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Internet Governance To Be Tackled At UN Summit

Internet Governance, Funding Of Technology To Be Tackled At UN Summit

How to finance more equal access to information technology and how the Internet should be governed are among the more contentious issues to be tackled at a United Nations summit opening this week in Tunis, Tunisia, which expects to draw about 11,000 participants, from heads of States to representatives of the private sector and civil society.

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which aims to bridge the “digital divide,” the wide gap in access to information technologies between affluent and poor communities, will hold its second phase in Tunis from 16 to 18 November.

In preparation for this phase, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) held the African Regional Preparatory Conference in Accra, Ghana, in February, drawing over 2,000 African experts in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). They held discussions on an African-led roadmap for ICT development on the continent.

In Tunis, African delegates will meet again to fine-tune the plan. Parallel events, including high-level panel discussions, aim to prescribe specific steps towards bridging the digital divide around the world.

The first phase of WSIS took place in Geneva, Switzerland from 10 to 12 December 2003, when 175 countries adopted a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action toward more equal access to information technology.

That meeting also spurred UN agencies put ICT programmes into place that address their areas of expertise.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), for example, launched Bridging the Rural Digital Divide, a programme to promote a systematic approach to help rural communities get the information access they need to improve farming and marketing methods and mitigate the effects of natural disasters.

It is essential that the second phase of WSIS give sufficient consideration to how and why technologies can improve livelihoods, according to Anton Mangstl, Director of FAO’s Library and Documentation Systems Division.

“Often, the weaknesses are not in the infrastructure and tools, but in the process of their adoption and use. So attention needs to be focused on education, information sharing, and communication,” he said.

FAO will also address institution and policy frameworks for ICT, and will look at ways in which rural stakeholders can use this technology to gain greater influence.

“Rural people and institutions need the opportunity to play a vital role in information sharing. These communities have a wealth of local agricultural knowledge to contribute,” Mr. Mangstl noted.

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