2.1.2 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

The International Telecommunication Union's (ITU's) Plenipotentiary Conference of 1998 recognized that ICTs areimportant for economic and social development. As a result, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)18 was proposed to provide a global forum where all stakeholders could help develop a framework for the Information Society. The goal was to establish a strategic plan of action with clear objectives, identifying the needed resources and the roles to be played by the different partners involved.19

In 2001, the ITU Council decided to hold the WSIS in two "phases." The first phase was held in 2003 in Geneva, where governments adopted the Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action for WSIS. The Declaration identified 11 key principles for building an inclusive Information Society. One of those -- the principle of capacity building -- stressed the importance of literacy and universal primary education in achieving an all-inclusive Information Society.

The Geneva Plan of Action (2003) defined, as an objective, the goal that everyone should have the necessary skills to benefit fully from the Information Society, and that within this context, capacity-building and ICT literacy are essential. The Plan of Action indicated that ICTs can contribute to achieving universal education worldwide, through the delivery of education, teacher training, improved conditions for lifelong learning (encompassing people who are outside the formal education process), and improved professional skills.

Within this context, the 2003 Plan of Action covered 16 areas relating to e-learning, including fostering domestic policies to integrate ICTs at all levels of education and developing and supporting programmes to eradicate illiteracy and promote e-literacy skills for all.20 It also recommended removing gender barriers to ICT education and empowering ICT use in rural and underserved communities.21 Furthermore, taking into consideration different national circumstances, the 2003 Plan of Action proposed possible national targets, including one on connectivity in educational institutions that called for countries "to connect universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools with ICTs."22

The implication is that all educational institutions should be connected by the target date of 2015. The Geneva Plan of Action (2003) also proposed implementing appropriate international performance evaluation (both qualitative and quantitative) and benchmarking strategies at the national, regional, and international levels. This would allow monitoring of countries' progress in implementing the objectives, goals, and targets outlined in the Geneva Plan of Action (2003).23

The second phase of WSIS, meanwhile, was held in Tunis in 2005, resulting in theTunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society. The Tunis Commitment recognized that “ICTs have enormous potential to expand access to quality education, to boost literacy and universal primary education, and to facilitate the learning process itself.”24 This reinforced support for the provision of universal, equitable and affordable access to ICTs.

The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, meanwhile, acknowledged that greater financial resources were needed to increase broadband capacity and facilitate the delivery of a broader range of services and applications, as well as to support investment and offer Internet access at affordable prices to both existing and new users.25

18 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Basic Information: About WSIS, available at: http://www.itu.int/wsis/basic/about.html
19 Resolution 73 of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, Minneapolis 1998, available at: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/background/resolutions/73.html
20 Plan of Action for World Summit on the Information Society, December 2003, available at: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/geneva/official/poa.html
21 Plan of Action for World Summit on the Information Society, December 2003, available at: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/geneva/official/poa.html
22Plan of Action for World Summit on the Information Society, December 2003, available at: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/geneva/official/poa.html
23 Plan of Action for World Summit on the Information Society, December 2003, available at: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/geneva/official/poa.html
24 Tunis Commitment, November 2005, available at: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs2/tunis/off/7.html
25 Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, November 2005, available at: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs2/tunis/off/6rev1.html

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