The "Tunis Agenda for the Information
Society" and the "Tunis Commitment"
The Summit ended this evening with the adoption of the "Tunis Agenda for the
Information Society" and the "Tunis Commitment." ITU Secretary-General Yoshio
Utsumi commented that these two documents will lead future work in building an
Information Society for all. And so the road does not end in Tunis. "We face the
critical challenge of continuing our actions and leadership to work towards
achieving the goals we committed to in Geneva and Tunis. Let’s work to make them
a reality," he urged.
For his part, Tunisian President Ben Ali thanked Summit participants on
behalf of the government and its people for their unflagging commitment to
achieving tangible results. He added that "constructive efforts of all parties
[will be needed] to create a world that will allow for a more integrated
The last session of plenary also included the contributions of Micronesia,
Saudi Arabia, Burkina Faso, Libya, Niger, Laos, Gambia, Kyrgyzstan, Venezuela,
Bolivia, Peru, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and PrepCom of the Geneva
Phase. All speakers pointed out that implementing WSIS outcomes will require the
establishment of financial mechanisms and the active collaboration of all
stakeholders. In particular, they acclaimed the creation of the Digital
Solidarity Fund as a means to support infrastructure projects that will
contribute to closing the digital divide. "Noble goals can only be achieved if
richer countries make the commitment to share resources with poorer countries,"
said Nenneh Macdoual-Gaye, Secretary of State for Communication, Information and
Technology of Gambia.
Representatives of international organizations, local authorities, civil
society, scientific organizations, the business community, youth, indigenous
peoples and gender organizations also presented reports on their activities
during the WSIS preparatory period and at the Tunis Summit itself. Participants
at the last plenary and the closing ceremony supported the idea that the Tunis
Summit marks the beginning of a new era in which the principles and goals agreed
upon during the Geneva and Tunis meetings now need to be put into action.
Earlier on this morning, the WSIS plenary opened with a statement from the
Kingdom of Swaziland calling for closer cooperation to bridge the digital divide
to ensure that all peoples can take advantage of the opportunities that the
For Lynette Eastmond, Minister of Commerce and Business Development of
Barbados, in order "to fight the ills of the world, poverty, disease, the
effects of natural disasters, we should seek to exploit the power of ICTs."
While many emphasized the benefits and positive aspects of the Internet,
along with countries’ efforts to date to embrace the many opportunities it
brings, some speakers also mentioned some more negative aspects, where caution
and carefully focused efforts are required. Malaysia’s Minister of Energy Water
and Communications, among many others, drew attention to the criminal use of the
Internet. Spam, phishing, and online fraud must be addressed, speakers noted,
and governments have a crucial role to play in dealing with cybersecurity
The much-awaited statement from the United States was
delivered by John Marburger, Special Representative of President and the
President's Science and Technology Adviser. He emphasized the need to take
further steps towards realizing access for all. The dependence on, and
increasing importance of, the Internet had grown tremendously over the last few
years. This growth, he noted, was evidence that the machinery of the Internet is
working and that many countries can thank the Internet for the creation of new
jobs. The United States reiterated its commitment to spurring the development of
the Internet and stands willing to work together with all parties on issues that
prohibit its further evolution, Mr Marburger told participants. He went on to
stress that the existing structure of the Internet had worked well, and has made
the Net what it is today. The United States, therefore, stands behind the open
governance structure that has brought the Internet its success. Mr Marburger
also emphasized that the United States stands firm in its statement to do no
harm to "a system that is working so well".
Other countries and entities that delivered statements in
this morning’s plenary included: The Holy See, Bangladesh, Yemen, the Maldives,
Samoa, Azerbaijan, Brunei Darussalam, Timor Leste, Malawi, Afghanistan, Islamic
Republic of Iran, Guinea, Benin, Kenya, Ecuador, Cyprus, Uzbekistan, Belarus,
Uganda, Albania, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), IP Justice, the Universal
Postal Union (UPU), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Federation of
Engineering Organizations (WFEO), the United Nations Institute for Training and
Research (UNITAR), the Council of Europe (CoE), the Internet Society (ISOC) and
the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
ITU and KADO release "Building Digital Bridges" report
Friday morning also saw ITU, together with the Ministry of Information and
Communication of the Republic of Korea (MIC) and the Korea Agency for Digital
Opportunity and Promotion (KADO), release the report Building Digital Bridges.
The report compiles background papers and case studies on best practices for
measuring the Digital Divide and collecting ICT data, as well as on the role of
multi-stakeholder partnerships and technical solutions for closing the gap.
On hand to present the report were ITU’s Tim Kelly, Head of the Strategy and
Policy Unit, and Lilia Perez-Chavolla, along with Cheung Moon Cho of KADO.
National efforts to measure internal divides have focused on determining
differences in the level of ICT penetration across income groups and among
specific groups across time, requiring very detailed data collection to provide
useful policy guidelines. The case of the Korean Personal Informatization Index
(PII), discussed in the report, is an example of this type of national
evaluation. PII was developed by KADO to evaluate the level of digital
opportunity for the Republic of Korea’s citizens.
Case studies on Australia and Hong Kong (China) illustrate practices which
have been successful in overcoming some of the problems of the statistical
divide regarding the collection, dissemination and policy application of ICT
statistics. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, for instance, is ranked among
the top statistical offices in the world because of its high standards in
collecting data, according to the report. Likewise, Hong Kong is a leader in the
adoption of ICT and in the regular collection and diffusion of ICT data,
including household and business use of ICT. Even given the significant
differences between Australia and Hong Kong in terms of geography and
demographics, similarities in their strategies in terms of ICT statistics
gathering suggest successful practices that could be replicated elsewhere,
according to the report.
Cultural memory and diversity
The World Culture Forum Alliance held a workshop this morning on "cultural
memory and diversity" in the transition from information-based to knowedge-based
societies. The panel included a wide range of viewpoints, from the founder of
Wikipedia to the director of the Library of Alexandria. The discussion began by
acknowledging the dual nature of culture, which can be either a tangible product
(for example, the subject of trade) or intangible notions such as values or
social norms. It is clear that no single institution can hold all the world’s
cultural knowledge. The new model that has emerged, based on sharing and
distributing knowledge through networks to a large number of computers and
memory devices, was seen as a key mechanism for preserving our collective
Nonetheless, the panel expressed concern that, with the explosion in
connectivity and information, cultural outputs may be de-contextualized. When
appearing in isolation, they can be seen as mere "objects", devoid of their
important social and cultural context. The notion of the encyclopaedia was
discussed because it is closely related to preserving cultural memory. On the
one hand, the objective of an encyclopaedia is to include all of human
knowledge, which is a near-impossible task. But the model of Wikipedia, which
allows thousands of people to contribute to the total base of human knowledge,
was considered to be more scaleable.
As an open system based on community participation and free licensing, the
knowledge stored within Wikipedia can be copied and distributed at will.
Although this has many positive repercussions, the panel noted that copyrights
are important to safeguard the interests of the creators of cultural objects and
art, particularly those stemming from indigenous communities.
Cultural diversity may be threatened by new technologies, but it is also a
valuable approach to think about the rich remixing of cultures at the
international level. In a global context, we must rethink the cognitive
relationship we have with our world. In this respect, the "we" is not only the
family, but also the community, the planet, the collective memory.
No modernity is possible without being rooted in tradition. Still, in our
endeavour to preserve culture, we must not neglect our need to create new
cultural diversity, as our cultural identity takes on new dimensions in
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (
iss the only library that was "born digital", said director Ismail Serageldin at
an event on the library’s contribution to the Information Society. In addition
to being a major library, it carries out free education programmes, is a meeting
place for dialogue and understanding,and serves as a forum promoting political
reform, as demonstrated by the 2004 Alexandria Declaration adopted at the
Conference on Arab Reform. At WSIS Tunis, the Library launched the Arab
Information Mall (www.arabinfomall.org/En/index.aspx?orgid=-1),
a forum for Arab civil society.
Google was bringing content online by digitizing books, said Google’s Ethan
Beard. Contrary to recent media coverage, Google aimed to preserve copyright and
the rights of authors and has a partnership with publishers to help them reach
readers. Another partnership with libraries was focused on digitizing books,
including the 20 per cent of books published before 1923 that are now in the
public domain. Speakers noted that today, some 80 per cent of books are out of
print, 20 per cent are copyrighted and available, and 60 per cent had unclear
copyright status. Google has created an ideal library catalogue card on-line,
with the goal of creating a searchable, comprehensive catalogue that would one
day allow users to search all the world’s books.
Creating digital archives and making books available on-line 100 years from
now was one of Microsoft’s projects, said the Seattle-based compaby’s Michael
Thatcher. The company was using ICT to preserve local languages, get technology
to children, and make Arabic more available on line by providing content. At
WSIS, Microsoft introduced its first-ever Arabic version of Windows.
"Nicholas Negroponte and I got very impatient with vendors who didn’t know
there are children in the world, and who work solely for business," said MIT
Professor Alan Kay, one of the creators of the $100 laptop (
unveiled in Tunis on 16 November 2005. Low-cost- open sourced based machines
such as the $100 laptop could in the future allow disadvantaged children to
read, write, learn and think.
Software for development
The United Nations Development Programme/Asia-Pacific Development Information
Programme (UNDP-APDIP) hosted a morning workshop on the subject of "software for
development". The panel featured, among others, Richard Stallman, the founder of
the free software movement.
Participants confirmed their belief that communication is a basic human
right, and that software plays a key role in enabling that communication.
Panelists reminded the audience that the essential values of freedom, equality
and solidarity were enshrined in the 2000 UN Millennium Declaration. The
principles behind free and open source software (FOSS) are very much the same:
they recognize human freedom, and in particular the freedom to use software when
you wish, change it when you want, copy it as needed and distribute it to others
who might need it.
The importance of FOSS in the context of fundamental freedoms must be
emphasized, rather than the need to merely provide cheap and powerful software,
said speakers. FOSS represents another opportunity for developing countries, and
can encourage innovation and adoption of ICT. It helps people to break free from
imposed and costly software solutions, and to freely access global communication
and information networks.
Patent laws should be reformed to support and not discourage innovation,
participants said.They called on the United Nations to take a leading
role in fostering productive open source partnerships, to liberate the poor and
empower them to use technology for social and economic development. Governments,
they urged, must be cognizant of the benefits offered by FOSS, and reflect these
principles in their procurement policies.
The "Sharing the Future" initiative
"Sharing the Future" is an initiative (
of UNDP and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). It
aims to assist small-and medium-size enterprises (SME) as well as
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), according to UNIDO’s Hans Pruim. At a
round-table session, UNIDO’s Sayaphol Sackda demonstrated the "COMFAR III"
software, which helps SMEs and NGOs in their short- and long-term investment
projects. COMFAR was a success story in the Islamic Republic of Iran, said S.
Yazdani of Tehran’s NPSN Investment Company, having generated investments worth
USD 65 million. COMFAR allowed Nigerian companies to not only reduce
climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, but also to benefit from the carbon
emissions trade under the Kyoto Protocol, said Felix Dayo of Nigeria’s Lube
Oils. Under that scheme, developing countries could sell carbon credits for
emission-reducing projects to wealthy countries, introducing clean technologies
and earning revenues at the same time.
On another front, nearly 5,000 people in Pakistan – most notably women
have been trained to use free and open source software, said Fouad Bajwa of
Pakistan’s Free and Open Source Foundation (
who added that with UNDP and government support, the NGO was promoting "ICT
literacy, fluency and education" through software awareness campaigns and
measures to combat software piracy.
India’s Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (
is building partnerships for knowledge-sharing, particularly in the areas of ICT
for development, e-governance and e-learning, said the Centre’s Anuradha Dhar.
"E-governance means e-government plus e-democracy," commented Steven Segaert of
the Estonian E-Learning Academy (www.ega.ee),
a non-profit entity that trains ministers and government officials on how to
improve their efficiency.
Africa’s female entrepreneurs need ICT to increase productivity and improve
procurement and marketing, said Ms Opportune Santos of Togo’s Information
Network for Women’s Entrepreneurs. "Even women from the informal sector use ICT
and mobile phones to increase revenue," she said. "When they arrive at the Lom
market, they don’t walk around any
more -– they sit down and make phone calls."
Bridging the policy gap between the Information Society and
A panel discussion on sustainable development saw five researchers present
the results of case studies in a number of countries (Costa Rica, Egypt, India,
and South Africa) that revealed the policy gap between sustainable development
and the Information Society. There is a clear need for greater dialogue between
two historically distinct communities - the ICT world and the sustainable
development world, speakers said.
Participants stressed theimportance of expanding sustainable
development into an integrated and holistic approach – one that draws on the
cumulative agreements such as the Millennium Development Goals and Agenda 21,
along with the WSIS outcomes. Agenda 21 is the Rio Declaration on Environment
and Development, adopted by more than 178 Governments at the United Nations
Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janerio
A speaker from South Africa presented the view that local content must
include notions of sustainable development. But defining local content, he said,
was a challenging task. He cited the definition by Pierre Ballantyne in 2002,
according to which it is the "expression of the locally owned and adapted
knowledge of a community - where the community is defined by its location,
culture, language, or area of interest". In terms of local content, the current
context in South Africa is on "arts, culture, heritage and indigenous
A speaker from India suggested exploring the possibility of setting up a
single agency or network to provide an overarching framework to bring together
all advances towards the Information Society, sustainable development and
grassroots participation. A starting point, he said, would be to compile success
stories and use them to guide future developments.
A speaker from Egypt focused on the limited amount of land available for
cultivation and the associated problems of irrigation. In this context, he
underscored the crucial role of ICT, and in particular that of global
information systems for supporting local development. She said that it was
important for local communities and civil society organizations to be given the
tools to participate in information-gathering, analysis, decision-making as well
Gender inequality is an obstacle to sustainable development, a speaker from
Costa Rica commented. A mere increase in the numbers of women in educational
institutions is not enough. In Costa Rica, for instance, there is a wide
discrepancy between the number of women graduating with IT degrees and those
that pursue IT careers (for example, only 7 per cent of owners or managers of IT
companies are women). To encourage women to enter and remain in science and
technology professions, it is important to provide gender-neutral training or
education and better working conditions, and to move away from the stereotypical
depiction of professional roles (such as images in the media and elsewhere that
show IT professionals as predominantly male). Overall, there is insufficient
interaction between gender equity and Iformation Society agendas, despite the
fact that the latter depends on the former, participants said.
Wikipedia – the world’s free encyclopaedia
Wikipedia is a free-content encyclopaedia that can be read and edited by
anyone, anywhere. Developed by the "Wikipedian" community of tens – or even
hundreds - of thousands of people, no article has a single author. Instead,
contributors work together, sharing what they know to edit and improve the
content. CEO Jimmy Wales of parent organization Wikimedia said his main concern
was keeping up with demand. Not only is Wikipedia the world’s fastest growing
Internet phenomenon, but with 800,000 articles in English alone, it is also
three to four times larger than the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Encarta
combined. Now one of the top 40 websites in the world, it has overtaken the
audience numbers of many mainstream media, according to Wales.
Some argue that allowing anyone to edit makes Wikipedia an unreliable
resource, as there is no formal peer-review process for fact-checking. Others
are unconditionally enthusiastic about the site.
Astonishingly, Wikipedia itself is run by just two employees, since the
community is entirely made up of volunteers. Only around two per cent of people
comprise the core contributors, while the vast majority simply chat to each
other about their pet topics. The site retains its neutrality by remaining a
non-profit concern. Wikipedia is available in 116 languages and aims to promote
cultural diversity and the freedom of speech. In particular, it aims to give a
platform to indigenous peoples. As it expands, it allows for cross-linguistic
browsing as Wikipedians enthusiastically direct others to interesting topics.