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 Assessments of WSIS by different stakeholders

The Meaning of ICT 4 All

Aiko Doden, Japan
Presenter, NHK Japan Broadcasting Corp.
WSIS Goodwill Ambassador of Japan


Around 5 AM in Tokyo, tofu shops open to cater those who have traditional Japanese breakfast. “You must be working hard to start the day this early”, the shop owner said to me one morning as I walked past his shop. I was not on my way to office. I was on my way home from office after having worked through the night, preparing for the panels that I was assigned to moderate at WSIS Tunis. Working at odd hours seemed to be the most sensible thing to do. I was often talking with the hard working ITU team in Geneva, and there was a 7 hours time difference between Geneva and Tokyo.

I was given the honour of moderating two panels at WSIS Tunis, the ITU High Level Panel, “Information Society 2015: Building the way forward”, and the Japanese government workshop, “Toward the realization of a ubiquitous network society.” Both were demanding tasks. There was simply so much to be done before the Summit in Tunis. Although I was neither an engineer nor a ICT savvy, in my journalist capacity I was aware that “ICT” had different connotation to different people, depending on the conditions that they lived. To some, ICT innovation was the paramount issue, while to other, what ICT can deliver to bring about change in societies mattered. Diverse implication of ICT was evident even as I worked in the news room. What I was experiencing everyday was the constant flow of ICT related news reported globally, from ICT business merger and acquisition to sophisticated cyber crimes.

The obvious question was: What should the core issues be at the panel, and how should they be conveyed ? Although the high-tech aspects of ICT are often attractive, the organizers and I agreed that it was vital to stay focused on how best to deliver the benefit of ICT evolution to all. I kept reminding myself that the UN General Assembly resolution on WSIS took note that ICT was an important tool to achieve UN’s Millennium Development Goals, aiming to alleviate poverty, improve delivery of education and health care, make services more accessible and much more. The resolution also stressed that “the potential of knowledge and technology to be put at the service of development of all”. ICT was not to be reserved for the exclusive use of the privileged few, but was to be put to use by all.

To deliver such message, panelists from different sectors were contacted to participate in the panel, thereby making it a multi-stakeholder panel. Panelists from the private sectors were expected to speak about the technology innovation as well as the enabling environment of policies and strategies. Participants from governments were to comment on the national strategies in advancing ICT. International organizations discussed how best to foster international cooperation especially in addressing the digital divide that existed in developing countries. Civil societies contended that there is the need to identify the community needs, and then deploy technologies in a sustainable way. WSIS was a multi-stakeholder initiative and I was seeing the very spirit reflected in the panels that I was moderating.

It was especially meaningful for me to have taken part in the WSIS as Japanese government goodwill ambassador, but also as a journalist for Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK. Needless to say, broadcasting constitutes a vital form of ICT. NHK as broadcaster, has fulfilled a unique role over the past 80 years since its foundation, in bridging the digital divide nation wide. Television and radio broadcasts have come to reach virtually all regions in Japan. NHK’s educational television programmes contributed to elevating the level of education, when Japan was recovering from devastation after the WW2.

Regionally in Asia, NHK has been playing a significant role in bridging the divide in the developing countries by providing technical training to engineers and organizing news reporting courses for journalists. The recent example will be the early warning training course designed for broadcasters from the tsunami and earth quake prone countries in Asia. Broadcasting may not be a solution to problems in itself, but it certainly plays a role in bringing about change in the life of people.

WSIS is a multi-stakeholder initiative. Not only at the summit meetings themselves were each stakeholder expected to play a role, but also the steps to achieve the 2015 connectivity goals commands on each and every one of the stakeholders to play a role. In that sense, I believe that we are being tested on the post-Tunis process.

Gone are the days when I had to work until dawn everyday, until the time when tofu shops started their day. The WSIS is over but the multi-stakeholder initiative does not end. I now know that there are governments, international organizations, private sectors and civil societies working to reach that 2015 connectivity goals. Broadcasters also have the mission to bridge the digital divide. Journalists need to report on the progress in the global effort to bridge that divide. The Summit is over, but the endeavour has yet to come to an end.





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Updated : 2006-12-12