New Version of Draft Declaration of Principles
A new version of the Draft Declaration of Principles has been made available as Document DT/1Rev.1. The document shows the current status of negotiations, with new contributions from delegations incorporated. Among many new changes, the family is mentioned as ensuring “together with schools and the media, the socialization of future generations”. The Draft also recognizes that “education, knowledge, information and communication are at the core of human progress, endeavour and well-being”, and that “the capacity of information and communication technologies (ICT) to reduce the impact of many traditional obstacles… make it possible for the first time in history for the vast potential of these technologies to be used by and for the benefit of millions of people in all corners of the world”.
Further to our report on capacity building in the Highlights of 18
September, the importance of ICT enterprise, manufacturing and related activities that help boost the local-level benefits of ICTs are also reflected. “Partnerships between developed and developing countries in research, manufacturing and marketing of ICTs are crucial for promoting capacity building and global participation in the information society. The manufacture of ICTs presents a significant opportunity for creation of wealth”, states the text.
Broadening Access to Information and Knowledge
Users the world over may see a broadening of access to information and knowledge if proposed text on access to information and knowledge in the information society is adopted at the Summit.
Proposed text for the Draft Action Plan—agreed to by delegations in the working groups—includes plans to encourage greater activity on the part of governments and other players to increase user access to ICTs. “Governments should … actively promote the use of ICTs as a fundamental working tool by their citizens and local authorities” states the proposed text. Governments, along with other stakeholders, are also called upon to “establish sustainable multi-purpose community public access points, providing affordable or free-of-charge access for their citizens to the various communication resources, notably the Internet”.
But access points alone are not enough, noted delegates. “Sufficient capacity to provide assistance to users, in libraries, educational institutions, public administrations or other public places, with special emphasis on rural and underserved areas, while respecting intellectual property rights (IPRs) and encouraging the use of information and sharing of knowledge” should also be offered.
Member State representatives and observer groups also recognize the need for other stakeholders, not only those working at national government level, to promote egovernance. Included therefore, is the provision that “the international community and other stakeholders should support capacity building for local authorities in the widespread use of ICTs as means of improving local governance”.
An Internet Governance Challenge
While the WSIS process has not sought to find any definitive answers on the question of international Internet governance, as pointed out during today’s meetings, the current drafts of the Draft Declaration of Principles and the Action Plan offer a number of proposals aimed at reflecting the ongoing debates.
“Since the Internet started to become widely known and used in the mid-1990s, it has expanded to encompass many communication services” said one delegate. “By the end of the decade spanning from 1995 to 2005, there will be no area of human communication that is not covered by Internet technologies” he said. “Things have moved so fast that we must not miss this unique opportunity to call our leaders’ attention to the crucial issues surrounding management of the Internet”. The documents to be presented to Heads of State at the December Summit in Geneva should therefore in some way try to address the question of Internet governance, it was argued.
While delegations agreed to disagree on the detail of the text on international Internet governance, the fundamental sovereign right of countries on policy authority on Internet-related issues has been agreed on. It has also been pointed out that PrepCom-3 negotiations may not be able to resolve the impasse on this issue
before the conference winds up on Friday. Some delegations are therefore in favour of compromise whereby general mention could be made of the question of international Internet governance, with a view revisiting the question in greater detail for the 2005 phase of the Summit in Tunis.
However, coordination of Internet issues of an international nature related to public policies is still under debate. The alternatives on the table range from conducting coordination of such Internet issues: “between governments and other interested parties”; “through/by appropriate intergovernmental organizations under the UN framework”; “as appropriate on an intergovernmental basis”; “through/by appropriate international organizations”, or “through appropriate and mutually agreed international organizations”.
Role of Software and Information Resources Recognized
Delegations from many regions supported improving access by raising awareness of different software models and information resources, especially through access to libraries and archives. The current draft therefore seeks to “promote awareness among all stakeholders of the possibilities offered by different software models, and the means of their creation, including proprietary, open-source and free software, in order to increase competition, freedom of choice and affordability, and to enable all stakeholders to evaluate which solution best meets their requirements”.
The role of electronic information exchange through libraries and archives is also highlighted in the latest draft of the Action Plan. It aims to “support the creation and development of a digital public library and archive service, adapted to the information society, including reviewing national library strategies and legislation, developing a global understanding of the need for hybrid libraries, and fostering worldwide cooperation between libraries”.
While considerable headway is being made in the working groups, negotiations are ongoing. “Nothing is agreed until everything has been agreed”, the leitmotif of the conference, should not be forgotten. While the groups are finalizing their solutions for the Draft Declaration of Principles and Draft Plan of Action, both texts still have to be approved by Subcommittee-2 and the Plenary meeting of PrepCom-3.
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