Participants gather for the first day of the WSIS+10 Forum. Photo: ITU.
The forum, held annually, is part of the ongoing follow-up of the landmark World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2003. WSIS aims to promote access to information and knowledge through new communications technologies and to tackle the digital divide separating the northern hemisphere from the global South.
The theme of the 2015 forum was “Innovating Together: Enabling ICTs for Sustainable Development”.
WACC has been an active participant in campaigning for communication rights within the WSIS process since the first summit meetings.
A WSIS +10 review process underway since 2013, looking at progress over the past decade and future strategy, will culminate in a High Level Event in New York in December.
The WSIS Forum in Geneva heard a warning that the open involvement that has characterised the WSIS process is in danger of getting sidelined in the organization of the High Level Event. The process has included governments, the private sector, civil society, academia and the Internet technical community working together at the local and the global levels,
Constance Bommelaer, Senior Director for Global Internet Policy at the Internet Society, warned that the review process for the High Level Event will be organized mostly according to intergovernmental rules. She urged participants to sign a “Call for an Open WSIS+10 Preparatory Process”.
A central issue in the discussions at the WSIS Forum was the role of Information and Communication Technologies in the Sustainable Development Goals set to be agreed at the UN General Assembly in September 2015.
ICTs are referred to in four of the draft Sustainable Development Goals: education, gender empowerment, infrastructure and innovation, and as a means of implementation for all of the goals.
Besides the SDGs, other topics on the WSIS Forum agenda included innovation, accessibility, gender empowerment and mainstreaming (Beijing+20), cybersecurity, and WSIS beyond 2015 (WSIS+10).
The forum heard that digital gender divide is growing, and that there is a need to lower the barriers to women’s inclusion in Information and Communication Technologies and that all stakeholders are involved in promoting women in ICTs.
Alongside the plenary sessions there was a series of workshops and side events, including one on “The Ethics of Digital Innovation” organized by WACC-partner Globethics.net, the Geneva-headquartered global ethics network, including the WACC Europe president, Dr Stephen Brown, as one of the panellists.
The workshop focussed on the social processes that are needed to shape technology for the public good, and panellists underlined that technology is not a technical process, but a social process, and that the ethical challenges relate as much to the organisation of society, as the control of technologies.