Reporting progress in the development of a truly global information society

Back in 2005, the UN'sWorld Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) produced fine documents and promises of action to come. So what progress has been made in some of the most significant areas of concern for the evolution and availability of information and communication technologies (ICT)?

Governments and stakeholders have addressed significant issues, including:

• building infrastructure to enhance connectivity

• fostering access to information services

• assisting in the development of requisite capacities and skills

• raising awareness on security issues in the use of ICTs

• enabling the environment through the application of ICTs.

Earlier this year, the International Telecommunication Union (the UN body that runs the WSIS process) published their "Report on theWorld Summit on the Information Society Stocktaking" - an interim report on progress towards reaching significant targets by 2015. We quote below some of the key points from that Report (see note below).

Bridging the digital divide

Over the last two years, the telecommunication and ICT sector has seen continued growth, particularly in the mobile cellular market.

Globally, the number of mobile subscribers increased by over a billion since 2005, with over 3.3 billion mobile subscribers by the end of 2007. During this period, growth has been strongest in Africa, where year-on-year growth stood at 39 percent. By the end of 2007, 69 percent of the world's mobile subscribers were from developing countries.

Mobile cellular is increasingly dominating the telephone market and, worldwide, mobile subscribers today represent 71 percent of all telephone subscribers. In Africa, this percentage is close to 90 percent. Fixed telephone penetration has been stagnating at just under 20 percent globally and growth was below one percent between 2005 and 2007. The low levels of fixed-line penetration in the developing world limit the ability to roll-out fixed broadband services, including DSL.

Regional differences are even greater in the adoption of broadband technologies. While at the end of 2007 fixed broadband penetration stood as low as one percent in Africa, it had reached much higher levels in Europe (16 percent) and the Americas (10 percent). Globally, broadband penetration increased from three to five percent between 2005 and 2007. For more people to benefit from the potential of broadband and the applications that it can deliver, governments need to do their share to ensure that high-speed technologies become more accessible as well as more affordable.

Creating an enabling environment

The creation of an enabling environment is one of the key building blocks in the establishment of an information society. A trustworthy, transparent and nondiscriminatory legal, regulatory and policy environment is necessary to maximize the social, economic and environmental benefits of the information society.

Over the past 10 years, the majority of countries worldwide have initiated reforms in their telecommunication sector by establishing a national regulatory body, introducing competition and at least partially privatizing their operators, among other measures, thus creating an enabling environment for investment. Foreign investment has helped finance ICT infrastructure and develop telecommunication services in many countries since the 1990s. However, much of the world's population still remains without basic access to ICT services, as further key reforms have yet to be undertaken in many countries.

The pace of ICT development, including broadband take-up, however, hinges on the policy and regulatory framework. Political will is needed at the highest levels of government to establish an enabling environment that will create a level playingfield for all stakeholders to promote the rollout of ICTs.

Capacity building and ICT services

The usage and deployment of ICTs should assist in creating benefits in all aspects of daily life. ICTs should also contribute to sustainable production and consumption patterns, as well as reduce traditional barriers, providing an opportunity for all to access local and global markets in a more equitable manner. ICT applications should be user-friendly, accessible to all, affordable, adapted to local needs in languages and cultures, and support sustainable development.

The rapid growth of broadband technology and the convergence of telecommunications, computing, information and multimedia applications are opening up new perspectives for the ICT sector, providing opportunities for e-applications and e-services. ICT applications are potentially important in health care and health information, government operations and services, education and training, employment and job creation, business, agriculture, transport, protection of the environment and management of natural resources, disaster prevention, and culture, as well as in promoting the eradication of poverty and other agreed Millennium Development Goals.

Building security in the virtual world

Confidence and security in using ICTs are fundamental in building an inclusive, secure and global information society. The legal, technical and institutional challenges posed by cyberattacks and cybercrime are global and far-reaching, and can only be addressed through a coherent strategy taking into account the role of different stakeholders and existing initiatives, within a framework of international cooperation.

Current attempts to address these challenges at the national and regional levels are inadequate, as cyberspace is boundless and limited only by human imagination. The boundaries of the information society have no direct correlation with existing geographical borders - cyberthreats can arise anywhere, at any time, causing immense damage in a very short space of time, before they are tackled.

With its 191 Member States and more than 700 Sector Members, ITU is uniquely placed to provide a framework for international cooperation in cybersecurity. Its membership includes the least developed countries, developing and emerging economies, as well as developed countries. It is the ideal forum where actions and responses to promote cybersecurity and tackle cybercrime can be discussed, with the goal of arriving at a common understanding as to how best these challenges can be addressed.

Note Further information from

The Report on theWorld Summit on the Information Society Stocktaking can be downloaded from: