[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]
This high-level policy session comprised high-ranking officials from the WSIS stakeholder community, governments, the private sector, academia, and international organisations.
The objective of the session was to share ways of addressing inclusiveness and providing access to information for all citizens, as well as measures adopted and challenges encountered along the way.
In his role as high-level track facilitator, Mr Justin Caso (Technology Policy and International Affairs Senior Advisor, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)) opened the discussion by making remarks about the interactive format of the discussion. Caso challenged the speakers to share key actions to promote inclusiveness and access to information for all citizens.
Dr Indrajit Banerjee (WSIS Action Line Facilitator UNESCO, Director, Knowledge Societies Division, Communication and Information Sector) highlighted that access to information is one of the most important pillars for creating a knowledge society. Banerjee acknowledged the importance of connectivity while outlining the issues regarding the lack of language content capacity, tools for people with disabilities, and the dangers of the misuse of the Internet, such as the encouragement of hate speech.
Mr Wilfredo González Vidal (Viceministro, Ministerio de Comunicaciones, Cuba) shared the concerns around the use of cyberspace and how technology that is not neutral contributes to enhancing the difference between rich and poor. According to Vidal, a secure Internet and access to information must be ‘humanity’s common goods’ and therefore the need for ‘regulation of privacy’. Regarding the actions undertaken in the information and communication technology (ICT) area, Vidal mentioned the Government’s priority in building technology infrastructure and enhancing access to information for Cuba’s citizens.
Mr Kingsly Fernando (Director General, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka) highlighted the actions undertaken in Sri Lanka to achieve ICT access and inclusiveness, such as adopting telecoms regulation to foster investment and connectivity, promoting high-speed broadband development over the entire country, and supporting programmes to create Internet technology facilities and equipment for people with disabilities.
Mr Marco Marsella (Head of Learning, Multilingualism, and Accessibility Unit, European Commission, DG CONNECT) spoke about the digital inclusion in the EU and the European Commission’s support of this objective. Marsella highlighted that Europe’s digitalisation is at a high level, with an increase in high-speed broadband connectivity. On the measures to promote digitalisation and inclusiveness, Marsela outlined the European Commission’s proposed Directive on web accessibility that will bring better access to the websites and mobile applications of public services for people with disabilities.
Dr Kwaku Ofosu-Adarkwa (Chief Executive Officer, 25th Century Technology Limited, Ghana) stressed the need for a partnership between government, the private sector, and NGOs to effectively tackle the gap in Internet connectivity.
Dr Andrejs Vasiļjevs (Chief Executive Officer European Language Technology Company 'Tilde', Latvia) highlighted the importance of language diversity for an inclusive society, raising the issue of the inclusion of different linguistic groups and the need for more actions to facilitate language use in information technology.
Ms Chinmayi Arun (Executive Director, Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi, India) mentioned the regulatory framework of different countries around the world and the political aspects when it comes to providing access. Arun mentioned obstacles to inclusiveness, such as the norms of controlling the right to access information.
Ms Mehwish Ansari (Digital Programme Assistant, ARTICLE 19) spoke about the relevance of the human rights framework for access to information and knowledge, the right of freedom of expression, the right to privacy and association. Ansari stressed that fundamental rights enhance economic and social development and draw attention to the need to understand how actors exert control and impact social inclusion.
by Noemi Szabo