Annan assures media of free access to Internet
Tunis, Nov. 16, GNA - The United Nations Secretary-General Busumuru Kofi Annan answering questions by the media on Wednesday after the opening of the second phase of the World Summit for the Information Society said he hoped the Summit would give more access to information to journalists. A journalist had asked why the Summit had been organized in a country where access of information to journalists was limited and restricted to the extent that some of them had been subjected to violence. Busumuru Annan said the objective of the Summit was to open up and expand Internet access. It had noble objectives, he said, and urged the journalist to appreciate the hosting of the Summit in Tunisia. "We did not come here to achieve that objective in just today, ... it will take time to achieve both here and elsewhere," he said. On the issue of Internet governance, Busumuru Annan said though the stakeholders could not agree on who should manage the Internet, the establishment of a multi-stakeholder group to deliberate and come out with who managed the Internet was laudable. A journalist had enquired about the stand of the United States to which Busumuru Annan replied: "Let us leave the management of the technical aspect to the technical people." He said so far, the United States of America had run the Internet effectively, expanded the facility fairly and expertly in the interest of the people. He said the latest approach was open to all and would enable decision-makers to have access to different voices and this was a good start for cooperation that could go further. Busumuru Annan said it was not true that nothing had been done since the Geneva Summit because now doctors had access to telemedicine facilities that enabled them to search for treatment for diseases while other people had access to distance learning. He admitted, however, that the process had been slow and expressed the hope that the Tunis Phase would propel the agenda forward at a faster pace. On the subject of the reluctance and double standard of developed countries in paying lip service to bridging the digital divide and making contributions to the digital solidarity fund, Busumuru Annan said countries which had made commitments were not making their contributions as quickly as expected. He, however, said the responsibility did not lie with only those governments that pledged to support the fund but that civil society groups, individuals and the private sector could also contribute to it. The WSIS is spearheaded by the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and aims to bring stakeholders together to form a closer collaboration and to adopt strategies for the application of ICT for development. The first phase of the Summit was held in Geneva Switzerland in 2003 and adopted a declaration of principles and 15-point action plan to guide stakeholders in promoting access to and the use of ICT tools and infrastructure to transform the lives of people. The second stage of the Summit in Tunis, dubbed "Summit of Solutions" is aimed to translate the declaration of principles and the action plan into concrete action plans for implementation by the about 50 Heads of State and stakeholders present. The objectives of WSIS are linked to the MDGs, one of which aims to half the world's poverty by 2015. WSIS also aims to translate access to and use of ICTs through the use of information and databases in all sectors for development. Thousands of people made up of Heads of State and Government, top level executives from more than 200 companies including Alcatel, Ericsson, France telecom, Google, Microsoft and Nokia, civil society groups and the media are attending the Summit. African leaders state call for equitable use of ICT From Emily Nyarko, GNA Special Correspondent in Tunis
Tunis, Nov. 16, GNA - Heads of State at the second phase of the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) on Wednesday gave the perceptions and the state of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) developments in their countries. The Heads of State from Croatia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Comoros Island, Quatar, Zimbabwe and South Africa all appreciated the need for an enhanced world information society to accelerate global development, especially for Africa through the application of ICT, but called for an open discussion and implementation of the various phases and processes involved.
They agreed that there was an unfair competition in access, development and use of ICT tools and infrastructure and called for closer collaboration and assistance for underdeveloped countries. Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe said the UN appreciated the efforts to promote greater understanding of the information society and ICT through the second phase of the WSIS.
He said it was fitting that the Summit was held in Africa where the idea was first conceived and briefed the gathering on Zimbabwe's efforts to apply ICT as a tool for development. President Mugabe said Zimbabwe was currently making strides in the use of management information systems (MIS) in sectors like health and education.
The country has a national computer programme that has enabled about 500 secondary schools to use ICT for learning while efforts are underway to access International Telecommunication's assistance in training teachers.
President Mugabe said Zimbabwe had a well-established rural electrification programme that was expected to aid in the harmonization of ICT and thereby improve the quality of life. Despite the strides, he said, his country had made, President Mugabe was of the view that there was a negative aspect to the use of especially the Internet and identified developed countries in the misuse of the facility.
He mentioned electronic fraud; cyber terrorism; pornography and scam mails as some of the negativity and said they jeopardized the confidence that people had in ICT.
Mr Mugabe said the technology was becoming more pervasive and condemned the bullying nature that drove some countries to impose their ideas and power on others.
He said the idea of imposing an American company on the world body to control the Internet was a threat to the information society. WSIS is spearheaded by the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and aims to bring stakeholders together to form a closer collaboration and adopt strategies for the application of ICT for development.
The first phase of the Summit held in Geneva Switzerland in 2003 adopted a declaration of principles and a 15-point action plan to guide stakeholders in promoting access to and the use of ICT tools and infrastructure to transform the lives of people. The second stage of the Summit in Tunis, dubbed "Summit of Solutions" is aimed to translate the declaration of principles and the action plan into concrete plans for implementation by Heads of State and other stakeholders.
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa argued for a multilateral and multi-stakeholder approach to access, funding and use of ICT for development and called for a transparent effort in the processes towards forging an enhanced global information society.
He also called for a transparent dialogue to cover all areas of ICT and development and said there was the need to expedite the implementation processes and foster collaboration for development. He said without these efforts, the objectives of the information society would be defeated and the majority of the world's people would continue to be underdeveloped.
Thousands of people are attending the three-day Summit in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, amidst tight security. Cost of ICT can be reduced - Busumuru Annan From Emily Nyarko, GNA Special Correspondent, Tunis
Tunis, Nov. 16, GNA - UN Secretary-General, Busumuru Kofi Annan on Wednesday said the cost of access to Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) could be brought down and that member States of the UN should commit their will to that course.
"The cost of ICT can be brought down...it can be universally affordable but we must have the will to do this."
Speaking at the opening of the second phase of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS), a platform aimed to promote access to ICT for application in the development processes, Busumuru Annan observed that the hurdle to achieve the objectives of the Summit was more political than financial.
He, therefore, urged world leaders to push forward the outcomes of the Summit dubbed the "Summit of Solutions" and ensure that decisions made would lead to ICTs being used to bring development into the lives of people.
The UN Secretary-General said the outcome of the Summit should generate new momentum to improve economies and the world societies as a whole by transforming their lives through technology. He however noted that if the benefits of ICT would spread around, it would require the cooperation and involvement of civil society groups, business leaders, non-governmental organisations and the UN.
This, he said, was necessary because the information society spelt freedom for citizens and also enabled them to hold governments accountable adding that without the right to receive information and communicate with leaders, the kind of information society that the world wanted to build would be still born.
Busumuru Annan said the benefits of the information society were enormous and had already spread into the application of entrepreneurial skills.
"Doctors in remote areas have access to information on diseases; students are able to tap into databases for information." He said the world system was also able to predict early warning system s while relief workers were able to work faster through the use of ICT.
The UN system would help member States with whatever decision they took at the summit, he said, but emphasised that the "UN will not take over policing or controlling the information society". Busumuru Annan said the reason for this stand was because the Information Society consisted of UN member States and that the system would abide by whatever they agreed on.
He said the UN would continue to strive to protect and strengthen the processes of information society and ensure that benefits were available to all.
He said he believed that the UN had exercised oversight responsibilities fairly to all member States and called for international participation in what was to be done. Busumuru Annan said stakeholders had gained experience through all the stages of the WSIS process for effective partnership for use in the implementation stage of the information society. He said the gains remained out of reach of the majority in the society and urged the stakeholders to respond to this task in the next phase of the WSIS, which was to translate the declaration of principles and action plan into concrete strategies for what he described as tangible efforts.
The WSIS was conceived in the wake of the fast pace of the evolution and development in world technology bringing about a wide gap between the developed and the developing world. It aims to promote development through technology.
The first phase of the Summit was held in Geneva Switzerland in 2003 where stakeholders developed declaration of principles and a 15-point Action Plan.
Since then the world body had worked to apply ICT in all aspects of development, especially through the use of database systems and other information in all sectors aimed to reduce poverty and was linked to the Millennium Development Goals, one of which is to half the world's poverty by 2015.
Major issues to be discussed and agreed upon at the Summit are the issue of internet governance, the establishment of a digital solidarity fund to be utilised to bridge the gap in technology that was proposed by under-developed countries and other ways of improving access to ICTs.
Underdeveloped countries need about 100 billion dollars to develop its ICT infrastructure to acceptable levels. Other speakers at the opening ceremony included the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union, Yoshio Utsumi; Mr Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of Tunisia and Mr Pascal Couchepin, President of Switzerland.
Mr Utsumi said the formation of the information society and its goals constituted a shared vision of the world. He said the information society was a vital tool to promote sustainable development adding that efforts at promoting an information society that applied ICT for development would be all inclusive, development oriented and people centred.
Mr Couchepin emphasised the need to create a world of freedom of speech and information saying that this must permeate the media arena. Thousands of people from all over the world including representatives of UN Agencies, Heads of State, civil society groups, non-governmental organisations, media representatives and business executives of companies such as Alcatel, Nokia, Microsoft are attending the three-day summit.