STATEMENT BY MR. WINSTON ROBERTS
INFORMATION STRATEGIST, NATIONAL LIBRARY
18 November 2005
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honour to deliver this speech
on behalf of the Minister for Information Technology, the
Honourable David Cunliffe (New Zealand) who attended the
Geneva Summit. His attendance today was precluded by our
recent general election and the subsequent formation of the
Although at the second phase of this
World Summit on the Information Society, we are now on the
verge of the knowledge revolution. Some of us are beginning
to explore the real cultural, social and economic
implications of the revolution for globalised information
sharing — while others remain unconnected and isolated. And
while those isolated suffer from ignorance of what we know,
we too suffer from our isolation from their ideas, thoughts,
culture and knowledge.
This Summit process provides us with an
opportunity to debate the processes at work in society
today, and a framework to translate principles into actions.
Faster and easier access to information
is demanded by all sectors of society. Broadband Internet is
essential infrastructure for business and very important for
New Zealand. In contrast to the printed word, digital
content can be shaped, transformed and transmitted
instantly. This power - while raising questions - opens up
huge creative possibilities. Indeed an innovation being
worked on in New Zealand will literally make images leap up
at you from the page.
The information society and the sort of
impact I have just mentioned throws up tremendous
opportunities, and with it, plenty of challenges.
Our overriding aim should be to empower
all sectors of society by giving them:
affordable connection to high-speed
access to meaningful and relevant content
the skills to find the information they
need and use it to best advantage
confidence that their rights are being
Distinguished delegates — New Zealanders
have a practical approach: we are acting upon the WSIS
principles. This year, we launched our overarching ‘Digital
Strategy’ (see www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz), in which
the WSIS principles have been translated into a powerful
blue-print for action in our country. We have focused on
actions relating to three ‘enablers’: Content, Confidence,
and Connection. We have decided to apply those to
Government, Communities and Business. We are applying to all
actions the principles of Collaboration and Continuity.
In particular, we are emphasising:
Policy responsiveness — the
government has consulted extensively in the development
of the Strategy, and I have established a group of
Business and Community leaders to advise me on our
Connection — we have launched a
Broadband Challenge to connect all New Zealanders;
Access to information and knowledge.
Preserving the digital cultural heritage of nations
and peoples is vital: otherwise the danger is digital
amnesia. Maintaining access to digital content is part
of our comprehensive National Digital Content Strategy.
Building Confidence of
individuals– teaching the information skills which all
sectors of the population need, through formal education
and life-long learning;
Building confidence and security in
the use of ICT;
Cultural diversity and local Content
– we have launched a fund for digitising local
content and establishing common standards.
Since the WSIS process began, we
Provided broadband access to all
Developed high-speed networks for
government and the research sector;
increased public access to
launched the new online Encyclopedia
of New Zealand
passed legislation requiring the
deposit of New Zealand digital publications with the
Launched funds for the Broadband
Challenge (a fund to encourage urban networks and the
Community Partnership Fund to encourage communities to
get the best from ICT.
Why are we doing these things?
we have an economic imperative: to
stimulate growth and innovation;
we have a social imperative: to make
our multicultural society confident and cohesive;
we have a cultural imperative: New
Zealand’s indigenous Maori people are using ICT to
secure and foster their culture;
we have a democratic imperative: to
enable people to become more involved in democratic
processes - in effect to develop an ‘information
we have a strategic imperative: we
are a small country, far from the world's main
population and trading centres: we have to find smart
ways to stay connected, and overcome distance.
Much of the second phase of the Summit
has focused on the Internet, as a key tool of the
information society, although we must not lose sight of
the fact that there is much more to information and
communication than just the "Internet". We have all had a
chance to reflect on the Internet’s staggering growth, on
its use to empower people and communities, and on our
responsibility to ensure the Internet is used as a positive
Through the dialogue on Internet
governance there have been positive developments. New
Zealand applauds the emphasis on a multi-stakeholder
approach that includes business and civil society. What a
refreshing and empowering approach. We have had the
opportunity to hear the voice of Internet users, of our
Internet community in New Zealand, and that of our Pacific
Islands neighbours. We welcome the active contribution to
this debate by the developing countries, reflecting their
awareness of the importance of ICT for increasing economic
and social well-being.
I note here that New Zealand has offered
to host the 2006 Pacific Islands Forum meeting of ICT
Ministers, aiming to advance a regional digital strategy. We
are also hosting the ICANN meeting in March 2006 and have
taken a close interest in the outcome of the WSIS process.
From New Zealand's perspective, the
Internet has worked in part due to its decentralised nature
and the active involvement of users in its development. In
fact, it has been a remarkable success story of global
participation and change driven from the bottom up. It has
proved to be robust and reliable.
There are many issues we must address, at
international and often at national levels, to improve the
current arrangements. The current mechanisms have evolved
very rapidly, allowing the Internet to grow, solving issues
on the way, and we are pleased to see the commitment to
continue that evolution through the WSIS process.
I also want to emphasise our support for
international co-operation to address emerging cybersecurity
threats and issues such as spam (where I have recently
introduced legislation into our Parliament). New Zealand
believes that a key reason for expediting domestic anti-spam
legislation is to enable us to participate actively in much
needed multilateral solutions. My government also supports
work on multilateral anti-spam action plans, we commit to
it, and enjoin others to engage also.
We must also work collectively on other
cross-border issues, and making the Internet work in local
languages and for local communities – multi-lingualism,
freedom of expression and the protection of cultural
intellectual property are also important.
Here also at the Summit we have some
examples of ‘Kiwi ingenuity’ and local content to display to
you. In 2003, two New Zealand ICT initiatives were
international finalists in the World Summit Awards; this
year, from our eight national finalists two were given
special mention by WSA: Fencepost.com (linking the
agricultural sector) and EyeMagic (applying augmented
reality to children’s books: as just one example)
Distinguished delegates, we must work
collectively at the international level, and as nations, as
individuals, to translate the WSIS principles into actions.
We must mainstream these actions into the work of relevant
UN agencies and their civil society partners. I wish you
every success in doing so.
Thank you for your attention.