Turning Talk into Action

The ITU's World Series on the Information Society phase two concluded in Tunis last month with the re-commitment to address the bottlenecks, inefficiencies and financial constraints that have created the "digital divide" between rich and poor nations.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  December 7, 2005

|~|Utsumi200.jpg|~|Yoshio Utsumi, ITU secretary-general would like to see ICT developments levelling the playing field. |~|The second phase of the World Series on the Information Society (WSIS) held in Tunis in November had as its aim the further discussion of issues related to the governance of the internet and the financing of the reduction in “digital divide”. These questions had remained unresolved from the first phase of the Summit, concluded in Geneva in December 2003, and while many of the participants in Tunis further reiterated the need to continue along this path, actual implementation remains the key.

In his opening speech, the secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, set the tone of the expectations of the second phase of the Summit.

“Two years ago in Geneva, the first phase of the World Summit articulated a vision of an open and inclusive information society. Our task here in Tunis is to move from diagnosis to deeds,” Annan stated. “This Summit must be a summit of solutions, he added.”

Government representatives and participants appeared to rise to the occasion, detailing actual projects and programmes that have been put in place in order to raise literacy, access to information and the cost of communication. Syria's minister of telecommunications and technology, Mohammed Bashir Al Mounajed, for example, spoke of his government's efforts to foster a balanced, just society through the development of ICT.

Priorities in Damascus include providing information and telecommunications to all citizens; restructuring the sector through liberalisation programmes; the development of human resources and the extension of electronic transactions. In a bid to achieve these objectives, Al Mounajed says a concerted effort is being made to eliminate obstacles and impediments to ICT development through the strengthening of infrastructure, amongst other things.
||**|||~||~||~|The Summit in Tunis made progress on the thorny global issue of internet governance, with acknowledgement that there is a need for enhanced cooperation to enable governments to play an equal role in the governance of the internet. The process of moving towards an enhanced cooperation is set to be initiated by the end of 1Q06.

“We have, in our grasp, the opportunity to build a more just and equitable information society, in which the developing world even with disadvantages such as lack of industrialisation or remoteness, for the first time has a real chance to catch up with the developed world,” commented ITU secretary-general Yoshio Utsumi. “What matters is that everyone be guaranteed to have access to information and to communicate with others rather than to control the means of communications,” he added.

The ITU's determination to actively monitor the transition of dialogue to action is evident. The organisation is already managing a WSIS stocktaking process to create a database of ICT implementation activities. For the Tunis phase of the Summit, it has also created a so-called Golden Book, listing projects announced during the Summit. More than 200 projects have been included to date, with many more expected.

The Summit in Tunis had two outcome documents: the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society - which were endorsed by world leaders. In the coming months, the ITU says major efforts will be undertaken to organise the implementation of the Geneva and Tunis resolutions.

To coordinate this work the ITU will convene a meeting of Action Line moderators and to facilitate the implementation of WSIS outcomes, UN secretary-general Annan himself is expected to consult the chief executive board (CEB), which consists of the heads of major UN agencies and meets biannually, to establish a UN Group on the Information Society.

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