STATEMENT BY H. E. MR. YOSHIO UTSUMI
SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATION
Tunis, 16 November 2005
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the government and people of Tunisia for hosting
this Summit. The hosting of a UN Summit of this magnitude is a big challenge
for any country.
We started on the long journey to Tunis some seven years ago, when the
government of Tunisia proposed to hold a World Summit on the Information
During those seven years, we have accomplished much. We have shared the
vision of an Information Society that is people-centered, inclusive and
development-oriented. An Information Society where information and
communication technology is a vital tool to promote sustainable development
and to improve the quality of life. A society where anyone, anywhere has an
opportunity to participate and no one is excluded from the benefits the
Information Society offers.
Here in the Tunis phase of the Summit, we will be closing one chapter; on
the development of a common vision of the Information Society, and we will
be opening a new and much bigger chapter; on the implementation of that
In this endeavor, however, we should really recognize the true value of
information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a central theme in
national development policies. And we must develop the concept of a new
principle for the information society.
ICTs are changing our society in ways which are as fundamental as the
changes wrought by steam engines in the 19th Century or motor
cars in the 20th Century. As those machines did, ICTs help us to
be more productive and efficient than ever before in order to fulfill our
desire for a better life.
During an earlier stage of social development, we passed from an
agricultural economy to an industrial one driven by those machines. But if
we have to wait for all countries to pass through the same process of
development, I fear the developing world would never close the gap. However,
ICTs can help countries to leapfrog this development process, by moving
directly to an information-based society.
Flat-rate pricing models of communication services are eliminating the
tyranny of distance and remoteness. In fact, for those who use the Internet
or Internet telephony, distance no longer exists.
ICTs give us the power of access to information and thereby to harness
democracy, avoid misunderstanding and foster world peace.
We have, in our grasp, the opportunity to build a more just and equitable
information society, in which the developing world even with disadvantages
such as lack of industrialization or remoteness, for the first time has a
real chance to catch up with the developed world.
But with these new opportunities come new threats. The emergence of the
Information Society risks widening the existing digital divide if
"have-nots" cannot follow.
The Geneva Plan of Action provides us with a roadmap of where we should
go and how to get there. Two critical elements are the development of basic
infrastructure and the provision of training and education to make the best
use of it.
The challenge we are now facing is, in short, to implement these two
elements. So how should we go about it?
I believe what is required is a new pact between "haves" and "have-nots".
When discussing the WSIS texts, we have too often assumed that promoting
ICTs for development means just another type of traditional assistance. But
that’s not true. In the Information Society, we become richer by sharing
what we have, not by hoarding it.
The new pact will not obey the normal rules of negotiation of give and
take. It will be based on mutual self-interest.
In the old world of finite natural resources—like oil, coal or
iron ore—one country’s exploitation of those resources meant there were less
available for other countries. But in the new world of infinite
information resources, one country’s creation of wealth based on information
can be shared by all. The value of information increases, the more it is
If we are able to create a new generation of digitally-literate consumers
in the developing world, it will be to the benefit of information-producing
countries. And if developing countries themselves are able to become
creators of information, then consumers in the developed world will benefit.
It is a win-win game. To equip the developing world with ICTs is not a mere
While we were still discussing endlessly about the financial mechanism at
PrepComs, some member states and local governments responded quickly and
created the Digital Solidarity Found.
When ITU invited stakeholders to join the Connect the World initiative
this summer, many companies, governments, NGOs and international
organizations immediately came on board as partners. And more continue to
We are indeed changing. There is a genuine desire to move beyond lofty
words and grand promises.
The goal of creating a people-centered, inclusive global Information
Society is a task for all stakeholders, not just governments.
The WSIS process itself has been a learning process in which we have been
trying to identify the role of private sector and civil society in the new
international order. Although we cannot claim to have been totally
successful in embracing a multi-stakeholder approach, we have gone further
in this direction than any previous UN Summit.
The challenges to the conventional sovereign state are never greater than
in the realm of cyberspace. The traditional principles of "national
sovereignty" that have been applied to telecommunications—namely that each
state regulates its telecommunications in the way it sees fit— are not
working for the Internet.
Unlike traditional telecommunications, the Internet which started in one
country has penetrated everywhere before sovereign states could step in.
Now that the Internet has become a basic element of infrastructure for
any nation, it is very natural that nations claim their sovereignty over the
Internet as they do over the traditional telecommunication infrastructure.
However, the value of the Internet lies in the value of information
created and consumed by users rather than in the infrastructure itself. So,
Internet Governance requires a multi-stakeholder approach in which providers
and users of information alike agree to cooperate on issues like security,
privacy protection and efficient operation at international level.
That is why we have suffered such agonies in our discussion of Internet
Governance. The existing models do not work well. We need to embrace a new
model for "communication sovereignty".
What matters is that everyone be guaranteed to have access to information
and to communicate with others rather than to control the means of
Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and the
foundation of all social organization. We must fight to defend the "right to
communicate" rather than the "right to govern".
In order to guarantee the right to communicate, we must first solve
issues of connectivity. And when it comes to technical issues, an
international technical institution such as the ITU is best placed to ensure
Ladies and Gentlemen,
These are just a few examples of issues which are not governed by the
traditional principles or logic. We all must share a new equation if we wish
to achieve the Information Society we started to envisage two years ago in
We still have a long way to go. This Summit is not an end but just a
In conclusion, I am proud to have served as the Secretary-General for the
World Summit on the Information Society. I feel truly honored to have been
given the opportunity to serve the international community at this key
moment of change in its history. As the wheel of change continues to turn,
we must work together to create a more just and equitable Information