|Photo credit: © istock
ITU plays a leading role as facilitator in implementing
the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information
Society (WSIS), alongside the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO), the United Nations Conference on Trade
and Development (UNCTAD), and the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP). How far have
we come in turning the WSIS targets into action?
To review progress, a week of meetings has been
held every year in Geneva since 2006, coinciding
with celebrations of World Telecommunication and
Information Society Day (17 May). In 2009, this gathering
was given a new name: the WSIS Forum.
This year, ITU, UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDP jointly
organized WSIS Forum 2010 from 10 to 14 May
at ITU headquarters in Geneva. The event attracted
high-level representatives from government, the private
sector, civil society and regional and international
organizations. It featured high-level debates addressing
issues that are critical to WSIS implementation in
multi-stakeholder set-ups, interactive
WSIS action line facilitation meetings,
interactive sessions, thematic
workshops, kick-off meetings for
new initiatives and projects, knowledge
exchanges, the launch of new publications and an
exhibition. Some of the main topics discussed are
Turning targets into action: WSIS and the Millennium Development Goals
The year 2010 marks the halfway point between
the end of WSIS in 2005 and 2015 — the deadline
set by world leaders to achieve the United Nations
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the
WSIS targets to connect the world. Can technology
bridge the development gap and accelerate progress
towards achievement of MDGs, especially in the
wake of the recent global financial crisis?
Build on broadband
Access to information and communication technologies
(ICT), and broadband in particular, could
help facilitate the achievement of many of the MDGs.
For example, high-speed broadband networks carrying
advanced applications can enrich education and
boost basic hygiene and health awareness, while
delivering real results in reaching public health goals
— a top priority for many developing countries.
Availability of broadband can also provide new opportunities
for economic growth and international
trade and investment.
Broadband applications for tomorrow
The promise of broadband infrastructure lies not
just in rolling out national high-speed networks accessible
to all citizens for boosting economic growth,
but also in delivering tailored applications fulfilling
the targeted needs of specific communities in education,
health care, government, energy and the environment.
High-speed, always-on, real-time communications
have enormous potential for delivering real
and tangible benefits in people’s everyday lives.
The rise of the social web and various social networking
services is transforming the online world as
we know it, through new forms of social interaction,
dialogue, exchange and collaboration. Social networking
services are turning online communications
from one-way broadcasting of information into multi-
party conversations. They may even be changing
social structures and reshaping people’s perceptions
of time, distance and location.
But what is the potential and promise of social
networking services for ICT development? Can social
networks give a voice to the voiceless, empower individuals
to take direct action or mobilize the masses?
Can they help create online communities of citizens
concerned about different issues?
ICT for disaster management
Disasters disrupt national economies, severely
weaken the poor and vulnerable and are recognized
as major impediments to sustainable development
and reduction of poverty, especially in least developed
countries and small island developing States.
When disasters strike, they leave a legacy of lost or
broken lives and economic damage. The impact is
even worse for those living in remote and isolated
areas with no access to basic information and communication
ICT play a critical role in disaster prediction,
monitoring and detection. ICT can save human lives
through the timely dissemination of early warning
alerts. In the immediate aftermath of disasters, ICT
play an important role in coordinating search and
rescue operations, in the supply of food, medicine
and other essential services, and in providing critical
information to the victims of disasters.
Emergency telecommunications are critical in the
immediate aftermath of disasters, to ensure a timely
flow of vital information which is much needed by
government agencies and other humanitarian actors
involved in rescue operations and in providing medical
assistance to the injured.
One of the biggest challenges of our time is the
recent upsurge and increase in the frequency and
devastation of disasters. This is evidenced by cyclone
Nargis hitting Myanmar, the Sichuan earthquake affecting
China, the Haiti earthquake of 12 January
2010, and the Chile earthquake of 27 February 2010.
In March 2010, a whole series of disasters were experienced,
including floods in Uganda, Zambia and
Mozambique, earthquakes in Turkey, China and
Sumatra, and cyclones in Fiji.
Cybersecurity and cyberspace
Information and communication technologies
have been widely adopted throughout our society.
But today, new and sophisticated cyberthreats, cyberattacks
and, more recently, cyberwarfare, pose
strong challenges to the safety, integrity, reliability
and confidentiality of modern communications and
the networks over which these are transmitted.
Growing cyberattacks can also be a challenge to
States’ national security and international peace.
In 2007, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun
I. Touré launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda
(GCA) to provide a framework within which an international
response to the growing threats and challenges
can be coordinated and addressed. The GCA
strives to engage all relevant stakeholders in a concerted
effort to build confidence and security in the
These high-level debates considered how promising
new applications have enabled mobile broadband
devices to move from being “nice gadgets” into
the realm of essential equipment. They examined the
opportunities and the issues created by the rise of
social networking services and considered the potential
role these services could play in contributing
to development objectives. The high-level debate on
cybersecurity and cyberspace, jointly organized by
ITU with the United Nations Interregional Crime and
Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and the United
Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR),
discussed how best to promote international cooperation.
A special report on WSIS Forum 2010 will be
published in a future issue of ITU News.
Exhibition materials: ITU to build a repository of ICT content
During WSIS Forum 2010, stakeholders also had
an exhibition area for sharing ICT success stories, displaying
ICT content and reference material, showcasing
innovation in ICT, and exchanging information
ITU will use the material deposited and showcased
by stakeholders to build a repository of ICT
content. The aim is to build a single point of reference
for content relating to the WSIS implementation