United Nations  International Telecommunication Union  




 Tuesday, 16 September 2003


Broadband Plays Vital Role in Information Society

The number of worldwide broadband subscribers grew 72 per cent in 2002 to approximately 63 million, according to a report issued today by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The Republic of Korea leads the way in broadband penetration, with approximately 21 broadband subscribers for every 100 inhabitants. Hong Kong, China ranks second in the world with nearly 15 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants and Canada ranks third with just over 11 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants. Home users are driving the vast majority of broadband demand in all markets.

Broadband services provide Internet connections that are at least five times faster than earlier dial-up technologies, enabling users to play online games and download music and videos, as well as share files and access information much faster and more efficiently than before. In many markets, increased competition among broadband service providers has also triggered lower prices for consumers, boosting demand and making broadband access more affordable.

The vast majority of broadband users today are in the developed world. However, as the cost of the service becomes cheaper, some developing countries may be able to use wireless broadband technology to leapfrog ahead of the traditional wireline infrastructure. Instead of waiting for wireline services, which can be costly to deploy, they can potentially use broadband to develop an integrated voice, data and video network. For example, in Bhutan, wireless broadband technologies are currently used to provide basic voice telephone access. Broadband technologies have connected villages that previously were out of range of traditional telephone service.

“Around the world, access to knowledge and information is quickly becoming the major driver of growth and development,” said Dr. Tim Kelly. Head of the Strategy and Policy Unit at ITU, “Broadband will help accelerate this process by enabling multiple applications across a single network, bringing down prices and radically changing the economics of access.” For more information on the Birth of Broadband report click here

Subcommittee-2 Starts Work on the Draft Declaration of Principles

The second day of PrepCom-3 kicked off in a spirit of hard work, as Subcommittee-2 tackled the text of the Draft Declaration of Principles. The Chairman, H.E. Mr. Numminen (Finland), steered the daylong meeting through many interventions. However, in order to maximize negotiating time, many of these were submitted in writing. While there was good progress made at the Paris Intersessional meeting, much still needs to be done to refine the Draft Declaration into a text that is acceptable to all participants.

UN Volunteers asked that volunteering be recognized as a clear human expression of the will for interaction and solidarity in the world, and a strong contribution to extending access in the information society. “Volunteering is the ultimate expression of what the United Nations is all about” – Kofi Annan.

Coordinating Committee of Business Interlocutors (CCBI) supported the principle of universal access but asked that governments commit to establishing clear priorities and guidelines for successful investment in order to achieve the goal. 

Human Rights and the Information Society

The main discussions of the day revolved around the need to reflect international agreements on human rights, and/or other internationally ratified texts, in the WSIS Declaration. A number of Member States emphasized the need to explicitly cite Article 19 (Freedom of Expression) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Several delegations, including South Africa and Sudan, were also in favour of citing other internationally ratified agreements to reinforce the text. It was quickly recognized though, that too much new wording would lengthen rather than shorten the current Draft. One of the key drafting challenges is to reduce repetition and redundancies, argued Pakistan, the Russian Federation and the United States, notwithstanding the need to use precise references wherever possible.

Media, IPRs, Internet Management and Security Top Issues

Several delegations and stakeholders felt it important to include the concept of traditional media in addition to new ICTs in the Draft Declaration. These media are especially important in developing countries where it is often a combination of them that enable access, for example; by using radio in rural areas or where illiteracy is high, to transmit Internet content.

The issue of intellectual property rights (IPRs) was also held to be key by many, particularly with a view to fostering the development of content. It was asserted that a coherent international IPR framework is an essential prerequisite to foster creativity and access to information for all. But beyond this, argued South Africa, IPRs should go further to help those who lose out through simple ignorance of IPR rules. 

The notion of free and open source software to protect access to information was also introduced. “Knowledge is the heritage of all humankind”, said one group - copyright and patents and international agreements should safeguard and extend access to that knowledge by all humankind.

Several countries raised Internet management as a fundamental issue that requires global cooperation. Several delegations felt that the administration of countries’ top-level domains (TLD), however, should remain a national responsibility.

Cybersecurity is one of the hottest topics for many in the information society debate. “Unilateral efforts are not sufficient to tackle security issues, said Brazil. “An appropriate multilateral forum is also needed to ensure that network security and confidence win over potential threats”. The Russian Federation proposed that a “confidence framework” be the goal.

Working Methods Refined for Optimum Progress

Subcommittee-2 agreed to follow the practice of working in small drafting groups, as established at the Paris Intersessional session held in July. Working on an informal basis, these groups’ work is to be coordinated by a Facilitator, nominated as Ms. Lyndall Shope-Mafole (South Africa). The small groups were created under specific titles and with different country coordinators: 

Right to communicate: Coordinator = Canada
Internet and information security:  Coordinator = Italy (for the European Union)
Internet governance: Coordinator = Kenya
Enabling environment: Coordinator = Brazil
Languages and cultural diversity: Coordinator = India
Media:  Coordinator = Switzerland


It was agreed that observers would be able to participate in the drafting groups, which will meet outside of the core hours of the conference. It was also agreed that no more than three groups would meet at any one time, in order to allow a maximum of participants to attend – an important concern for the smaller delegations.

A further group has also been formed to work on the Draft Declaration text using inputs from the drafting groups, and aims to have a revised Draft Declaration ready by the end of week one. This “Friends of the Facilitator” group will meet in parallel to the Action Plan negotiations.

Not an official document - For information only


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

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