12 February 2003
Panel Urges Spreading Information Technology to Fight Poverty
(World Summit for Information Society to meet in December) (2690)
An upcoming international meeting on the status of information and
communication technologies (ICTs) will focus on promoting wider access
to technology as a means of reducing poverty, according to a meeting
The January 30 document proposes that the World Summit on the
Information Society (WSIS), to be held in December in Geneva, also
declare that access to the free flow of information is a fundamental
The document was presented February 10 to a meeting of the
International Telecommunications Advisory Committee (ITAC) in
Washington. The committee, which includes representatives of industry
and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), will eventually recommend to
the U.G. government positions that could be advanced at the summit.
Meeting planners emphasize the need to increase access in rural areas
-- particularly to e-mail -- and to provide local content reflecting
the diversity of users, said Robert Beaird, senior deputy coordinator
for communication information policy at the U.S. Department of State.
Through access to technology, remote rural areas can be provided some
services, such as health care information and learning opportunities,
they otherwise wouldn't get, he said.
"Connectivity is a critical enabling agent in building a global
information society in which all citizens can participate on an equal
footing," according to the document.
"By harnessing the potential of information and communication
technologies in all areas of human life, we can now provide new and
better responses to vital and longstanding issues such as in poverty
reduction and wealth creation, as well as equity and social justice,"
the document states.
The need for improving network security and fighting Internet crime is
also covered in the planning document.
It says the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
provide a framework for technology access to achieve a range of poor
countries' societal goals such as reducing poverty and inequality.
The document says the summit could consider declaring that all
universities and hospitals in the world should be provided information
and communication access by 2005 and all villages by 2010.
Following is the text of the planning document:
Proposal of an Orientation Document for PrepCom-2
(A non-paper intended to facilitate and assist PrepCom-2 in its
initial discussions of a draft Declaration and Action Plan submitted
by the President of the Preparatory Committee)
Information and Communication for All
An inclusive global information society is one where all persons,
without distinction, are empowered freely to create, receive, share
and utilize information and knowledge for their economic, social,
cultural and political development.
The World Summit on the Information Society offers an historic
opportunity to realize this vision.
By harnessing the potential of information and communication
technologies, in all areas of human life, we can now provide new and
better responses to vital and longstanding issues, such as in poverty
reduction and wealth creation, as well as equity and social justice.
Knowledge has always been at the core of human progress and endeavour.
Yet now, as never before, our individual and collective ability to
create and share knowledge has become the driving force in shaping all
Today, the dramatic increase in the volume, speed and ubiquity of
information flows that has been made possible through new information
and communications technologies has already brought about profound
changes in the demands and expectations upon government, business,
civil society and the individual.
Meanwhile the information and communication revolution is still in its
Faced with complex and ever-evolving challenges, all stakeholders have
critical choices to make. New forms of solidarity and cooperation, new
modes of social and economic organization and new ways of thinking are
In order to translate the rhetoric of the information and
communication revolution into equitable growth and sustainable
development on a global scale, and to realize the potential of ICTs to
empower people, all stakeholders need to embrace fully new roles and
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) should be regarded
as a tool and not as an end in themselves.
In all parts of the world remarkable success has been witnessed in
using information and knowledge for individual and collective
development. The Summit provides a platform to allow the dissemination
and replication of such success stories and best practices. In so
doing it will contribute to reducing disparities, including those of
the "digital divide".
To take advantage of the unprecedented win-win situation that an
information society can yield, concrete action and global commitment
are now required.
Enormous benefits can be derived from ICTs as a tool for development.
This will require the mainstreaming of information and knowledge
concerns within the broad range of societal goals, with focus on
development policy, as well as sectoral and cross-sectoral policies.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), approved by the United
Nations Millennium Assembly, provide a powerful methodological and
political framework for using ICTs to achieve this.
The Summit should promote adoption of the following principles at all
levels (global, regional, national, local/individual), and mobilize
support from all relevant stakeholders to attain consensus and
solidarity in an open and inclusive global information society.
1. Access to information and free flow of information are fundamental
2. Information and communication technologies are central to the
creation of the global information society and play an important role
in fighting poverty and inequality at the global level; to effectively
bridge the digital divide possibilities must be identified and pursued
to make digital opportunities available to all and to promote
universal access at an affordable cost.
3. Reaping the full benefits of the information society requires an
enabling and transparent environment, including policy, legal and
4. In the rapidly changing environment, which characterizes the
information society, human resources development is a continuous and
fundamental requirement; education and training, the fostering of
science, technology and innovation deserves adequate support.
5. Cultural and linguistic diversity are hallmarks of a successful
information society; creativity in the creation, processing,
dissemination and conservation of local content can best be stimulated
and supported through an adequate balance between intellectual
property rights and the needs of the users of information.
6. Civil Society, enterprises and entrepreneurship have key roles to
play in applying the power of information and knowledge to sustainable
economic, social and cultural development.
7. The information society should contribute to a better life for all
citizens. One way of doing this is through the use of ICTs in the
promotion of democracy, transparency, accountability and good
8. Multi-stakeholder participation in national, regional and global
partnerships is a key ingredient in achieving the goals of the
9. Empowerment and inclusion are fundamental characteristics and
objectives of the information society. Young people and women in
particular should be recognized and empowered as driving forces in
building such a society. Special focus should also be devoted to
disadvantaged and marginalized groups. Connectivity is a critical
enabling agent in building a global information society in which all
citizens can participate on an equal footing.
10. Confidence and security are essential to the full functioning of
the information society. Guarantees must be provided to users of
communication and information networks and the media including
protection of privacy and confidentiality.
These principles can be translated into concrete actions by promoting
usage of ICT based products, networks, services and applications in
order to create measurable impact on societal development, notably in
the achievement of the MDGs. This requires the establishment of an
enabling environment to allow the participation of all stakeholders in
triggering creativity and attracting investment at all levels of the
1. Mainstreaming information and communication technology into
development: the MDGs can be achieved more quickly by harnessing the
full potential of information and communication technologies. The
principal action areas include:
-- ICT enhanced learning (including e-learning);
-- ICTs for disaster recovery;
-- Other sectors (agriculture, population, natural environment,
2. Promoting cultural and linguistic diversity, local content and
media development: cultural diversity is a prerequisite for
sustainable development. Local content in a variety of languages
disseminated through the media is indispensable in achieving
-- Ensuring the preservation and use of traditional and indigenous
-- Promoting exchange of local content for better understanding.
-- Promoting innovative integration of different media for delivery of
information services, including interactive mode.
-- Working with the media in order to popularise the use of ICT.
3. Building human capacity: it is important to develop comprehensive
and forward-looking capacity building strategies, which would enable
people to acquire the skills necessary to benefit from the potential
of the information society.
-- Strengthening human, institutional and organizational capacity
through human resources management and development.
-- Enabling more people to benefit from ICTs, through education,
training and institutional capacity building.
-- Promoting both formal and non-formal ICTs skills development
-- Building capacity for training of specialists in ICTs.
-- Creating local ICT training centres in cooperation with all
-- Developing capacity for research and development of ICTs including
products and services. Creating and strengthening electronic networks
to enable scientists to share knowledge more widely.
-- Launching wide popularization campaigns on the benefits of ICTs for
-- Organizing leader awareness programmes.
4. Fostering digital opportunities by extending access, connectivity
and developing infrastructure: advances in ICTs provide unique
opportunities to use the multiplier effect to enhance access and
participation of all communities and social groups for improving their
quality of life.
-- Serving all communities and social groups.
-- A global program with the objective of providing sustainable
connectivity to every village and community and to extend access to
ICTs, with particular emphasis on the least developed countries and
small island developing states.
-- Creating community information and communication centres,
particularly in rural, remote and isolated geographical areas.
-- Ensuring equitable access to information and communication services
for all, especially women and young people.
-- Addressing the special needs of the disabled, the elderly,
indigenous people and migrants by promoting the development of
technologies, applications, and content suited to their needs.
-- Affordable and accessible terminal equipment for end-users is an
essential mart of building the
-- Developing programs to describe and quantify the extent of the
digital divide and keep it under regular assessment, including
community connectivity indicators.
-- Researching and publishing a "World ICT Development Report".
5. Enabling environment: there is a need to create a transparent,
competitive and trustworthy environment in order to maximize the
economic and social benefits of the information and communication
-- Formulating and implementing effective strategies for the expansion
and development of ICTs at the national and international levels.
-- Adopting policies and strategies for attracting investment in
infrastructure and extending service to all at affordable cost, in
particular in underserved areas.
-- Adopting policies and strategies for promoting fair and effective
competition in the provision of ICT products and services.
-- Promoting effective participation by developing countries in
international ICT decision-making forums and create opportunities for
the exchange of experience.
-- Broadening participation of all stakeholders in the governance of
-- Developing, at the international and regional level, a predictable,
stable and transparent legal and regulatory framework for the
development of the information society.
-- Developing policies and strategies that promote and facilitate open
and competitive markets for e-commerce.
-- Enhancing human resource capabilities and capacity of regulatory
agencies, especially in developing and least developed countries, with
respect to domestic regulation and international market access
-- Promoting initiatives meant to ensure a balance between
Intellectual Property Rights and the needs of the users of
6. Building partnership and mobilizing resources for the information
society: Establishing new and innovative multi-stakeholder
public-private partnerships, prioritizing and mainstreaming
information and communication technologies (ICTs) in Official
Development Assistance (ODA), National and Regional Poverty Reduction
Strategy Plans (PRSP), and enhancing coordination of multilateral and
-- Bringing together relevant actors from government, civil society
and private sector to build partnerships in planning and implementing
ICT related projects and activities.
-- Encouraging and supporting the research and academic communities to
develop innovative tools and methods for ICTs and development.
7. Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs. There is a
need to build confidence and security in the use of ICTs if they are
to be more widely used and with greater reliability.
-- Protecting data privacy and consumer interests.
-- Creating trust in cyberspace transactions and building confidence
-- Developing appropriate global and regional technical standards to
foster the deployment and use of ICTs.
-- Improving the quality and maintaining the interconnectivity and
interoperability of global and regional networks.
-- Tackling the issues arising from the convergence between ICT and
-- Reinforcing international cooperation to fight against cyber-crime.
-- Setting up appropriate mechanisms aimed at raising awareness of the
importance of information and communication network security and of
the resources available to the international community on this
-- Consideration of existing and potential threats in the sphere of
information and communication network security, including the presence
of computer pirates and viruses on the Internet, as well as methods
and means of repelling them.
-- Improving the exchange of technical information and international
cooperation in information and communication network security.
-- Reinforcing efforts aimed at:
a) assessing information security, including harmful interference
with, or misuse of, information and telecommunication systems and
b) establishing methods and organizations of emergency security
incident response, sharing information and technologies on incident
c) considering the elaboration in the long term, of an international
convention on information and communication network security.
8. Protecting fundamental freedoms: the unprecedented development of
the ICTs requires further action to strengthen respect for human
rights and fundamental freedoms in particular the right to freedom of
opinion and expression.
-- Implementing legal provision for access to information and uphold
public right to access to information.
-- Developing at the national level legal framework on freedom of
-- Applying information communication rights in cyberspace;
-- Extending international declarations concerning freedom of
expression to the Internet.
-- Promoting independent and pluralistic media.
Examples of possible concrete and comprehensive actions
1. The following could serve as benchmarks for actions to be taken:
-- all villages of the planet to be equipped with a telecenter by
-- all villages to be connected by 2010, with a community access
points by 2015;
-- all universities be connected by 2005 and all secondary schools by
2010 and all primary schools by 2015;
-- all hospitals to be connected by 2005 and health centres by 2010;
-- 90 percent of the world's population to be within wireless coverage
by 2010 and 100 percent by 2015;
-- all central governments departments to have a website and email
address by 2005 and all local governments departments by 2010.
2. Developing national e-strategies for all countries within three
years, including the necessary human capacity building.
3. Launching of a "Global Digital Compact" as a new pattern for
partnership and interaction between governments and non-governmental
actors, based on division of labour and specialized responsibilities,
as well as on identified specific and common interests, will work
together to achieve IT development goals (e.g. governments create
stimulating regulatory environment and fiscal incentives, business
bring in technology and made available simple applications,
non-governmental organizations undertake awareness campaigns and work
at community level etc.) (a model that will start from the
institutional relationships already existing in ITU, with ITU as
4. Launching and gradually developing an aggregate ICT Development
(Digital Opportunity) Index and publish it annually or every two years
in a ICT Development Report, where ranking of countries will be
accompanied by analytical work on policies and their implementation.
(ITU is to catalyse and combine in a coherent structure the existing
experiences in various organizations, universities, think-tanks etc.)
5. Elaborating and launching during the Geneva phase of the Summit a
"Handbook on good practices and success stories", as a compilation of
contributions from all stakeholders, in a concise and convincing
format, which is to be re-issued periodically and turned into a
permanent experience-sharing exercise.
6. Equipping and training content workers in the LDCs, such as
archivists, librarians, scientists, teachers and journalists in making
use of the expertise and operational capacity of the
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)