Plan to bridge 'digital divide' available for online comments ahead of UN information summit

Plan to bridge 'digital divide' available for online comments ahead of UN information summit

Inspired by the vision of an information society where everyone can create, share and receive knowledge, a United Nations-backed panel will make its action plan for bridging the digital divide between developed and developing nations available on the Internet for public comment.

In a pioneering bid to energize local-level action to help shape an international blueprint for closing the gap between information "haves and have nots," the results of the second meeting of the preparatory committee for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) are now available on the Internet at The two-phase World Summit will be held in Geneva from 10 to12 December, and in Tunis from16 to18 November 2005.

The UN-guided committee and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the lead agency organizing the WSIS, are encouraging ordinary folks worldwide to log on and make observations and comments on the basic working documents - a draft plan of action and declaration - approved late last month in Geneva. Replies received by 31 May will be included in a reference text highlighting where public contributions might be included in the documents for the Summit.

The ITU - a worldwide organization responsible for setting global telecommunications standards - worked with the UN to bring together over 1,500 of the most influential representatives of government and the telecommunications industries for the second preparatory meeting. A compelling international strategy emerged which may, with the help of citizens and local communities, ensure equal access by both developed and developing countries to the potential of new communication technologies (ICTs).

The declaration and plan of action available on the ITU web site promote innovative ideas such as a more humanizing role for the Internet and creating a "digital charter" by which economies higher up on the ICT development scale would be bound to help those at the lower end. The information society is seen as inclusive, where all persons, regardless of frontiers, can utilize and share knowledge in any media. The essential elements for creating such a society include a respect for human rights and civil liberties, and the existence of an independent communications media. The draft declaration and action plan will be discussed at the next preparatory meeting in Geneva, scheduled for 15 to 26 September.