Strong Commitment from Heads of State and Government
Geneva, 15 September 2003 – The third meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on the Information Society (September 15-26) began with commitments from more than 40 Heads of State and Government to attend the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society to be held in Geneva, 10-12 December 2003. “The interest expressed by leaders from both the developed and developing world is evidence of how information and communication technologies (ICTs) are transforming the global economy and society,” said Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). He also noted, “there is widespread recognition among leaders that collective action is required to address the digital divide and its implications for broader social and economic development.”
The United Nations General Assembly mandated the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as lead organizing agency for the Summit with support from the rest of United Nations family and under the patronage of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The two-phase Summit is hosted by the Governments of Switzerland (Geneva, 10-12 December 2003) and Tunisia (Tunis, 16-18 November 2005).
The Preparatory Committee meeting, which runs from 15-26 September, will continue work on a draft Declaration of Principles and Action Plan in order to harness the power of ICTs as a tool for development and to create an information society that benefits people of all regions in the world. The draft Declaration and Action plan will be submitted for the approval of Heads of State attending the Summit. The documents are available
Information society issues under discussion during the preparatory process and at the Summit include: security, privacy, Spam, universal and affordable access to ICTs, open source software, as well as ICT applications for health, learning, business, employment, environment and government. The need to ensure cultural and linguistic diversity in cyberspace as well as freedom of expression in the information society will also be addressed.
Global targets for the action plan to be considered during the third preparatory meeting include:
All villages to be connected by 2010, with a community access point by 2015.
All universities to be connected by 2005, secondary schools by 2010 and primary schools by 2015.
All hospitals to be connected by 2005, and health centres by 2010.
All of the world's population to have access to domestic radio services by 2010 and domestic TV services by 2015.
The necessary technical conditions should be in place by 2010 to permit all world languages to be present and used on the Internet.
Mr Utsumi, called on worlds leaders to meet the tremendous expectations raised by the emergence of ICTs as essential components for social and economic development and said “that bold actions are required in order to create an information society that will benefit all. He added that “the constructive and cooperative atmosphere of the preparatory process gives me optimism that stakeholders will agree to a concrete and visionary plan of action to address the most pressing issues before us.”
Mr Marc Furrer, Director of OFCOM and Head of the Swiss Delegation to the Preparatory Committee, also said he was pleased with the response from world leaders to date, but challenged leaders of the developed world to show the same measure of commitment as expressed by those in the developing world. “The Summit presents the opportunity to forge creative and enduring partnerships between countries in the developed and developing world as well as with the private sector, civil society and the media.”
Mr Adama Samassékou, President of the Preparatory Committee, noted that “our third session is critical to the success of the Summit as we must finalize the work on the Declaration and Plan of Action. This will be possible if we embrace the “spirit of Paris”, which was characterized by actively listening to each other, by more interactivity and cooperation between the different stakeholders, as well as by the commitment for a strong consensus and for creating a new international solidarity, without avoiding the most controversial issues.”
The World Summit on the Information Society provides a unique opportunity for all key stakeholders to develop a common vision and understanding and to address the whole range of relevant issues related to the Information Society.
It aims to bring together Heads of State, Executive Heads of the United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society entities, industry leaders and media representatives to foster a clear statement of political will and concrete plan of action to shape the future of the global information society and to promote the urgently needed access of all countries to information, knowledge and communication technologies for development.
The Summit has been endorsed by the UN General Assembly and will take place under the auspices of Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, with the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations specialized agency for telecommunications, taking the lead role in its preparation.
The Summit will take place in two phases: Geneva (10-12 December 2003) and Tunis (16-18 November 2005).