15 December 2003


Speakers Underscore Need to Bridge Digital Divide

And Spread ICTs through Means Like Digital Solidarity Fund

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 12 December (UN Information Service) -- The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) today concluded its general debate, hearing from 52 speakers who, among other things, stressed the need to bridge the digital divide and spread information and communication technologies (ICTs) in developing countries through means like the proposed Digital Solidarity Fund.

The main topic of concern to many speakers was the current extent of the digital divide.  Some expressed hope that it would not continue to grow, but instead would be bridged finally and fruitfully, bringing equal opportunity of access to all.  The urgency of the situation was notably stressed.  Malaysia in particular supported the inclusion of a digital solidarity agenda within the Declaration of Principles which will be adopted later today.  Indonesia, for its part, noted that the readiness of the developed countries and of the international financial institutions to assist developing countries in this field would determine the fulfilment of the Millennium Declaration.

The use of ICTs to encourage and enhance sustainable development was also an issue of vital importance to many speakers, particularly from developing countries, many of whom pointed out their need for solidarity in this respect from the developed nations.  Information and communication technologies, said Jamaica, were not just about stimulating a rise in national gross domestic product (GDP), but were a way of life, a perception that was supported by Singapore, who spoke of the profound impact they had on many tangible and intangible issues related to daily existence.

Among other topics raised was the issue of security, including evils such as cyber-crime, infringement of privacy, dissemination of indecent material and spam.  Speakers also raised the need to ensure that the Internet respected, preserved and promoted national, regional and local cultural identities, thus empowering them within the globalized world; the difficulty of integrating a population that lacked even basic telecommunication services into a knowledge-based society; and the need for an intense level of communication and partnership between governments, business and civil society in order to ensure a situation where each and every country could take in hand its own future and destiny.

Addressing the Summit during the plenary were Ministers from Mongolia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Jamaica, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Madagascar, Angola, Colombia, Indonesia, Barbados, Iraq, Republic of Korea, Burkina Faso, Monaco, Peru, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Cambodia, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Republic of Congo, United Republic of Tanzania, Sudan, Burundi, Yemen, and Timor-Leste.  Also speaking were the heads of delegation of Malta, Canada, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Georgia, Bolivia, Belize, Israel and Costa Rica.  Further, the representatives of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the United States Virgin Islands and the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships addressed the Summit.

Representatives of civil society, the business sector and United Nations organizations also spoke, including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, Talal Abu-Ghazaleh & Co. International, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, CrimsonLogic, Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor, Axalto, CRIS Campaign, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the World Meteorological Organization.

Following these declarations, the Summit heard reports from the Multi-Stakeholder Events.  Representatives of these events included Switzerland, ICT4D Platform, ICT4D Forum, World Electronic Media Forum (WEMF), Cities and Local Authorities in the IS, ITU High-Level Dialogue and related events, CCBI Events, UNESCO High-Level Symposium and Round Tables, WSIS Gender Caucus Events Programme, The Role of Science in the Information Society, Global Forum on Disability in the IS, Global School Networks Alliance, Conference on Volunteering and Capacity Building in the IS, Youth Declaration from Telecom, Mednet 2003: Internet Health for All, Global Forum of Indigenous People in the Information Society, Youth Day, International Trade Centre Workshops - The Changing Marketplace: Putting "e" to work, Scientific Information and PCT Working Groups – Round Tables and Panels, Executive Round Tables: Taking Responsibility in the Information Age, and WSIS-ONLINE Networkshop.

The Summit is scheduled to adopt its draft Declaration of Principle and Plan of Action later this afternoon before it concludes its work.  The second part of the Summit will be held in Tunis in November 2005.


SANJBEGZ TUMUR-OCHIR, Speaker of the Parliament of Mongolia, said that the main purpose of the World Summit on the Information Society lay not only in giving added impetus to governments’ efforts that had already gained increasing momentum, but also in drawing the attention of the international community to the widening digital divide among regions and countries, supporting developing countries, particularly their civil society and private sector, in using information and communication technologies (ICTs) as an engine of growth and development.  He believed that it was of particular importance that this Summit upheld the right of every individual to the freedom of opinion and expression and confirmed that this right included freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.

Mr. Tumur-Ochir strongly supported the position that ICTs were a powerful tool that could be used to further development efforts, especially the goals to reduce extreme poverty, provide basic education, and improve health care, decrease gender inequality, and increase global partnership and cooperation.  The potential that ICTs created presented the most productive means of development for landlocked developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing States and countries with economies in transition.  However, affordable and widely available access to ICT infrastructure and services remained a challenge facing developing countries in building the information society.  Therefore, capital and human capacity-building, as well as sources of financing for the provision of assistance, needed to be addressed in a very constructive manner.

PEHIN DATO HAJI ZAKARIA HAJI SULAIMAN, Minister of Communications of Brunei Darussalam, said the global info-telecommunications industry had undergone profound changes during recent years.  Continued rapid growth of the Internet and the creation and development of applications attached to its use had resulted in a corresponding increase in IP access and in IP backbone networks.  The Internet was the future, one that would shape how the Information Society and indeed future society would look like.

The Minister said that in working towards creating an information society, there was an urgent need to address some important issues which were of great concern:  positive use of the Internet; the International Charging Arrangement for Internet Connection; and Network Security.  The establishment of a true information society in which people benefited without discrimination required broad collaboration and cooperation, and Brunei Darussalam was convinced this could be achieved.

SURAPONG SUEBWONGLEE, Minister of Information and Communications Technology of Thailand, said that, as his country emerged from the economic crisis of the 1990s, it had begun a new era of economic recovery and progress.  The Government had implemented new policies on social and economic development for self-sufficiency with the goal of long-term sustainability for future prosperity of all citizens.  Thailand was committed to bridging the digital and knowledge divide in the society with the implementation of an ICT master plan for 2002 to 2006.  Eighty per cent of secondary schools now had free dial-up Internet access through the school-net project.

Mr. Suebwonglee said Thailand had set up three “ICT cities” in each corner of the country to serve as the nucleus of an academic, industrial and social cluster, which would be the blueprint of tomorrow’s e-society. Cellular telephony was another effective venue for extending ICT reach.  The use of mobile services by Thai citizens was increasing at a rapid rate with the expansion of mobile phones in the country.

PHILLIP PAULWELL, Minister of Science, Commerce and Technology of Jamaica, said the official documents of the Summit -- the Declaration of Principles and attendant Plan of Action -- were the result of meticulous and painstaking work and consultations between and among communities on both sides of the digital divide -- information rich and poor nations.  The documents before the Summit for adoption reflected the views of governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, numerous civil society groups, and the future building and custodians of the information society -- the youth.  When speaking about using information technology for development, it was not just about stimulating a rise in national gross domestic product (GDP), but about embracing information and communication technologies as a way of life. 

Mr. Paulwell said that, while it was accepted that providing technology connectivity and public access were “all important” first steps, it was also important to demonstrate that the work did not end there.  Beyond technological infrastructure, the basic premises of the information society rested on the capacity of users to optimize the use of content to meet their needs.  The intrinsic link between technology and content must be maintained in order to develop and empower individuals and communities in the sense of a real power to communicate, using their language, their cultural symbols, their imagination and enriching their lives in the information society.  Jamaica was committed to e-commerce and e-government, and, as a result, the Government had developed an electronic transaction policy and enabling legislation.  The Government’s objective was to ensure that Jamaica became and active player in the global information society in the belief that an appropriate ICT policy would generate new products, new production processes, and new forms of organization and competitiveness.

PEDRO CERISOLA Y WEBER, Minister of Communications and Transportation of Mexico, said reducing the digital divide and integrating countries into the information society was a task of which all were convinced and committed to; however, a fact that demanded attention and should be a cause for reflection was that the results so far achieved were different in each country, even if a majority had shared common public policy elements for several years, including active participation in globalization, the privatization of State enterprises, and the opening of internal markets to free competition.  However, globalization, privatization and liberalization would only be able to show all their potential as long as they could represent substantial improvements of the living conditions of all inhabitants, in particular, the poorest.

There were, therefore, differences in the rhythms of adoption, adaptation and technology development that each country could undertake, without forgetting the role that governments should play, the Mexican Minister said.  It was clear that in countries in which there was not yet full coverage of general telecommunication and basic telephone services, the market forces would not cover the underserved areas, for the simple reason that there was no market where there was no purchasing power.  The international community could not ignore the reality that the majority of the population that would integrate the information society was located precisely where there was still the need to create basic infrastructure.  Policies needed to be designed not in function of how they would be implemented in an ideal world, but in the real world.

DATUK AMAR LEO MOGGIE, Minister of Energy, Communications and Multimedia of Malaysia, said the Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action, which would be adopted by the Summit, would give significant focus on the issues of bridging the digital divide.  Malaysia fully supported the inclusion in the Declaration of the digital solidarity agenda aimed at bridging the digital gap by promoting access to ICTs.  The high cost of ICT services, including software and hardware, constituted a major impediment to the global efforts to lessen the digital divide.  The recent International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Digital Access Index had confirmed that there was an interdependent correlation between ICT costs and the levels of development.  Countries with the lowest level of telephone and Internet usage had the highest ICT costs.  Global efforts should be intensified to ensure that the cost of ICT products and services was affordable.

While the value of intellectual property was recognized, it needed to be balanced by the reality of social responsibility, the Malaysian Minister said.  As an option to reduce dependency, the idea of using open-source software needs to be exploited and evaluated.  Besides cost competitiveness, the use of open-source software could also complement efforts in capacity building and development of local content in line with the commitment to cultural diversity.

LEE BOON YANG, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts of Singapore, said rapid advances in information and communication technologies had empowered groups and individuals to transcend boundaries and connect directly with their counterparts across the world.  However, there were concerns that these positive impacts might not be evenly distributed.  It was clear that the information revolution had a profound impact on tangible and intangible issues such as economic competitiveness, culture, social values and life-styles.  It was also clear that the trend was irreversible.  It was, therefore, incumbent upon governments to ensure that people were able to benefit from the ICT revolution.  In a globalized information society where existing patterns and boundaries of national and cross-border interaction were constantly being redefined, it was important to find ways to manage these changes.

Governments might differ in their approaches and responses to such changes; however diversity was not necessarily a bad thing, the Singaporean Minister said.  It was by listening to others that one was able to engage in thorough discussion and formulate consensus on responses, he said.  The Summit had provided the international community with an opportunity to do just that.  Tunis would provide another opportunity to build on the success of this Summit and expand the common ground for collaboration in a global information society.  Singapore’s emphasis on ICT development mirrored that of other countries in the South-East Asia region.  Together with partners of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore had shared experiences and worked on mutually beneficial projects to help members to bridge the digital divide and tap the growth of digital opportunities.  The Government was a leader in the use of ICTs and many public services were offered through an e-government network.  While Singapore had made progress towards an information society, there were still challenges ahead.  These included enhancing access to multilingual content, ensuring that the young and old alike had meaningful access to ICTs, bringing broadband to more people, sharpening information technology skills for the workforce, keeping workers updated with the latest technological advancements, and managing competition in a fast converging ICT sector.

HAJA NIRINA RAZAFINJATOVO, Minister of Telecommunications, Posts and Communication of Madagascar, said  the vision of the information society of Madagascar was of a society where the fundamental needs of families were satisfied, where the population moved in a land where natural resources were better managed, where financial resources were allocated in order to permit each citizen to acquire or reinforce his or  her knowledge and thus increase revenue, and where the partnership between the Government, the private sector and civil society was frank and solidly based, in order to ensure that interactions between the economic, political, cultural and social sectors were always to the benefit of the citizen.  The keys which caused interaction, harmonized and made this society progress were information, education, participation, security, good governance, and the mastering of financial resources.

Mr. Razafinjatovo noted that, at the international level, the implementation of this information society should increase to a greater extent the sharing of information, knowledge and the products derived wherefrom; reinforce further the fundamental freedom of expression of the individual while searching for a just balance in order to fight against illegal, dangerous or violent content; preserve cultural and linguistic diversity; favourize exchanges between linguistic and cultural spaces and between countries of differing levels of development; and develop abilities so that each and every country could truly take in hand their own future without becoming dependent.

LICINIO TAVARES TIBEIRO, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of Angola, said that Angola, after having experienced a decades-long military conflict that had devastated the country, was now traversing an avenue leading to peace and reconciliation.  Government institutions were functioning normally.  At last, the country was now living in peace.  Programmes had been designed to generate development programmes and to reunite families dispersed by the war.  A programme of national reconciliation had also been put in place, together with plans to cultivate a culture of non-violence, love and respect for others. The Government of Angola had taken a strong commitment to implement a programme of national reconciliation and to strengthen the prevailing peace in the country.

In order to attain the objectives of information and communication technologies, Angola had to make more efforts, Mr. Tibeiro said.  However, the digital divide which did not favour the developing countries was still separating them from the rest of the world.  The developed countries should make more efforts to assist the developing countries to realize the necessary infrastructure for ICTs.  The efforts to bridge the digital divide in the developing countries should be carried out in a transparent manner.  The linguistic and cultural diversities of the developing countries should be respected in the course of ICT development.

MARTHA PINTO DE HART, Minister of Communications of Colombia, said that leaders had met to breathe life into a new social contract based on providing opportunities for all citizens of the world.  There could be no doubt that information and communication technologies were one of the best means of achieving sustainable solutions for economic development and eliminating social and economic problems.  The international community must, therefore, make the advantages and benefits of ICTs and the information society its priority.  Governments had a responsibility to take charge of the creation of an inclusive information society.  It would not be acceptable to allow citizens to foot the bill for the information society.  Governments also had a responsibility to remove existing barriers to the access and use of ICTs such as excessive costs and restrictions of mobility.  There were currently many restrictions on the mobility of persons and entrepreneurs.  People who had the necessary skills were often not able to become part of the information society due to such restrictions.

In Colombia, the Government was currently focusing most of its attention in this field on providing access to ICTs, removing barriers, developing skills for ICTs, and increasing the motivation of ICT users through the provision of meaningful content in Spanish.  In addition, the Government had initiated several projects geared towards the education sector, the Colombian Minister said.  She stressed that new policies must also embrace world problems that had worsened due to ICTs, such as cyber-crime, terrorism and drug-trafficking.  Criminals often made use of the most modern technologies to commit their crimes, and the international community must, therefore, cooperate to fight organized crime.  In conclusion, she stressed that ICTs must be managed, equitable and just. 

SYAMSUL MU’ARIF, Minister for Communication and Information of Indonesia, said there was concern at the growing digital divide, as the pace of technological innovation had clearly favoured the inhabitants of the industrialized countries who had been enjoying the full benefits of the information society since the end of the twentieth century, while, in stark contrast, the vast majority of the developing countries had lagged behind, with telecommunications still regarded as a luxury only available to a privileged few.  There was trust in the power of information and communication technologies to boost economic, social and cultural development in the attainment of sustainable development.  They could also facilitate efforts to fight against poverty and promote equality and gender empowerment.  Bridging this digital divide was, therefore, of crucial importance, and, on this basis, immediate and concrete measures across the board should imperatively be enacted to develop digital opportunities and to make ICTs an essential aspect of development in all sectors.  These efforts should, however, respect the reality of cultural, linguistic, traditional and religious diversity in such a way as to make ICTs an instrument of dialogue between cultures and civilizations. 

Industrialized countries should be persuaded to agree to a transfer of technology, a concept which had yet to move beyond a set of hollow political promises and into effective implementation in this regard.  Mr. Mu’arif said the readiness of the developed countries and of the international financial institutions to assist developing countries would determine the fulfilment of the Millennium Declaration.  The building of a global information society required international consensus and cooperation, and the participation of all stakeholders was instrumental in giving people access to the well informed society to which they aspired.

LYNETTE EASTMOND, Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Business Development of Barbados, said her country believed that the possibility of participation by all States in matters that affected their economic survival or prosperity was the only credible approach that would ensure transparency, non-discrimination, equity and effective implementation.  It was, therefore, critical for Barbados that ICT issues were being managed through a multilateral process under the auspices of the United Nations.  Barbados would continue to be vigilant to ensure that the framework and structure that evolved, especially in the establishment of standards for ICTs, would continue to recognize the right of participation by all States.  It was unfortunate that government policy aimed at reducing the cost of ICTs to the general population was often frustrated by distributive policies of major transnational ICT companies and the restrictive legislative of developed countries that added many layers of cost to consumers.

Barbados recognized and appreciated the assistance programmes offered to developing countries.  However, for those programmes to be truly effective, the question of ease of access and relevance of those programmes should be evaluated.  Similarly, there should be a commitment from the donor countries to develop enhanced and more relevant programmes to support the infrastructural development of developing countries’ human and technological capacities.

HAIDER AL ABADI, Minister of Communication of Iraq, said his country was on the eve of a new era and information and communication technologies, which were a means for the country to become both modern and civilized.  Information was a human right that Iraq had been deprived of by a totalitarian regime in an attempt to control the population.  Iraqi society had, therefore, lost valuable time in terms of progress in ICTs.  An exchange of information and knowledge between countries was today a characteristic of the modern world.  In this connection, ICTs were important in order to ensure such an exchange.  Iraq was now trying to acquire the knowledge that the people of Iraq had been deprived of and, at present, the authorities were paving the way towards this goal.  The new Iraq, now building its ICT infrastructure, was reaching out its hands to all peoples and States so that efforts could be made to ensure that Iraq took its place among other States. 

Mr. Al Abadi said that telephone coverage in Iraq stood at 4 per cent and that cell phones did not exist.  It was hoped that these percentages would increase shortly.  The Internet coverage was limited in the country, with less than 1 per cent of the population.  Plans were now under way to ensure that the entire population had access to the Internet.  In addition, three companies would soon be operating cell phone coverage in Iraq.  He hoped that more than two thirds of the territory would be covered soon.  Plans were also under way for the building up of basic telecommunications infrastructure in the country.  In conclusion, he said that Iraq still had the necessary human and intellectual capabilities to join the family of States and the information revolution age on an equal footing.  Iraq would surprise the world, he said.

CHIN DAEJE, Minister of Information and Communication of the Republic of Korea, said the rapid development of information and communication technologies was not only bringing great changes in the economy and society, but had also had a strong impact on the very life-style of people worldwide.  Although the extent of these changes could vary from country to country, the wind of change was certainly being felt across the entire planet.  At this juncture, it was highly meaningful to hold global discussions on digital opportunities and the challenges ahead, which would greatly help people in this generation and future generations.

In Korea’s journey towards the information society, the global digital divide was proving a serious impediment to development, Mr. Chin went on.  It was believed that the gap between the technology-enabled and technology-deprived should be overcome through regional and international cooperation through international organizations such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).  In the creation of a global information society, there was a need to strengthen collective efforts to span the digital bridge; to work together to tackle harmful effects such as cyber-crime, infringement of privacy, dissemination of indecent material and spam; and to create an international environment that fitted well with the nature of the information society.

SEYDOU BOUDA, Minister of Economy and Development of Burkina Faso, said that for countries such as his, the magnitude of the problems to overcome, in order to mobilize the potential for information and communication technologies, were multiple and multifaceted.  The problems were linked to technologies and the inadequacy in infrastructure.  They could also be cultural considerations attributed to language and lack of training of the population.  The majority of the population of Burkina Faso inhabited rural areas far away from communication facilities or from the possibility to have access to the Internet in their own mother tongue.  If nothing was done to change that situation, the unequal access to the development capacity provided by those technologies would only increase economic and social exclusion.

In order to rectify the risk of marginalization of the poor countries, Mr. Bouba went on, it was urgent to ensure more fairness through digital solidarity.  He said building the information society could only become a reality if the international community defined the ways and means to transform the digital divide into digital opportunity and create digital solidarity based on mutual interest.

JEAN PASTORELLI, Permanent Representative of Monaco, said the Summit was one of the great meetings to master the evolution of the future.  The Summit would ensure that technological progress would remain within the control of man.  In addition, the Summit marked the convergence between States and civil society.  Being held in two phases, in Geneva and in Tunis in 2005, the Summit established a symbolic link between North and South.  Broadly speaking, Monaco supported the guidelines contained in the Declaration of Principles to be adopted later today.  The international community, through this Declaration, must struggle against the digital divide and ensure global access to and benefit from information and communications technologies.  Furthermore, States must ensure that space was provided for cultural and linguistic diversity within the information society.   It was also important to ensure that all sectors of society were considered within the information society, including the most vulnerable groups.  In conclusion, the information society must also be based on the continuous struggle for peace and the better understanding between peoples.

EDUARDO IRIARTE JIMENEZ, Minister of Transport and Communication of  Peru, said information and communication technologies were the very basis for the construction of the new world economy based on knowledge, and the technologies were the starting point for a new type of organization and production on a world scale that redefined how countries interacted.  This was an opportunity to overcome underdevelopment and implied a new risk if there was not access for all accompanied by political support.  The State should play an active role in this area through the encouragement of decentralization, e-government, and rural telecommunication programmes.  Civil society, the business sector and academia should be also encouraged to participate. 

Globalization had encouraged economic growth and development which would hopefully allow the eradication of some poverty in the twenty-first century; however, there were a number of imbalances and frustrations which affected the most vulnerable.  Peru was convinced that ICTs were useful tools which could and should be used in order to achieve social and economic development goals, and the link between their dissemination and the overcoming of poverty should be recognized further.  The goals of the Millennium Declaration depended upon the wide-spread use of ICTs and the free dissemination of ideas and information thereon.  The goal of universal access and freedom to information should be ensured, while respecting cultural diversity within the information society. 

IGOR DAMIANOV, Minister of Education and Science of Bulgaria, said developing countries had made significant progress in building their information infrastructure during the 1990s.  However, there were still substantial differences between the developed and the developing countries.  While the gap in fixed and mobile communications had narrowed, the digital divide in the construction of highway networks and providing electronic services to citizens and businesses grew wider both between the different countries and between the urban and the rural areas.  The Summit had to define the framework for building a global information society for all.  Bulgaria shared the vision contained in the Draft Declaration of Principles to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society premised on the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Information and communication technologies were among the major priorities of the Bulgarian Government.  It was considering providing access to information society services to all the population.  The success of the Bulgarian Government policy in the field of telecommunications and information technologies was demonstrated by the remarkable 35 per cent growth of the ICT sector during the last two years.  Over 90 per cent of government institutions had Web sites with interactive access.

DAVID CUNLIFFE, Associate Minister for Communications and Information Technology of New Zealand, said that historically, New Zealand had quickly adopted new technologies.  According to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the country had the highest per capita expenditure on information and communication technologies in terms of percentage of GDP in the world.  However, it was questionable whether the country was making the best possible use of what these technologies had to offer.  The Government was, therefore, developing strategies to ensure that ICTs contributed fully to informing the society, to the education of children, to the training and skill levels of the working population, to the strengthening of scientific research and development, and to economic productivity.  A number of initiatives had been taken to deepen and broaden the reach of broadband throughout the country, especially in the more remote and rural areas.  Plans provided for all schools and their surrounding communities to be able to access broadband by the end of 2004.

Among strategies developed to preserve past and future cultural heritage, the Government was developing a system of digital archiving to provide universal electronic access among libraries, archives and museums.  The aim was to provide access to digital information for New Zealanders, especially online New Zealand content, to collect digital resources, and to ensure long-term storage and preservation of New Zealand’s online heritage. 

LAR NARATH, Under-Secretary of Posts and Telecommunications of Cambodia, said it had been 10 years since the United Nations had helped Cambodia to attain peace after many wars over the previous two decades.  After a long war period with much destruction, the country had many important priorities on its agenda.  Telecommunications and information technology were part of a sector for development for which there was no particular pride, as it had not been approached correctly from the start.  But despite its slow growth, there was improvement in the business and social environment of Cambodia.  The challenge faced now was how to make the telecommunications and information technology services available in remote and rural sectors.

Mr. Narath said the economic and social situation in Cambodia had improved significantly due partly to the availability of telecommunications and information technology infrastructures and services, which had played an important role in the growth and sustainability of the economic and social well-being of the country.  Continuing efforts were being put into perpetuating this improvement, and Cambodia was hopeful that more assistance would be accorded by friendly and wealthier countries. 

BERNARD WESTON, Head of the Delegation of Trinidad and Tobago, announced that his country would formally launch the Trinidad and Tobago National ICT Strategic Plan next Monday, 15 December.  The Plan would serve as a roadmap for the empowering of people, innovation, education, information technology and infrastructure, to create an enabling environment that would accelerate social, economic and cultural development.  Trinidad and Tobago, a small island developing State with a land area of just over 5,000 square kilometres and a population of 1.3 million, was, however, internationally renowned for its cultural and ethnic diversity.

The ability of the World Summit to promote the principles enshrined in the Millennium Declaration and thereby to effectively address such challenging issues as the need to achieve a gender equality perspective; take into account the special needs of older persons and persons with disabilities; and to effectively bring information and communication technologies to bear on the issues of poverty eradication and employment creation, would ultimately be the benchmark by which the success of the Summit’s deliberations would be judged.

MICHAEL FRENDO, Head of the Delegation of Malta, said Malta had, over the past years, endeavoured to transform itself into a country where information technology was pervasive in every sector and sphere of economic and social activity.  The aim had never been to give technologies an intrinsic significance.  The objective had been and remained the improvement of the social well-being of all Maltese citizens and in sharpening competitiveness on the world scene.  The Government had led a concerted effort engaging all sectors of the economy, civil society and the administration to develop a broadly agreed national ICT strategy.  The strategy was built on two cardinal thrusts -- the enhancement of the information society and the economy, and to further strengthen the ICT infrastructure in the Government.

Mr. Frendo said Malta’s strategy was to attract the interest of ICT multinationals and independent software providers to secure synergies that would be beneficial to them, as well as to the people of Malta.  As a European Union member with a long tradition of friendship, cooperation and commercial exchange with all countries of the Mediterranean region, Malta wished to contribute to the growth of wealth of knowledge and activity in this area of the world, and would do so.  The Summit was an opportunity to redefine the old ways of understanding the generation of wealth.  All must enjoy the benefits of ICTs and their potential for the improvement of quality of life.  

SERGIO MARCHI, Head of the Delegation of Canada, said that in order to create an information society, Canada had sought new means of using information and communication technologies in ways to favourize economic, social and cultural development thanks to the cooperation of the Government, the private sector and civil society.  Today, Canada was one of the most connected countries in the world and supported the creation of a global e-Policy Resource network (ePolNET).  This network would help countries in Africa design and implement strategies and policies for using ICTs -- to improve governance, to promote economic growth, and to improve education, health care and other public services.  However, the task had barely begun, since the gap between developed and developing countries in access to technology, information and knowledge persisted, and in some regions was growing wider.  As long as this divide existed, the global information society would not be what it was hoped it would be.

Canada’s vision of the global information society was to include all people, everywhere in the world, to be based on universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and putting ICTs to work in the service of sustainable global development -- beginning with the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  These were lofty goals, and achieving them would require unprecedented levels of commitment, imagination and above all partnership between governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations.  All should pledge to work together to achieve the noble goal of building an inclusive information society, a global village that supported freedom and opportunity for all.

KALIOPALE TAVOLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Fiji, said he believed the organization of the Summit was timely as there continued to be widening gaps in digital and knowledge divides between the technology-empowered and technology-excluded communities.  Ignoring the realities of that process would render most of the communities to ever increasing irrelevance.  The countries of the developing world had inherent and persistent problems including low human capital qualification level, lack of a telecommunication infrastructure, inadequate national and regional regulatory and judicial frameworks, and lack of investment.

The opportunities and advantages emanating from more liberal global information could extend to other sectors such as education, health care, business, food security, women and youth in development, and culture and development of government services.

NICHOLAS THORNE, Head of the Delegation of the United Kingdom, said that one must be clear that the information society presented a wide set of issues to which answers must be found.  However, by its nature, the information society defied being fitted into neat little boxes in which politicians and bureaucrats most liked to work.  He, therefore, offered a few thoughts on what governments, in both developed and developing countries could -- and could not -- do to harness the immense potential of the information society.  Access to information and the ability to pass on your thoughts to others were rights which governments interested in the social and economic development of their countries must not seek to undermine.  The United Kingdom, and colleagues in the European Union, had argued against any watering down of those basic human rights of free expression and access to information in the Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action that would be adopted today.

Over the last few weeks, delegations had spoken about creating a Fund to bridge the digital divide.  The United Kingdom encouraged countries to use the development provided to bolster ICT projects.  He did not believe that a new international Fund could tackle the real underlying problems nor that it would mobilize even a fraction of the money needed to bridge the digital divide.  A Fund was simply not the answer.  Other options held a lot more potential for bridging not just the digital, but the welfare divide, seen in the world today.  Governments must act to create rather than stifle market opportunities.  In this context, he believed it a lost opportunity that industry and civil society had not been more involved in the Summit and its preparation.  It was they who would be best placed to make the information society happen throughout the world.

BLANCANIEVE PORTOCARRERO, Head of the Delegation of Venezuela, said the Summit was an opportunity to learn together, and to build the information society, which was quite simply a society of hope that would support the common development of humankind.  The challenge was to save humankind, as legitimate uses of information were a common good, built for all, by all.  There was an urgent need to respect the rights of linguistic diversity, to respect the past, and to live in health, knowledge, peace, and spiritual harmony, nourished and able to decide on one’s own life:  and this could only be achieved by good governance.  Today, there could be satisfaction that a process had been initiated that would lead to Tunis.  There had been deep and rich debate both on matters of theory and of practice.  There was a political will which should redefine itself in order to understand that a society needed to be based on people.

The world had undergone profound changes, the product of human ingenuity and progress -- this was a great revolution on several fronts:  the scientific, quantum, and womanhood levels.  The digital divide was quite simply disparity which made dialogue impossible between civilizations, and which perpetuated inequality of development.  Venezuela had committed itself to making information and communication technologies widespread, as they were vital for the economic, political, cultural and social welfare of the country.  The technological potential of the information society should be oriented towards the independence, interdependence and universality of human rights, which were the cornerstone of sustainable development.  Technology could ensure happiness, but only when appropriately applied, and this should be strived towards.

IMELDA HENKIN, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that the poverty divide and digital divide were interrelated.  The UNFPA was the first to provide information through its Web site on reproductive health.  If the experience of the Fund and the lessons learnt by its partners were combined, it would further improve the information society.  The agency was also offering its innovations and experiences to the developing countries.  It was working with the Government of Ireland in developing tools that would generate knowledge.  The tools would be provided in the languages of the users.  The Government of Jordan was also collaborating with the agency in transforming software into Arabic language.

KAMEL AYADI, President of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, said that the Federation represented more than 10 million professionals.  It had been closely involved in the preparation of the Summit.  In past years, the Federation had held a number of international events, including the World Congress on the Digital Divide, held in Tunisia.  It was true that the Summit must cover many concerns; it also remained true that the technological and scientific component remained an intrinsic part of information and communication technologies and access to them.  The Federation called on the international community to ensure that the role of scientists and engineers should be fully recognized in the consideration of the information society.  He stressed that, in return, science must serve the needs of populations and technological research must be geared to finding solutions.  Concluding, he expressed the determination of the Federation to work towards the implementation of the Plan of Action, in cooperation with other partners.

TALAL ABU-GHAZALEH, Chairman and CEO of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh & Co. International, said the follow-up to Tunis needed to define an implementation mechanism and an accountability system for the Plan of Action.  The United Nations ICT Task Force provided a forum for issues related to the Internet.  The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) had performed well under its mandate, but what was not within its mandate needed to be addressed and given real world solutions, and could not be left to cyberspace.  Multilingualization and internationalization of the Internet needed to be promoted to make it truly global.  This predominantly developing World Summit would hopefully lead to a Tunis developed World Summit, where the debate could be in a familial atmosphere of global interest.  Should the digital divide continue to grow, least developed countries would become extinct, and the developed countries would suffer.

ALICIA BARCENA, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that the challenges put at the international level had strengthened the regional grouping of Latin American and Caribbean countries.  The region was now building a strategy well adapted to the needs of each country in order to meet public policies in information and communication technologies.  E-government would be a very effective approach to the region’s States in their efforts to have access to the information society.  The interregional market had been widened; and linguistic barriers had been resolved.

MILILANI TRASK, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said the Forum was a newly created body and served as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council on issues impacting indigenous peoples with regard to health, education, culture, language, and the environment.  As a representative of over 370 million indigenous peoples, it was with great consternation that she had seen the final language of the Declaration.  She had noted the deletion of vital provisions for indigenous people.  Most disturbing was the deletion of the text that would force States and the private sector to get the consent of indigenous peoples for the use and display of their traditional knowledge.  These issues must be addressed in order to make the world a safe place for indigenous peoples.  If the economic information and digital divide was to be bridged, information and communication technologies must support true cultural diversity and preserve and promote the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples.

Ms. Trask said indigenous peoples must be granted the right to self-determination, the right to their traditional lands and to their traditional heritage.  She assured participants that despite the disappointment of the Forum, it would continue to work in good faith with States in the hope that the information society would become inclusive for all, including indigenous people.

VELUSAMY MATHIVANAN, Chairman and CEO of CrimsonLogic, said there was a key concern that many businesses concerned with information and communication technologies faced when expanding overseas, and that was intellectual property rights.  Business recognized and acknowledged the rights of both users and creators, but strong intellectual property protection protected employment and technological innovation.  These rights were monopolies designed to benefit societies as a whole, an incentive to commercialization and innovation.  For an information technology company, intellectual property rights were a life source, and if the protection laws did not allow it to reap due and fair returns, companies would look elsewhere.  Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPs) was a step forward, since it described the minimum standard of protection that was allowable in the world economy, bringing all under a common international rule, making the business environment more attractive to the investor.  However, there was a need for governments to take steps to ensure that the laws were upheld, and strongly at that.  If firm intellectual property protection rights were in place and enforced, the world would be one step closer to bridging the digital divide, since information, innovation and creation would then be accessible to all.

CARLOS AFONSO, President, Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor, said that the Social Forum held in Porto Allegro in Brazil had concluded that the building of a new world was still possible.  A new relationship should be constituted between civil society and the rest of the world.  An inclusive programme had been proposed to be run by the community itself.  In many countries, wealth had accumulated in the hands of a few.  Also in countries where the HIV/AIDS pandemic was prevailing, there was an urgent need for generic medicines.  However, the availability of drugs for the victims was limited, with the private sector enjoying a monopoly on their fabrication and distribution.

OLIVIER PIOU, Chief Executive Officer of Axalto, said Axalto’s contribution to the Summit was the Smart Card.  This was the provision of a building block for information society that was able to ensure access while ensuring security.  The Smart Card was a conventional identity token combined with a digital identity, accessible by machines.  Providing safe identification was essential to ensure trust in the application and the content that was available to human beings and their dialogue, as well as for economic investments.  Giving an example of the work of Axalto, he said that biometrics could turn into the most positive force, if combined with a portable secure object for identification.  If such identification methods were not used without the application of a smart card, such tools could be hazardous.  Another example was the use of wireless technologies such as cellular phones.  One must remember that such radio frequency identification systems were activated from a distance making it easy to install a reading antenna without being noticed or without consent.  The message was -- the more powerful the tools, the more the duty to use them for the best of humanity.  This was why Axalto believed that it was essential that identification systems ensured security and installed trust.  Axalto was determined to work towards such safety standards in the modern information civil society.

SEAN O’SIOCHRU, Spokesperson of CRIS Campaign, said in some respects civil society had been the main beneficiary of the World Summit on the Information Society.  It was the first time that civil society had come together in such diversity and such numbers to work together on information and communication issues.  Much had been learnt, and there had been a broad consensus that had resulted in a coherent, comprehensive and convincing Civil Society Declaration on the vision of the information society.  This shared a sentence with the Declaration of Principles: “Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need, and the foundation of all social organization.”  The Civil Society Declaration, however, went further in proposing how the ICT society could be built while keeping people at the centre.  The role of ICTs in this process of civil society networking was significant, but the huge imbalances in ICTs globally were also reflected, and this was regretted.  Civil society should build on the process that had been begun, and governments, intergovernmental organizations and all others were invited to join with civil society in creating the information and communication society for all.

PHILIPPE PETIT, Deputy General Director of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said that intellectual property rights were fundamental tools which supported creation of the information and innovations that were constitutive elements of the information society.  The intellectual property system protected creators and secured their livelihoods, and in so doing, it would provide them with incentives to allow wider and freer access to their knowledge assets.  It would also sustain vibrant creative industries that supported developing and developed economies alike, contributing to reducing the digital divide.  The intellectual property system would enable the international community to exercise human rights, both economic and moral, as owners of the fruits of its creativity.  All countries had limitless intellectual assets, shown in their intellectual heritage, traditional knowledge, and human ingenuity.  The WIPO was working with its member States to ensure that appropriate traditional knowledge assets were recognized and protected as intellectual property.

MICHEL JARRAUD, Deputy Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, said weather- and climate-related extreme events including tornadoes, thunderstorms, storms, cyclones, floods and drought, accounted for nearly 75 per cent of all disasters and led to human suffering, the loss of lives and economic damage.  Monitoring these events, prediction of their movement and the timely issuance of warning were essential for mitigating the disastrous impact of such events on populations and economies.  Indeed, information and communication technologies had played a key role in meteorology since the nineteenth century with the advent of the telegraph.  The information society must further the capabilities of the national meteorological and hydrological services in producing and delivering information, warnings and comprehensive and effective services to the population for the safety of life, property and the general welfare of people.  Access to information provided by such services was of crucial importance for the sustainable development of all countries.

JEAN DELLO, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of the Republic of Congo, said that at a time when all of humanity was confronted with the most crucial problems, it went without saying that the Summit brought a definite hope to all peoples of the world, as it opened a path to the inalienable and undeniable right to information, knowledge, and, by corollary, to development.  It answered the profound aspirations of the States of Africa in particular.  It was a truism to say that information and communication technologies (ICTs) were now necessary elements to promote sustainable development, democracy, transparency, responsibility and good governance.  The ICTs had become a powerful tool for change in the emerging international economic system, at the heart of which they were an ever more important part of its competitiveness. 

Information and communication technologies could help individuals and communities to fully realize themselves, promote economic, social, cultural and political development as well as improve the quality of life, and reduce poverty, hunger and social exclusion, the Congolese Minister said.  This was why the Congo upheld the objectives defined in the Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action.  However, the Congo believed that the Summit could only reach its goals if the digital divide which divided, on the one hand, the countries of the North and the countries of the South, and, on the other hand, social classes within countries, was reduced to nothing; and equally, if mechanisms of transfer of technology and sharing of knowledge were set into motion.

MARK J. MWANDOSYA, Minister for Communications and Transport of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that the “Missing Link Report” had demonstrated the glaring disparity in the distribution of telephone lines.  Three quarters of the lines were concentrated in the nine developed countries and the remaining 25 per cent were distributed unevenly throughout the rest of the world.  The disparities portrayed in the report still existed today.  Developing countries were characterized by low penetration with the least covered being the rural areas.  The unprecedented technological advances continued to reinforce the disparities.  The emerging high use of Internet services had created another divide, a digital divide among countries and regions.  Likewise in developing countries, a digital divide existed between the urban and rural and between the high-income and low-income urban populations.  Yet, technological advances provided a real opportunity to address the divide and a platform to leapfrog the development process towards information and a knowledge society.

Mr. Mwandosya said Tanzania had in place a National Development Vision 2025, which envisaged the attainment of a people-centred, an inclusive and an information- and knowledge-based society.  A poverty-eradication strategy was being implemented as a vehicle to achieving the Vision objectives, which were in line with the Millennium Development Goals.  To that end, Tanzania had developed an ICT policy and believed that an information society could only be built upon a firm foundation of an ICT infrastructure.

EL ZIBEIR BASHIR TAHA, Minister of Sciences and Technology of the Sudan, said that the Summit aimed to reach consensus on a Declaration of Principles to uphold and organize the distribution of information.  The Sudan supported this objective, as well as the objective to ensure that information was protected from all forms of discrimination and corrupting influences.  In this context, it would be important to eliminate monopolies in software and hardware and to respect cultural and linguistic diversity.  The monopoly currently at play made the flow of information one way and unbalanced.  The Sudan, therefore, supported the establishment of a Digital Solidarity Fund.  The digital gap could be narrowed through national processes and political will, he said.

Believing that there was indeed a need to create a new information society, the Sudan had undertaken several projects.  These included the establishment of several major institutional frameworks, increased investment in the development of the flow of information, and the creation of national networks, as well as councils for higher education.  New laws had also been enacted that dealt with television and radio licensing.  Each country had its own characteristics, he said, reminding participants that the Sudan was the largest African country, with a multitude of cultural influences.  This meant that Sudan had a growth ranging from 6 to 11 per cent in gross domestic product (GDP) terms and had much to offer for investors. 

SÉVERIN NDIKUMUGONGO, Minister of Transport of Burundi, said the Summit was an appeal to the conscience of mankind, to the international community to say that the world was changing for all of humanity, moving from an industrial to an information society.  The Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action would act as guidelines for the new century.  There was a need to adopt an appropriate code of conduct to live in this new national and international environment, surrounded by information and communication technologies.  The lack of infrastructure, including the lack of a telecommunications infrastructure, hindered the realization of these goals, and a main task remained, above all, globally developing telecommunications infrastructures to provide access and connectivity to a majority of people. 

The goal was to integrate countries into the knowledge and information society, and the effects were found in all social, cultural and business aspects of that country.  The Digital Access Index established a scale to measure countries connectivity.  Burundi required assistance to ensure the prosperity of its people, and required international solidarity to bridge the digital divide and to live fully in the information society, as was the right of the people of Burundi.  There should be no delay in making the acts promised at the Summit concrete, in order to share the joys and smiles of Burundi, and this would happen by providing the country with digital solidarity. 

ABDULMALEK AL-MOALEMI, Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology of Yemen, said his country’s policy on telecommunications had increased the level of education among the population.  The policy had also enabled the country to cope with the challenges in this sector.  It also designed the strategies on how to deal with the information and communication technologies in the future.  The Government of Yemen would like to see that its men and women enjoyed access to information in the society.  The development of the Internet had also been an important tool.  The Government was working to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich in the nation.  It had injected inputs into the dynamics of the economic progress that the State was achieving. 

OVIDIO DE JESUS AMARAL, Minister of Transport Communication and Public Work of Timor-Leste, said that telecommunications services in his country were operated by Timor Telecom -- a new company that had been created by Portugal Telecom International.  Timor Telecom had the exclusive operation of services pertaining to fixed and mobile telephones, data, leased circuits, transport of diffusion signals and international links.  At present, mobile telephone services were already operating in five districts.  Participants were also told about the public radio broadcasting service in Dili which covered all districts. 

The Minister from Timor-Leste said that all activities in the telecommunications sector were under the control of the Government.  In addition, the Government had established a regulatory body named ARCOM, working under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Public Works, and responsible for all telecom activities such as frequencies management, tariff control, telecommunication policy, licensing and quality of service.  Problems faced were power limitations and the fact that all telecommunication equipment had to be installed in containers since all buildings had been destroyed.  Furthermore, human resources were a big challenge since at present there were minimal human resources with the capabilities to exploit ICT issues in the country.  He said that if people were educated in using ICT facilities, the growth of ICT-based services in Timor-Leste would boost the national economy. 

ALEXANDER CHIKVAIDZE, Head of the Delegation of Georgia, said some issues deserved special attention.  Necessary skills and knowledge were required at the national level in order to benefit from the information society, the knowledge-based society, and capacity programmes, taking into account national needs and conditions which needed to be implemented.  An environment conducive to the transfer of technology needed to be created, and effective cooperation between international organizations was also vital, as was the need to share best practices and experiences.  National efforts to build a people-centred information society with development issues at their core should be supported by international aid in order to build a globally inclusive information society.  There was, therefore, a need to create a fund for this.  The inclusion of ICT-related programmes in national development and poverty-eradication strategies were important, since these would eventually lead to the creation of sustainable development. 

Georgia placed the highest importance on creating an information society and joining the global knowledge-based society.  Georgia upheld human rights principles, international law, and principles of friendly relations with all its neighbours, near or far.  The main domestic preoccupation of the country remained these issues, and the creation of a decent standard of living for its entire population.

ALVARO MOSCOSO BLANCO, Head of the Delegation of Bolivia, said his country shared and reaffirmed the principles of recognition and preservation of human dignity and the respect for cultural diversity.  Bolivia supported the proposal of the Digital Solidarity Fund and hoped that the results of the discussions at the Summit would allow the establishment of a mechanism to manage the Internet in a democratic, transparent and multilateral manner.  Bolivia had a long tradition in managing information.  The radio service was among the principal sources of information, and it was used to raise awareness of human rights among the country’s communities.  It also contributed to raise the level of development and social communication of the population.

Information and communication technologies had been instrumental in the extension of mass education among the population, particularly the indigenous peoples.  The quality of education provided in the country had also been improved, thanks to the use of ICTs.  The Government would continue to utilize ICTs in order to generate a better social inclusion and to attain efficient and transparent public administration.

NUNZIO ALFREDO D’ANGIERI, Head of the Delegation of Belize, said that it was possible to improve the conditions of humanity thanks to the possibilities offered by the Internet.  The world had become so small that everyone was responsible for each other.  The free exchange of information had changed the nature of society; this meant that everyone had a responsibility to contribute to society.  In this connection, it was stressed that the dissemination of knowledge had no value if it was not entirely available to all peoples and cultures in the world.  The goal of the Summit must be to make information and communication technologies more accessible to everyone, particularly developing countries.  These countries must be helped in their determination to achieve a social balance.  Participants were told about the importance of supporting scientific research since it led to the development of new technologies that could be enormously important for mankind. 

Sustainable capacity building must be extended to ensure that all countries could benefit from the new opportunities available through ICTs, he said.  In Belize, the Government was building schools that provided information-technology training available to all, including to the Maya population.  Education and science must be recognized as fundamental in the information society, as well as the right for women and vulnerable groups to have access to ICTs.  Belize supported the proposal to create a Digital Solidarity Fund.  Such a Fund would give developing countries access to an important tool for sustainable development. 

YAAKOV LEVY, Head of the Delegation of Israel, said the Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action constituted a major advance in addressing the global issues of the information society.  An important part was played by civil society and the private sector.  Although the information society was a difficult concept to define, it certainly had tremendous effects on all spheres of human activity.  The means of human communication had changed radically within a very short time.  Information and communication technologies had become an integral part of daily life, as millions of people across the world exchanged information and ideas, regardless of borders or distances.  However, ICTs were not a panacea.  Access and usage were still denied to billions around the world.  This new gap, the digital divide, between rich and poor, developed and developing, privileged and less privileged, was a worrisome phenomenon that needed to be addressed. 

Mr. Levy said the development of an information society was a unique tool which could be used to promote universal access to information and education, but at the same time it also created new problems and threats:  a tool that could be used for peaceful and constructive purposes could also be used with other intentions -- the use of the Internet by terrorists and paedophiles was a blatant example of this situation.  It was incumbent upon participants to seek ways to unite against the contamination of the Internet by xenophobia, racism, and religious intolerance, including the resurgence of anti-Semitism, and to find the appropriate technological and legal remedies to these phenomena.  By learning about each other, mutual suspicions would be erased, and understanding and peace would be built, which should be among the aims of the information society.

MANUEL A. GONZALEZ SANZ, Head of the Delegation of Costa Rica, hoped that the discussions held during the Summit would be translated into concrete measures.  His country believed that effective policies on information and communication technologies should prompt better living conditions for people living both in rural and urban areas.  The ICTs should also help increase the capacities of hospitals to treat patients and increase the availability of medicine for all.  The freedom of opinion expressed through the information society should generate better use of ICTs.  Generally, ICTs should create a culture of peace and non-violence.

Costa Rica had been implementing mechanisms that accelerated access to the Internet.  It was also using telemedicine for the benefit of the population.  It had put more emphasis on e-government for the better management of public affairs. The Government believed that the digital divide should serve the equal access of people to ICTs. 

JOAO AUGUSTO DE MEDICIS, Executive Secretary of the Community of Portuguese- Speaking Countries, said the Community represented 220 million people in four continents and had, as its goal, to move towards a future marked by justice and democracy.  The potential of information and communication technologies must be used to move the international community towards a better society for all.  Information technologies had modified the world, but had only reached a small part of the world population.  This was a worrying trend since there was now a separation between countries that did and did not produce information technologies.  The ICTs could not change the course of history, he said.  It was men and women who could change history and move society towards a better future.  In July 2003, the Community had adopted a resolution on supporting the preparations for the Summit.  At the end of the day, a Declaration of Principles would be adopted.  The Community would like to see the provisions of the Declaration implemented.  When being implemented, States must not forget that a precondition for preserving and stimulating the cultures of peoples would be the dissemination of information in more languages on the Internet.  The information society must also be based on freedom of expression.

JEAN-PIERRE MAZERY, President of the Council for Communication of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said that if the Order of Malta recognized the importance of information and communication technologies, it remained conscious of the fact that their use could lead to all sorts of abuses.  It was essential that their use respect the dignity of the human person, human rights, the rights of the child and the family, as well as those fundamental truths that were freedom of religion, conscience and opinion, and the respect for private life.  What made communication was not the techniques, but the men and societies that used them in their cultural and social dimensions.  Care should be taken to ensure that the performances of the new technologies did not supplant the ideal that was centred on the dignity and respect of man, and towards which the information society should tend.  This society should be able to lean on a real ethical dimension, by which it was meant that ICTs should be considered as a tool at the service of each and every one, and not as a goal in themselves nor to be used exclusively to subdue new markets.  The goal of the Summit was to continue to improve the conditions of humanity, by using new technologies appropriately, in a spirit of justice and sharing.

CARLYLE CORBIN, Observer of the United States Virgin Islands, said information and communication technologies provided an opportunity for development in the current globalized world.  However, the digital divide continued to divide people and to marginalize others.  The Barbados Declaration had affirmed that ICTs should be oriented towards economic and social development, as well as poverty eradication.  Communities could be empowered if every school was equipped with information technology and if all students had access to the Internet.

AMIR A. DOSSAL, Executive Director of the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships, said the Summit was about partnership and had been a turning point for the international community, as well as civil society.  By working together, new partnerships had been made.  Globalization and the changing nature of international relations called for innovations, he said.  Finding solutions to complex problems, such as HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation, access to safe drinking water and the digital divide, could no longer be approached by sovereign States alone.  There had been a rise in the number, diversity and influence of partners in recent years, much as a result of progress in information and communication technologies.  In the past, private and public partnerships simply meant “you give us the money and we will carry out the projects”.  Partnerships today were more geared to benefiting and learning from each others’ experiences.  A number of new initiatives had been developed, but the challenge remained how to make these developments accessible to all.  In addition, he stressed the importance of South-South cooperation which, in this context, was key, particularly in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

* *** *