Complexity Grows as Conference Enters Full Swing
PrepCom-3 is still working in a spirit of cooperation and progress, but within an increasingly complex framework. Groups of the conference now include Subcommittee-2, a group of “Friends of the Chairman of SC-2” to harmonize work on the Draft Action Plan, and a Working Group of Subcommittee-2 to work on finalizing the Draft Declaration of Principles. Similar to the seven ad hoc groups working on individual areas of the Declaration, nine new groups have been created to focus on specific areas of the Action Plan. These areas are:
· Internet security
· Enabling environment
· Cultural identity/diversity
· Access to information and knowledge
· ICT applications
· Media/ethical dimensions
· Capacity building
Harmonizing the Declaration and Action Plan is a challenging task, as separate revisions are agreed in the different groups. Where phrases are even slightly modified, consistency has to be ensured within and between both documents. Examples include the phrases “publicly available information” and “open, interoperable, non-discriminatory and market-driven standards”.
The ad hoc groups will report their conclusions to Subcommittee-2.
Work on Financing Moves Ahead
Debate in the ad hoc group on financing has focused on ways to stimulate investment and funding to help tackle the digital divide. Views differ on whether to use existing financing mechanisms, or to actively create new ones. Developing countries have been strongly supporting the proposed creation of a “digital solidarity fund”. There is also some support to increase complementary activities, including the work of international bodies like ITU on specific development projects. Other countries would prefer the focus to include other solutions such as private sector investment, methods of cooperation at the micro and macro level, and the creation of national e-strategies.
To speed up the negotiating process, the Chair of the ad hoc group created a sub-drafting group to tackle the following specific issues:
· Priorities (e-strategies and poverty reduction)
· Attracting investment for infrastructure and capacity building (private sector involvement, public-private partnerships)
· Official development assistance (quantitative and qualitative aspects)
· Mobilization of new resources
Open Source Software and IPRs Cause for Debate
Debate has been hottest around the role of open source software and intellectual property rights in promoting ICT access for all. However, delegations have been putting their heads together to arrive at compromise texts to satisfy all parties. Even on these contentious areas, negotiations are progressing well.
Focus on ICT Applications
Section C7 of the Draft Plan of Action (contained in document DT/2) comprises seven sub-sections that have been discussed in depth in the specifically designated ad hoc group. These are:
With an abundance of exciting applications to be leveraged for the benefit of all in the information society, the only real difficulty is in keeping these sections concise. These areas have stimulated vibrant contributions from observers and Member States, and the group has progressed with considerable areas of agreement.
Actions Agreed by Capacity Building Group
“Everyone should have the necessary skills to benefit fully from the information society. The use of ICTs for education, training and human resource development should be promoted”, states the section of the Draft Action Plan devoted to Capacity Building.
With some fine-tuning and revision by the ad hoc group on capacity building, the Draft Action Plan is set to contain some specific and wide-ranging goals.
Proposed revisions to the Plan aim to:
“Promote e-literacy skills for all, for example by designing and offering courses for public administration, taking advantage of existing facilities such as libraries, multipurpose community centres, public access points and/or by establishing local ICT training centres with the cooperation of all stakeholders. Special attention should be paid to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.”
National education policy-makers should also “ensure that young people are equipped with knowledge and skills to use ICTs, including capacity to analyse and treat information in creative and innovative ways”, states the Draft Plan.
The frequent calls of observer groups and country representatives for appropriate emphasis to be placed on women in the information society are also recognized. The Plan aims to: “conduct needs assessments on removing the gender barriers to ICT education and initiate awareness-raising programs to sensitize decision-makers on this issue. Early-intervention programmes in science and technology should target young girls with the aim of increasing the number of women in ICT careers.”
The role of volunteers, also voiced as important in the information society, is also recognized, with a call to “activate volunteer programmes to provide capacity building on ICT for development, particularly in developing countries”.
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