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June 11, 2001

The Secretary-General of the ITU, Yoshio Utsumi has announced the arrangements and framework for World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

The first phase of the World Summit will take place in Geneva hosted by the Government of Switzerland in December 2003. It will address the broad range of themes concerning the Information Society and adopt a Declaration of Principles and Action Plan, addressing the whole range of issues related to the Information Society.

The second phase of the World Summit will take place in Tunis hosted by the Government of Tunisia, in 2005. Development themes will be a key focus in this meeting and it will assess progress that has been made and adopt any further Action Plan to be taken.

The modern world is undergoing a fundamental transformation, as the Industrial Society of the past is rapidly evolving into the Information Society of the 21st century. The Information Society promises a fundamental change in all aspects of human existence, including knowledge dissemination, social interaction, economic and business practices, political engagement, media, education and health, leisure and entertainment. But the inherently global nature of this new environment, and the uneven pace of its development – often referred to as the Digital Divide, make it vital that international dialogue take place and that worldwide approaches be considered to facilitate the successful adaptation to this new reality.

The aim of the World Summit is to develop a common vision and understanding of the Information Society and to draw up a strategic plan of action for concerted development towards realizing this vision. The Summit will also provide a unique opportunity to gather the world community to assemble at a high level and to develop a better understanding of this revolution and its impact. It aims to bring together Heads of State, Executive Heads of United Nations Agencies, industry leaders, non-governmental organizations, media representatives and civil society.

The proposed themes address the central issues raised by the Information Society and will likely include:

  • Building the infrastructure

  • Opening the gates: universal and equitable access to the information society

  • Services and applications

  • The needs of the User

  • Developing a Framework

  • ICT and Education

Under each of these broad themes, consideration will be given to the relevant developmental, economic, policy, social, cultural and technological aspects.

The initiative for the Summit originated at the 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference of the ITU, the UN specialized agency responsible for telecommunications. Since telecommunications will play a central role in the emergence of the information society, the ITU will play a lead role in the planning and organizing of the Summit, in close cooperation with other interested UN organizations and with the active participation of governments, the private sector and civil society.

WSIS has already been discussed with the United Nations Secretary-General and Executive Heads of other agencies where strong support has been voiced in the Administrative Committee for Coordination (ACC). A High Level Summit Organizing Committee (HLSOC) composed of Executive Heads of UN agencies interested in the Summit and led by the ITU Secretary-General has been set up, with a mandate to launch the activities related to the preparation of the Summit and in particular to define its themes and outcome.

A series of regional preparatory meetings are being planned for the year 2002. It is also expected that other meetings and initiatives on the Information Society, including actions by governments, the UN system, privatesector and civil society, will provide input to the preparation of the Summit.