Sunday, June 22, 2008

WSIS (World Summit on Information Society) progress?

Three years after WSIS ended, it is hardly mentioned in development circles anymore. I remember the hype surrounding WSIS when it was happening, when ICT was the new kid on the block.  Last month, the Commission of Science and Technology for Development (the Commision charged with monitoring the implementation of WSIS as well), convened in Geneva and issued a draft resolution on WSIS implementation. The following summary is adapted from UNCTAD's website.

( For information only - Not an official record )
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At its eleventh session, held from 26 to 30 May 2008 in Geneva, the Commission on Science and Technology for Development... also undertook the second annual review of progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the two-phase World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The Commission recommended one draft resolution and three draft decisions to the Economic and Social Council for its consideration.

The draft resolution, entitled "Assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society", notes that:
  • while in general the digital divide may be shrinking, a new form of digital divide is emerging in terms of difference in quality and speed of access to information and communications technologies. 
  • that the disparity in cost and quality of access between developed and developing countries continues and that in developed, high-income economies, the average cost of a broadband connection is significantly less than in developing countries, both in nominal terms and as a percentage of the average monthly income.
  • that the gender divide still persists in quality and variety of means of access to the Internet and information and communications technologies in both developed and developing countries. 
  • in many countries there is inadequate coherence and complementarity between national information and communication technology policies and national development and poverty reduction strategies.
The resolution calls for 
  • increased efforts for funding of and investment in information and communications technologies, in order to advance broadband access, including wireless access. 
  • the mainstreaming of information and communications technology policies into national development or poverty reduction strategies, with a strong emphasis on gender equality. 
  • all stakeholders to increase their efforts to reduce the disparity in cost of access, through, for example, the establishment of Internet exchange points and the creation of a competitive environment, both at the backbone network and local levels. 
  • international and regional organizations to assess and report on a regular basis on the universal accessibility of nations to information and communications technologies.
The resolution notes 
  • the lack of indicators to measure progress towards achieving the targets set out in the Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society at its first phase, 
  • that the architecture for the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, as defined in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, is rather complex and has also presented limitations in involving participation of all stakeholders, in particular those from developing countries. 
  • the importance of developing benchmarks and indicators, including impact indicators, in the context of the Partnership on Measuring Information and Communication Technologies for Development. 
  • the need for United Nations entities that act as action line facilitators to work with all stakeholders to establish milestones, deadlines and calendars for their action lines. 
  • that WSIS action line facilitators should report not only on progress made, but also on obstacles and difficulties encountered by all stakeholders in regard to the commitments and recommendations pertaining to their respective action line at the regional and international levels. 
  • invites the international community to make voluntary contributions to the special trust fund established by UNCTAD to support the review and assessment work of the Commission regarding WSIS follow-up.

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