By Dan Haig*
I would like to point out, in response to part of Samdup Tenzin la's recent article, "Towards a Financially Sustainable CTA" that this statement is just aggravatingly false:
"The fact that five out of seven government departments in Gangkyi, including the DoF, do not even have something as elementary as a website attests to our failure to harness the wealth of opportunities presented by the world wide web."
He goes on to detail several ways in which the CTA could "embrace the 21st century IT revolution." But the only failure to attest to here, is his failure to do due diligence on this part of the article he was writing. He could have saved himself the trouble he took to address the purported deficiencies in the Administration's cyber policies, because most of his suggestions were implemented years ago.
If Samdup Tenzin la had gone to the trouble of actually visiting the official website of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile at www.tibet.net , he would have seen that all seven departments of the administration are represented there under the "Departments" item in the main menu.
In fact he would have seen that all this was the case had he visited tibet.net at anytime since it was built in 2000 (by myself, the staff of the Tibetan Computer Resource Center, and about 30 CTA staff we trained in web production) and formally launched by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in January of 2001.
Now in fairness, perhaps, in the excerpt quoted above, he means that each department should run its own website under its own domain, and try to solicit donations individually. This idea was rejected at the time tibet.net was initially being constructed, because it was considered too potentially divisive and confusing. I am no longer active in the management of the site and can't speak to current policy; and perhaps there is an argument to be made for putting a big fat "Donate Now!" link on the home page. But I think there continues to be concern for how this would make the CTA appear - after all, what government has an open request to the world for donations as a matter of policy?
Further, his belief that such a Donate Now button would magically "draw contributions from thousands of conscientious Tibet supporters from every corner of the world" is, I think, just naive. The Tibet Support Dollar is well contested (I won't say fought over); new sources of funds, and ingenious new ways of extracting them, are constantly being brainstormed by not just the CTA (can I presume on that?) but every Tibet support organization (in the widest possible sense, which definitely includes questionable if not fraudulent operations here and there). Those generous souls who wish to provide cold hard cash to 'help Tibet' already have a bewildering variety of organizations to choose from.
Having said all that - more generally, one could say that Samdup Tenzin la is absolutely right that more could and should be done. Leaving aside his suggestions for initiatives that have long since been in place, it is surely the case that ongoing CTA strategies for and uses of the Internet could stand a good hard look.
Does the new Administration have the expertise, experience and will to really make informed and effective decisions and implement bold, forward looking policies here?
I'll just throw out my own first thought, which is that the Tibetan Handicraft Association training in the settlements could just as soon ditch the sweater making and other stone age routines championed by the previous administration and train up all those bright young minds in something a little more contemporary and lucrative. That'll boost the Green Book tax base.
*Dan Haig is the founder of Tibet Online, dedicated to providing access to information technology and training to the nation of Tibet and its supporters. Among Tibet Online's accomplishments since 1995 have been the construction of the first Internet-linked computer network for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile; the creation of the TGiE website at tibet.net; His Holiness the Dalai Lama's website for the Chinese people at xizang-zhiye.org; and, at one time or other, hosting and/or development for just about every major Tibetan NGO's website as well as countless Tibet support organizations', including the International Tibet Network site at tibetnetwork.org. Tibet Online also hosts the central community website of the Tibet movement atwww.tibet.org.