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 Where are we with WSIS?

A stocktaking update

As well as a Declaration of Principles, the 2003 phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) issued a Plan of Action. Is it being put into effect? The answer is yes: there has been real progress in implementing the plan.

By August 2005, WSIS activities to promote the development of an information society accessible to all had reached a total of 2240 worldwide. Half are being undertaken by governments, just over a quarter by international organizations, and the remainder by civil society, businesses and other entities. About 45 per cent of the activities are national in scope and nearly a third are international; the others are carried out at local or regional levels. More than 70 per cent of the activities are relevant to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Database open to all

To keep track of projects, WSIS began a "stocktaking" exercise that issued a preliminary report in February 2005 (see ITU News of April 2005). That has now been updated, and a new WSIS Stocktaking Report will be presented to the second phase of WSIS at Tunis in November. The updating process is continuous. And to allow all stakeholders — and the public in general — to gain a clear picture of the details, a searchable database of WSIS activities has been created (, including hyperlinks to various sources of information. The database is open for new submissions and added information. It is intended as a dynamic resource where anyone can go to find out what the world at large is doing about building the information society.

What’s happening?

WSIS activities show the breadth of efforts to bring the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICT) to everyone. Major categories of project include:

  • National e-strategies ~ Many countries have already announced these ways of focusing work, from Australia (National Broadband Strategy) to Sri Lanka (e-Sri Lanka), to Burkina Faso (La Stratégie de Developpement du Service Universel). Other nations are working to create similar, concrete plans for citizens to gain the benefits of ICT.
  • Multi-stakeholder projects ~ Involving the private sector in partnership with public bodies is an important model for the development of ICT. Among WSIS projects, 47 per cent are of this kind, including the Connect the World initiative launched by ITU in June 2005. (This was the focus of the October issue of ITU News).
  • Infrastructure projects ~ Connectivity is being improved through expanding, upgrading and converging networks to carry new and better services to more people. Projects are also being promoted to use satellite communications to access remote communities.
  • Broadening access to ICT ~ Practical ways to give everyone access to ICT are being developed in many places, such as the telecentres operated as small enterprises in developing countries.
  • International and regional cooperation ~ Because information networks cross national borders, it is essential to foster cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development and security. The APEC Telecommunication and Information Working Group, for example, runs projects to help develop ICT in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Access to information ~ Diverse projects are being carried out to create online libraries and to provide open access to public and research data, as well as to enable people with disabilities to use ICT effectively.
  • Policy and regulation ~ An enabling environment needs to be created to spur investment in ICT and its provision for all. The ITU Global Symposium for Regulators, held at Hammamet, Tunisia immediately before WSIS, is part of efforts to spread knowledge of best practice.
  • Capacity-building ~ Various projects are under way to improve ICT literacy in general, and to upgrade the skills needed to help create and exploit ICT.
  • Online education, medicine, business, government ~ Services at a distance via the Internet are spreading more widely than ever, connecting even isolated communities. Broadcasting and multimedia are being used to provide information and give people a voice, while commercial success is coming to small businesses that gain online access to market data and new sales methods.
  • Security ~ Building confidence in the use of communication networks is the goal of a number of national and regional projects to improve cybersecurity and protect personal privacy.
  • Cultural issues ~ As the Information Society becomes a global reality, infrastructure such as the Internet must reflect the world’s diversity of languages and cultures. Projects to create locally-based software and content are under way at national and regional levels.

    Examples of WSIS activities

    Uganda Village Phone Initiative

    This is intended to create opportunities for poor rural individuals, especially women, to become small entrepreneurs as operators of payphones. One of many success stories is that of Ms. Josephine Namala, who owns a small retail shop in the remote village of Lukonda in the Kayunga district of Uganda. Before she began operating her Village Phone business, people in her community had to walk more than 5 kilometres to make a phone call. Now, in the evenings, large groups of people gather in front of her store with FM radios to listen to call-in talk shows; they use her village phone to call the radio stations and make their opinions heard nationally.

    Widening horizons for urban poor in India

    The Sushiksha Project is a literacy programme initiated by the Institute for International Social Development. As illiteracy is often coupled with poverty, the project addresses a wide spectrum of social needs, including primary and continuing education, women’s economic independence, youth issues and environmental awareness. The Sushika Project covers a population of at least 50 000 slum dwellers in the Kolkata and Midnapores districts of West Bengal. It uses local content and training in ICT skills as a way to improve people’s lives financially, as well to broaden their horizons and help them achieve their potential.

    Colombia protects children from Internet predators

    The government of Colombia has established a national policy on ICT that takes into account the need to protect human rights. The country’s Healthy Internet project, for example, aims to prevent paedophiles and "sexual tourists" from contacting and exploiting children via the Internet. For this purpose, administrative techniques have been developed to inform the community and raise awareness of the issue, with the emphasis on prevention.

    Switzerland offers online trade promotion

    By using appropriate trade promotion programmes, Switzerland is helping small and medium-sized companies in developing countries to improve their market access to Switzerland and the European Union, thereby also helping Swiss importers to find new products and sourcing markets. Making effective use of ICT, the Swiss Import Promotion Programme organizes selling missions, trade fair stands and an online business-to-business platform to offer IT companies in developing countries and Swiss importers the opportunity to interact and create business opportunities for all.

    Can the WSIS goals be achieved?

    In the box below is an outline of the goals identified by WSIS, and the prospects for achieving them within the next ten years, based on data from the ITU (2003) World Telecommunication Development Report: Access Indicators for the Information Society, and the World Bank (2005) Tracking ICTs: WSIS Targets. There is still a long way to go in a number of areas. But there can be no doubt that the commitment remains strong among all stakeholders in the emerging Information Society.

    The Ten WSIS Targets

    Target 1: Connect all villages to the Internet and establish community access points

    GOOD prospects for connecting villages;

    POOR prospects for putting community access points in each village.

    Target 2: Connect all universities and colleges, secondary and primary schools

    VERY GOOD prospects for connecting all universities, colleges and secondary schools;

    GOOD prospects for primary schools.

    Target 3: Connect all scientific and research institutions

    EXCELLENT prospects for this target to be fully achieved.

    Target 4: Connect all public libraries, archives, museums, cultural centres and post offices

    EXCELLENT prospects for connecting libraries, museums and archives;

    VERY GOOD prospects for post offices and cultural centres.

    Target 5: Connect all health centres and hospitals

    EXCELLENT prospects for connecting hospitals;

    VERY GOOD prospects for health centres

    Target 6: Connect all local and central government departments, and establish websites and email addresses for them

    EXCELLENT prospects for connecting central government departments;

    VERY GOOD prospects for local governments.

    Target 7: Adapt all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the Information society, taking into account national circumstances.

    VERY GOOD prospects for ICT in the curricula of secondary schools;

    GOOD prospects for primary schools.

    Target 8: Ensure that the entire world population has access to television and radio services

    EXCELLENT prospects for radio coverage;

    VERY GOOD prospects for television.

    Target 9: Encourage the development of content and put in place technical conditions in order to facilitate the presence and use of all world languages on the Internet

    VERY GOOD prospects for achieving technical conditions for all languages to be available;

    POOR prospects for all languages to be used.

    Target 10: Ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have personal use of ICT

    EXCELLENT prospects for achieving 50 per cent household coverage;

    VERY GOOD prospects for achieving 50 per cent personal ownership of ICT devices.




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    Updated : 2005-11-07