions to put forth 
nominations for the programme.  The Director General 
responded with enthusiasm.  Ambassador Oliver noted 
that this was a good idea that ought to be discussed 
with the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and urged 
Marcum to coordinate with them. 
---------------------------------- 
Working Level - Developing a Plan: 
---------------------------------- 
¶4.  (SBU) The UNESCO Communication and Information 
Sector convened a meeting for Marcum to meet with 
working-level representatives of the Division on the 
Information Society and UNESCO librarians and 
archivists from the Administrative Section in order to 
have a more detailed discussion on the WDL.  Marcum 
emphasized that she had come to UNESCO to listen and to 
describe the idea for a WDL and clarified that she did 
not have a proposal in hand to present to UNESCO staff. 
(COMMENT: The lack of a proposal appeared to take them 
by surprise, but they welcomed the opportunity to 
contribute to plans.  END COMMENT.)   The main issues, 
she stated, were governance, selection and 
architecture.  The LOC had identified a project manager 
for the WDL, and the goal would be to draft a report by 
October 2006, she said.  Marcum stated that the LOC 
could bring the principle of the library to the digital 
world, as an aggregation of lots of different 
information, not as a repository.  She stated that it 
was important for the WDL not to be politicized. 
¶5.  (SBU) She provided a history of the concept of a 
WDL dating beyond the American Memory and Global 
Gateway websites.  Global gateway projects, she noted, 
were bilaterally arranged with Russia, Brazil, France, 
Spain, The Netherlands and Egypt.  Each one addressed 
an area where U.S. culture intersected with these 
countries, and from this project, the LOC started to 
think about bilingual digital images of collections. 
The Librarian of Congress, James Billington, she 
emphasized, wanted to find ways to help people 
understand one another and use information exchange as 
a basis for global understanding. 
¶6.  (SBU) She stated that Billington spoke to the U.S. 
NATCOM last June to ask them to think about what steps 
to take to create a WDL.  The LOC had also reached out 
to the Digital Library Federation (mostly U.S. 
libraries, plus the British and Australian libraries) 
to look at standards, best practices, architecture, and 
metadata.  Marcum noted that many libraries around the 
world have started digital libraries already for items 
not covered by copyright.  Examples include the 
European library, the British Library/Microsoft 
partnership or the test project of the "Google 5" 
libraries.  (The University of Michigan, The New York 
City Public Library, Harvard University, Oxford, and 
Stanford University.)  A key difference here is that 
unlike the other projects, the European Library, 
spearheaded by France last year as a move "against 
googlization" and including the national libraries of 
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, 
Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, 
Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, 
Slovakia, Spain and Sweden, is government funded. 
¶7. (SBU) Marcum explained that Google was impressed 
with Billington's desire to promote mutual 
understanding through on-line access to other cultures, 
and therefore donated 3 million USD for the LOC to 
devise a plan for a WDL.  The brand name of Google, she 
acknowledged, raises questions for many.  She added 
that there is probably every reason to be concerned 
about Google's influence on open access when one looks 
at the details.  She noted that the LOC did not pursue 
mass digitalization with Google because of concerns 
about how this would mesh with the LOC housing the U.S. 
copyright office.  She explained that there was almost 
nothing in writing in terms of an agreement between the 
LOC and Google:  it had handed over the check, and that 
was the end of its involvement in the WDL plan. 
---------------- 
UNESCO CONCERNS: 
---------------- 
¶8.  (SBU) Above all, suspicion of Google and its role 
in the plan dominated UNESCO concerns at the working 
level.  Staff asked if there was an outline of how the 
LOC would use the Google funds (Comment:  UNESCO staff 
does not appear to know a lot about private 
philanthropy in the U.S and expected there would be an 
MOU-type document.  END COMMENT.)  One UNESCO staffer 
stated that he believed the Google 3 million USD 
donation was seed money for it to come in later on the 
WDL.  A French UNESCO staffer asked if Google 
involvement was even necessary. 
¶9.  (SBU) Another staffer stated that the U.S. 
initiative on the WDL was a lot like the U.S. position 
on Internet Governance while another stated that the 
U.S. should refer to the WSIS Geneva declarations 
(2003) which states that libraries should be accessed 
electronically.  UNESCO staff also noted that the LOC's 
"Global Gateway" project, cited by Marcum as an example 
of intergovernmental cooperation on digital items, had 
generated editorially driven electronic publications 
and that the WDL should not use this model. 
¶10.  (SBU) UNESCO staff strongly urged that the U.S. 
reaches out to a wide variety of international actors 
on this project.  The Communication and Information 
Sector's Director for the Information Society, 
Elizabeth Longworth noted the potential for 
politicization of the WDL, given the documented -- and 
French-led - negative European reaction.  Longworth 
suggested that the U.S. and UNESCO draw lessons from 
the Internet governance debate. (COMMENT:  Some at 
UNESCO feel the perception that other countries could 
not have a role in internet governance undermined the 
U.S. position in the lead up to WSIS II in Tunis last 
November.  END COMMENT.) She also asked who the LOC's 
stakeholders were in the project while other staff 
noted that Marcum did not mention libraries in Latin 
America, Arab States, Asia and Africa.  They mentioned 
a digital library project led by the Philippines and 
financed by Intel for 20 Asian countries link their 
public domain material. 
------------------- 
UNESCO Value Added: 
------------------- 
¶11.  (SBU) UNESCO staff made many suggestions on how 
UNESCO might contribute to the WDL, many of which were 
repeated by Longworth in Marcum's meeting with the DG. 
They noted above all that UNESCO has the power to 
convene people, help with capacity building and 
training and to provide a neutral platform.  UNESCO 
also had a library portal with some 14,000 links and 
was active in the development of small digital 
libraries, such as the El Dorado library for Latin 
America and the Caribbean (Note: Only a Bolivian 
contribution to this project exists thus far, although 
in terms of other regions, the Palestinians also asked 
UNESCO to help them build either a virtual or actual 
library.) 
¶12.  (SBU) UNESCO staff noted the "Preservation of 
Digital Heritage" program, UNESCO-sponsored open source 
software for digital libraries, and a 2003 declaration 
on Multilingualism and Cyberspace.  UNESCO's French- 
chaired Information for All Programme could be 
involved, they suggested.  They offered to hold a panel 
discussion on the WDL at the next UNESCO Open Forum, 
and suggested that the LOC work with IFLA and UNESCO on 
this.  UNESCO could also call a conference on the 
issue, they added.  One staffer suggested UNESCO could 
create standard setting instruments in the area of 
digital libraries. (COMMENT:  Mission strongly advises 
against this.  END COMMENT.) 
¶13.  (SBU) The UNESCO Archivist stated that one 
excellent source of primary documents for a WDL would 
be the United Nations.  He cited the United Nations 
Intellectual History Project (UNIHP) whose secretariat 
was established at the Ralph Bunche Institute for 
International Studies of The Graduate Center of The 
City University of New York in 1999.  There was a 
potential copyright issue with some UN publications, he 
warned.  But there was a goldmine of material in UN and 
UNESCO archives, he added.  Other staff cited UNESCO's 
e-science program and its scientific information 
commons may be able to contribute. 
-------- 
COMMENT: 
-------- 
¶14.  (SBU) COMMENT:  At a high level, UNESCO staff has 
received the WDL project with open arms.  However, at 
the working level, suspicion of Google's role in the 
project as well as a lack of understanding of how 
private philanthropy works in the United States must be 
addressed for the project to succeed.  In addition, the 
LOC will want to demonstrate to UNESCO that it has a 
wide -- and significantly international - stable of WDL 
stakeholders.  Procedurally, the Secretariat has 
advised the Mission that meetings with the Director 
General and other senior officials at UNESCO 
Headquarters are indeed official, and we ask IO/UNESCO 
to convey to all USG agencies and branches that engage 
with UNESCO that country clearance and a briefing with 
the Mission Country team is essential to their visit. 
Mission also requests clarification of who leads the 
WDL project at the LOC, and, if this person is not 
Marcum, whether his views on the entire project are the 
same as the ones she conveyed.  END COMMENT. 
 
Oliver


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