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.