On behalf of the European Union and the two
acceding countries, Romania and Bulgaria, I would like to
congratulate the President of the Preparatory Committee and all
Member States on successfully concluding negotiations last night, on
what has now become the "Tunis Agenda for the Information Society".
The European Union warmly welcomes this
achievement. We recognise the Tunis Agenda as an important
contribution towards what needs to be a truly global effort to
bridge the digital divide: to ensure that the benefits of
information communication technologies (ICTs) can be enjoyed by all.
We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure the full
and effective implementation of both stages of the WSIS process so
that this truly becomes, as the United Nations Secretary General
exhorted us in his address this morning, a "Summit of Solutions".
In this context, the EU is the world's largest
donor and is committed to doubling its aid budget by 2010. A growing
proportion goes to developing country governments directly to
support their own development plans and budgets, and they choose how
much to allocate to ICT. Its importance is shown by the major role
ICT is playing in the fight against HIV and Aids through activities
like the popular South African soap opera " Soul City".
Now I would like to make a few comments in my
In 2005, the Commission for Africa, the G8
Summit, the UN World Summit and the World Summit on the Information
Society have all highlighted the important role that ICTs play in
The economic and social benefits are far-reaching
–connecting schools to the Internet; enabling remote rural
communities to get urgent medical advice; giving farmers access to
market price information. Mobile phones are now being used in
developing countries to transfer cash virtually, bringing
micro-credit and banking services to previously excluded poorer
ICT can enable people to participate more
effectively in political processes. Thus ICT is an essential
component of the participation, transparency, and good governance
that are increasingly seen (for instance by the Africa Commission)
as the crucial basis for development and poverty reduction.
In this period of unprecedented change in the
information society we, in government, must, with industry, place
the right conditions to encourage wider access to ICTs and foster
further innovation and social and economic development.
A good example is Bangladesh, where the
Administration — in an effort to quickly expand local access to
communications — partially deregulated the VSAT/satellite sector,
achieving an eight-fold increase in connectivity as a result.
In Africa, through their Regional ICT
Infrastructure Programme the African Union and NEPAD aim to complete
an optic fibre link around Africa and establish connections between
all African countries, and to the rest of the world. It shows what
can be achieved if governments, the development community and the
private sector work together. The EU will play its part under the
new Infrastructure Partnership with Africa.
Our experience in the UK suggests that there are
three basic principles for governments to follow:
o First, to avoid regulation
that limits innovation. This is important when we
deal with issues such as the future framework for
audiovisual content and Voice over Internet Protocol.
o Second, regulation should
deliver market stability and certainty which will attract
investment based on open and competitive markets.
o Third governments should work in
partnership with industry and consumers to find, wherever
possible, non-legislative solutions to deal effectively with
public policy concerns. Take the example of an issue that is
important to all of us: protecting children. In my country
we have developed a solution that is much speedier and more
effective than legislation can ever be. Industry and
Government agreed that industry itself would set up a
clearing house, called the Internet Watch Foundation to
detect abusive images of children on the Internet. Industry
agreed to work with the Foundation to remove those sites.
Government agreed to hold back from legislation. Together we
have achieved more through co-operation in a year than
legislation could achieve in five years, and at minimum
We have exciting opportunities ahead for human
progress. We need continued innovation in new technologies; stable
and pragmatic policies that will attract investment; and ICTs which
are relevant and beneficial to all communities – let’s work
together, with all stakeholders, to make this happen.