The resumed session of PrepCom-3 finally closed its doors at around 23:25,
with a final text approved by all delegates just ahead of the official start of
the Tunis Summit.
The crucial agreement on Internet governance was reached at around 22:10. The
final text of what will become Chapter 3 of the Summit output document contains
breakthroughs in several areas, including agreement on the creation of a new
Forum, at the invitation of the UN Secretary-General, recognition that all
governments have an equal role and responsibility, the start of a new process of
enhanced cooperation between all relevant organizations, and a set of deadlines
for spurring and monitoring progress. The text agreed in Geneva is now also
supplemented with new paragraphs on cybercrime and cybersecurity.
WSIS Opening Press Conference:
Organizers are upbeat
At a press conference on the eve of the Tunis phase of the World Summit on
the Information Society (WSIS), ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi said he was
satisfied with the logistical arrangements for one of the biggest events in the
history of the United Nations. He announced to journalists gathered at the Kram
Conference and Exhibition Centre, that 23’000 participants had already
registered for the event, with 12’000 arrivals recorded so far. Some 173
countries are represented at the Summit, with over 50 Heads of State and
Government expected to attend the event, which formally opens on 16 November.
More than 300 parallel events are planned, hosted by international
organizations, industry and civil society groups, reflecting the
multi-stakeholder approach of the WSIS process. ITU has itself launched the
Connect the World initiative, and has a pavilion showcasing partners and
their projects. The first phase of WSIS, held in Geneva on 10-12 December 2003,
reached a milestone with the unanimous endorsement of a Declaration of
Principles and Plan of Action by the world’s political leaders. The Declaration
of Principles describes the values that a truly inclusive information society
must embrace and foster. The Plan of Action spells out ten targets to turn this
vision into reality.
The Tunis phase is being dubbed the "Summit of Solutions". But, as PrepCom-3
negotiations continued this morning, compromise had yet to be reached on
implementation mechanisms of the WSIS action plan, as well as the key issue of
Mr Utsumi said he was pleased with progress in the negotiations so far,
especially the headway made this morning on Internet governance. A basic
resource for social and economic development, governments need to carry out
their roles and responsibilities in terms of public policy issues, although not
engage in day-to-day technical arrangements. "One country cannot arbitrarily
manage this resource," he said, adding that "management should be more
democratic and multilateral," and that countries need agreement to work on an
equal footing. A new level of commitment is now evident at the political level,
as well as from civil society and the private sector.
At the WSIS opening press conference at 14:15, Mr Utsumi said he was
confident that the world could be connected by 2015, including the 800 000
villages that remain without information and communication technologies (ICT).
"In order to connect these villages we need about USD 1 billion," Mr Utsumi
said. "Every year about USD 100 billion is invested in the mobile telephone
system, so only 1 per cent of this amount is needed to achieve the target." He
went on to profile the Stocktaking Report - one of the major outputs of the WSIS
process - along with a Golden Book of initiatives and announcements that
will be maintained online.
Resumed Prep-Com 3: The unfinished business
Sub-committee A from PrepCom-3, chaired by Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan,
is trying to hammer out some sort of compromise on how the Internet should be
run. Sub-committee B, chaired by Ms Lyndall Shope-Mafole (South Africa) is to
try to resolve everything else, notably the implementation and follow-up of the
WSIS Plan of Action and the wording and financial mechanisms of the political
Internet governance: In search of common ground
The heart of the Internet governance debate revolves around who sets the
rules for managing key Internet resources such as domain names and Internet
As the globalized Internet becomes a critical element of infrastructure
everywhere, many stakeholders in the WSIS process recognize that an Internet in
which any single government has a pre-eminent role is no longer acceptable, nor
is it sustainable. The idea of a global forum seems attractive to many
participants, but how such a forum would function or be financed are still being
Meanwhile, in a session of Sub-Committee A, Canada,
Switzerland and Singapore presented the reports of their drafting groups on some
of the outstanding issues. Venezuela proposed to add the words "international
management of the Internet" to alternate paragraph 75 (Room Document 24, 15
November). But this met with strong opposition from the United States, Canada,
Japan, and Australia. The United States pointed out that including these words
would change the intention of the paragraph, which, in that country’s view,
included three important concepts: the agreement to enhanced cooperation; the
identification of an important area for such cooperation, and the agreement on
maintaining the decentralized management of the Internet. Chairman Khan
requested Venezuela to meet with the delegates of the opposing Member States in
a bid to reach agreement on the text.
Towards the "Tunis Commitment"
In Sub-Committee B, delegates continued negotiations of the "Tunis
Commitment", the WSIS political document. They agreed on a section of the text
provided by a drafting group, chaired by Egypt and the United States, on the
role governments can play in building a people-centred, inclusive and
development-oriented information society.
Freedom of opinion and expression was also discussed on the basis of a text
provided by a drafting group, chaired by Iran and Norway. The text would
reaffirm the language of the Declaration of Principles adopted at the Geneva
phase of the Summit, and in furthering that agreement would recognize the
freedom to seek, receive and impart information, knowledge and ideas of all
kinds, regardless of frontiers.
In particular, governments would commit themselves to promoting and
protecting freedom of expression, including the media; would deem such freedom
increasingly key to development and to pluralistic, prosperous and socially
stable societies; and would recognize that this freedom carries with it duties
Ms Shope-Mafole pointed out that the room was "clearly
divided" on the proposed paragraph and urged Member States, particularly the
United Kingdom, to find language that would meet the concerns of all.
The Russian Federation, supported by Switzerland, proposed
giving the Norway-Iran drafting group another chance to reach a compromise on
the text. Representatives from Cuba, Switzerland, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia and
Canada pointed out that the Norway-Iran proposal was reopening issues that were
discussed and negotiated at length in Geneva. Canada and Norway stated that
freedom of the press was essential for development.
Information Society 2015: Building the Way Forward
ITU held a High-Level Panel on 15 November to discuss the
future challenges of the information society, as well as innovative solutions
and effective policies for bridging the digital divide.
Panellists included Philippe Mvouo, Minister for Post,
Telecommunications and New Information and Communication Technologies, Republic
of the Congo; Tarek Kamel, Minister of Communications and Information, Egypt;
Jorge Alvarez, Vice-Minister of Communications and Transportation, Mexico;
Yeongi Son, President of the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion,
Republic of Korea; Sabiletso Mokoe-Matabane, CEO, Sentech, South Africa; Simon
Beresford Wylie, Executive Vice- President and General Manager of Networks,
Nokia; and Stephen Collins, Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Skype.
Chaired by Aiko Doden, WSIS Goodwill Ambassador and presenter
with Japan Broadcasting Corporation, the panel focused on the theme of
"Information Society 2015: Building the Way Forward". As ITU Secretary-General
Yoshio Utsumi stated in his opening remarks, both developed and developing
economies are facing new challenges in an environment of rapid innovation and
convergence. He stressed the need "to ensure that the benefits of ICT are
extended to all of the world’s inhabitants." In his keynote speech,
Mr Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Vice President of Ghana, highlighted that
"global partners for development are fundamental in the promotion of the
information society in our individual countries."
The panel discussion that followed centred around innovation
dynamics, trends in ICT policy and regulation, and financing for bridging the
digital divide at national and international levels. Given the great success of
mobile communications, Nokia put forth its vision that life will continue to go
mobile, particularly in the developing world. The importance of
technology-neutral regulation was highlighted by a number of panellists.
One of the key issues receiving much media attention of late
is the growing user base of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), for example,
through services like Skype. For Skype, its acquisition by EBay is a clear
signal of confidence not only in the future of the company itself but also in
the overall shift to IP communications. In that respect, many panelists agreed
that voice data is no different from any other data service, and that
interconnection agreements should be negotiated between service providers to
stimulate market development.
The Grameen Foundation Project in Bangladesh offers an example of how both
financing and business strategies can work together to bring communication to
people who earn less than one dollar a day. According to Peter Bladin, Vice
President, Grameen Foundation, USA and Director Grameen Technology Center, ten
years ago, Grameen applied for the first mobile licence in Bangladesh. Back
then, the organization had 600’000 fixed lines for a population of 140 million.
Grameen now has 40 million subscribers. In 175’000 villages, access is available
through a "sharing model". The end result is affordable communications for 100
million people who 10 years ago had no communication access at all.
Protecting children from sexual exploitation
Children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, and their rights should
be reflected in the final "blueprint" document of the second phase of the World
Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), panellists said at a meeting organized
by End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for
Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Sexual abuse of children, through, for example, pornography or trafficking,
is one of the fastest-growing and most insidious computer-related crimes
worldwide. The rights of children to be protected from abuse are enshrined in
law (Convention on the Rights of the Child) in 190 countries across the world.
This, however, has not stopped child abuse from escalating; worse still, it has
grown into a lucrative business. The total value of revenues from child abuse
ranges from USD 3 billion to 20 billion, according to FBI figures.
New paths to violence and risk in cyberspace are growing,
with the emergence of mobile Internet, P2P file sharing, instant messaging, chat
rooms, multi-player interactive and fantasy games, web cameras and wireless game
consoles. The impact of child abuse in the virtual world is very real: physical
trauma, depression, low self-esteem, hunger, self-harm, exhaustion, aggressive
behaviour and fear. ECPAT presented the report Violence Against Children in
Cyberspace as part of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on
"Violence Against Children."
Greater cooperation is required at the policy-making level and among private
sector players (for example codes of conduct among Internet service providers).
International conventions and global industry standards are seen as crucial. The
Convention on Cybercrime (i.e. article 9 on principles and article 13 on
sanctions) initiated by the Council of Europe, is an important starting point, as
the first binding instrument to deal with child abuse in cyberspace. The
Convention is open to all countries in the world. It is hoped that a working
group of international stakeholders on e-child protection will emerge from the WSIS process.
Indicators to measure the information society
In less than eighteen months, the Partnership for Measuring ICT for
Development has established a set of core indicators that will help political
leaders in allocating scarce resources. According to participants, the
indicators measure ICT infrastructure and access; access to and use of ICT by
individuals and households; use of ICT by business; and the ICT sector and trade
in ICT goods.
"These data will be used to make crucial decisions and to avoid duplication
and waste of scarce resources", said Hamadoun Touré, Director of the ITU
Telecommunication Development Bureau, at the event "Measuring the Information
The Partnership involves 11 organizations – OECD, Eurostat, the World Bank,
the UN ICT Task Force, the International Telecommunication Union, UNESCO and the
five UN Regional Commissions (see