World Summit on the Information Society Tunis Phase ... - NGLS

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World Summit on the Information Society Tunis Phase ... - NGLS

private sector come together.” He called for stable, pragmaticpolicies that can attract investment and favour ICTdevelopment. India's Minister for Communications andInformation Technology, Dayanidhi Maran, said that ICTs had“more often been used for the privileged than for those whotruly need it.” He added that India was willing to share its ICTknowledge and expertise “with all those who are interested.”Final PlenaryAddressing delegates at the eighth and final plenary session,Mr. Utsumi said it had been a long road and seven years sincethe idea for the ong>Summitong> was first adopted by the ITUMinneapolis Plenipotentiary Conference. “It is fitting that thisstage of our journey ends here in Tunis, the capital of thecountry that launched the process,” Mr. Utsumi said.“Uniquely, WSIS was a ong>Summitong> held in two phases. Throughthis approach, WSIS took place in one developed and onedeveloping country. This helped ensure that the full range ofissues of the information society were addressed, whilehighlighting the critical need to bridge the digital divide.”He added that the two-phase process has enabled thedevelopment of a concrete plan for implementation at thenational, regional and international levels, which will ensurecommitments that have been undertaken are fulfilled. “In avery real sense, WSIS is about making the best use of a newopportunity and a new tool. WSIS reinforces the value ofglobal dialogue and cooperation to address emerging issues inthe twenty-first century. The information society can be a winwinsituation for all, provided that we take the right actions.”CIVIL SOCIETY AT WSISOverall, civil society groups were more or less satisfied withthe outcomes of the WSIS process. Civil society accomplishedmuch in linking diverse groups and actors—from FreeSoftware programmers and privacy advocates to gendergroups and the development community—during the WSISprocess. A number of civil society activists indicated theywere pleased with some of the WSIS achievements, mainly inthe area of Internet governance, where their input was takenseriously. Others said they were unhappy with the lack ofprogress in bridging the digital divide, particularly in the areaof the widely praised private-public partnerships. For them,this meant private sector dominance and a de-politicization ofthe core conflict between those favoring the free market andthose demanding public accountability and responsibility.More than 6,000 civil society representatives participated inone way or another during the ong>Summitong> in Tunis. ManyTunisian human rights organizations that might haveparticipated in WSIS could not for lack of formal legal statusin Tunisia. Instead, together with international human rightsorganizations attending WSIS, they planned to hold aparallel event in Tunis called the Citizens' ong>Summitong> on theInformation Society (CSIS) to debate the same issues thatwould be discussed at the WSIS ong>Summitong>. However, thealternative Citizens' ong>Summitong> failed to get off the ground dueto the unavailability of a venue. “We booked several spaceswhich were repeatedly cancelled for reasons we believe arelinked to political pressures from the Tunisian Government,”Rikke Jorgensen (Human Rights Caucus) said. “The CSIS isnot intended to be on Tunisia as such, but on the ong>Summitong>issues. It is not our intention to boycott the ong>Summitong>, but touse all channels to focus the international spotlight on theissue of human rights in Tunisia. We need to keep this inmind after the WSIS closes down,” Ms. Jorgensen said.Finally, civil society was allowed to gather at the KramExhibition Centre, an exposition park at a distance from thecity centre, reached via a heavily guarded road. Onlydelegates with conference badges could approach the site.The draft WSIS Civil Society Statement, drafted after theong>Summitong>, notes that WSIS provided an opportunity for a widerange of actors to work together to develop principles andprioritize actions that would lead to “democratic, inclusive,participatory and development oriented information societies;societies in which the ability to access, share andcommunicate information and knowledge is treated as apublic good and takes place in ways that strengthen the richcultural diversity of our world.”The draft points out that civil society entered the Tunis Phaseof WSIS with a number of major goals:Agreement on financing mechanisms and models that willclose the growing gaps in access to information andcommunication tools, capacities and infrastructure that existbetween countries, and in many cases within countries.Ensuring that our vision of the “information society” ishuman-centred, framed by a global commitment to humanrights, social justice and inclusive development.Achieving a sea change in perceptions of participatorydecision making. We wanted the WSIS to be a milestone fromwhich the inclusion of civil society participation wouldbecome more comprehensive and integrated at all levels ofgovernance and decision making at local, national, regionaland global levels.Agreement on strong commitment to the centrality ofhuman rights, especially the right to access and departinformation and to retaining individual privacy.After the close of the ong>Summitong>, civil society expressed theiropinions on the outcome of Phase II. “Success or failure istoo strong to characterize the ong>Summitong>,” said AnrietteEsterhuysen, Executive Director of the Association forProgressive Communications. “Let's say the ong>Summitong> has beenvaluable. The impact is yet to be seen.” She pointed out thatcivil society did achieve a breakthrough by gainingrecognition as a “stakeholder” in the Internet GovernanceForum (IGF), along with governments, the private sector andinternational organizations. Other civil society groups notedthat the proposed IGF, although embracing them, lacksdetail and has a life span of only five years, subject toextension. They also suggested that it is more known forwhat it cannot do rather than what it can. Furthermore, ithas no oversight or management role.Civil society criticized the lack of any new mechanisms forfinancing. Although there is a Fund for Internet development,participation in it is voluntary and there is uncertainty aboutany donors. “Rich countries do not believe any more funds areneeded. The Digital Solidarity Fund has been left to voluntarycontribution, from local authorities and it is not supported byWestern countries,” Chantal Peyer from the Swiss developmentorganization Bread for All said. “They rely still on the privatesector and on public-private partnership. We believe financingis a matter for public policy,” Ms. Peyer said.“Now it seems everybody is happy because everybody hassomething to bring home. We do not know yet whether ornot this is true. We will only know when we see theimplementation [of the WSIS objectives],” Jeannette Hoffmanfrom the Internet Governance Working Group said.“Do not believe this is over and that the little we haveachieved is granted. There will be an immediate backlashafter the ong>Summitong>, and governments will just return to otherissues. We have to keep pressure on them,” said Bertrand dela Chapelle, Convenor of the Civil Society Follow-up WorkingGroup. “Governments have accepted ‘multi-stakeholderism' inthe texts but not in their hearts and practices. Governmentsshould have adopted a commission for the information society4NGLS Roundup 125, December 2005


with a full multi-stakeholder format to handle supervision offollow-up,” he stressed, calling for small teams to be formedto actively engage international organizations involved in theimplementation of the WSIS objectives. “We have anincredibly strong opportunity to shape the implementationphase. We have to be there and monitor what thegovernments will do,” Mr. de la Chapelle concluded.For many civil society groups, WSIS can be considered as arole model for global governance, due to its multi-stakeholderapproach. Many NGOs indicated they felt that the mostimportant impact of WSIS was not the outcomes, but ratherestablishing a process of ongoing deliberations and exchange.The end of WSIS, according to many civil societyorganizations, is the beginning of the real challenge ofimplementation and reforms at the local, national, regionaland global policy levels.PARALLEL EVENTS AND INITIATIVESMore than 300 parallel events were held, hosted byinternational organizations, industry and civil society groups,reflecting the multi-stakeholder approach of the WSIS process.ong>Worldong> Electronic Media ForumThe ong>Worldong> Electronic Media Forum was held from 15-16November, organized by the Arab States Broadcasting Union(ASBU) and the ong>Worldong> Electronic Media Forum Association(WEMF) in collaboration with the UN Department of PublicInformation (DPI). The Forum brought together mediaexecutives and practitioners from developed and developingcountries, as well as other policy makers and UN officials todiscuss the role of the electronic media in the informationsociety. The WEMF held a number of panel discussions,including one that examined the media's function in preservingcultural diversity and fostering a dialogue among civilizations.Habib Chawki Hamraoui of the Arab Broadcasting Unionlamented the distortion in the media's presentation ofinformation. He pointed out that as ten countriesmonopolized information, they could “bombard the worldwith confrontational values.” Shirazuddin Siddique of BBCAfghanistan described the positive effects of the media. TheBBC ong>Worldong> Trust had helped create the soap opera “Newhome, new life” on the everyday concerns of Afghans, such aslandmine awareness or taking part in national elections. Hesaid the programme had helped preserve Afghan culture,despite the fragmentation of war and repressive Taliban rule.UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications ShashiTharoor chaired the session on “Safety of journalists in zonesof conflict.” He noted that 2004 was the worst year onrecord, with 129 deaths recorded in 34 countries. “Indeed, inmany of these cases, it seems journalists were deliberatelytargeted,” he said.Speakers referred to the feeling of “defeat” by severaljournalists after a number of their colleagues had been killedin Iraq without proper investigation, and one remained in jailwithout explanation. Others emphasized the need to publicizethreats against journalists. Roberto Morrione of Italy's RAINews 24 network said that deaths of journalists weretransforming the war in Iraq into an “information desert,” withmany journalists taken out of the country or relying on indirectsources because of the risk of being abducted or killed.Receiving the WEMF's Message for transmission to WSIS, UNSecretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nationsdefended as a matter of principle freedom of expression andof the media. “It is my hope that such freedoms will receive aboost from holding a ong>Summitong> here in the Arab world, wherethe number of websites and satellite television networks ismultiplying and where many people are yearning for greaterfreedom and more accountable governments.”Connect the ong>Worldong>One of the main parallel events during the ong>Summitong> was thepartnership event Global Pledge to Connect the ong>Worldong>initiative launched by the ITU with the objective of helping“connect the unconnected.” It showcased a number ofpartners and their projects. At present, ITU estimates thataround 800,000 villages—or 30% of all villages worldwide—are still without any kind of connection.Connect the ong>Worldong> has 22 founding partners, includingleading companies, international organizations andgovernment agencies. The initiative will focus on three keyareas which are considered to be the primary building blocksrequired to reach the goal of connecting all communities by2015: (i) creating an enabling environment, (ii) infrastructureand readiness, and (iii) application and services.Digital Inclusion RoundtableMicrosoft and the United Nations Fund for InternationalPartnerships (UNFIP) co-hosted the Digital InclusionRoundtable, which brought together governments, businesses,international organizations, NGOs and academia to discussissues around digital inclusion as it impacts the knowledgeeconomy. The roundtable focused on collaborative projectswith the aim to share best practices and collectively discusshow each other's efforts can be refined so as to further theimpact of existing and future collaboration.Capacity Building to Promote Effective Uses of ICTsThe Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and theAssociation for Progressive Communication (APC) introducedtwo international partnerships in capacity building on 16November. One of the initiatives, the Multimedia Training Kit(MMTK) consists of exercises, case studies, and evaluationtools providing community media trainers with material todevelop technical skills, content production capabilities, andorganizational planning and development abilities. TheMMTK, a multi-stakeholder initiative, involves the APC,UNESCO, Oneong>Worldong> International, the ong>Worldong> Association ofCommunity Broadcasters (AMARC), the International Institutefor Communication and Development (IICD), Search forCommon Ground, Radio for Development, and FAO. TheInformation Management Resource Kit (IMARK) is apartnership-based e-learning initiative providing tools andmethodologies for information management.Developed for information specialists, scientists and academics,technical professionals, managers and decision-makers, theinitial purpose of the training and resource kits was to shareagricultural information more effectively. However,opportunities beyond agriculture are also being explored.The Green-Machine: the $100 LaptopThe $100 Dollar Laptop, launched on 16 November, wasdesigned to suit the needs of children in developing countries.The project aims to provide flexible technology that can beused in any place, even in the desert, without energy supply.The laptop, developed by Nicholas Negroponte of theMassachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab (US), ispowered by a wind-up crank and consumes very little energy.At the unveiling of the “Green Machine,” Mr. Negroponte saidmillions could be sold in the developing world within a year.The laptops will be sold to governments and issued to childrenby schools on a basis of one laptop per child. The machineswill be rugged, Linux-based and energy efficient so that handcrankingalone will generate sufficient power for operation. Adhocwireless mesh networking may be used to allow manymachines Internet access from one connection. The pricinggoal is to start at US$100 and then steadily decrease.NGLS Roundup 125, December 2005 5

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