ITU Forges Ahead on New Partnerships
Two new partnership agreements – in the form of Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) – were signed today between ITU and the World Bank, and ITU and Cisco. Partnership agreements were also set to be signed between ITU and Inmarsat, Cameroon, Rwanda and the Kyrgyz Republic, IIMT Fribourg, Rascom, Jamaica and Unesco, the French Institut National des Télécommunications and Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, as well as for a project involving India and Bhutan, with the collaboration of Encore Software and Worldspace.
Finally, Mr Hamadoun Touré, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) announced that a partnership agreement has been developed with the International Institute of Telecommunications of Montreal, Canada, with the support of the Canadian Government. The agreement will provide technical assistance and training to the ITU Centres of Excellence Network worldwide through the “Tap on Telecom” project. The first phase is set to commence at the beginning of 2004 in Africa.
The announcements lay the foundation for further cooperation towards building a truly inclusive information society, which is a key goal of the Summit. The ITU partnerships also set an example for other types of alliances needed to deliver the Summit's Action plan which will be endorsed by Heads of State and governments later in the week. “These partnerships are important first steps toward achieving the goals of the Summit, which aim to ensure that the benefits of ICTs are available to all, not just a privileged few,” said ITU Secretary-General, Yoshio Utsumi.
US Announces USD 400 Million for ICT Development
The United States has pledged a USD 400 million grant to support telecommunications and IT development in developing countries. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), an agency of the US Government, has established what it calls a “support facility” to encourage US investment in the sector, which it views as a “cornerstone for economic growth”, in the words of Peter Watson, OPIC president and CEO. The facility builds on the USD 5 billion previously provided by OPIC since its creation in 1971, which has gone towards 197 ICT projects. It will be used to fund joint ventures between the public and private sectors in the 152 countries where the agency operates, with priority to projects lacking other forms of financing. Funding initiatives of this kind show a strong policy-level commitment to address several of the goals of the World Summit on the Information Society.
The new facility, said US Ambassador David Gross, was an important aid to support human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law, among other democratic principles. The direct support to be given by the facility was the “most effective means”, in his Government's view, for achieving the goals of providing additional capacity in ICT infrastructure or human resources development.
Global Visions on the Information Society: Students' Perspectives on ICTs
As a striking reminder of the human impact of ICTs, visitors to Hall 2 at Palexpo are welcomed by a colourful display of children's pictures, illustrating how children from all corners of the globe think ICTs help improve quality of life. More than 1 500 drawings were received from children and youth from 38 countries around the world for the WSIS Poster Competition, organized by the World Summit on the Information Society in collaboration with the United Nations Cyberschoolbus. Young students from primary, intermediate and secondary schools took part in the competition.
Three winners ÷ one from each age group ÷ were chosen by a panel of judges. In addition, three winners were chosen from each of five geographic regions: North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. The winning pictures can be magically transformed into an electronic postcard and sent to the chosen recipient by e-mail. They are available on the WSIS website at: www.itu.int/wsis/ecard/
Cultural Diversity in Societies
A UNESCO side event provided an overview of a number of important initiatives that used ICTs in promoting cultural diversity. These ranged from the support of traditional media, for example, supporting of small and medium publishing enterprises in central America through on-line workshops and e-training, and new media, for example, the digi-arts knowledge portal (www.portal.unesco.org/digiarts) developed by UNESCO is aimed at the dissemination of information on digital tools used in the arts. The portal supports creativity in areas such as virtual reality and electronic music.
Setting the World Agenda
At the World Electronic Media Forum (WEMF), opened yesterday by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Mr Pascal Couchepin, President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Nitin Desai, a panellist during the forum, expressed the view that one of the more significant changes brought about by the introduction of new media, such as news distribution through web-based publishing is the relatively cheapness of disseminating information. However, significant measures still need to be taken to ensure that access to new media channels become more available to the poor. The popularity of mobile phones in developing countries provides us with a heartening example, it was emphasized.
One of the day's most popular events was the World Summit Award ceremony for the “World's Best e Contents”, which recognized the most compelling and empowering Internet content from across the globe to celebrate innovation. Some 136 countries submitted video footage, clips and electronic products. Forty winners were announced in various categories under eight categories including e-learning, e-health, e-inclusion, etc. One notable observation was the proliferation of mobile content from Africa, as the continent connects over a mobile infrastructure. More information is available at: www.wsis-award.org/.
Child Protection on the Internet
At a forum on Internet rights, the Internet Rights Observatory publicized its website on the topic of protecting children from harmful content on the Internet (www.internet-observatory.be). The speakers called upon government and commercial bodies to promote the use of filters and forms of certification to filter harmful content. In one initiative, attempts are under way to create a new top-level domain (TLD) that would be exclusively for child-appropriate content. The domain might, for example, be called “.kids”.
Free Software, Free Society?
A well-known commentator on information and intellectual property, Professor Laurence Lessig of Stanford University (United States), spoke of a project aimed at creating a body of culture/content (e.g. pictures, music, film, etc.) that would not be subject to the traditional forms of copyright. Licences to use this material would allow their dissemination and improvement and at the same time promoting its freedom of use. Concern was expressed that the public domain of freely available content was shrinking in the face of expanding use of intellectual property rights (IPR).
Broadband and Mobility of ICT's to Drive Next Wave of Productivity Growth
At a side event organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Coordinating Committee of Business Interlocutors (CCBI), entitled “What makes ICT effective growth engines?” Mr Jorma Ollila Chairman and CEO, Nokia Corporation, said he regarded as broadband and mobile technologies as the key to the next wave of productivity growth. The year 2004 was viewed by speakers as the first year, after around three years of zero growth in the ICT sector, to boost major investments. The main area of benefits from which the productivity will be derived are expected to be supply and demand chains, which are becoming streamlined through web-based services. According to speakers, the role of government in this new wave of productivity growth will come through:
Support through tax regimes;
Providing intellectual capital to the country by educating citizens;
Establishment/refinement of appropriate regulatory frameworks to promote competition.
ICTs and Security Challenges
Recently, governments around the world have been passing laws to give the government access to individual telecommunication records such as phone call lists and web surfing records of users. According to one side-event speaker, as the technology gets more intricate, the more privacy we lose through these laws. While phone records may not be very controversial, wireless LANs and mobile phone records can be used to track individuals.
Organizations have a slow “metabolic rate”, said another speaker on security issues, and are very slow to respond to events such as hacking, whereas hackers are dynamic and very quick to adjust. Organizations must be able to do the same or they will fall victim to constant attacks, it was urged. The answer proposed here was to create a “rapid response” mechanism in the organization. Insider treats should also not be overlooked, it was argued. More information is available at: www.diplomacy.edu.
Source: WSIS Media Office