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Political Leaders Must Address Information Society Issues
Global Governance Framework for ‘Cyberspace’ to be issue
at World Summit
Geneva, 7 November 2002 — Despite the fact that activities based around
the creation, processing and dissemination of information account for more than
80 per cent of employment in the developed world, "In the mind of political
leaders, issues concerning Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are
not yet high on their political agenda," says Mr. Yoshio Utsumi,
Secretary-General of ITU. He made his remarks to the European Regional
Preparatory Meeting for the World Summit on the Information Society in
Bucharest, adding that "the information society will pose new ethical
challenges for political leaders similar to those posed by genetic engineering
in that the information we generate and collect will give us much more power to
control our environment."
Given that the information society covers virtually every aspect of our
lives, Mr. Utsumi outlined what should be achieved by the World Summit on the
Information Society, which is being organized by ITU under the auspices of UN
Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. Mr. Utsumi noted the Summit is needed:
- To raise awareness among political leaders, at the highest levels, of the
implications of the information society and the opportunities and challenges
it will bring in the area of economics, development and governance.
- To tackle the injustice of the digital divide between developed and
developing nations which is characterized by overcapacity, falling prices
and profits for telecommunication operators and manufacturers in the
developed world, while in parts of the developing world investment can’t
keep up with demand and millions of villages lack even a basic phone line.
- To develop new legal and policy frameworks, appropriate to cyberspace, in
order to guarantee fundamental human and intellectual rights while
addressing issues such as cyber-crime, security, taxation, and privacy.
The World Summit on the Information Society represents a unique opportunity
to address these issues and to set the policy agenda for years to come. The
unique ‘two phase’ structure of the Summit provides a chance to refine this
policy agenda and its implementation. The first phase of the Summit will be in
Geneva 10 to 12 December 2003 and the second phase in Tunisia in 2005. "We
must ensure that we attract high-level participation in both phases of the
Summit. To do that, the draft action plan we develop must be forward-looking and
address tomorrow’s problems, not those of today."
For developing countries, the information society provides an opportunity to
free themselves from the constraints imposed by the distribution of natural
resources or terms of trade. "ICTs can also help in nation building for
those countries emerging from a troubled history. But how many political leaders
in the developing world are seriously seeking these opportunities for their
people?" asks Mr. Utsumi.
In recent years, there have been many initiatives designed to tackle the
digital divide. He notes that while a number of these have been successful, we
must seek new and innovative ways of mobilizing investment, by seeking a global
perspective and securing justice. "We must develop programmes of sector
reform based on competition, private sector participation and, most importantly,
with truly global policies and effective regulation. Otherwise the digital
divide will widen further."
About the World Summit on the Information Society
The World Summit on the Information Society offers a unique opportunity for
the global community to reflect, discuss and give shape to our common destiny in
an era when countries and peoples are interconnected as never before. The
anticipated outcome of the Summit is to develop a clear statement of political
will and a concrete plan of action for achieving the goals of the Information
Society, while fully reflecting all the different interests at stake. For more
information consult the website.