Monday, March 10, 2003

World Summit Information Society (WSIS)- What is it?

WSIS stands for World Summit on the Information Society, and is a UN summit that is to be held in two phases- in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005. Its legal basis is in the UN General Assembly Resolution 56/183 adopted on 21 December 2001, a result of the instigation the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which placed the question of the holding of such a conference on the agenda of the United Nations. In January 2002, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a proposal for a global summit on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) issues. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) took the lead in organizing the event, which included the participation of more than 50 heads of state. WSIS is also related to UNESCO.

What is a UN Conference?

A UN Conference (or "Summit") involves Heads of state and government and other high-profile world leaders from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations as well as from civil society and the private sector, usually dealing with themes of humanity. Summit events have put long-term, difficult problems like poverty at the top of the global agenda. The participation of thousands of NGOs, citizens, academics and businesspeople, in both the official and unofficial meetings, has turned these conferences into "global forums".

UN Summits have been held on a variety of issues that have commanded the attention of the world. The World Summit on the Information Society is unique in that it was envisaged to meet in two phases: The Geneva Summit in December 2003 will lay the foundations with a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action. The Tunis Summit, meeting in 2005, will monitor and evaluate progress on the Action Plan and devise an Agenda that will target goals for achievement by 2015.

Why a Summit on the 'Information Society'?
(from the formal ITU-WSIS) literature

The Digital Revolution

The digital revolution, fired by the engines of Information and Communication Technologies, has fundamentally changed the way people think, behave, communicate, work and earn their livelihood. It has forged new ways to create knowledge, educate people and disseminate information. It has restructured the way the world conducts economic and business practices, runs governments and engages politically. It has provided for the speedy delivery of humanitarian aid and healthcare, and a new vision for environmental protection. It has even created new avenues for entertainment and leisure. As access to information and knowledge is a prerequisite to achieving the Millennium Development Goals – or MDGs -, it has the capacity to improve living standards for millions of people around the world. Moreover, better communication between peoples helps resolve conflicts and attain world peace.

The Digital Divide

Paradoxically, while the digital revolution has extended the frontiers of the global village, the vast majority of the world remains unhooked from this unfolding phenomenon. With the ever-widening gulf between knowledge and ignorance, the development gap between the rich and the poor among and within countries has also increased. It has therefore become imperative for the world to bridge this digital divide and place the MDGs on the ICT-accelerated speedway to achievement.

Read more at the ITU website's WSIS section.

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