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Path Towards Information Society for All Takes Shape:
Declaration and Action Plan Outlined

PrepCom-2 for World Summit on the Information Society Concludes

Geneva, 28 February 2003 — The second meeting of the preparatory committee for the World Summit on the Information Society (PrepCom-2) concluded with two working documents for a draft declaration and action plan. The results from the second in a series of United Nations-backed preparatory conferences lays the groundwork for the first-ever global summit on information and communication technologies (ICTs). The World Summit on the Information Society will be held in Geneva 10-12 December 2003 and in Tunis 16-18 November 2005.

The document focuses on ways to bridge the digital divide between developed and developing nations, created by an explosion of ICTs during the past two decades. "The enthusiastic participation of more than 1500 participants is reflected in the comprehensive nature of the work produced, and in their collective belief in developing new and innovative partnerships between Member States, civil society and the business sector in order to bridge the divide," says Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of ITU. "However, to achieve the vision of the information society we’ve outlined, we need to do more work as well as gain the support and political will of the leaders of the world."

PrepCom-2 attracted the participation of two world leaders who view the Summit as a historic opportunity to place the potential of ICTs at the service of humanity.

President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, a prominent voice on the African continent of the need to bridge the digital divide stated, "we need digital solidarity, perhaps founded on a digital charter by which economies higher up on the ICT development scale would be bound to help those at the lower end." He added that, "Knowledge moves in two directions, and the wisdom, colour, joy and warmth of the south can also be beamed at the speed of light to the rest of the world."

President Ion Iliescu of Romania, told participants that "the information society increases our dependency on technology: that is why establishing a suitable framework will be of key importance." He added "the Internet should play a humanizing role, creating a more democratic and equitable society on a worldwide scale."

A Common Vision

The information society is seen as an economic and social system where knowledge and information constitute the fundamental sources of well-being and progress and embraces the concept that the information society is one in which highly-developed ICT networks, equitable access to information, appropriate content in accessible formats and effective communication can help people to achieve their potential, promote sustainable economic and social development, and improve the quality of life for all. It also states that without the widespread and innovative use of ICTs, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals may prove impossible to attain.

Mr Adama Samassékou, the President of the Preparatory Committee remarked: "During these past two weeks, we have worked together to construct a new society, the information society, in which the digital divide will be transformed into digital opportunities built on shared knowledge."

The working document proposes that confidence, trust and security are also essential to the full functioning of this information society and calls for guarantees to be provided to users of media, communication and information networks against cybercrime and child pornography as well as for the protection of privacy and confidentiality.

The information society envisaged is one that reduces poverty and creates wealth to satisfy the basic needs and rights of all peoples. It offers great potential in promoting international peace, sustainable development, democracy, transparency, accountability and good governance.

The document outlines key principles needed to extend the benefits of the information society to all and recognizes that it will be necessary to formulate an agenda for action aimed at achieving specific objectives.

For the complete working document of the draft declaration click here

An Action Plan for All

The information society has reached different levels of development across the regions and countries of the world. It will therefore be necessary to design a flexible ‘action plan’, which can be used as a reference framework and as a source of guidance and inspiration at regional and national levels.

The working document identifies and outlines the following issues for consideration by the Summit:

  1. Information and communication infrastructure: financing and investment, affordability, development and sustainability
  2. Access to information and knowledge
  3. The role of governments, the business sector and civil society in the promotion of ICTs for development
  4. Capacity building: human resources development, education and training
  5. Security
  6. Enabling environment
  7. Promotion of development-oriented ICT applications for all such as, e-government, e-business, e-learning and e-health
  8. Cultural identity and linguistic diversity, local content and media development
  9. Identifying and overcoming barriers to the achievement of the information society with a human perspective

For an elaboration of these issues and suggested proposals to address them, consult the working document for the draft action plan here. Possible concrete and comprehensive actions include:

  • Developing national e-strategies for all countries within three years, including the necessary human capacity building.
  • Launching of a ‘Global Digital Compact’ as a new pattern for partnership and interaction between governments and non-governmental stakeholders, based on division of labour and specialized responsibilities, as well as on identified specific and common interests.
  • Developing an aggregate ICT development index and report, where the ranking of countries will be accompanied by analytical work on policies and their implementation.

It was also suggested that the following could serve as benchmarks for actions to be taken:

  • All villages to be connected by 2010, with a community access point by 2015
  • All universities to be connected by 2005 and all secondary schools by 2010 and all primary schools by 2015
  • All hospitals to be connected by 2005 and health centres by 2010
  • 90 per cent of the world’s population to be within wireless coverage by 2010 and 100 per cent by 2015
  • All central government departments to have a website and e-mail address by 2005 and all local governments departments by 2010.

PrepCom-2 attracted 1535 participants of which 887 were from member states, 390 from civil society and non-governmental organizations, 59 from the business sector and 24 from the United Nations and specialized agencies.

Next Steps

The working document for a draft declaration and action plan will form the basis for on-going discussions amongst all stakeholders. The inputs from PrepCom-2 will be incorporated into a new working document by 21 March 2002. The draft declaration and action plan will be discussed at the next meeting of the preparatory committee in Geneva scheduled for 15-26 September.

For more information on the World Summit on the Information Society consult

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