WSIS+10: A Look Back To Move Forward

For the last few months (though, to be fair, the hard work really took place over the last 10 years), my colleagues and I have been taking part in a global review process that will culminate at the high-level meeting at the UN General Assembly in December. This event marks an important milestone in the history of the global digital economy -- the culmination of the 10 year review of the World Summit on the Information Society or “WSIS.”

Ten years ago, with the digital revolution in full-swing, the international community gathered at two conferences (in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005) to discuss and catalyze efforts to build a “people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information society”. Out of those meetings came a framework of eleven “Action Lines” to organize and facilitate international efforts to achieve that vision. The meetings also established principles on Internet governance and created the Internet Governance Forum, which is now the premier international forum for multistakeholder dialogue on crosscutting Internet issues. We also agreed that we would come back together 10-years later to take stock of our progress and assess how well we did.

Now here we are a decade later, and I am proud to report that, by any objective measure, WSIS has been a resounding success. Take a minute to consider the world we live in today compared to where we were a decade ago:

  • Mobile phone subscriptions have increased from 40 percent of the world’s population during the time of WSIS to over 96 percent today. That includes over four billion new subscriptions in developing countries alone.
  • During that same time, the number of people using the Internet increased from around one billion to over three billion people.
  • Mobile broadband subscriptions, for which statistics were not even kept in 2005, have increased in developing countries from around 42 million subscriptions in 2007 to over 2.3 billion subscriptions today.
  • At the time of WSIS, top-level domains were limited to a small subset of characters. Today, Internet domain names are available in a multitude of scripts including Cyrillic, Chinese, and Arabic, which better reflects the world’s diversity of languages and people.
  • In many places, mobile communications are leapfrogging wired broadband development as the main conduit of information because people are demanding the ability to move themselves, ideas, and information seamlessly, without being tethered.

This record of global achievement did not happen on its own nor did it happen by accident. It is the product of concerted collaborative and cooperative efforts undertaken by a diverse range of stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, civil society, and the technical community, committed to extending the economic and social benefits of information and communication technologies to every corner of the world. To us, the key objective for the high-level meeting this December is to identify what worked and commit to continuing our collective efforts. That’s how we will ensure that WSIS continues to facilitate the development and deployment of ICTs as tools for achieving our shared economic and social development goals and for the betterment of all citizens.

We fully expect that some countries will seek to use the high-level meeting to renegotiate agreements made during the original World Summit, on topics such as Internet governance, or adjust the WSIS framework to include additional issues that are being addressed in other venues. While we welcome discussions on the implementation challenges we have faced in some areas, we reject the premise that just because we have more work to do that the WSIS process has not been a success. There is just too much evidence to the contrary.  

As we near the high-level meeting and increasingly focus on constructing a consensus outcome, it is key that we do not lose sight of our true objective: to ensure that WSIS continues to facilitate the development and deployment of ICTs as tools for achieving our shared economic and social development goals for the betterment of all citizens.

About the Author: Daniel Sepulveda is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

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Comments

Comments

Patrick W.
|
Maryland, USA
August 24, 2015
What we need is software that understands different languages and makes communicating between us easier. Something that automatically translates our words and changes them to another language so we can speak to each other easier. Instead of have look up words on translators and getting back to people. But, this sounds like a good start in helping people talk to each other.
Patrick W.
|
Maryland, USA
August 24, 2015
Also, make so America's and other countries can buy things online with out going through money exchanges, if they won't to buy something online in another country. That would be helpful for everyone's economy. Instead of having to wait week to ship something we bought to another country.
WSIS+10 Opening Ceremony, Geneva, Switzerland, June 10, 2014 [ITU Photo/C. Montesano Casillas]
Posted by Daniel Sepulveda
August 24, 2015

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