STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF
TO THE WORLD SUMMIT ON THE INFORMATION SOCIETY
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY – 10 DECEMBER 2003 –
BY PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF FINLAND TARJA HALONEN TO THE UN WORLD SUMMIT ON
THE INFORMATION SOCIETY, GENEVA 10.12.2003
At the start of the new millennium, we the representatives
of our nations reaffirmed our commitment to build a more peaceful, a more
prosperous and a more just world. We accepted that we share a common responsibility
to maintain human values, equality and the principles of justice world-wide. In
this task information technology can serve as our partner, speeding up the
achievement of these goals.
The new information technology is a powerful tool, but it is just a tool. At
the heart of all this is the human being, not the technology. At this Summit we
are all committed to build an information society that puts people first and
that fosters participation and development.
The information technology revolution is profoundly changing people's lives:
both at work and at leisure. It has, in its own way, influenced the birth of
We are now in the process of creating a global information society. This common
goal will open up new opportunities for increasing well-being, for improving
the quality of life and for promotion of sustainable development. Everyone
should have access to these opportunities.
Every country bears the primary responsibility for its own development. And
every country will create its information society from its own unique starting
point. History and culture, just like the other requirements for development,
all vary from country to country. However, the values and the principles on
which we build the information society are common to all of us in the United
Nations. Human rights and freedom of opinion are the basis of an information
society where people have the right to access, change and distribute
information without restriction.
Within the information society, the significance of the information itself is
central. Every human being must have access to information and it is the job of
governments to guarantee this access. Information is the very basis of
At present the majority of people in the world are not benefiting from the new
technology. There is a digital divide which separates the rich and the poor
countries. But there is also a division between old and young and between the
educated and those without the benefit of education. It is the task of all of
us to bridge this digital divide.
The message of this summit is clear. The world needs solidarity - a common
sense of responsibility and commitment to removing inequality. This is an
absolute precondition of the creation of a global information society. It can,
and should, promote the achievement of the Millennium Development goals.
My own country, Finland, has achieved, comparatively speaking, good results in
the development of the information society. Every nation builds its own success
from its own starting point. We cannot offer ready-made models for others to
follow. We can, however, pool our experiences, and work in collaboration with
one another. On the basis of Finland's Success I would like to emphasize the
The development of the information society is linked to general economic and
social development. The task of government is to create a favorable environment
for the information society, one where initiative and creativity can flourish.
The development of information society requires active role from all the
players, the public sector, business, civil society and individuals.
Education is the fundamental basis for economic and social development.
Education is also basis for equality. Its significance is even more evident in
the information society. Everyone - girls and boys, men and women - must
receive the good basic education, as well as the knowledge and the skills, that
the information society demands.
The development of the information society requires research and development.
Innovations are essential for maintaining and reinforcing the economic basis of
our welfare society.
In the spirit of common responsibility Finland is ready to share with other
countries its own experiences of the development of the information society. We
are also ready to reinforce our own contribution in our development
co-operation for building information societies.
Finland is actively constructing new partnerships with the private sector, with
the civil society and with international organizations to promote advancement
in the development of information societies. An example of this is the
Millennium Technology Prize. This prize will be awarded biannually as an
international acknowledgement of outstanding technological achievements aimed
at promoting the sustainable development of society and the quality of life.
Building the global information society requires co-operation extending to all
countries and to all the sectors of society. And at the heart and source of it
all is the human being - the human being allowed to be creative, innovative and