World leaders are gathering in Geneva this week to work on strategies to more effectively harness the power and reach of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in crucial areas like health and education.
Co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDP, the World Summit on the Information Society (16-20 May) is the world’s largest annual gathering of the world’s ‘ICT for development’ community, including UN agencies, governments, civil society and ICT industry representatives.
Guest speakers at this morning’s opening ceremony included Ministers and deputies from 17 countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burundi, El Salvador, Finland, Gambia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Montenegro, Oman, Philippines, Poland, the Russian Federation, Serbia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Delegates also heard interventions from ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré; Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD; Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO; Janis Karklins, Deputy-Director of UNESCO; Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, Director-General, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates; John Davis, Vice-President, Intel Corporation and General Manager of Intel’s World Ahead Program, and Cyril Ritchie, President of the Conference on NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN (CoNGO).
This year’s WSIS Forum also welcomes more than 70 Members of Parliament and many other senior government figures. Over 1,000 representatives from around 140 countries are expected to attend the week-long event.
In his opening address, Dr Touré stressed the importance of broadband to national economic and social development. “I think we are all very much aware of how close we are to the 2015 deadline for meeting the WSIS targets and the Millennium Development Goals. We have made quite extraordinary progress in terms of connectivity, the creation of an enabling environment, and cybersecurity. The next major step must be to repeat the ‘mobile miracle’ for broadband Internet,” he said.
The Forum will also serve as the venue for the UN Group on the Information Society’s first meeting of the open consultation process on the overall review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes. Stakeholders will jointly brainstorm on the action plan for the Review Process (WSIS+10), to be held 10 years after the conclusion of the Summit, as recommended in the Tunis Agenda.
In addition to reviewing progress towards the WSIS targets set for 2015, this year’s WSIS Forum will foster interactive debate and information exchange on a wide range of key topics such as rural development, multilingualism, environmental sustainability, education, healthcare and innovation.
The opening ceremony was followed by a High Level session, Working Together Towards 2015. Ongoing High-level Dialogues throughout the course of the week include:
- Right to Communication
- Innovation for Digital Inclusion
- ICTs to Enable Least Developed Countries
- Building Confidence and Security in Cyberspace
Alongside an exhibition component, the Forum offers participants a diverse range of meetings and activities, including Interactive WSIS Action Line Facilitators Meetings, Interactive Sessions, Country and Thematic Workshops and Knowledge Exchanges. Afternoon sessions each day will also feature the release of a number of new publications and briefings from participating organizations. The Forum programme also includes the Parliamentary Forum as well as meetings of the Internet Governance Forum.
The WSIS agenda is the result of a comprehensive open consultation process involving all stakeholders. Spanning three phases, this year’s process welcomed 150 contributions from 50 countries.
Remote participation is an integral component of the WSIS Forum 2011. Each session can be viewed remotely at: http://groups.itu.int/wsis-forum2011/Home.aspx.
This year’s WSIS Forum 2011 programme has been greatly enhanced thanks to the strategic partnership and contribution of the United Arab Emirates. The Forum has also benefited from contributions of Oman for the series of workshops, and Mexico for Spanish interpretation.
Videos, photos, live and archived webcasts, and transcripts of speeches can be found at the event Newsroom at www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/wsis/index.aspx , or on the main event website at http://groups.itu.int/wsis-forum2011/Home.aspx. Follow the event on Twitter at #WSIS.
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