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WSIS Still Clouded by Governance Debates—Fate of ICANN Awaits
by
Posted On November 14, 2005
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In Other Developments

WSIS, of course, is not just about Internet governance. In fact, that was never supposed to have been the political agenda for this summit. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asserted last week in a Washington Post Op-Ed piece that the Summit's main objective was "to ensure that poor countries get the full benefits that new information and communication technologies—including the Internet—can bring to economic and social development."

It is ironic that a lot of far nobler agenda items are now being overshadowed by the fight over Internet control.

"Internet governance" as a topic can't even be found on the 3-day Summit agenda. Some involved in the process like to point out that it constitutes only a couple of paragraphs in the proposed Summit texts, which cover many other recommendations aimed at promoting techno-deployment and development of a worldwide Internet playing field for the benefit of humankind.

Among those pursuing other agendas is IFLA and the international library community. Library organizations met in Alexandria, Egypt, late last week in an official WSIS "side event" to map out a strategy for using the existing infrastructure of libraries worldwide as a vehicle for actually bridging the digital divide.

Information Today, Inc. had a reporter on the scene, and you can read his report in this companion NewsBreak: [http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16071].

See You at the World Summit?

From the start, the WSIS has emphasized "transparency" i.e., opennessin the process. In keeping with the theme of the meetings, the Summit organizers have clearly gone to great lengths to reach people who could not travel to sometimes remote meeting sites by using the Internet itself as the conduit.

Though it was not quite the same as actually being there, all of the Summit's PrepCom meetings were able to be monitored over the Web. As the various ramp-up meetings played out, content was constantly loaded at the WSIS Web site. Gems to be found there included documents being used in the floor debates, draft versions of statements as they unfolded, and even streaming media feeds of the proceedings themselves.

The main WSIS site, hosted by the WSIS Secretariat, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU; http://www.itu.int/wsis), stands as an archive of the entire official process leading up to Tunis. (But be prepared to do a lot of pointing and clicking if you want to wade through it.)

Now, apparently emboldened by their earlier success at chronicling the event, Summit organizers have actually issued a media advisory that encourages "reporters who can't be in Tunis" to use its Web site to cover the event virtually.

Think it can be done?

Since I will be working from our own conferences in California next week, I plan to take the WSIS organizers up on their suggestion, which can also be viewed as a challenge. Can one actually "cover" a story as big as the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis from a hotel room in San Jose? I'm about to find out.

Tune in to the NewsBreaks next Monday and I'll tell you how it went.

If you'd personally like to follow the proceedings in Tunis, the press room, like the Summit itself, is "open to all." The organizers promise streaming media feeds of all the big sessions. For the daily schedule, see http://www.itu.int/wsis/tunis/webcast/index.html#timetable. Note: All schedules are shown as Central European Time. Tunis is 1 hour ahead of GMT, minus 6 hours for the U.S. East Coast, and minus 9 hours for the U.S. West Coast. Opening ceremonies will be streaming out Wednesday at 1 a.m. PST and 4 a.m. EST.

Synchronize your watches and maybe I'll "see" you there.

What's Happening When at the Summit

WSIS Schedule
Kram Centre PalExpo, Tunis, Tunisia

  • Monday (11/14): Various parallel events, including resumed PrepCom-3 on Internet Governance
  • Tuesday (11/15): Final discussions on Internet Governance; "ICT 4 All" exhibits open
  • Wednesday (11/16): Summit opens (1 a.m. PST, 4 a.m. EST, 9 a.m. GMT, 10 a.m. Tunis)
  • Thursday (11/17): Summit continues
  • Friday (11/18): Summit ends (11 a.m. PST, 1 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. GMT; 7 p.m. Tunis)

WSIS Links

Official Summit Sites

WSIS Secretariat's Official Site (including wall-to-wall coverage of the Summit): http://www.itu.int/wsis

Tunisian Official Host Site: http://www.smsitunis2005.org/plateforme/index.php?lang=en

"ICT 4 All," Official Exhibition Site: http://www.expo.ict4all-tunis.org

Blogs

Andy Carvin (Digital Divide Network) is aggregating blog postings related to the Summit at http://www.wsisblogs.org (Technorati tag: WSIS) as well as posting many Summit items on his own "Waste of Bandwidth" Web log: http://www.andycarvin.com

Journalists from the southern hemisphere have banded together under the auspices of the Panos Institute to offer a WSIS blog they are calling "i-Witness" at http://panos.blogs.com/iwitness.

National Sites

DCITA (Australia), including a special WSIS section: http://www.dcita.gov.au/tel/international/treaties_and_international_institutions/
world_summit_on_the_information_society_(wsis)

U.S. Department of State: http://www.state.gov/e/eb/cip/wsis2005

Canada (Government Site): http://www.wsis-smsi.gc.ca/act/en

European Commission: http://europa.eu.int/information_society/activities/internationalrel/
global_issues/wsis/index_en.htm

Other Sites of Interest

Business (CCBI, official representatives of the commercial sector at WSIS): http://www.businessatwsis.net

Internet Society: http://www.isoc.org/isoc/conferences/wsis (IS appears to be planning a special page on Internet governance resources)

The Internet Governance Project (a consortium of academicians who have advocated the "de-nationalization" of ICANN): http://www.internetgovernance.org

UNESCO's WSIS site: http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-
URL_ID=1543&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html


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Dick Kaser is Information Today, Inc.'s vice president of content.

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