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WSIS Forum 2010
Tracking progress
Houlin Zhao
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
“ As a follow up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), ITU has launched an upgraded stocktaking platform. ITU has been maintaining the WSIS Stocktaking database as a publicly accessible system, which now consists of more than 4200 entries of ICT-related initiatives and projects aimed at furthering the goals of the Summit. The upgraded platform integrates improved features, such as the application of web 2.0 tools and a searchable database. ”

Houlin Zhao,
ITU Deputy Secretary-General and Chairman of the WSIS Task Force
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 highlighted below.

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.

Social networking

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 facilities.

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 information society.

High-level debates

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 and knowledge.

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 process.


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