In November 2005, the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society will meet for the last time in Tunis. In its five year history, the WSIS has failed to succeed in redressing the North-South “digital divide”. Consensus in the WSIS has been elusive: the private and public sectors hold diametrically opposing views on issues such as market fundamentalism, free and open-source software, and intellectual property rights reform; while on issues of financing and internet governance, agreement between governments has been split along North-South lines. It remains to be seen whether civil society groups participating in the summit will be able to shift attention away from these competing interests towards human rights issues.
“Summits and Strategies”, in Big Brother Goes Global, Karen Banks for Index On Censorship, Volume 3/2005.
“Women 2000 and beyond: Gender equality in information and communication technologies” was compiled by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (UNDAW), with the collaboration of Sonia Jorge, Nancy Hafkin and Chat Garcia Ramilo.
Any world summit is challenging to design and to organize: the World Summit on the Information Society exceptionally so. This book describes, through the voices of some of its major actors, essential parts of the complex undertaking of the WSIS, from conception to realization. The work of many participants culminated in the Geneva Declaration and Plan of Action, as well as in the ICT4D Platform. When moving forward, it is important to remember history. WSIS already has a history of its own. This book is not a history book. But the stories, the contributors to this book tell us, are part of this history. The target audience of this book goes beyond the “usual suspects” and insiders, who has lived and worked in the “WSIS spaceship” for more than two years. The book will reach out to a broader public, because the Information Society is for everybody. The individual articles of this book will enable readers to get a better understanding of the complex issues raised by the WSIS process. It gives the opportunity to see the different perspectives of different players and stakeholders, the controversies and conflicts, which will continue to exist when the process goes ahead. Readers will get firsthand information and personal impressions on how WSIS I was done by governmental negotiators, who have been heavily involved in the deal-making inside and outside the conference halls of the International Geneva Convention Center and the Palais des Nations where most of the sessions took place. Representatives of the private sector and civil society give their perspectives and write about the expectations they have when they discuss the future of the WSIS process. And academic observers add some theoretical analysis which helps to put single issues into a broader context.
The purpose of this paper is to describe our current understanding of the debate about internet governance in WSIS, and to examine the main policy issues that are being considered in that discussion. It also suggests opportunities for developing nation stakeholders to contribute to the processes that are defining the internet governance landscape. The key message is that there are opportunities for civil society to engage and we must take them. Internet governance is one of the most controversial and debated issues to come from the WSIS process. It is also a moving target in that the UN working group that will help define what internet governance is, and identify the public policy issues involved is only just being set up and we can only make a best guess at its working methods and the scope of issues it will consider. As such this paper is very much a work in progress and may be modified over the coming months.
This paper sets out to look at the question of financing the provision of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the South, within the context of the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society, and advocates adopting a “global public goods” perspective on the issue. The paper first examines how the question of ICT financing has been debated during the WSIS preparatory process and the first phase summit (Geneva, December 2003). Particular attention is paid to Senegal’s proposal for the creation of a “Digital Solidarity Fund”, and the reactions to it of the different stakeholders – governments, from both North and South, the private sector and civil society – participating in WSIS. The following section explores the potential for addressing the issue of financing ICT expansion from a global public goods (GPG) perspective. First the authors provide an overview of what such an approach means in conceptual terms, looking both at general definitions of GPGs and the applicability of the concept to ICTs. They then review the debate that has been taking place around the specific issue of which existing or alternative innovative financing mechanisms might be used for GPG provision, linking the proposed strategies whenever possible to the ICT sector. Finally, in the conclusions the authors offer a concrete proposal with respect to what we consider to be the most appropriate financing mechanism for funding expanded ICT access in the South.
The term ‘e-strategies’ has gained widespread use over the last few years in the debates on the role of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for development, following the United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000. E-strategies have been defined as “plans based on the selection of scenarios and options for applying ICTs to national development” . A similar definition sees “an e-strategy as a shorthand for policies and strategies intended to exploit ICTs to promote national development. Other terms used to capture the phenomenon include ICT policy and IT policy”. APC gratefully acknowledges the support of CIDA.
APC has participated extensively in the internet governance process at the World Summit on Information Society. Out of this participation and in collaboration with other partners, including members of the WSIS civil society internet governance caucus, APC has crystallized a set of recommendations with regard to internet governance ahead of the final summit in Tunis in November 2005.
This brief was published for the Gender and ICT Awards knowledge-sharing session where the winners and guests deliberate the issue: Can ICTs really help in women’s economic empowerment? This session was held at the 10th AWID International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development in Bangkok, Thailand from 27-30 October 2005. This brief is a condensed version of the issue paper with the same title, which was commissioned by the Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP).