UN World summit on information society
the preparatory process
Reflections of the European Union
A the themes
Issues for a World Summit
Information Society at the top of the international agenda
Information Society at the core of the European Union policies
B the process
The need for an enabling preparatory process 8
Preliminary ideas for the "networked series of events"
Outcome for a World Summit
1. The World
Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), whose aim is "to develop a
common vision and understanding of the Information Society and to draw up
a strategic plan of action for concerted development towards realising
this vision", to be held in two phases, the first in Geneva, 10-12
December 2003, hosted by the Swiss government and the second in Tunisia in
2005, is the single, most important political event in this area since the
term Information Society was coined. It takes place at a moment that there
is world-wide recognition that the society has, and continues, to change
as a result of the past-paced changes of information and
telecommunications technology and thereby driving economic, social, and
cultural changes to extend never held for possible.
Summit has been endorsed by the Millennium Summit of the United Nations,
devoted to addressing the key challenges of our time. In December 2001,
the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which gives the
WSIS the status of a formal UN Summit at the level of Heads of
State/Government. The resolution
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 to the Summit and its
preparations by all relevant United Nations and intergovernmental
organisations, including international and regional institutions, as well
as non-governmental organisations, the civil society and the private
A the themes
for a World Summit
The aim of
the WSIS "to develop a common vision and understanding of the
Information Society and to draw up a strategic plan of action for
concerted development towards realising this vision" is setting
the scene: major issues are directly linked to the changes accompanying
the emergence of the Information Society.
stated by President Prodi of the European Commission: "These changes,
the most significant since the industrial Revolution, are far reaching and
global. They are not just about technology. They will affect everyone
everywhere. Managing the information represents one of the central
economic and social challenges facing Europe today."
process is sustained by a long and dynamic technological progress since
half a century and there is still room for further breakthrough. These
changes are intervening in an context where they enter in synergies with
other major transformations like the development of transportation
facilities, the progress in the educational levels, the increasing role of
the media, the central role of the scientific and technological progress
in the economy, etc. And, despite the pervasive effect of ICTs, their
impact on societies and economies is still only at the first stage.
changes are accompanied by a number of new challenges and threats but at
the same time, they offer new potential and new models to deal with.
divide will be a central theme of the Summit. There is an evolution in the
way in which the international community, as well as governments and
companies concerned were required to contribute to reducing the distance
between poor countries and rich countries from the point of view of
telecommunications. In 1984 at the time of the Maitland
Commission, the accent was exclusively on infrastructure. This involved
primarily mobilising financial energy and the resources to increase the
density of telephone lines in developing countries. When in 1994 Vice
President Al Gore argued for the Global Information Infrastructure (GII),
optics had already changed, and the accent was put as much on the
teledensity as on the importance of the implementation of suitable, likely
legal frameworks to attract private investment and to reduce the costs for
the end-user. Quickly, this new emphasis was also going to include the
development of applications likely to contribute to the aims of economic
development of developing countries, electronic trade in particular.
the debate associates all the actors concerned, and includes, in addition
to the questions of infrastructure/access, regulation/competition, and
applications, the following topics: content (respect of languages and
practices and local socio-cultural sensitivities; development of local
contents), knowledge (training of the human resources required by the
Information Society), and participation (implication of the civil society
in the economic and technical local and international choices).
Summit is appropriate to discuss the broader political and societal
challenges, and agree on a common understanding of the notion of
Information Society. In particular, it would be an occasion to progress
towards a Global Deal on a few key topics:
policies aiming at poverty alleviation and economic wealth creation : debate between industrialised and developing countries in a relatively
neutral field, a number of interests are shared, the perspective and the
speed of growth in the sector give the feeling that there is still
openness and a margin for a win-win exercise.
to knowledge which
would address numerous access issues such as in relation to telephony,
Internet, information, and knowledge, and in a variety of dimensions.
and new mechanisms for governance : here
is the challenge of a "mondialisation régulée"; the audience
and the legitimacy of the UN system would offer developing countries an
opportunity to be fully associated to the debate and decision process.
Society at the top of the international agenda
The WSIS is
the result of the growing political attention the International community
and leaders are paying to Information Society related issues. Since the G7
Conference on the Information Society hosted by the European Union in
Brussels in 1995 expressed concern about the digital divide separating the
industrialised countries from the developing countries and called for
"a shared vision of human enrichment", and the following G7
Midrand Conference in 1996, digital divide issues have become one of the
the Okinawa Summit of July 2000 the G8 produced the "Okinawa
Charter" on the global Information Society and created a
"Digital Opportunity Task Force". The "DOT Force",
as it is colloquially known, produced a report, "Digital
Opportunities for all: meeting the challenge", that was submitted
to the G8 Summit in Genoa in July 2001.
occasion of its millennium session, the UN General Assembly paid special
attention to ICTs on the basis of a report by a high-level panel of
experts and a UN ICT Task Force has thus been created as a practical step
aimed at strengthening the UN system's role and leadership and in
developing effective partnerships with the private sector, civil society
and other relevant stakeholders. The July 2001 ECOSOC session revisited
the theme of ICTs with a special emphasis on knowledge networks and a
further special session of the General Assembly is foreseen during 2002.
the UN Agencies, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
plays a key role in the area of telecommunications through its
Telecommunications Development Bureau, and organised World
Telecommunications Development Conferences in 1994 in Buenos Aires, in
1998 in Valetta and in Istanbul from 18 to 27 March 2002. This last one
focussed on objectives and strategies for the balanced world-wide
development of telecommunications, giving particular consideration to
developing countries and the mobilisation of resources.
and WHO are exploring the role of ICT in education and health
respectively. Of the UN Economic Commissions, the Economic Commission
for Africa (ECA) has been particularly active in supporting analytic
work and policy formulation in the context of the African Information
recent years the UNDP has launched several initiatives and
partnerships with the private sector and foundations. The 2001 Human
Development Report focuses on the role of new technologies in development.
international organisations are active in ICT issues within their
respective remits. The WTO adopted in 1996 an Agreement on Trade in
Information Technology Products and concluded in 1997 an agreement on
basic telecommunications services that opened the market for investments
and introduced pro-competitive regulatory frameworks in a number of
partly on the work done by ECA, the New Partnership for African
development (NEPAD) that was launched by a group of five African
Leaders in July 2001 called for African states to "extricate
themselves and the continent from underdevelopment and exclusion in a
globalising world". ICTs feature explicitly as part of the overall
strategy and an eAfrica Commission has been set up.
debate in developing countries has been also very active during the last
years, following the Midrand conference of G7 countries and developing
countries held in South Africa in 1996. Events like the regional
Telecommunications Development Conferences organised by ITU, the "Passerelles
du développement 2000 " in Bamako, the participation of the
developing countries in the ECOSOC debate and in the G8 DotForce show the
interest for the potential of ICT in the context of development.
the rapidly increasing amount of projects and initiatives everywhere, like
the African connection
project supported by ATU, the African information society initiative
launched by the UNECA, or the epolicies adopted by Brazil, Morocco or
Mexico reveal that more and more countries are joining the group of the
emerging performers and demonstrate a real maturity in the field.
A number of
private sector fora are addressing ICT such as the World Economic Forum
(WEF) which launched in April 2000 a Global Digital Initiative to
transform the digital divide into an opportunity for growth and adopted a
plan of action in October 2001. Priority has been given to actions aiming
at adoption of e-strategies by governments, development of human resources
and incentive to entrepreneurship. The implementation of the plan is
notably carried done through the regional meeting and projects supported
by the WEF.
Global Business Dialogue on eCommerce (GBDe) also pays due attention to
the digital divide and is working closely with the WEF in addressing the
societies are taking an increasingly visible role on their own. It is
notably the case of the community networks as illustrated by their
and as demonstrated by the increasing amount of initiatives on the ground.
mechanisms for exchange of information are emerging, like the Stockholm
Global Challenge and contribute to original form of co-operation,
considered by some people as the early beginnings of a global social
movement against the digital divide.
Information Society at the core of the European Union policies
One of the
main priorities of the European Union is the adoption of policies which
support the growth of a European Information Society. This emphasis has
been given concrete shape by the e-Europe initiative and the associated
plans which were adopted at the level of Heads of state or Government. Furthermore,
the eEurope 2002 plan became a pillar of the EU's Lisbon agenda which aims
to make the EU the world's most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based
eEurope initiative aims
to bring the Information Society closer to all citizens of Europe, develop
the economic wealth, address growing social needs, and focus on cultural
identity and diversity. The implementation has been organised along three main lines : to develop
a faster, safer and cheaper Internet access, to invest in people and
knowledge and to stimulate the use of the Internet.
initiative was based on the frameworks of the existing policies and it
concentrated on a number of priorities such as young peoples' access to
the digital age, the growth of e-commerce, on-line health services,
intelligent transport or on-line government. It was complemented by a
benchmarking mechanism within the Union. The results are tangible: the
action plan allowed to accelerate the adoption of the necessary legal and
regulatory measures; making of decisions in other key fields like the
pan-European research networks; the reorientation of the existing
financial support programmes and the benefit of a clearer vision of the
progress made thanks to the benchmarking. But, most significantly a
powerful dynamic has been triggered: the Internet is now a political
priority for all the EU Member States.
recently, the European Council of Barcelona has requested that the
Commission present an eEurope action plan for 2005. It
will deal first of all with the on-line public security forces of the
Internet and the access to high flows of information with a degree of
confidence. It will aim at strengthening a digital cohesion for all the
central issue has been the review of the legal framework for
telecommunications services. Elaborated in 2001, this new regulatory
framework has been adopted in particular to respond to convergence trends
(i.e the trend for similar services to be delivered over different types
of network). The new framework will therefore cover and place on an equal
footing all electronic communication networks, including those used to
carry broadcasting content such as cable television networks, terrestrial
broadcasting networks and satellite broadcasting networks, associated
facilities and electronic communication services. This involves a number
of simplified and flexible texts which take into account market trends and
for the implementation of which the national Regulatory Authorities will
be responsible. The 15 EU Member States will have the new legislation in
force by the summer of 2003. It is one of the essential pillar of the
information society in Europe.
European Union does not limit itself to the formulation of policies; it
also carries out support programmes. As regards research and technological
development, the Information Society Technology Programme (IST) gives
support to projects and encourages the emergence of an Information Society
by ensuring that appropriate technological platforms are developed. The
priority of this programme is technological convergence which involves key
interrelated actions, in particular: the systems and the services for the
citizens, the new working methods and electronic trade, the contents and
the multimedia tools and key technologies and infrastructures.
this context, specific actions have been taken in connection with eEurope,
such as Go digital, which is a programme that encourages SMEs to use
digital technologies through awareness-raising and distribution sharing
networks of the good practices.
aspect of EU policy concerns the support of less-favoured regions of
Europe. In this field the use and strengthening of capacities with regards
to ICT creates new prospects for growth, competitiveness and social
cohesion. The financing of the basic infrastructures has passed to actions
aiming to stimulate the demand in a competitive neutral way and to
guarantee that all citizens and companies have access to the Information
Society. Main actions concern computer literacy, the modernisation of the
public services, the promotion of e-business and the strengthening of the
digital infrastructures. The latter is strictly limited to remote regions
where services cannot be ensured on a commercial basis in a satisfactory
way. The essence of the Regional policy programme is focused on helping
the regions to develop their own networks, to develop local contents and
applications, in particular aiming at the modernisation of the
administration. Lastly, an important share of the effort also goes to
education and to training within the framework of employment policies.
countries have shown an interest in the European approach to the
challenges and opportunities of the Information Society. The eEurope
initiative has been taken as a model for policy initiatives by many
countries; EU candidate countries adopted an eEurope+ Action Plan modelled
on eEurope, and emerging economies such as ASEAN, Brazil, Mexico, Morocco
and Rwanda adopted e-strategies.
as mentioned before, the Information Society cannot be considered in
isolation but as part of an overall policy approach; numerous fields are
directly or indirectly involved e.g., telecommunications, development,
social affairs, education and culture, employment, security, consumers and
this context, the EU's Information Society policies help contribute to the
strengthening of our relations with the partner countries, whether in
trade, co-operation or development aid. This dimension of the policy is
clearly illustrated by the Communication "Information and
Communication Technology in development: The role of the ITC in the
Community development policy" COM 2001 (770) adopted in December
this background, the Commission has maintained a close dialogue with
numerous partner countries on the theme and set up specific co-operation
programmes. Such an example may be seen in Accession Countries (which are
developing an initiative parallel to e-Europe) Mediterranean Countries,
Latin America and also Asia.
the developing countries in Asia, a programme ASIA IT&C has been
carried out since 1999 which supports almost 40 different projects in
scopes of ICT like agriculture, education, health transport tourism or
the partner countries of the Mediterranean, co-operation involves an
action for a New Approach for Policies of Telecommunications (NATP) and a
programme for the development of information society (EUMEDIS) which deals
with projects in five priority fields: education, health, tourism and
cultural heritage, electronic trade and finally the distribution of ICT in
SMEs. A complementary initiative aims to strengthen the networks of
research and teaching between the UE and its Mediterranean partners.
the Alliance programme for the Information Society (ALIS),a potentially
more ambitious project for Latin American countries aims to build the
dialogue and co-operation as regards digital policies and legal frameworks
in the fields of telecommunications, electronic trade or standardisation.
The programme also aims to improve the interconnections between networks
of research and education for each region, and finally to implement about
20 scale projects in education, health local government and more generally
experiences gained in the Community together with emergent countries could
find an extension in the future within the dialogue with signatory
countries of the Cotonou agreements.
B The process
need for an enabling process of preparation
and positioning of the Summit will be key factors for an event which would
attract attention, not only at political level but also in society at
large. And it seems that a traditional UN Summit, limited to Heads of
State and Government, would not be appropriate in view of the promise that
the private sector and the civil societies would be part of the entire
process. It is noteworthy that both the G8 DOT Force and the UN ICT Task
Force adopted precisely a similar format as did recent UN Conferences,
preparatory process is very important and representation from all
interested groups should be sought in order to give a clear signal of an
all-inclusiveness. The European Union has spearheaded a co-operative form
of progressing policy making processes by close working together of civil
societies and interest groups, the private sector, and governments. This
co-operation is essential in today's world in order to understand and
discuss the complex nature of the questions facing society.
around many Summits of different kinds (Seattle, Prague, Genoa) over the
recent years there has been considerable public resentment based on the
perception that policy making processes are not sufficiently transparent
and are taking place behind closed doors. Time has come for a political
reaction: this UN Summit offers an excellent occasion to experiment with a
new formula and show the public at large that inclusive processes are not
only of interest to them, but also possible.
this context, the preparatory process could result from a twofold approach
: a regional preparatory consultation mechanism led by the governments but
open to other participants on the one hand and a thematic preparatory
mechanism able to bring new vision and proposals on the other.
this particular case, the two sessions involving the organisation of the
Summit will permit to assess many of the outcomes of these events, at the
Tunis-2005 part of the Summit.
approach is based on the traditional way of organising the Summits in the
United Nations, but in the present process it will represent also an asset
in the way to focus political attention. The existence of historic links
and cultural commonalties as well as in many cases, areas of economic
integration will facilitate the identification of common challenges the
countries have to face, offer concrete example of pioneers and their
achievements, and could facilitate pairing activities as well as
benchmarking for the review of the progress made.
key concepts for the Regional preparatory mechanism would then be to :
process aiming at establishing national and regional e-Strategies,
focussing on realistic targets and related capacity building in term of
access, human capacities, and development of applications in the priority
enabling regulatory and legal frameworks for the development of
infrastructures, the improvement of access to networks and the
availability of communication services at an affordable cost;
implement indicators in order to benchmark the progress made.
approach will obviously benefit from the dynamism of leaders countries and
regional initiatives (like NEPAD in the African case) and will be basic
for pairing activities and benchmarking as the EU did in the framework of
the eEurope initiative.
Union is of a firm opinion that the UN World Summit on the Information
Society should not be an exclusively event for Heads of State/Government
but should be complemented and opened up to include all spheres of
that effect the European Union proposes a "Networked Series of
Events" in which stakeholders are invited to take responsibility for
the organisation of the relevant events, for example as follows:
with a Declaration and Action Plan, focussed on a "Common
Understanding of the Information Society" and a "Global Deal on
Access to Knowledge"; attended by Heads of state/government, civil
societies, and private sector; to be organised by the UN and its Member
States along the established procedures.
where bilateral and multilateral donors meet with actors from developing
countries; with as output a list of deals, projects, and existing and new
financing mechanisms; to be organised by the financial sector.
for the future"; a
meeting place for academics and visionaries to discuss social, cultural,
economic and political elements of the future Information Society; with as
output an agreement on areas of future study and research; to be organised
for society"; a
standard conference to discuss issues such as cultural diversity, local
content and knowledge, education and health, youth and the elderly; to be
organised jointly by all stakeholders.
in the Information Society", a
conference of all stakeholders on the shared vision, elements of the above
mentioned Deal, national e-strategies, new governance models and related
issues on various aspects including data protection and illicit and
world-wide "Media" event; by
the media sector with two elements: a discussion of the role of the media
in the Information Society, as well as coverage of all of these events and
outreach to the population all over the world.
specific events will involve Youth and Women, even if their
participation as stakeholders in the other events is already foreseen and
if Gender equality should be mainstreamed in each opportunity.
networked Summit offers a number of advantages. The first one is to give
an opportunity for broad participation by all stakeholders (contrary to a
traditional Summit with many logistical and protocol restrictions) and to
pave the way for a bottom-up participation which would lead to broader and
more serious commitments.
addition, such an approach will allow for discussions of many aspects of
Information Society in some considerable depth and from a variety of
perspectives, rather than only a series of declarations. Possibility for
disagreement would enrich the debate and could be expressed without
undermining the notion of a consensus agreement on the Declaration and
Action Plan to be adopted at the Political Summit.
Heads of State/Government would have the possiblity, not only come to
address their national constituency via the media, but also to participate
in debates in the other elements of the Summit.
ideas for the "Networked Series of Events"
The Market place should be organised with investors, NGOs,
providers, donors and business to promote access to investment and
infrastructure. It will be the place where bilateral and multilateral
donors meet with actors from developing countries, with as output a list
of deals, projects, and existing and new financing mechanisms.
brokerage on financing the projects with a grass roots approach;
: NGOs, civil society, local development actors, financial community.
within the Networking Summit :
identification of difficulties to found specific phases of the projects (i.e
the initial or consolidation phase), the challenges represented by the
scaling up of local success stories which represent one of the ways to
deploy applications, notably in the fight against poverty and in the
delivery of public services, and the relation with the other actors
(government and private sector) for the development of a project.
Connectivity : the opportunity to address the infrastructure
and the question related to networks access.
how to develop large infrastructures, finance the universal access, deploy
pan-regional projects and initiatives, spread benefits. Ways and means of
new partnership between private and public sector .
: multilateral/regional organisations, private sector, governments ,
within the Networking Summit :
identification of obstacles to found infrastructures (concrete example in
the case of wireless local loop), better synergies between private and
public, national and regional, identification of best practices..
Thoughts for the future : an open forum (theoretical,
technical, economic, etc.) for academics and visionaries to discuss
social, cultural, economic and political elements of the future Knowledge
Economy, with as output an
agreement on areas of future study and research; to be organised by
Issues for society : a standard conference to discuss issues
such as cultural diversity, local content and knowledge, education and
health, youth and the elderly; to be organised jointly by all
an open debate without a predetermined agenda, more focussed on
technological issues for the first one and on social transformation for
academic, research, network communities
within the Networking Summit :
Both event will make their report available for the Summit and will
provide key elements for trends and needs.
Governance in the Information Society: a conference of all
stakeholders on the shared vision, elements of the above mentioned Deal,
national e-strategies, new governance models and related issues. The
conference will deal with the various levels of governance. At national
level : eStrategies, regulatory frameworks, dialogues associating all
stakeholders, improve efficiency in delivering the public services, fight
against poverty, increase transparency and accountability and improve
democracy (government local and global responsibilities), eGovernment. At
global level : governance of ICT sector, questions related to security,
protection of data, privacy, but also the Global Solidarity effort for
Co-operation: activities of multilateral organisations, increase synergies
between public donors, increase priority to ICT in the development aid
the responsibility and the role of governments and multilateral
organisations in the era of
the knowledge economy.
: policy makers and decision makers from the private sector and the civil
Media : a world wide event by the media sector with two
elements: a discussion of the role of the media in the Information
Society, as well as coverage of all of these events and outreach to the
population all over the world.
transformation occurring in the role of the media and directly related to
the knowledge economy era, didactic role of the media in the changing
: media from all over the
with the NS
: the media will play its role between the public and the Summit, insuring
the communication until the last couple of miles and reaching the citizens
The Political Summit, to be attended by Heads of state/government,
civil societies, and the private sector will appear as the convergence
point of the networked Summit with the Political Declaration and the
Action Plan reflecting the broad preparatory process completed, and
focussed on a "Global Deal for the Knowledge Economy".
for a World Summit
preparatory goal is a process leading to a Political Declaration, and in
turn to a results based Plan of Action. These contents need to be
identified, negotiated and agreed upon (at least broadly) in the lead up
to Phase One of the Summit. The Political Declaration would notably
include : a shared vision of the future Knowledge Society, a list of
agreed objectives, a set of common principles offering a sound bases for
policies and rules as well as clear solidarity mechanisms.
the Political Declaration, the Summit is also intended to trigger a broad
movement which will take the political and social lead of the ongoing
transformations towards the Knowledge Economy.
have an effective impact, such a movement needs to associate all key
national, regional and international stakeholders and allow each of them
to develop a real ownership on the matter. Furthermore it will aim to
provoke a large scale social appropriation of the use of ICTs and their
applications which implies, from the beginning, a close association of the
media and the educational sphere.
participation of the various stakeholders in the process will obviously
contribute in a very positive way to address the following main chapter in
the Political Declaration, by providing a bottom up input to the Summit.
But it will in particular insure an effective follow up resulting from the
commitments made by the various stakeholders and from the mainstreaming
effect of the Summit on their strategies and behaviours.
fact one the major challenges is to convey to all participants as well as
to the average citizen and small and medium enterprises that the ongoing
changes related to the Information Society are not just about technologies
and sophisticated financial market mechanisms, but also about their daily
way of life and working process. For that reason, they should be part of
the political process in which they have their own voice.
In such a
context, the preparatory process is almost as important as the political
outcomes of the Summit itself. The format and positioning of the Summit
will be key factors for an event which will attract attention and activate
a decentralised follow up process, not only at political level but also in
society at large.
an organisation for the Summit and its preparatory process is also taking
into account the more general trend towards the growing interdependence
and increased globalisation. Some
issues at stake have a global nature and call for global approaches as
well as the involvement of global actors or constituencies.
objectives of the WSIS could be :
outline a shared vision of the future Knowledge Society based on a
global understanding of the ongoing transformations; and to raise
awareness among all stakeholders, notably the various components of the
indicate a set of common principles underlying future actions and
policies aiming at poverty alleviation and economic wealth creation in
relation to the UN Millennium Declaration, and in particular how to
harness the potential of the "digital opportunity" in order to
insure a better delivery of key public services and to improve efficiency
and transparency in the governmental sphere, insuring a more democratic
functioning of the institutions.
to information and knowledge by removing obstacles to the development
of communication networks and fully seizing the technological potential -
in particular wireless technologies are being of crucial importance in the
struggle against digital divides and third generation mobile
communications as well as digital TV could play a key part in easing
general access to interactive services.
and new mechanisms for governance at global and national levels
encompassing a) issues related to the sector like electronic
communications regulatory frameworks, data protection, network security
and Cyber Security, legal aspects of e-commerce and internet governance as
well as b) more general issues related to the new citizenship in
the information age;
set up priorities reflected in a list of few agreed key objectives
in term of setting the rules :
promoting appropriate e-Policies and strategies,
building blocks :
Access issues such as telephony, Internet, information and knowledge;
human capacity development, knowledge creation and sharing;
from digital opportunities and develop local applications and contents
Entrepreneurship for sustainable economic development.
identify and mobilise solidarity mechanisms in order to :
and support dedicated initiatives for the ICT inclusion of the least
ICT for health care to fight HIV/AIDS and other infectious and
communicable diseases; and
ICT in development assistance policies and enhance co-ordination of
translate into a Plan of Action, taking the form of the First Framework
Programme for Knowledge Economy Development with goals, commitments made
by government and non government participants, deadlines and review