WSIS: PROMOTION OF ICTS CAN HELP WORLD ATTAIN
MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
Participants Stress ICTs Must Be Harnessed to Ensure Sustainable Development,
Inclusive Information Society Based on Human Rights
(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 11 December (UN Information Service) -- The promotion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) can help the world attain the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to eradicate poverty and to ensure that the creation of an information society was truly people-centred, speakers said as the general debate of the World Summit on the Information Society continued this afternoon.
During the third plenary of the general debate -- attended by high-level government officials, international organizations, the private sector and civil society -- speakers also stressed the need to ensure that the information society and the draft Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action were inclusive and were based on respect for human rights, freedom of expression, respect for cultural diversity, and that they ensured that ICTs were harnessed for the benefit of all people.
The Prime Minister of Uganda, Apollo Nsibambi, said that since Africa had missed the industrial revolution, the continent must harness all the opportunities offered by ICTs in order to avoid missing the information revolution. The best means to eradicate poverty, achieve sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals was the inclusive and effective use of ICTs. Echoing this sentiment, the Prime Minister of Tonga, Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, added that ICTs had an enormous power to change economic structures and greatly contributed to economic prosperity.
The development of ICTs and the information society must be linked to other development goals, such as the eradication of poverty and access to health and education, said Jose Rizo Castellon, Vice-President of Nicaragua. Given that Nicaragua was a developing country, he found it difficult to imagine that citizens would focus on ICTs when their daily motivation was to put food on the table for themselves and their children. It was, therefore, vital that the Declaration took into account the various problems of developing and highly indebted countries.
The President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, said ICTs could play an indispensable role in creating a global knowledge-based economy, accelerating growth, raising competitiveness, promoting sustainable development, facilitating the effect of integration of all countries into the global economy, and, finally, eradicating poverty. The aim at the Summit was the information society, the knowledge economy, the networked citizen. But these were only points of reference -- the ultimate aim was a better world.
Speaking also today were the Vice-President of Panama, the President of the Assembly of Serbia and Montenegro and the Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan.
Also participating in the general debate were Ministers, Secretaries of State and other high-level government officials from Mauritania, Japan, Poland, Honduras, South Africa, Slovenia, Belgium, Guatemala, Chile, Luxembourg, Nepal, Argentina, Jordan, Zambia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, United States, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Austria, Switzerland, Swaziland, India, Algeria, Portugal, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Samoa, Libya, Lithuania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Philippines, Uruguay, Kazakhstan, Niue, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Cyprus.
Representatives of the Holy See and Palestine also addressed the Summit.
International organizations and United Nations agencies and bodies were also represented. Participants heard from the International Labour Organization, Universal Postal Union, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Inter-American Development Bank, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Members of the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations who addressed the Summit represented the World Association of Newspapers, STMicroelectronics, International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE), Cognitive Technologies Companies, Latin American Information Agency, and Sols Technologies.
The next plenary session of the World Summit on the Information Society will start on Friday, 12 December, at 9 a.m.
APOLLO NSIBAMBI, Prime Minister of Uganda, said partnerships between governments, the business sector and civil society had made it possible to hold this Summit. Africa had missed the industrial revolution, and it was determined not to miss the information age, mainly by harnessing opportunities offered by information and communication technologies (ICTs). The information and communications infrastructure in the past had been accessible to a mere few, but changes had had considerable positive results, with an increased number of competitors, improved services, and appropriate prices. This had also reduced the exclusion of many rural communities from the rest of the country. There was now a mainstreamed ICT policy framework designed to foster sustainable development in various areas, including education, health, trade and good governance.
However, a large population remained underserved, and as Uganda pursued the Millennium Development Goals, it shared the view that ICTs were crucial to the process of sustainable development. In the East African subregion, there was an ICT policy harmonization at the regional level with the aim of increasing levels of development. Uganda was committed to the common vision of the information society as identified by the draft Declaration of Principles, particularly the role of governments and all stakeholders in the development of ICTs, and the creation and maintenance of an enabling environment for ICT development. Uganda also supported the Plan of Action and the goals and targets therein, and urged development partners to support the mobilization of development resources needed to achieve the goals set out in the Plan.
ULUKALALA LAVAKA ATA, Prime Minister of Tonga, said that the international community was gathered in Geneva to carefully assess the global challenge facing it in this new millennium which was created by the explosion of ICTs during the past two decades. The international community must enhance its potential to support the promotion of the goals of the Millennium Declaration in order to achieve sustainable development. Information and communication technologies had enormous power to change economic structures and greatly contributed to economic prosperity and a better quality of life. Additionally, it could enrich people’s lives through providing greater choice and supporting social, welfare and cultural activities.
Development of such a vision for ICT services and applications must be driven not only by local market parameters, but also by recognition that the global nature of the information economy transcended national borders and interests. Similarly, any related policy framework must be designed to deliver a step-function improvement in the provision of services and applications that would guide its development. It must be centred on the need to give every citizen access to ICT tools so that all individuals could share the benefits of ICTs.
BORIS TRAJKOVSKI, President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said everyone was present at this Summit to declare a dream for a better society for the children of the future, based on the use of information and communication technologies. There was, however, a need to lay down a basis for this future. It was the goal of all those present to develop their own societies, as well as the global society, in particular the information society, for which the glue was communication, and, therefore, anything that improved communication was to be embraced. Information and communication technologies could assist in the linking process, but all should be aware that although technologies were a driving energy, they were only an instrument, and progress could only be achieved through an improvement in all aspects, starting from the Government and working its way down. It was useless to speak of the uses of ICTs if basic educational needs were not met, groundless to speak of democracy if there was no ground for democracy, and pointless to speak of e-participation if there was no participation.
The information society was dependent on a well established information and communication infrastructure. The ICTs could play an indispensable role in creating a global knowledge-based economy, accelerating growth, raising competitiveness, promoting sustainable development, facilitating the effect of integration of all countries into the global economy, and, finally, eradicating poverty. The aim at the Summit was the information society, the “knowledge economy”, and the “networked citizen”. But these were only points of reference: the ultimate aim was a better world.
JOSÉ RIZO CASTELLÓN, Vice-President of Nicaragua, said people throughout the world were aware of the realities faced today and were committed to finding ways to address problems. It was most important to ensure access to information and communication technologies. The development of ICTs must be intrinsic and linked to other development goals, such as the eradication of poverty, access to health and education. Nicaragua was a developing country, and it was highly unlikely that its citizens would focus on ICTs when their daily motivation was to provide for themselves and their children. Within the Declaration of Principles, there was a need for articles that took into account the various problems of highly indebted countries with regard to ICTs.
The Government of Nicaragua was committed to peace and the unrestricted liberty of its citizens, including the respect for human rights. In this connection, the Vice-President of Nicaragua stressed the importance of taking into consideration freedom of expression when dealing with ICT issues. Information and communication technologies could also contain negative and hateful material. It was necessary to protect children and youth from materials on the Internet that incited hatred and violence and promoted pornography or crime. Nicaragua also supported the promotion of the rights of indigenous people in the information society. Their right to autonomy must be respected and their cultures and languages must be taken into consideration in ICT policies and in the information society.
KAYSER BAZÁN, Vice-President of Panama, said the Summit would allow countries to come together, to come to a consensus on important matters, and to move in the right way to enter the society of knowledge and information. Panama was a dichotomous country, with a significant divide between some sectors of the society, notably in their access to communications. Some inhabitants were very poorly informed of the advantages brought on by the Internet, and there was a clear national digital divide, which could only be eradicated by a coordinated digital policy as had been formulated today, with the aim of using ICTs as an instrument to modernize and improve economic and social growth.
Today, Panama was working on eliminating its digital divide, and it hoped to be inspired at the Summit by what other countries were doing. It had reached a medium level of ICT development, and intended to continue to move forward in this direction.
DRAGOLJUB MICUNOVIC, President of the Assembly of Serbia and Montenegro, said the accelerated development of information technology systems had opened up numerous opportunities for further social developments. On the one hand, information technology development, as demonstrated by the example of the Internet, made it impossible or difficult to practise discrimination. This phenomenon democratized the global public opinion and favoured democratization as a global process. On the other hand, state-of-the-art information technology systems made it possible for the most developed to be dominant and for the English language to become linguistically supreme with all the consequences that that had for the cultures of other linguistic groups. It was necessary to identify measures to maintain the cultural identity and language of others.
The most controversial were the effects of the new information technology systems on the infringement of human rights through the encroachment on the privacy of individuals and secrecy of personal data, he said. The ambitions of State administrations to control all personal data in order to prevent money-laundering or to fight the drug mafia and terrorism might turn into excuses for the dangerous transformation of democratic systems into police systems where the citizen, as a fundamental value, would be lost before the omniscient and all-seeing state of the global society.
ARIPOV ABDULLA, Deputy Prime Minister, General Director of Communication and Information Agency of Uzbekistan, said that, for the last decade, information and communication technologies had become one of the most important factors affecting social evolution and lifestyles. New technological breakthroughs caused by an onrush of ICTs had had a profound influence on lives that had affected the overall development of societies. The Summit was a vivid confirmation characterizing the world community entering a new development stage: that of building the information society. Uzbekistan supported the creation of the information society which would provide observance and protection of national sovereignty, as well as religious, cultural, social and linguistic interests of all countries and peoples without any discrimination.
Uzbekistan aspired to and was ready to participate in building the information society that was oriented towards peoples’ interests and where each person, disregarding country of residence, was given the right to search, receive and disseminate any information. To solve these tasks, all interested parties needed to work for a widening of access to ICTs, as well as information and knowledge, to strengthen confidence and security while using ICTs, to create an enabling environment, to develop ICT applications, and to expand their utilization areas and encourage cultural diversity.
FATIMETOU MINT M. SALECK, Secretary of New Technology of Mauritania, said the evolution taking place in her country was generated by new information and communication technologies. Mauritanians’ access to new technologies occupied the first place in the country’s development priorities. The country had been putting in place infrastructure that would allow it to integrate information technologies by 2006. The number of telephone units had already been increased. A strategy had also been designed to expand telephone services to all parts of the world. The transfer of technologies to the developing world would provide a golden opportunity for efforts to modernize the societies of developing countries. The ICTs would assist developing countries to fight ignorance and to acquire knowledge. The promotion of a knowledge-based society was essential to any country. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was also expected to help the African countries to overcome their problems in overall development, including by becoming part of the information society.
TARO ASO, Minster for Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications of Japan, said that one of the best reasons for optimism about the future of humanity was the dynamic influence of technological progress on everyone’s lives. The splendid growth and expansion of the twentieth century would be carried on into the twenty-first century, he said. Progress in the last 100 years was due largely to the advancement of knowledge. This advancement in knowledge was an irreversible phenomenon which had come about with the spread and accessibility of higher education to the public. Japan had achieved the fastest and least expensive broadband environment under a national strategy carried out in 2001. Now, Japan was now in the second stage of the e-Japan strategy, which focused on the application side of ICTs.
However, achieving a wide broadband environment in Japan alone was not enough, the Japanese Minister said. Japan’s Government was striving to overcome the so-called “digital divide” by deploying and expanding broadband networks through cooperation with other countries. The adoption of the draft Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action was vital. At the same time, it was also extremely important to ensure their implementation. A steady implementation of the Declaration would be required towards the second phase of the Summit which would be held in Tunisia in 2005. To ensure the success of the second phase, Japan pledged to continue contributing to such efforts to the maximum degree possible, while continuing to cooperate with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and a broad range of international organizations.
MICHAL KLEIBER, Minister of Scientific Research and Information of Poland, said the unfettered exchange of information and the free flow of ideas without prohibitions, gags or chains was by far the best guarantee of implementation of essential human rights. Thanks to information available and a wide access to sources of knowledge, many scientific breakthroughs of vital importance to mankind had been made possible. Unhampered exchange of information and the free flow of ideas brought good prospects of a successful fight against stereotypes and intolerance. With a full awareness of all the negative factors linked to the social phenomenon of the Internet, such as the international digital divide, cyber-crime, violation of intellectual property rights and others, the use of the medium could still be considered as a constant source of enlightenment and social change.
Unlimited access to knowledge was the biggest enemy of intolerance. It was believed that the Internet and other information and communication technologies could be effective tools for forecasting and preventing global threats, and a perfect means to support the implementation of the idea of sustainable development. There was an urgent need to build a widely and freely accessible world information network, which could serve to provide monitoring, forecasting and early warning with regard to elements capable of triggering a global change. Such a network would be vital in bringing the world closer to a globalization process and its numerous phenomena, ranging from the management of human settlements, world ecosystems, population movements and other crucial elements of global transformation.
JOHN MARBURGER, Advisor to the President of the United States for Science and Technology, said information and communication technologies were the main key for future prosperity. The ICTs contributed to the development of the United States in the past and it would continue to use them in their advanced forms. The ability to afford the opportunity provided by ICTs would depend on the recipients. The United States welcomed the consensus reached in the Summit concerning ICTs during this week. The United States Government actually spent more than $2 billion on the information sector. The Government was also helping other countries, such as Senegal and Peru, to realize ICTs which required solid infrastructures.
Nations needed investments to pursue their development in the field of information technology and that depended on domestic policy that encouraged international investment. Investment was a power in maintaining the information flow, which had to be supported by national governments. During the past week, States had affirmed their commitment to the freedom of the press, and they should continue. ICT products should be protected to the maximum possible because of their instrumentality in building the appropriate infrastructure. The United States believed that the Summit would enable all parties to implement the technologies that would enable their citizens to enjoy them.
BINALI YILDIRIM, Minister of Transport and Communications of Turkey, said it was not an easy challenge to reach a consensus on a framework for widespread and equitable access to and use of information and communication technologies. Undoubtedly, one of the primary objectives of the global information society must be to respond to the growing needs of the developing countries to ICTs. While major developed countries were able to use broadband ICTs, the next generation network, and digital broadcasting, developing countries that had difficulties in meeting basic needs such as nutrition, shelter, health and education were not able to benefit from even the simplest communication tools, like telephone lines. Taking into consideration the insufficient level of certain basic technologies in the developing countries, the prevailing intellectual property and patent policies must be revised with a view to ensuring a moderate, feasible and applicable standard.
Since infrastructural investments required significant financial resources, developing countries must identify research and development programmes utilizing maximum benefit from present technologies. He said that the developed countries, on their part, must at least provide technical assistance in this field.
ROBERTO EMILIO ARGUETA REINA, Telecommunications Commissioner of Honduras, said building an information society centred on the individual was a crucial development that would allow individuals to be linked in a way that would both create sustainable development and eradicate poverty. To join the digital divide, the Plan of Action and Declaration of Principles should be adopted and implemented immediately, since the world would also move forwards towards a society of knowledge. Honduras was working to this end, linking remote communities, with the aid of the private and the civil sector. The entire world should be acquainted with the Plan of Action. It was due to iron will and the participation of all the political actors that the world would be able to achieve the aims of the Plan of Action and the Declaration of Principles. There was a need to define policies, and to do so transparently.
The future was not just a dream, it was an event, and there was a need to move forwards away from individual and national perspectives and on to a global perspective.
IVY MATSEPE-CASABURRI, Minister of Communications of South Africa, said the World Summit could and should leave a mark on the history of human development, as well as on the United Nations system. When the world entered the new millennium only three years ago, it adopted the task to combat what was considered to be the biggest challenge of the time -- poverty and underdevelopment. The world should meet the development challenge. To meet that challenge, it was essential that information and communication technologies were used in an appropriate manner which allowed the ordinary person to derive benefits. Bridging the digital divide and building an inclusive information society were two international challenges which had to be addressed simultaneously.
Bridging the digital divide was a corrective measure aimed at addressing past and existing inequalities and disparities. Building the information society was, however, a proactive measure, which entailed the creation of conditions that would eliminate a differentiated approach. The rapid development of ICTs should create space within the United Nations where the international community could address the policy challenges that this development posed. The private sector’s contribution, especially through investment in research and development, merited attention.
PAVEL GANTAR, Minister for the Information Society of Slovenia, said it was becoming more and more obvious to the public and the world of politics that information and communication technologies were of vital importance. This was one of the main reasons that in 2001 the Government of Slovenia had set the information society as a priority task within the context of sustainable development. The Government had placed this topic not just as a top-level technological issue but undoubtedly also as the priority on the general social agenda. By bridging the digital divide, the Government had put all its effort to enable a participatory political culture. All citizens, regardless of their capabilities to use ICTs, would have equal opportunities to take part in the decision-making process. This would further strengthen the fundamental principles of democracy.
JOSÉPHINE REBECCA MOERMAN, Minister for Economy, Energy, Foreign Trade and Science Policy of Belgium, said the Summit was the first occasion for the Member States of the United Nations to gather together to dedicate themselves to the use of ICTs for the benefit of all. Belgium had maintained since the beginning that the information society should be based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and access to information. This preoccupation was one that seemed to reflect the common vision of the Member States, as stipulated in the draft Declaration of Principles. In particular, Belgium supported those principles relevant to intellectual property.
Among the numerous subjects treated in the draft Declaration of Principles, the impact of ICTs on the work environment was also raised, and in this respect it was essential, for the sake of the development of the information society, to conform to international standards of work as defined by the International Labour Organization. The draft Declaration also raised the issue of protection of the “family”, and Belgium wished to make it clear that the information society should respect the diversity of forms taken by the “family”. With regard to the international management of the Internet, Belgium believed that the current partnership between the public and private sectors should be maintained, as a direct intervention by governments could affect the freedom of expression and of freedom of the press.
FLORA DE RAMOS, Minister of Communications, Infrastructure and Housing of Guatemala, said the use of information technology had been beneficial to economic and social development. However, there was still unequal access to information and communication technologies because of the digital divide. Guatemala had put in place regulatory laws with regard to information services. An authority had been created to monitor the situation. Telephone services had been expanded in many parts. The Government had given priority to areas, such as food and health, which were essential to the country’s development. Efforts had also been made to develop a bilingual and multicultural education system.
Being a Spanish-speaking country, Guatemala had been confronted with imported hardware with English instructions. The cost of importing the hardware was also expensive. The Government, however, had continued to undertake measures that would generate modernization; and it was encouraging the private sector to participate in its efforts.
ALVARO DIAZ, Minister of Economy of Chile, said that Chile hoped to build an information society that was democratic, open and favoured political transparency. The agreement reached on the draft Declaration of Principles was a good one. Moving towards an information society went beyond the Internet and cables; it was about reaffirming democratic values. It was important to learn lessons from industrial societies on how more democratic ways of working could be adopted. The Internet led the international community to a collective challenge at the global level and within countries. Chile had built an integral development strategy, which through regulatory strategies had brought about a widespread level of connectivity, and increased education and training. Chile was in the final phases of drawing up a plan of action for 2003 to 2005 with targets concerning connectivity and access to information and communication technologies. The Government had also initiated a digital literacy campaign that aimed to open up opportunities to a larger part of the population to benefit from ICTs. There were three main challenges in building the information society -- the reduction of poverty, the reduction of costs in accessing software and hardware, and striking a balance between security and citizens’ rights.
FRANÇOIS BILTGEN, Minister of Labour and Employment of Luxembourg, said the Internet affected profoundly all aspects of daily life, but what made it the motor of a true revolution was the absence of central power. Direct links were created between users, and each could be, at the same time, a sender and receiver of information -- as long as he or she had access to the technologies and knew how to use them. It was true that the information society offered in this way incredible chances for economic and social development, but it also hid considerable chances of exclusion for those who had neither access nor user ability. This was true within countries, even in Luxembourg, which was pretty much up to date with the information society. It was even truer for the developing countries.
Notwithstanding, the Internet represented an opportunity for the developing countries, particularly in light of its potential in key fields such as education and health, and also in terms of economic prosperity and the democratization process. Since 1995, Luxembourg had devoted considerable funds to multilateral programmes promoting the use of new ICTs in the fight against poverty. Luxembourg would continue along this path in order to contribute to the realization of a truly global, equalitarian and open information society.
KAMAL THAPA, Minister for Information and Communications of Nepal, welcomed the new and constructive beginning of a global solidarity in information and communication technologies. It was indispensable to ensure sustainability of progress and to foster social inclusiveness. Nepal’s concern today was for creating an environment for its citizens’ overall development so that all segments of society could derive meaningful benefit from it. The Government had adopted the policy of e-strategy by developing a framework of e-governance, e-commerce, e-education and e-medicine. It planned to provide at least two telephone lines in each of about 4,000 villages. The right to information was guaranteed by the country’s Constitution. The Government was, therefore, committed to playing the role of facilitator in ensuring and promoting that right among the people.
Aware of the vital role that the media could play in creating and sustaining an equitable and inclusive information society, Nepal had adopted a liberal policy in that sector. That had created a healthy competition with the burgeoning growth of the private sector in the media, as well as TV and FM radio operations. The Summit would play a catalytic role in paving the way for a new era of sustained peace, equity and prosperity with the strategic use of ICTs to attain those noble objectives.
JOHN P. FOLEY, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications of the Holy See, said the Holy See was most interested in the human and moral implications of the information society. The Holy See believed that most men and women of good will would approve that all actors in the information society must take appropriate actions and preventive measures against abusive uses of information and communication technologies, such as illegal and other acts motivated by racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance, hatred, violence, all forms of child abuse, including paedophilia and child pornography, and trafficking in and exploitation of human beings. In the international community’s commendable concern to make ICTs available to the broadest possible range of persons, he hoped that the three moral foundations of communications were remembered -- the overriding importance of truth, the dignity of the human person and the promotion of the common good.
DANIEL FILMUS, Minister of Education, Science and Technology of Argentina, said Argentina was convinced the Summit was a unique opportunity to orient at the world level ICTs in order to implement the objectives in the draft Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action. It was necessary to ensure the defence of privacy and human identity in the field of communications. Today’s world was full of contradictions, and never before had mankind had before it so many good things, although these were unfortunately very unequally distributed. However, this could be changed in order to ensure that all could exercise their right to development. The digital divide should not continue to grow deeper, and there should not be another divide linked to it. For a long time, information had been a means of power, but there was today a new mode of production, and source of action, and new tool for economic development which reduced the differences between nations.
To obtain the objective of sustained development and to create the information society, there was a double challenge, to eliminate illiteracy in the new technology, and to make it ubiquitously widespread so that all had access to it. There was a need to draw from the new technologies a new form of learning that would improve the very quality of learning itself. Investment in ICTs was, in many countries, not possible without international aid, and the international community should recognize this. The input of developed countries in the reduction of the digital divide could only be done in this manner, while respecting cultural differences. The private sector and civil society should consider the development of the information society when bearing in mind the specificity of each individual country. The Summit should achieve participation for all.
FAWAZ ZU’BI, Minister of Communication and Information Technology, and Administrative Development of Jordan, said his country stood poised to harness the potential of information and communication technologies, ensuring that its citizens were enabled a dramatic leap into the networked world. Commercial, social and professional opportunities were exploding as new markets opened to competition, foreign investment and participation. The modern world was undergoing fundamental transformation as the industrial society of the twentieth century rapidly gave way to the information society of the twenty-first century. Jordan aspired to contribute to the global dialogue through showcasing what could be accomplished when a visionary and dedicated leadership, a strong public-private partnership, an enabling environment, and access to connectivity to citizens converged together. With a young, literate and well educated workforce, Jordan was moving forward to ensure that its citizens played a central role in the development of the information society and a knowledge-based economy.
In reviewing the objectives, goals and targets set forth in the draft Plan of Action of the World Summit, Jordan could realistically state that it would meet its targets.
BATES NAMUYAMBA, Minister of Communications and Transport of Zambia, said that from the information available to him, the negotiations for both the draft Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action had been very difficult. It was gratifying to learn that they had since been resolved. The world needed a society that was sufficiently honest and open minded to recognize its problems, sufficiently creative to conceive new solutions and sufficiently purposeful to put those solutions into effect. It must be, in short, a self-renewing society, ready to provide solutions to problems it would not wait until tomorrow to recognize.
Zambia and Africa as a whole were particularly affected by the digital divide. Unfortunately, communication infrastructures in sub-Saharan Africa were among the least developed in the world. This great disparity was perpetuating the imbalance in economic activity between Africa and the rest of the world. He, therefore, called for particular attention to the identification of possible mechanisms for the realization of the resolutions of this Summit, including that of the Digital Solidarity Fund.
BOUNTIEM PHISSAMAY, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office and President of Science, Technology and the Environment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said that, of course, there were problems to be solved and difficulties to be overcome in the various countries, but it was hoped that the various points of view would be brought closer to cause concerted action in international affairs. In the era of globalization and regionalization, the scientific and technological revolution had made rapid progress, particularly in information and communication technologies, to meet the needs of man and society. They were also a strategic tool for the dissemination of development and knowledge. However, the development of the information society was transforming, and was much more complex, since it was not only limited to infrastructure issues, but also to infrastructure, i.e. content and services, as well as issues of regulation, oversight and ethics. Many efforts were being made to harmonize the two.
It was important to establish a vision in promoting the information society, strengthening peace, democracy, solidarity and international cooperation. The needs for ICTs in developing countries were great, and thus required great investment. International cooperation was important, and there should be joint efforts from the public and private sectors, with emphasis placed on local experts, and least developed countries should be allowed to benefit from the new ICTs. The outcome of the Summit should contribute to unite efforts and intensify cooperation in the interest of all peoples.
AHMED HUMAID AL TAYER, Minister of Communications of the United Arab Emirates, said the Summit would help to bridge the existing digital divide. Many people in the world were living in an inhumane situation and in poverty. Developed countries and international financial institutions were called upon to assume their responsibilities. Particularly, the international institutions should facilitate the means to relieve developing countries of their external debts. The United Arab Emirates had been helping some of the developing countries to access information and communication technologies. The index by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) had shown that the United Arab Emirates had been making progress in the field of information structure.
Further, the Government had taken measures to strengthen areas of information technologies in schools and universities. Actions were also taken to enhance the scientific field, which was run by specialized institutions. Following the Millennium Declaration and the Johannesburg commitments, his country had taken follow-up measures. The United Arab Emirates was convinced that international cooperation should play an important role in the development of ICTs. That cooperation should be based on ethics, equity and respect for religion.
FRANZ MORAK, Secretary of State of Austria, said the development of the information society had to be built on the reaffirmation of the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights that “human rights are universal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent and that their protection is the first responsibility of governments”. The international community was confronted with a global digital divide that had resulted in unequal access to information and to the means of communication and information. Austria, therefore, welcomed the main goal of the Summit -- to reduce the digital divide -- and fully supported information technology integration of least developed countries into the information society.
He said that beside information and communication technologies, the content industry was one of the most important factors of the information society. Therefore, plurality of content and the media must be promoted not only on national and regional levels, but also as a global challenge. Austria, therefore, appreciated that both the Declaration and the Plan of Action encouraged Governments to concentrate on these important tasks in mutual understanding and cooperation.
MORITZ LEUENBERGER, Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications of Switzerland, said that participants all wanted to bridge the digital divide and respect human rights, but when it came to putting it down in black and white during the preparations, this had proved difficult. Today, it was clear that solidarity was not a dead letter, nor a play on words, but a fact. The Summit expressed a political will and the participants shared the goal of bridging the digital divide, respecting cultural diversity and freedom of speech. Only the first steps had been made towards a fairer and more just information society. There would be a need to finance access to the Internet in the poorest countries, as well as literacy campaigns, to ensure that all could use it to its full potential -- as long as information was disseminated everywhere and in local languages.
Freedom of expression needed to be respected, as should the independent role of journalists and the media. There was a need for a political will for these things to happen, and the international community needed to resist the law of the strongest. A democratic state that distributed wealth was the best guarantor of a fraternal society. What was at stake was the cohesion of the world and the plan of peace for the future.
DAVID DLAMINI, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Swaziland, said there was no doubt that information and communication technologies played an important and positive role in all lives. The rapid development of these technologies had the potential to open new opportunities to attain higher levels of economic development. The challenge lay in turning the digital divide into a digital opportunity for all. Countries should promote the use of ICT-based products to help other nations to overcome the digital divide. The Summit should aspire to build the information society not only for participants, but for future generations as well. Bridging the digital divide required strong commitment from all stakeholders, and there was a need for solidarity in bridging the digital divide both at the national and international levels.
Swaziland also supported the view that capacity building and literacy in ICTs was essential in many countries, and in this respect it believed that developed countries and financial institutions could play a great role in providing the much needed technical and financial assistance. The proposed Digital Solidarity Fund should address some of the infrastructural constraints faced by developing countries, so as to facilitate access to ICTs. Higher regional integration would serve as a stimulus for the attainment of a global information society as espoused by the Summit. Further, the Summit should call upon respective governments, especially those in the developed world, to ensure that research initiatives on ICTs were appropriately funded for the benefit of all.
ARUN SHOURIE, Minister for Communications and Information Technology of India, said his country had secured many gains from information technology and had been earning $11 billion every year from the export of information technologies. It had also contributed significantly to the growth of that field. One third of the start-ups in the Silicon Valley were by Indians. India was one of the principal knowledge-generators in the field of information technologies. Indian firms today equipped people in over 55 countries to make them part of the information society. The Government was itself setting up cyber cities and training centres in other countries.
The Summit was instituting a working group to ascertain the feasibility and effectiveness of setting up a fund for advancing an information society. Should such a fund be set up, India would contribute financially in accordance with the formula that collective deliberations yielded. To be of even greater assistance, India would contribute in kind -- by training and equipping people for that new society, by sharing the substantial experience that India had acquired in spheres such as e-governance and telemedicine, for example. India had considerable experience in Internet governance. India had also successfully achieved a technology that converted text into brail to help blind people to be able to read any document.
AMAR TOU, Minister of Posts and Information and Communication Technologies of Algeria, noted that President Abdelaziz Boteflika of Algeria was the initiator of the development of information and communication technologies in the country. Despite the difficulties Algeria faced as being country with an economy in transition and the problems caused by natural disasters, it was making improvements in all fields, particularly in education. Algeria had decided to input ICTs into all levels of training and to install information networks in universities and vocational training centres. The Algerian Government had emphasized the importance of the development of telecommunications in order to provide high-speed multi-media communications. Since 1 November this year, ADSL broadband has been operational in Algeria, providing benefits of high-speed services. He noted the creation of a cyber-park in the town of Sidi-Abdallah, west of Algiers.
Algeria had respected the protection of intellectual and industrial property and supported access to open software as a solution to the constantly increasing cost of software and as a means of preventing access to knowledge. In the field of regional cooperation, together with its African partners, Algeria had established mechanisms and funding projects under the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative which placed major emphasis on ICTs.
JOSE LUIS ARNAUT, Minister Assistant to the Prime Minister of Portugal, said that human resources, more than technological resources, were the most important assets to face the challenges and opportunities standing before the international community. Portugal wanted the information society to be based on an informed, participative and demanding citizenship, served by a transparent, light and efficient administration and by a dynamic and competitive market. The Portuguese Government had institutionalized a transversal approach for the development of the government policy for the information society. A Unit Mission with exclusive responsibilities of coordinating the implementation of this policy had been created. In addition, five strategic documents containing guidelines for policies in this area until 2006 had been created.
Several projects with structural impact had been launched, some of them having unique characteristics worldwide, the Portuguese official said. One of the main principles for an effective development of a full information society was the respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, as well as the promotion of national attractive contents. A truthful information society called for a mobilization of all available public and private instruments and resources, at national and international levels. In this sense, he considered that the participation of the private sector must be more effective. Without its support, the information society would remain an unfulfilled dream.
MOHAMMAD MASOOM STANEKZAI, Minister of Communications of Afghanistan, said his country recognized the importance of information and communication technologies to achieve the nation’s development and reconstruction goals. Afghanistan, being a landlocked and least developed country, had suffered for a long time from invasion and a humanitarian crisis. The country had had to deal with a number of key priorities in its efforts for peace stability and nation building, none of them could wait and they should be addressed at the same time and in parallel. Since the birth of the new Government, there had been progress both in the public and private sector. There was a policy of an enabling environment, reform and restructuring, as well as infrastructure development and capacity-building. The two wireless telephone operators in the country had increased their investments substantially to quickly expand their network to fulfil the fast growing demand of the market.
SEPTIMUS KAIKA, Minister of Information and Broadcasting of Sierra Leone, said that Sierra Leone’s education system had nearly disappeared as a result of the 12-year civil war which had ravaged his country. Access to information had the situation in Sierra Leone to the attention of the global world. After the end of the war approximately two years ago, Sierra Leone had experienced a new “renaissance” with renewed energy, enthusiasm, vision, vitality and focus to be part of the information society. The Minister called on the international community to assist his country in maintaining the momentum towards sustainable development by helping Sierra Leone become a full partner in the information society and to donate used computer equipment to the benefit of Sierra Leonean citizens.
Mr. Kaika noted the pronouncement by President Kabbah not to have any Sierra Leonean go to bed hungry by the year 2007, adding that farmers in his country would be in a much better position to achieve that goal if they received technological assistance. Some farmers had benefited from information technology and the results had been positive. He noted that with the combination of a conducive land environment with the application of the appropriate information technology, farmers’ productivity would increase and the 5 million Sierra Leoneans would benefit as well as the export surplus to earn the much-needed foreign exchange required for development.
PALUSALUE FAAPO II, Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Samoa, said information and communication technologies had existed in Samoa for more than 10 years. At the beginning of this period, it was purely in businesses for business purposes, but today the use of computers pervaded all sectors of society, and had been the basic tool behind the ability to collect, disseminate and process information. It had become the tool for Samoa’s ability to participate in the world’s economy, changing how things were done and how lives were lived. However, there was still a long way to go, particularly in the educational sector, and certain governmental organizations. This was mostly due to a lack of funds, as it was in the rural areas that individuals were not aware of the existence of such things.
The ICTs could be used as a tool for economic, social and cultural development, and Samoa fully recognized this and aimed to provide ICTs for every Samoan, to inform and collect the population, educating it and providing experience and training in a fast and cost-effective manner. ICT policies and regulation would facilitate development, as well as the effectiveness of the Principles, while ensuring their appropriateness for the people of Samoa. Samoa was committed to entering the knowledge-based society, bridging the digital divide and creating citizens who were capable of enjoying the new era that was nigh. Information and communication technologies were the key to move into a future of better understanding and improved quality of life for all. Access to ICTs was crucial to development, and had become so diffused in many social and economic activities that it could not be ignored. Giving access to ICTs was vital in bridging the gaps between the rich and the poor, leading to a better information society.
BEN LASHHAR ALI, Minister of Information and Communication of Libya, said the draft Declaration of Principles reflected the legitimate aspirations of people around the world. It was hoped that the Plan of Action would build a world free of exploitation. The developing countries were unable to use the technologies they required in their efforts to develop economically and socially. Since the human being was identified as having a diversified social vision, the imposition of one model on others should not be accepted. The information technology should enable those countries to eradicate poverty and to struggle for a just society. Libya believed that a society should be free of exploitation and economic blackmailing. Individuals should be free to have any information of their choice and they should be able to enjoy their right to information. The information technology, as seen today, had dramatically changed the image of the world.
The information technologies should allow States to provide individuals with facilities to access information. The considerable obstacles with regard to the digital divide should be overcome. The information and communication technologies should also reduce the burden of illiteracy and poverty of many countries. It should prompt the progress of the developing countries in attaining their development goals.
VIRGILIJUS VLADISLOVAS BULOVAS, Minister of Interior of Lithuania, said his country fully supported the draft Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action since they were crucial steps for the information society’s development in the world. Last August, Lithuania had hosted the first world information technology forum and a Summit preparatory conference, with representation from over 70 countries. His country had come a long way from a planned economy to a market economy, changes that had had an impact on both economic and social life in the country. One of the main new challenges was to ensure the growth of the knowledge economy to serve as a basis for human development. Lithuania had a relatively well organized infrastructure and the present stage of development had created new opportunities for harnessing the possibilities of information and communication technologies.
In the near future, the Minister said, many changes were to be expected in the sector of services rendered to the public. Another priority was to build up people’s competences by ensuring access to ICTs. In conclusion, he underlined that a knowledge society was a demanding challenge that could only be met by concerted efforts and through strong political will.
VITAL KAMERHE, Minister of Press and Information of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said Geneva was today the centre of the world, and would decide on a specific contribution to the future of humanity, an information society accessible to all. This was a great vision. For the Democratic Republic of Congo and its people, it was a great opportunity to ensure the development of telecommunications and ICT infrastructure. Obtaining this goal would allow the narrowing of the digital divide in developing access to ICTs for all sectors of the population, in keeping with the Millennium Declaration. With regard to this, the Government had dedicated itself to specific and appropriate reforms. The geographical situation of the country would allow it to be a motor for development in the region, and thus the Government would like to encourage businessmen and investors from all countries to come and explore the opportunities offered by the country.
For the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the past should elicit compassion from the international community. The war had accentuated the gap between the population affected by the war and the rest of the country. The Government had a concept of communications reconciliation, which was a catalyst for reconciliation in the country, and reunification between the peoples of that war-torn land, and would lead to the creation of the knowledge society. The media had a crucial and important role to play in the achievement of a truly democratic society, for information was not only the fuel of democracy and development, but also the fuel of peace. The information society was a decisive turning point in the history of humanity, and it was an opportunity that should be grasped to the full.
VIRGILIO L. PEÑA, Undersecretary for Information and Communications Technology of the Philippines, said that ICT development was a priority of his Government. The Philippines acknowledged that technology was one of the foundations of sustainable economic development and that the continued progress of human development depended on a shared abundance resulting from the universal benefit of an information society. The country fully adhered to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the development goals set out in the Millennium Declaration. By empowering people, the Philippines involved everyone in decisions regarding the development, deployment and use of ICTs. The magnitude of the challenge posed by ICTs made it more important to keep the focus on people, on their basic needs to alleviate their state of being, and to enjoy all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Philippines was resolute in its commitment to empower its poor, particularly those in rural and marginalized areas, to enable them to use ICTs as a way to support their effort to lift themselves out of poverty. It was undertaking the building of community e-centres, a common platform for e-government, distance learning, health and other social services. The Philippines recognized the need to achieve universal, ubiquitous, equitable and affordable access to ICT infrastructure and services.
DANIEL BERVEJILLO, Vice-Minister of Education and Culture of Uruguay, said that the international community was witnessing one of the most important transformations in history. In the past, the wealth of nations had been linked to natural resources; today, they depended on their ability to access information and knowledge. Countries that had no access to information or knowledge were, therefore, destined to live off their past, without an opportunity to be part of the future. Uruguay aspired towards a society that would reduce the disparities between countries rather than increase them. To reduce the digital divide was not simply a principle, but a cornerstone upon which a new society must be built. It was time to create a favourable atmosphere that promoted the leadership role of the private sector and responded to the needs of the civil society. Through regional and international cooperation, it would be possible to involve developing countries in this process. Without cooperation, developing countries would be mere onlookers in the information society.
He said that the information society must take into account the linguistic and cultural diversity in the international community. In fact, the information society’s future must be built on human rights, social justice and dialogue between civilizations. It was pointed out that the information society was not an end in itself, but a process to achieve the great goals established by the international community in the Millennium Declaration. Only then could the curses of poverty, marginalization and the great inequalities in development be combated.
ALEXEI VOLKOV, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said the topicality of the Summit was obvious. The rapid development of information and communication technologies and their integration into lives had become an unavoidable part of existence. In between globalization and the rapid development of the information society, there was a growing danger of increasing the gap between least developed countries and developed countries. Concrete policies should be directed principally at overcoming the existing gap and serving the goals of reinforcing peace and global development. For this attainment, there was a need for new contemporary measures, based on a unified vision of the information society, which allowed resources to be used to their best advantage.
Kazakhstan was attached to building an information society and participating fully in democratic processes. With a goal of integrating itself into the information society of the world, the Government was preparing strategies and plans, and would introduce e-government shortly, with the goal of creating a democratic society, thus, enabling citizens of the country to participate in the world information society. The information society needed to create conditions for development, while preserving cultural and linguistic diversity, as this would narrow the digital divide and speed up the integration of ICTs. All parts of society needed to participate in this process, government, civil society and business.
JOHN TIAKIA, Associate Minister for Post and Telecommunications of Niue, said that ICTs should be placed at the top of States’ priority list of developments. The Government of Niue was committed to the development of ICTs. It recognized the importance of ICTs for its social and economic development. The Government had seen the significant impact ICTs had contributed to health and education. Information and communication technologies were also an important tool for the development of other key industries such as tourism, agriculture, fisheries, trade, as well as good governance and improving efficiencies in both public and private sector services. The Government of Niue was obligated and committed to the delivery of universal ICT services; however, that obligation and commitment came at very high costs. Satellite bandwidth costs were very high and Niue was fully dependent on fossil fuel for the generation of electricity.
Delivering and maintaining ICT infrastructure and services, such as telecommunications, broadcasting, civil aviation and maritime communications, was very expensive when considering a population of less than 2,000 people. Niue had successfully achieved its universal telephone services policy through a government subsidy. That commitment was also expected for the delivery of universal Internet services in the future.
DASHO TASHI PHUNTSOG, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communications of Bhutan, said the last two decades had witnessed unprecedented developments in information and communication technologies, more so, due to the ever-expanding markets of the developing world. It was also true that the benefits arising from innovative technological solutions, products and services, had globally transformed and opened up new avenues for governments, the private sector and civil society to work together. Having opened its door, the transition to the information society presented a daunting challenge to Bhutan. Facilitating widespread ICTs for all people on an individual basis was not an easy task. About 79 per cent of people in Bhutan lived in remote and rural villages and depended on subsistence farming. Bhutan was also handicapped by the shortage of human resources to keep pace with the Internet and new ICT developments.
He said that the promotion of ICTs was thus complex, especially when the need for further development of education, health care, safe drinking water, electricity and roads had to be met from the same limited resources. Bhutan, therefore, pursued a very distinctive development concept called “Gross National Happiness” that sought to enhance the happiness of the people of Bhutan through a balanced and equitable socio-economic development, good governance, preservation, protection and promotion of cultural heritage and environment. He was convinced that ICTs were a powerful tool to achieve these goals.
TILAK RANAVIRAJA, Head of the Delegation of Sri Lanka, said it was a common belief that the information society should encompass the vast majority, if not all the people. The people of Sri Lanka were fully aware that information and communication technologies could profoundly improve their lot, and for that reason no special effort needed to be taken to popularize the concept of the need for ICTs. Although the universality of the information society was a fact, the digital divide that was in place all over the globe could not be denied. The extent of the digital divide varied with locality, due to a variety of factors. Bridging the divide required the spread of infrastructure, access to the service, and the literacy of usage, and these required a lot of ingenuity.
While globalization and foreign investments had been critical in propelling the Sri Lankan economy towards the twenty-first century, the trickle-down effect had not been as great as anticipated, and the gap between the rich and the poor had widened. The right to freedom of information was being increasingly accepted as a necessary adjunct to participatory democracy the world over. Given that ICTs could be used to increase access to information, thus improving transparency and accountability, it could play a significant role in enhancing good governance and democracy. The vision of an information society should not be confined merely to a declaration or to an action plan on paper. The penalty for that would be further frustration setting in society by creating another set of haves and have-nots in a different dimension.
PANICOS POUROS, Head of the Delegation of Cyprus, said that ICTs had brought new dimensions to the entire socio-economic scene. New opportunities were created in all aspects of life. The information society was the new, emerging society, with a global nature, with no physical borders, and with the factor of “distance” losing its significance. However, of utmost importance was that opportunities should be offered by the information society to all, if that new factor of production was to benefit all the people and not just a privileged few. It was for that reason that the digital divide between citizens, as well as between nations, should be eliminated.
Cyprus recognized the tremendous importance of the information society and supported the draft Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action.
AZZAM Al-AHMAD, Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology of Palestine, said Palestine had made it its aim to strive towards the information society in its most advanced form, not only because of its importance in solving many of the hard conditions of living under occupation and the dissection of the country, but also because of the basic need for international technology similar to other people around the world. The siege policy and the erection of the apartheid separation wall had had devastating efforts upon Palestinian communities, workers, universities and businesses. The Palestinian national strategy for information technology faced many obstacles, foremost of which were the siege, closures and dissection of its geographical unity. In addition, there was the refusal of Israel to implement the resolutions of the international institutions as regarded the rights of Palestine to direct access to the international gateway, the systematic and repeated destruction of the telecommunications infrastructure, radio and television stations, and the imposition of restrictions to import necessary telecommunications and information technology equipment.
He concluded by saying that he hoped the Summit would come out with recommendations in the fields of knowledge and information and communication technologies to benefit both advanced and developing countries in the fields of development and to strengthen relations among peoples, and the improvement of cultural dialogue and information interchange.
JUAN SOMAVÍA, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the true measure of any technology was whether or not it improved lives. People were concerned about their families’ welfare, they wished to live in dignity and hope, and information and communication technologies were a channel to these aspirations. However, the promise was far from fulfilled. The Summit needed to consider three issues: policies, with the right investment and employment policies designed to promote a fair society; the digitally excluded were often the socially excluded, and this should be remedied in a socially-conscious and respectful manner; and, protection of the workers in the information society.
Diversity was also an important issue - for there was no one solution for the development of ICTs in all societies. The ICTs could be used in building better societies that were based on respect for rights and principles of solidarity -- and together the nations of the world should manage to achieve this. It was hoped that this would be an achievement of the Summit, and one that would not be a missed opportunity.
TIMOTHY BALDING, Director General of the World Association of Newspapers, said that the draft Declaration of Principles that the Summit was to adopt tomorrow had clearly affirmed the freedom of expression and that this freedom was central and crucial to the information society. Unhappily, dozens of the governments that would be adopting the text mercilessly and cynically persecuted the men and women whose job was to enable and to facilitate the free flow of information. Thousands of journalists and human rights activities were each year arrested and imprisoned, frequently beaten and sometimes murdered, for trying to exercise their human right to free expression. The next phase of the Summit would take place in Tunis, a country that repeatedly violated its commitments to the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to respect free speech and press freedom, a country where censorship was a way of life and where journalists were harassed and jailed. The Summit in Tunis should be abandoned unless Tunis began to respect human rights.
PASQUALE PISTRIO, President and CEO of STMicroelectronics, said that he was one of the representatives of the private sector within the United Nations ICT Task Force. He said that while the strengthening of the infrastructure for ICTs was essential, more attention needed to be focused on educating and training people so that they could utilize ICTs. Participants were told about a proposal that he had made which involved thousands of private sector businesses that could dedicate some of their time and energy to help to educate and train those who did not have sufficient knowledge to use the systems. It was suggested that medium to large scale private sector businesses donate 0.1 per cent of their annual revenue and 0.1 per cent of their employers’ working hours for the education and training of others. Aside from the positive economic and social impact of such an initiative, it would also help to build partnerships and team spirit. His corporation had already undertaken work in the field of illiteracy and hoped to reach as many people as possible in the next 10 years.
THOMAS LEAVEY, Director-General of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), said posts were in a unique position to help make the Summit’s draft Plan of Action a reality in key areas: in providing access to information and knowledge; in building confidence in new technologies and ensuring their security; and in developing the infrastructure needed for the information society. The UPU was committed to universal service. In developing countries especially, this meant bringing to people traditional communication services that empowered them and broke the chains of poverty and isolation. The Summit’s draft Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action had identified confidence, trust and security as main pillars of the information society. Posts were eager to contribute to the information society and its challenges. Postal services worldwide could use their unique capabilities to ensure that millions of people could participate in the information society and reap its many benefits.
JANE LUBICHENCO, President of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), said her group’s mission was to work for the good of human beings. Scientific research was beneficial to building an equitable society. The organization’s advocacy for scientific research had been recognized by the United Nations, with the Secretary-General acknowledging its achievements. Access to scientific knowledge required human capacity in order to ensure universality of the information society. Further, access to scientific achievements was essential. From the scientific prospective, the work done by the Summit would be helpful. The challenge would be how to put the words of the Declaration of the Summit into practice.
KATSUJI EBISAWA, President of NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), said broadcasting played a leading role in the information society of the twenty-first century, since it was an expression of culture expressed through technology, and had constantly evolved over the previous century. The principal role of broadcasting was not expected to change, since it would remain impartial and continue to offer programmes to nurture the intellectual needs of people, and to help them to make appropriate judgments, notwithstanding the developments in technology that would undoubtedly continue in the future. Broadcasting could assertively play its part in eliminating the digital divide, and it could allow an equal number of people to benefit from the information society. It was expected that in the future, broadcasting equipment would be used for ever more services and it would take up ever greater places in human lives, bringing people together, promoting dialogue among civilizations whilst promoting human understanding.
KIM HAK-SU, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said the world economy was in the midst of a profound transformation, spurred on by breakthroughs in information and communication technologies, in particular. The global ICT revolution could accelerate broad-based growth and sustainable development. ICT development in Asia and the Pacific was moving at a rapid pace, but not all countries and regions had benefited in the move towards the new global economy. The new information society provided an opportunity to catch up for these countries, and to bridge the digital divide, alleviate poverty, manage social integration and promote emerging social issues. The regional exchange of experiences and best practices, the regional networking of initiatives and pursuance of a common vision played a decisive role in the creation of the information society.
LIZ BURNS, President of the International Association for Volunteer Effort, said that volunteering was a clear expression to serve society. People volunteered to carry out activities, including participation in providing vaccination in developing countries. Volunteers continued to generate information and communication technologies for the benefit of society. They were using information technology in their efforts to accomplish their tasks. The use of ICTs was found to be significant in the development of the role of volunteers. The United Nations had recognized the work of the volunteers in a resolution passed by the General Assembly in 2001. A plan would be presented tomorrow on how to make use of the information and technologies through volunteering efforts. The Summit should give recognition to the role of the volunteers.
OLGA USKOVA, President of the Cognitive Technologies Companies, said that Russia had been emerging from being a country with economic problems to being a country making economic progress. Much of this progress was a direct result of initiatives undertaken by the Government to promote and encourage investments in ICTs and e-business. Recently, the domestic market had been witnessing a flow of capital. From big businesses to small businesses, there had been significant improvements in the economy. At the same time, it was clear that further economic growth in the country would require further commitment and investments in infrastructure. After highlighting some of the initiatives undertaken by the Russian Government to this effort, she noted that e-commerce was currently underway in Russia. Projects were being implemented under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Telecommunications. She welcomed the fact that Russian regional authorities had also realized the enormous economic potential of e-commerce in enhancing regional economic growth, another factor that would strengthen the Russian economy.
SALLY BURCH, President of the Agencia Latinoamericana de Información (ALAI), said emphasis should be placed on people with regard to information and communication technologies. Civil society supported the participation of people in all aspects of the information society. She called for the respect for bi-diversity and cultural rights of people. The protection of intellectual property should be done in a manner to favour those who needed it. The information and communication technologies should serve the economic, social and cultural interests of the people.
MERVAT TALLAWY, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said today there was a new dawn, a new revolution of the information and knowledge society. This revolution was most unconventional, since it was one where distances were becoming shorter, with great incentives for productivity and employment. However, challenges remained, with the digital divide between countries and societies which would continue to grow if every opportunity was not explored to remedy the situation. It was imperative to use the regional dimensions and regional integration to make the most of the revolution, and it was important within this dimension to unite national needs and international demands. For the Western Asia area, this would prove to be a challenge, although ESCWA had undertaken many initiatives with the aim of removing difficulties and eliminating gaps in the region, and it was hoping that these steps would limit the digital divide and enhance cooperation with countries of the North, as well as help to create the information society in which peace would prevail.
JORGE CASSINO, President of Sols Technologies, said the aim set by the Summit was to put on an equal footing all people in the world concerning information and communication technologies and the information society. This process was sometimes being minimized when it was suggested that all problems would be solved through learning and education alone. In Latin America, for example, there had been no sustainable solution to the social situation, the unemployment and poverty. It was suggested that companies take some responsibility and assist in redressing the socio-economic situation in the region. Governments, the private sector and civil society all had a role to play in order to ensure that the information society was a society that benefited all and represented a win-win situation globally. It was stressed that illiteracy and ignorance needed to be combated. As to financing, he said that the earmarked budget should be jointly managed by the public and private sector. He believed that this would ensure transparency and efficiency.
PAULO PAIVA, Vice-President of the Inter-American Development Bank, said the terms of the draft Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action were very good, since the Summit had gone beyond technological issues, and had talked about how to improve human life. There was also pleasure that the consensus appeared to be largely open. The Inter-American Development Bank was committed to working with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to integrate the draft Plan of Action into joint development programmes, and it would continue to provide support in the area of information and communication technologies, and this would be consolidated by a strategy currently under preparation. The Bank hoped to assist the countries in its region to carry out the democratic process of equitable sustainable development. There was a special hope for the future, and the Bank would walk with the countries of its region to Tunis in 2005, and was committed to building a peaceful and prosperous Latin America and Caribbean.
BERTRAND RAMCHARAN, Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that with the emergence of the information and communication technologies, the world was undergoing a change. The respect for the dignity of human beings should be well represented through the development of ICTs. He reaffirmed the adoption of a common vision together with the information technology, which had an impact on freedom of expression. Governments should prevent the dissemination of hate speeches and other racist propaganda through the information media. The enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to education, health, to adequate housing and food, required more efforts. People should have equal participation in information technology. People should be able to freely enjoy their rights. He pleaded for democracy to be strengthened while appealing for ICTs to work for the protection of human rights in general.
ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the 57 OIC member States had unified their vision regarding the requirements of the establishment of the society of knowledge and communications and the premises of bridging the digital divide that varied in terms of volume within member States and increased in comparison with developed nations. It had also adopted the proposal made by the Senegalese President relating to the issue of solidarity in the area of digital technologies and the establishment of a world fund to help developing nations finance projects aimed at addressing the issue of the technological gap. In order to be able to establish the information society, the society of knowledge and communication, the OIC countries would seek to cooperate with all the international and regional concerned parties, and expected developed nations to display greater solidarity with developing nations to set a common vision for the society of knowledge and communication to give broad way to the transfer of the contents and the new technologies without confinement to equipment in order to have access to sources of knowledge.
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