WSIS and development
A new, networked economy and a knowledge-based Information Society have emerged in our midst. The way people and governments live, learn, work and relate to each other has changed irrevocably.
The digital revolution is driving the globalization and integration of the world economy. At the heart of this revolution is the power of information and communication technologies (ICT) that allows people to access information and knowledge almost instantaneously, anywhere in the world.
The free flow of information and ideas has sparked an explosive growth of knowledge and its myriad new applications. As a result, economic and social structures and relations are being transformed.
Yet the vast majority of people in the world remain untouched by this revolution. This “digital divide” threatens to widen the already existing development gap between the rich and the poor, among and within countries.
The majority of the world’s people will not be able to benefit from this revolution unless they are enabled to participate fully in the emerging Information Society. Timely access to information services and markets can create real opportunities for poverty alleviation and wealth creation. Information and knowledge can help create a level playing field for all, and ICT is a key to environmentally sustainable development and poverty reduction.
ICTs provide a powerful tool to leapfrog the development divide between rich and poor countries and speed up efforts to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and gender inequality. ICTs can bring literacy, education and training in the most remote areas. Through ICTs, schools, universities and hospitals can connect to the best information and knowledge available. ICTs can spread health messages and help treat and prevent HIV-AIDS and other infectious and communicable diseases.
Without the widespread and innovative use of ICTs, the development of the poorer countries may prove impossible to attain. Among other things:
- The “digital divide” remains one of the greatest obstacles to world trade among developed and developing countries alike;
- The application of ICTs and media can integrate developing countries in today’s networked economy and knowledge-based Information Society.
- With appropriate leadership and adequate measures and incentives, ICTs can provide a global economic stimulus in a time of technology downturn;
- ICTs can accelerate development provided that access to information and communication is universal and affordable, is protected as a fundamental right, and a policy framework is in place that is transparent, predictable and encourages competition.
Accelerated deployment of ICT infrastructure will benefit developing countries. The Summit leaders have committed to setting infrastructure development as a priority and as part of national e-strategies; to deploy the most appropriate technologies; to ensure that human resources are trained and available; and to assist countries in need to develop their information infrastructure. The modalities now need to be worked out.
A lesson comes from the experience of many developing countries — some of them small, lacking in resources and with difficult social and economic problems. Bold actions by political leaders in bringing their economies into the digital age has paid off, and has brought tangible economic, social and political results. Examples of ICT success stories can be found here:
The World Summit on the Information Society is a unique opportunity for world leaders to agree to shape the future of the Information Society and to harness the ICT revolution in the service of development. The Summit promotes broad agreement to accord high priority to ICTs in international assistance to development, and to support national efforts to develop and carry out e-strategies. The Summit also serves as a unique platform to galvanize governments, business and civil society to reverse the present trends of the growing “digital divide” and lay the foundations of a truly inclusive global Information Society.