United Nations  International Telecommunication Union  




 Tuesday, 25 February 2003

A Call for Collaboration

As a kick-off to the Subcommittee 2 meeting, speakers from the observers group, which consists of civil society, business community and international organizations, reported briefly on their discussions of Monday afternoon. They emphasized the need for strong collaboration between the observer contingent and government representatives.

A civil society representative drew delegates’ attention to the civil society contribution to PrepCom-1, which represents a consensus from the wide range of civil society participants. The group is also preparing a short document on what it considers to be essential elements of the declaration. The points raised in that document include the concern that the shaping of the future not be left to market forces alone, as well as the need to ensure freedom and diversity of the media.

Speaking on behalf of the business community, others from the observers group highlighted the involvement of the business world, particularly when it comes to the funding and support for concrete projects foreseen under the action plan.

Several government delegations echoed the call for constructive interaction between the two groups, voicing their wish to work closely alongside civil society representatives to ensure the most inclusive and comprehensive approach possible to reflect real cultural diversity.

A Human Centre for ICT Development

‘We recognize the efforts made by governments to move the key themes away from pure technology, and towards broader issues’ as one civil society representative had said in his report to Subcommittee 2. Indeed, as it began its second session, the working group on the draft declaration focused on the needs of humans at the epicentre of the changing world of technology. In what one delegation termed as ‘the new world order’ of the knowledge society, many voices from the government sector called for a declaration that reflects human concerns, human rights and local and community needs – in terms of access, content and affordability. They must, to quote another speaker, strike a balance between infrastructure and ‘info-structure’ issues.

The working group continued to flesh out the content of what will become a new version of the working document to form the basis of the draft declaration. As delegates made their contributions, elements of the Beirut and Tokyo declarations were often cited, as were the UN Millennium Declaration and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all of which were felt to provide valuable additional material for the draft document.

While the human rights elements were seen as forming good material for the preamble to the declaration, the regional inputs on security, an enabling environment, and the management of domain names were considered valuable content for the vision and principles sections. There was strong feeling that the concept of security should be widened to include global ICT governance, including Internet governance.

Another key issue raised by delegates is the need to ensure multilingualism as a priority for both technology and content; this is seen as a key to ensuring broader ICT access. As one delegate pointed out, in an international conference such as a PrepCom, communication through ICTs and simultaneous translation into several world languages is the norm. Similarly, he said, in global communication, multilingualism and technology should come together to reinforce mutual understanding – with equal participation by all. Coupled with this priority is the issue of access to open-source software – one of the ways to promote affordability and the generation of local content in less developed communities.

These issues went hand-in-hand with another priority that was frequently stressed by delegates: the need for internationally harmonized standardization, without which the technologies, software and content can never become truly global.

None of these elements, it was emphasized by many, will be viable without an adequate and harmonized policy and regulatory framework, which forms an important catalyst for investment and creativity in the information society. Recalling some of the points made during the roundtable sessions, speakers called for a constructive balance between regulation and freedom of expression in regulatory and intellectual property.

Turning Words into Action

The working group turned its attention to the draft action plan in the afternoon. As delegations put forward proposals and comments, discussions on the content of the action plan ranged from the general to the specific. In the words of one delegate, the action plan should be where heads of State ‘put their money where their mouths are’. While the declaration of principles will set out the general statements, the action plan is where commitments to action will be made, he thought. This speaker made one suggestion of a concrete action which States might consider: namely their adhesion to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime – for which countries outside the European Union are eligible. This would engage them in a concrete way and would increase participation in international exchange and harmonization of cybercrime – and security - policies.

Another specific project suggested was to gauge levels of implementation of actions and levels of ICT penetration against tangible and measurable targets. This proposal foresees the development of a set of international indicators to measure the level and success of implementation of ICTs. The aim would be to make the prioritization of actions more objective, and to ensure that they address realities on the ground.

In addition, there were various suggestions for funding initiatives - including the proposal that a certain percentage of national budgets be earmarked for ICT development in order to help bridge the digital divide. If the information society is to be in the service of the human individual, one delegate stated, then the balance between the information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ needs to be restored by a long way: well over half of the world’s population lives in developing countries, he reminded the group.

Global Media Governance – A Beginner's Guide

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development took the opportunity of PrepCom-2 to launch its latest report entitled. ‘Global Media Governance – A Beginner’s Guide’.

The book identifies the key influencing forces and elements in media governance at the global level. As governance encompasses regulation, questions addressed include: Why do we regulate the various media at all? What currently are the major forms of global regulation, and how do they work? Who participates in, and who benefits from, media regulatory and governance structures? And what are the trends? The rising influence of the media underscores the importance of finding answers to such questions. The "Guide" fills an important void and is designed primarily for policy makers, scholars, activists, media and communication professionals. Sean O Siochru, Director of Nexus Research, Dublin, Ireland and Bruce Girard, researcher at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, author the book. For more information on UNRISD and this book consult

A Final Vision

The last in a series of lunchtime presentations focusing on a number of key considerations for the information age was held. ICTs for education and building human capital was presented by Frances Cairncross, Management Editor, The Economist .

Ms Cairncross noted that ICT in education holds out much promises - of lower costs, wider access and more precise delivery of the right course at the right level and the right time. But experience so far has been mixed. She reviewed what has been achieved so far, examined the possibilities for the future and the scope of overcoming some of the challenges that have emerged. For all six of the excellent presentations in the ‘Visions of the Information Society’ series consult

Roundtable Wrap-up

The final report on the eight WSIS roundtables is now available on the web at  This includes links to the report, as well as the video and audio archives of the panelist presentations.

For media information concerning the second phase of the Summit, click here

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