At the beginning of 2011, there were 5.4 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, meaning that we have effectively achieved the goal of bringing all of the world's people within reach of the benefits of information and communication technology (ICT). It is a good time for us to take stock, therefore, with just four years left before the 2015 deadline set to achieve the targets set by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in combination with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It is clear that, while we have made great strides over recent years, we still have some way to go. More than two-thirds of the world's people still lack access to the Internet, for example, and many more cannot yet take advantage of the extraordinary benefits of broadband across every sector--from health to education to poverty reduction to energy efficiency. To accelerate progress and if we are to achieve the WSIS targets and the MDGs we must act now and advocate widely to increase broadband roll-out in all nations.
WSIS: A SUMMIT IN TWO PHASES
WSIS was actually a pair of UN-sponsored conferences which addressed issues concerning information, communication and, in the broadest possible terms, the information society. It was organized in two phases, in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005, with one of its most important aims being to help bridge the global digital divide between developing and developed countries by increasing access to modern ICT services. The Summit was the most wide-ranging, comprehensive, and inclusive debate ever held on the future of the Information Society and, for the first time. Governments, the private sector, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society all worked hand-in-hand for the common good.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), together with other UN agencies, proactively solicited contributions from stakeholders worldwide throughout the WSIS process to ensure the inclusive character of the process while also emphasizing the strategic value of a multi-stakeholder approach. Other challenges that we faced during the WSIS process included the need to understand the potential of ICT as a key enabler for socio-economic development; the need to ensure that effective coordination mechanisms at the regional and international levels were established, which would also ensure balance between top-down and bottom-up approaches; and the need to ensure global commitment on efforts dedicated towards the development of...