The internet should be more democratic and more international, says the WSIS’ chief organizer. More than 80% of the goals of WSIS have already been achieved, saysITU chief Yoshio Utsumi at his opening press conference for the summit’s currently-underway second phase in Tunisia. He however skipped answering whether ITU has communicated concern to Tunisia’s government regarding the safety of journalists and human rights’ campaigners. Utsumi also announced that over 300 parallel events planned. Some 12,000 delegates are meanwhile in Tunis on the eve of the summit opening.
Not one single country or one single group controlling the internet today can make arbitrarily decisions any more. This is one of the chief successes of the WSIS, according to its patron, the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Yoshio Utsumi.
More than 80% of the goals of WSIS have already been achieved, Utsumi announced at his opening press conference for the summit’s second phase in Tunisia, on Tuesday.
Utsumi said that the management of domain names and root servers is a primary concern for the summit. “That is the headquarters of internet — managed and controlled by ICANN and the USA”, he explained.
“The problem we are facing is that since the Internet has become a basic part of social and economic activities, its management should be more democratic and more international”, Utsumi emphasised.
Utsumi praised WSIS host-country Tunisia for “making every possible effort to provide good logistical surrounding” for the second phase of WSIS.
“In the case of security, I do not see any problem here. But it is too hot in this room – so we cannot say comfort has been fully achieved”, Utsumi commented. The comments come in the backdrop of harassment and violence against both mediapersons and others in a country whose commitment to free speech has been questioned in the past.
He skipped answering whether ITU has communicated concern to Tunisia’s government regarding the safety of journalists and human rights’ campaigners.
Utsumi denied any responsibility of the summit organisers in relation to the earlier incident where a French journalist was badly beaten up — amidst allegations that the authorities present failed to take action — because “the journalist who was attacked was not accredited to the summit”.
He then announced that two UN personnel were also attacked before the summit.
Utsumi also skipped answering a question about the role and presence of civil society at WSIS.
Another “still very hot” issue, according to Utsumi, are the ongoing negotiations on the implementation mechanism of the action plan agreed two years ago in Geneva, at the earlier World Summit on Information Society.
“I do not see a compromise [coming] yet”, Utsumi admitted. He was quite optimistic that a final agreement would be reached by Wednesday (November 16) on internet governance — the second controversial topic in the still ongoing pre-summit negotiations.
Raising awareness about the importance of ICTs and the need to make the best out of the opportunities that they offer — besides achieving a global political commitment to a just, ethical and equitable society by [means of] ICTs – this is how Utsumi formulated the objectives of WSIS.
What makes the WSIS unique, according to Utsumi, is its theme — the future – while other UN summits focused on problems.
He outlined the multi-stakeholder approach of WSIS and the fact that it took place in two phases – one to define the scope of the information society debate and plan, and a second one in Tunisia to foster implementation.
ITU’s Secretary-General reported on more than 300 parallel events planned. Over 12,000 participants have arrived to Tunis a day before the official opening of the summit — exceeding by 1,000 the total number of participants in phase one — Utsumi announced.
Everyone agrees implementation is important. But while some industrial countries do not like to have a precise and concrete implementation mechanism, many ‘developing’ countries think that it is important for the mechanism to be concrete, Utsumi explained.
“I am expecting as much as possible that this summit would establish a concrete mechanism”, said Utsumi.
An official biography says Yoshio Utsumi has been in the telecoms business for over thirty years. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Law from Tokyo and a Master’s in Political Science from Chicago. He has headed Japan’s largest investment fund (the Postal Life Insurance Bureau) and has also been in broadcasting. In the past, he has served as Japan’s first secretary in Geneva, in charge of ITU affairs. He was elected as ITU Secretary-General in October 1998 at Minneapolis, and re-elected in 2002 at Marrakesh.
"Mr Utsumi is credited with having introduced the competition and liberalization policy at a time when such ideas were not widely accepted," says his bio. Utsumi (63) also undertook a major restructuring of Japan’s postal services.