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United Nations adopts Resolution on the World Summit on the Information Society

Summit to Address ‘Digital Divide’, Harness Development Potential of Information and Communication Technologies

Geneva, 9 January 2002 — The United Nations has taken a major step toward bridging the 'Digital Divide' with the adoption, by the General Assembly, of a resolution which welcomes the organization of the World Summit on the Information Society. The Summit, which is expected to promote access by all countries to information, knowledge and communications technologies for development, is to be held in two phases, the first in Geneva in 2003 and the second in Tunisia in 2005 and is being convened under the high patronage of the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will be taking the lead role in the Summit preparations, in cooperation with other interested organizations and partners.

"A technological revolution is transforming society in a profound way. If harnessed and directed properly, information and communication technologies (ICT) have the potential to improve all aspects of our social, economic and cultural life. ICTs can serve as an engine for development in the 21st century, yet the majority of the world’s population has yet to benefit from the new technology," says Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "This global gathering will be a unique opportunity for all key players to develop a shared vision of ways to bridge the digital divide and create a truly global information society."

The resolution [A/RES/56/183] calls on governments to actively participate in Summit preparations and to be represented at the highest possible level. It has also asked for the active participation and effective contribution in the Summit and its preparations by all relevant United Nations and intergovernmental organizations, including international and regional institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations, the civil society and the private sector. ITU will work to create synergies and develop cooperation among the various ICT initiatives at the regional and global level.

"ITU is a leading player in telecommunications and is proud to have contributed to the ICT revolution. But our expectations for a bright future can only be met if we bridge the digital divide that exists within and between our nations. For true progress will be measured by our ability to provide all sectors with the skills and knowledge they need in this century," says Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of ITU. "The Summit is expected to produce a shared vision among world leaders, the private sector and the NGO community on how to bring about sustainable development through ICTs, Utsumi added."

The World Summit on the Information Society is an initiative of the 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference of ITU. It is being endorsed by the General Assembly as an effective means to assist the United Nations in fulfilling the goals of the Millennium Declaration — the landmark document adopted by a record number of leaders when they met during the Millennium Summit to address the key challenges of our time. Secretary General Kofi Annan states, "the Millennium Summit recognized the key role of partnerships involving governments, bilateral and multilateral development agencies, the private sector and other stakeholders in putting ICTs in the service of development."

The General Assembly has also invited the international community to make voluntary contributions to a special trust fund established by the International Telecommunication Union to support the Summit as well as to facilitate the effective participation of representatives of developing countries, in particular those from the least developed countries.

The proposed themes of the Summit address the central issues raised by the Information Society and will likely include:

  • Building the infrastructure
  • Opening the gates: universal and equitable access to the information society
  • Services and applications
  • The needs of the user
  • Developing a framework
  • ICT and education

Under each of these broad themes, consideration will be given to the relevant developmental, economic, policy, social, cultural and technological aspects. A series of preparatory meetings will be held in 2002, beginning with the first PrepCom from 1-5 July 2002 in Geneva.

Additional information about the World Summit on the Information Society can be found at wsis.itu.int. The full text of the Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly can be found here.


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Updated : 2004-01-06