Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 1

Monday evening I will travel to Tunis. The second leg to the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) will be held there. It is highly questionable whether anything important will be reached. The UN put out a press release saying: "The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, taking place in Tunis next week, will bring together political, business and civil society leaders to take action to bridge the digital divide, so that the benefits of the information society can be shared by all.
The Tunis phase is the Summit of solutions", said Yoshio Utsumi, the Secretary-General of the Summit and Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations agency in charge of the event. "It aims at transforming the digital divide into digital opportunities for promoting peace, sustainable development, democracy, transparency and good governance."
Summit of Solutions sounds omninous; I think the last Live Aid will prove more effective than the second leg of the WSIS.

The Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs summed up the most important issues on the agenda in Tunis:
a. Internet governance;
b. freedom of speech in the new Information Society;
c. bridging the digital gap.

Ad a. Governance of Internet is presently still with the US. In practice the US governs through ICANN the root zone file, the domain names and IP-addresses. India, China and Brasil have objected to this dominance and proposed to make Internet governance multi-lateral; it should be put under a intergovernmental body. This opposition did the European Union change in its attitude. The Union now strives after internationalisation of Internet governance.

Ad b. Freedom of speech. It is interesting to see that the second leg of the WSIS is held in Tunesia, a country known for repressive tolerance and censorship. But I guess that during this week the Tunesian censors will be having a break and go to Monastir or other resorts.

Ad c. Digital Divide
In the first leg, held in Genf (Geneva) the Digital Divide was also a theme. President Sukusekou of Mali proposed to set up a UN fund. This suggestion did not make it. A private fund was set up by the city of Genf (Geneva) and Milano. But the coffers are full of promises of governments and companies and little money has been collected.

Yet 12.000 people from 175 countries will come to Tunis with high hopes and expectations. By next week we will know, whether WSIS has become the Summit of Solutions.

Linking to the theme of Digital Divide, is the World Summit Award (WSA), a best-practice competition in the digital world, especially e-Culture, e-Business, e-Government, e-Entertainment, e-Learning, e-Science, e-Health and e-Inclusion. The best-practice competition was set up to counterbalance the many political speeches and documents, full of references to the new future. WSA shows 40 products and services and 25 special mentions, representing the width of the present Information Society.

WSA has a booth at Kram PalExpo in Tunis, a Gala will be given on the first day honouring the producers of the awarded and selected services. There will also be smaller meetings on e-Busienss etc. organised by WSA. Osama Manzar will present the second edition of e-Content: Voices of the ground, version 2. It will be a busy time.

BTW I will be in Tunis not as part of a government or NGO delegation. I will be a WSA participant paying my own way and hotel.

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