WITC opens debate through online forum

Members of the public will be able to participate in discussions at the World IT Congress through online forums

In a world first, the upcoming World IT Congress (WITC), to be held in Adelaide in late February, will invite members of the public to participate in discussions traditionally limited to congress delegates.

Forum topics have been designed to parallel those covered in the congress, including themes such as the digital divide, IT security, intellectual property, building communities in cyberspace and future directions of IT. Participants in the online discussions will also have access to congress delegates such as outgoing chief scientist of the Ministry of Industry and Trade for the Government of Israel, Orna Berry.

Created in collaboration between Congress organisers, industry association Community Information Strategies Australia(CISA) and Education.au, the forum has also attracted the sponsorship of e-Square, early childhood interface for Microsoft Office - Max's Sandbox, and computer training company Electus.

While the opening of the first official chat room is set to coincide with the first day of the congress, on 27 February, forums covering the key themes of the congress are already live and available through the 'discussion forum' and 'get involved' links on the WITC 2002 Web site.

Currently being promoted by WITC organisers as well as Austrade and Government posts, the forums will also have a significant educational aspect with information regarding the nature of the forum and its role within the congress being distributed through Education.au, a national and international network of educational institutions such as the British commission, European Commission, European Schoolsnet, Becta, and European education hub eSchola.

Having previously worked on similar community-based forums, Mike Vasey, marketing manager for CISA member InfoPartners, is expecting interest in the site to build in the run up to the event, and is keen to see the site increase the general opportunities to participate in the congress.

"To a certain extent it will take the elitism out of the congress, because it will allow for the participation of a broad section of the community from around the world," Vasey said. "A lot of the discussion will be focussing on the social impact of technology, and we are opening up the debate to a wider audience."

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