Findings and recommendations:
- Monitoring efforts are difficult: Considerable progress was made in 2008 towards the implementation of the outcomes of WSIS. Numerous activities have been reported by the different entities of the United Nations system. However, as there is no reporting mechanism in place with regards to activities undertaken by other stakeholders, it remains difficult for the action line facilitators and the regional commissions to assess the efforts made by civil society, business entities and multi-stakeholder partnerships, and to report on them to the CSTD secretariat. Also, the number of stakeholders, the number of recommendations and commitments, as well as the absence of benchmarks and targets in the Geneva Plan of Action, complicates the assessment of WSIS implementation.
- Not enough participation: With regards to action line facilitation, while some entities have reported on successful mobilization of relevant stakeholders through electronic networks and face-to-face consultations and meetings, others have continued to encounter considerable difficulty in involving participation of all stakeholders and reported on low participation of new stakeholders in the facilitation process. One obstacle identified was the high cost associated with face-to-face facilitation meetings in Geneva, which deters participation from developing-country stakeholders.
- Needs greater coordination: There is a need for greater coordination among the leading facilitator agencies and the CSTD secretariat, with a view to streamlining and clustering the WSIS-related events, including the action line facilitation meetings into one week event to take place back-to-back with the annual regular session of the CSTD. At an open consultation meeting organized by ITU and UNESCO, on 15 September 2008, some participants suggested, inter alia, that the cluster of WSIS-related events should be organized with opening and closing plenary meetings and parallel sessions on action lines in between, and that the events could be organized along themes, including ICTs for the MDGs, financial mechanisms, security and open access to scientific literature. The organizers of the WSIS-related events for 2009 are taking several of these suggestions into account.
- Needs a way to benchmark progress: There is also a need to benchmark progress towards the attainment of the specific targets and goals set out in the Geneva Plan of Action and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society. In this regard, the commission, through the CSTD secretariat, may consider collaborating closely with UNGIS, the lead moderators and facilitators to group the 11 action lines into thematic clusters.
- New issues arises: New topics that were not centrer stage at the first and second phases of WSIS in 2003 and 2005 continue to emerge, such as online privacy and child protection on the Internet. It is recommended that the commission in its future work focus not only on the positive sides of the emerging information society, but also on various risks, including phishing and other types of cyber-criminality.
- Focus on pro-poor applications: The CSTD may consider focusing on pro-poor ICT policies and applications, including the need for access to broadband at the grass roots level, with a view to narrowing the digital divide between and within countries.
- Focus on impact of ICTs, not just ICTs themselves: More emphasis is required by all stakeholders on the empowerment aspects of new ICTs. Empowerment, strengthening of democratic processes and ICTs in education should be priority themes for the CSTD. More attention should also be given by all stakeholders to the potential contributions of ICTs towards the MDGs and the reduction of poverty.
- Access goes beyond mere infrastructure: While the supply of ICT infrastructure remains a priority for many developing countries, it is important to recognize that rising Internet penetration alone does not necessarily allow for an information society for all. Meaningful access, at the individual or community level, requires more than infrastructure. The human capacities – with an estimated 776 million illiterate adults and 75 million out-of-school children – and the lack of local content remain serious bottlenecks in this context. People need the funds to afford access, and the skills required to make use of the services and equipment. The commission should therefore seek to foster broader understanding of access and stress the demand side factors, with a focus on enabling communities and empowering citizens.