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
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 (www.itu.int/wsis/stocktaking), 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.
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
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
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
Target 2: Connect all universities and
colleges, secondary and primary schools
prospects for connecting all universities, colleges and secondary
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
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
VERY GOOD prospects for health centres
Target 6: Connect all local and central government departments, and
establish websites and email addresses for them
prospects for connecting central government
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
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
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
prospects for achieving technical conditions for all languages to be
POOR prospects for all languages to be used.
Target 10: Ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have
personal use of ICT
for achieving 50 per cent household coverage;
VERY GOOD prospects for achieving 50 per cent personal
ownership of ICT devices.