Triumph as Week One Ends
Subcommittee-1, on the Rules of Procedure of WSIS, leapt cleanly over the hurdles of the first week to reach full agreement on the revised version of the Draft Rules of Procedure of the World Summit on the Information Society (Document WSIS/PC-3/DOC/6 (Rev.1)). The revised version of the Rules, as adopted, is based on the PrepCom rules of procedure, adjusted to reflect the needs of WSIS itself and incorporating inputs from PrepCom-3 delegations. The text met with unanimous acceptance and a warm round of applause.
Measuring the Digital Divide: Indicators and Best Practices to Assist Implementation
“Indicators must be developed in order to measure the progress towards narrowing the digital divide and the use of ICT s to achieve internationally agreed development goals”, affirmed one delegation. Along with financing, the Draft Action Plan recognizes the need to establish international monitoring and benchmarking through comparable statistical indicators and other research in order to follow up the implementation of the Action Plan, and to provide a general overview of the evolution of the digital divide.
Wide support was expressed for the establishment of such indicators, in the form of a composite “ICT development (digital opportunity) index”, with ITU as the most obvious candidate to coordinate and collect statistical information. The role of an international body with ITU’s experience and resources is particularly important, it was pointed out, because in many countries gathering and processing comparative international data is currently an unrealizable task. The forthcoming edition of the ITU World Telecommunication Development Report (WTDR), to be published prior to the Summit in December 2003, will contain a new ITU set of indicators on ICT development.
Alongside statistical information, the Draft Action Plan also proposes the development of success stories from around the globe to promote exchange between different countries on ICT projects and initiatives that have worked in specific contexts. ITU’s work to date on numerous country case
studies, which are freely available on the ITU website, has already proven valuable to many of its Member States. ITU has also developed a freely accessible series of
ICT Success Stories and case studies covering:
· Digital Education
· Public Access Points
· Innovative ICT Implementations
· ICTs and Gender
· ICT Success Factor Case Studies
ITU Joins with IEC and ISO in Proposals on International Standards
PrepCom-3 negotiations have recognized the important role played by international standards in furthering the goals and actions set out in the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Action Plan.
In the run-up to WSIS, ITU, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have been working together to clarify and enhance references to standards. “The leading international standards organizations (ISO, IEC and ITU) are working together to ensure that … the strategic role of International Standards for development and trade will be recognized and reflected in the resolutions/declarations issued from the Summit”, say the organizations. Among other recommendations, they propose that cooperation initiatives work to develop “open, interoperable, non-discriminatory and market-driven international standards”.
While the outcome of the ad hoc group on standards is still awaited, standards have been seen as an important issue throughout the WSIS preparatory process, as shown in the texts of the different regional preparatory conferences. According to the WSIS Beirut Declaration, “Adopting standards and norms: Governments of the region should seriously consider adopting established ICT related standards and norms, particularly those considered language dependent. Norms and standards should meet user needs for information exchange and enable straightforward search and navigation, and the widest possible range in terms of access to systems”.
The WSIS Tokyo Declaration states that: “The development of the information society must be based on platforms of internationally interoperable technical standards, accessible for all, and technological innovation of ICTs, as well as systems to promote the exchange of knowledge at global, regional and subregional levels through any media … Working towards open and flexible international and interoperable standards is an important issue … to ensure that all can utilize the technology, … content and services to their maximum potential…”
Finally, with regard to norms and standards the Bucharest Declaration states that, “sharing success stories and best practice experiences will also pave the way for new forms of international cooperation”.
Looking Ahead – Tunis and a Heavy Workload
The first reading by Subcommittee-2 of the Draft Action Plan wound up with a forward-looking view to the Tunis phase of the Summit in 2005. This is when the indicators and other forms of assessment and monitoring will reveal the extent to which the Declaration and Action Plan have been successful. However, urged one delegate, “it will be important to make this a learning process. What emerges from the Geneva phase of the Summit is key, but future plans can take into account new developments in the light of experience”.
Other delegations paid tribute to the Chairman and the Executive Secretariat for their effective and skilful work. Observers’ contributions were also acknowledged as a valuable source of wisdom and useful input to the negotiations. Work is far from complete however. On the Draft Action Plan alone, contributions and comments have poured in at a rate of around one hundred per day. The drafting groups and Secretariat staff are set for a tough weekend to produce a revised draft of the Draft Declaration and Action Plan in time for the coming week’s negotiations.
In its second week, the conference will also hear the report of the Facilitator’s Group on the outcome of the different ad hoc groups. The reserved comments of many delegations on issues such as financing, Internet governance and media will then feed into a renewed debate.
Youth Caucus Canadian Connection
Ten members of the Youth Caucus spent two hours with Madame Mary Carman, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister of Industry Canada and other members of the Canadian delegation, exchanging ideas and discussing activities related to the Summit. Canada has shown a strong commitment to engaging with youth in the WSIS process at both the national and international levels
Canadian youth themselves have shown strong leadership at an international level in information society issues, both through their own NGO initiatives, and through their involvement with government-led initiatives such as Netcorps Canada and SchoolNet, models which are being replicated around the world.
For the Summit, Canada has made a significant financial commitment towards youth preparations, funding national-level “Information Society Youth Campaigns” organized by members of the Caucus in many countries including: the Philippines, Ghana, Brazil, India, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Egypt, Romania, and Malaysia. Canada has also contributed towards the secretariat of the Youth Caucus, and activities planned to showcase youth at the Summit such as workshops and the Youth Hub space. In addition, Canada is continuing the UN practice of including youth within delegations to World Summits. Further, the Youth Liaison in the Secretariat, Alex Fielding, is supported through the Department of Foreign Affairs’ international internship program.
Members of the Youth Caucus were impressed and excited by Madame Carman’s strong support at the gathering, and enjoyed sharing stories, previewing the new youth multimedia video and learning more about each other’s perspectives on the Information Society.
The youth caucus website is at http://www.ycdo.net/wsis
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