[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]
The moderator of the second high-level policy session, Mr Yury Grin (Deputy Director General, Intervale), presented the aim of the session before asking each speaker questions related to inclusiveness and how governments, private companies, and civil societies work to improve access to information and knowledge for all.
Mr Boris Koprivnikar (Deputy Prime Minister, Ministry for Public Administration, Slovenia), said that information and communications technology (ICT) was one of the most inclusive technologies: ‘It is widely accessible, quite cheap to use and there are no differences between genders.’ He insisted on the importance of knowledge about ICT. The aim here, he said, was to learn how to use ICT technology. ‘It is not knowledge about programming or complex sciences’, Mr Koprivnikar highlighted. ‘It is just knowledge about how to use social networks, data, and educational tools.’ He reminded the session that Slovenia strongly supports open data and that ‘data and knowledge should be considered as a public good.’
Mr Pansak Siriruchatapong (Vice Minister, Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, Thailand), presented the efforts made by his government to roll out broadband infrastructures and to provide services such as e-commerce, e-health, and e-government in the country.
Ms Julie Napier Zoller (Acting US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, International Communications and Information Policy (CIP), United States Department of State, USA), talked about the actions undertaken by the USA to promote Internet-driven economic developments. ‘The Boston Consulting Group estimates that India’s Internet economy will double to 250 billion USD$ by 2020, making up 7.5% of India’s GDP’, said Ms Napier Zoller. ‘The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has extended over 1 billion US dollars in current financing for ICT projects worldwide.’
It is estimated that 75% of the benefits derived from ICT go to businesses in other sectors: ‘It is becoming true that all companies are technology companies’, added Ms Napier Zoller. The US government has been working with private sector and international partners to increase access to ICT. It supports a number of national connectivity initiatives and launched its own global connectivity initiative, with the aim of getting 1.5 billion new people online by 2020. ‘Expanding connectivity means more growth and remains a priority’, concluded Ms Napier Zoller.
Mr Win Busayi Juyana Mlambo (Deputy Minister, Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Zimbabwe), highlighted the difficulty people have accessing information in Africa due to the diversity of languages. ‘The question is how can people access the information when they do not speak the language? It is not easy to teach citizens the languages used by the technology leaders’, explained Mr Busayi Juyana Mlambo.
Ms Martha Liliana Suárez Peñaloza (Director General, Agencia Nacional del Espectro, Colombia), presented the digital plan launched by her country in 2010. At that time, 2 million people were connected. Today, there are 8.8 million and the goal is to reach 27 million by 2020. Ms Suárez Peñaloza gave the example of two specific initiatives that increase inclusiveness in Colombia:
- Connected Prisons. Since 2013, eight prisons have been allowing people to access ICT and receive training. Through e-working they have the opportunity to get involved in the labour market afterwards.
- Inclusive cinema. Colombia launched a programme for people with visual, hearing and cognitive disabilities to give them access to movies in cities and remote areas.
Mr Robert Pepper (Head, Global Connectivity Policy & Planning, Facebook), introduced the outcomes of a study recently released by Facebook. The main findings are the following:
- There is more to connectivity than just being connected – idea of inclusion.
- Rich countries do better than poor countries in terms of connectivity (infrastructures). However, many developing countries do better in terms of relevance (local languages and content creation) and therefore inclusiveness.
- 15 years ago the Internet was only in English, which is not the case any longer.
- The gender gap is growing and not shrinking.
- The majority of connected work remains under-connected – not connected enough to completely benefit from the Internet.
Ms Deborah Brown (Global Advocacy Lead, Association for Progressive Communications) talked about the importance of increasing access to information. ‘Access to information empowers people, especially marginalised people and people living in poverty, to exercise their human rights, such as freedom of expression but also economic and cultural rights’, Ms Brown observed. Access to information enables people to be economically active, productive and innovative, to learn and apply new skills, to enrich their cultural identity and expression, and to take part in decision-making.
She identified six groups of challenges, including those related to costs, data, digital rights, mobile services, content, and the infrastructure.
by Leila Ueberschlag