STATEMENT BY MS FAY HOLTHUYZEN, HEAD OF DELEGATION AND
DEPUTY SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND
Mr President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
ladies and gentlemen.
Australia would firstly like to thank the Government and
people of Tunisia for their tremendous effort in hosting this phase of the
World Summit on the Information Society, along with all the others who have
worked so hard to make it a reality.
The WSIS process has provided a valuable opportunity for
all stakeholders to consider vital issues posed by the emerging information
The Australian view of the information society is very
much a positive one. We see information and communications technologies not
as an end in themselves, but rather as the means to some very important
outcomes. These outcomes include economic growth and prosperity, and the
sharing and use of information to enhance personal expression, knowledge,
understanding and social cohesion.
The Australian experience of communications policy has
been one of liberalisation, reducing regulation and promoting competition.
The results of this approach have been very positive in
terms of increased competition, more and better services, greater choice of
content, and lower prices. Details on these outcomes are contained in a
report we have prepared for this Summit to share our experience and which is
published online at www.dcita.gov.au.
When it comes to content, ICTs are providing new ways of
expressing our creativity and we applaud the Australians who received World
Summit Awards here last night.
The development of the Internet in Australia has occurred
largely after the liberalisation of the communications sector. Australia has
never placed restrictions on the establishment of Internet service providers
and market entry requirements are minimal. On generic issues like consumer
protection and fair trading, emphasis is placed on general national laws.
The technical aspects of Internet regulation in
Australia, such as the domain name system, have been left to industry
Internet use in Australia is widespread, with strong
take-up by users in all sectors .
But these are national policies, and the future is
global. We are all now moving into an era where seamless global networks,
based on the Internet Protocol and related digital standards, make
international cooperation more important than ever for public policy. This
is why Internet governance is of such interest to all countries.
There are many dimensions to Internet governance, as the
report of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance shows, and no one
simple set of answers. There is clearly plenty of work for existing
institutions and processes.
At the technical level, the Internet has grown to become
a powerful and truly global infrastructure. It has done so in an environment
which has emphasised the role of the private sector and technical experts,
given civil society new means of participation and placed less reliance on
Australia supports the current Internet oversight and
governance arrangements, but improvements can be made. Australia believes
the best approach is to retain broad arrangements that are tried and proven,
and to undertake considered change from within, where this is needed. We see
this as the best way to ensure that the people of the world derive maximum
benefit, not just from the Internet, but from information and communications
Against this background, Australia looks forward to the
Summit’s endorsement of the ongoing evolution of the current Internet
In Australia’s view, the key issues for public policy are
not about technology itself, but about how technologies are used.
One of the key issues is ensuring that the Internet can
be used by all with trust and confidence. Trust and confidence are under
threat from spam, phishing, spyware, viruses and the criminal activity often
associated with them. By some estimates, this is costing tens of billions of
dollars annually. It is for this reason that Australia has, throughout WSIS,
emphasised the need to develop a culture of cybersecurity to combat spam and
cybercrime generally, to protect privacy and empower consumers – people-centred
measures of direct benefit to everyday Internet users.
These issues can be addressed in part through national
action. But we also recognise that the nature of the Internet requires such
issues to be addressed on the basis of cross-border cooperation and mutual
assistance. Australia has been collaborating with regional neighbours,
particularly in APEC and the Pacific, to help ensure that the use of ICTs is
not undermined by security threats and spam.
We hope the WSIS process will galvanise action in this
area, particularly with the proposed Forum providing a valuable space for
discussing these issues and building commitment to action.
As WSIS has recognised, ICTs can be effective tools in
poverty reduction and sustainable development, particularly where they are
integrated effectively into national development and poverty reduction
strategies. In August 2001, Australia launched a $200 million ICT for
Development initiative in the form of the Virtual Colombo Plan, and will
continue to use ICTs in our aid program, in the context of mutually agreed
development strategies that support our partner governments’ development
WSIS has done much to provide a blueprint for the
development of the information society. Australia looks forward to working
not only with other governments, but with the full range of stakeholders –
business, civil society, technical experts, academia and international
organisations – to help realise this vision and the practical benefits of
the information society for the people of the world.