The WSIS Forum 2015, with the theme Innovating Together: Enabling ICTs for Sustainable Development, is being held on 25-29 May 2015, at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Place des Nations, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland. The agenda and programme for the WSIS Forum 2015 are built on the basis of official submissions received during the Open Consultation Process on the Thematic Aspects and Innovations on the Format of the WSIS Forum 2015.
[Update] Summary of WSIS Forum highlights
Highlights from Day 5
Collaborative Internet Security: Best Practices in Addressing Spam and Establishing CSIRTs
The last day of WSIS started with a series of morning sessions, one of which concerned the need for collaboration to improve Internet security, in particular in addressing spam and in establishing Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs). The session started with an opening statement by Brahuma Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, who emphasised the need to work together, since ‘we are as strong as the weakest link in the network’ - a phrase that seem to dominate all security-related sessions at the conference. Olaf Kolkman, Chief Technology Officer of ISOC then introduced the topic by offering his view on collaborative security, emphasising that security should be seen as an evolutionary process guided by an accumulation of small steps, encouraging to ‘think globally, act locally’.
Markus Kummer, who works on the IGF’s Best Practice Forums, explained that the main priority areas concerning the development of effective CSIRTs were to clarify their tasks, determine national points of contact, develop case-studies and identify successful examples, and to focus on privacy and free speech as concepts that are not to be compromised, but strengthened, with successful CSIRTs. With regard to spam, Kummer expressed his concerns about policy makers from developed countries showing little interested in fighting spam, and on the difficulty of retrieving data on spam in developing countries. Dominique Lazanski addressed spam in relation to mobile devices, and shared her experience with the Mobile Spam Reporting Service, which has been successful in the UK, not only in reporting and quickly responding to mobile spam, but also as an example of cooperation between mobile operators and law enforcement agencies.
Serge Droz, Head Security of SWITCH, reminded everyone that spam is only the tip of the cybercrime iceberg, and expanded the discussion to CSIRTs, praising its informal and collaborative nature. He argued that CSIRTs will not solve cybercrime, but it can help fighting in in collaboration with law enforcement. Eliot Lear, Principal Engineer of Cisco Systems, re-emphasised the importance of cooperation, and stressed that the Internet of Things will have to entail protection mechanisms. Vladimir Radunovic, Director of Cybersecurity Programmes at DiploFoundation highlighted two essential aspects that are required when building cybersecurity: knowledge and capacity on the one hand, and inter-professional and inter-institutional communication on the other. He furthermore shared his experience with collaborative capacity building programs, in which he also saw a big role for existing knowledge on best practices. Finally, Greg Shannen, Chair of the IEEE Cyber-security Initiative agreed with Radunovic that face-to-face communication is key to build trust. He furthermore expanded on the role of CSIRTs as honest brokers, who can communicate back to help stakeholders understand the causes of cyberthreats.
During the second part of the session, an interactive discussion emerged on various topics:
World Development Report 2016 – Internet for Development
Another morning session was a presentation of the World Development Report 2016, which examines how the Internet affects development. Deepak Mishra from the World Bank gave an insight in the content of the report. It is based on three functions that the Internet has: the inclusion of activities that previously had no market, the increase in efficiency of existing activities, and the creation of economies of scale as marginal costs go down to zero. When applying this framework, the World Bank has observed mixed results. The growth of the Internet does not necessarily lead to a significant increase in jobs in the ICT sector, but it has important indirect effects on employment in other sectors. Furthermore, while high-skilled and low-skilled jobs benefit from ICT, middle-skilled occupations are being squeezed out due to automation, leading to increased polarisation. Finally, while the Internet shows potential in government empowerment, while the empowerment of citizens seems to be the least promising area. This leads to the danger of digital development to be captured by elites. In short, the true transformative potential of the Internet is left largely unrealized. This could be solved by using supply and demand side measures, as well as strengthening the ‘analog foundations for a digital economy’, such as regulation that promoted competition – skills that leverage digital opportunities, and institutions that are capable and accountable. The report has not been finished yet, and contributions are welcome on the World Bank’s website.
Philippa Biggs from the ITU commented on the report and raised some interesting issues. For example, universal access to the Internet might significantly accelerate the marginal costs of individual access, which is not consistent with affordability. She listed a number of other trade-offs that need to be thought about, and concluded that the realisation of the potential of the Internet very much depends on sorting out increasingly more complicated telecom issues. Dutton, professor at Michigan State University, stressed the importance of an open Internet, and gave some examples of how safety can be maintained without having a heavy regulatory regime and thereby closing down the Internet. Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform, opened a discussion on whether the Internet should be considered as a public good, as it fulfills the criteria of being non-excludable and non-rivalrous. At the same time, he raised questions on which elements of the Internet should be public, and which should be private, and pointed out three gaps that need to be addressed: the participatory gap, the jurisdiction gap and the incentive gap. Finally, Mishra reminded everyone that Internet is not a shortcut to development, and that governments are still needed to create effective policies to guide the Internet in the right direction. Kurbalija made a remark on the ultimate battle that is going to take place in the job-creation aspect of the Internet: Uber vs. taxi drivers, and closed the session by embedding the topic of the Internet in the 200-year long history of technological and diplomatic changes; ‘we’re not as unique as we think we are’.
WSIS Action Line Facilitators’ Meeting & Multistakeholder Consultations on WSIS Beyond 2015
The WSIS-week closed with two plenary sessions. The first gave the WSIS Action Line Facilitators a chance to present their reports. Many of the facilitators praised the WSIS’ multistakeholder approach and there was general agreement on the interrelation between action lines and the need to work together across action lines. UPU, facilitator of action line C7 (e-business) proposed for future WSIS forums to organize a few sessions on specific Sustainable Development Goals and have a more detailed discussion on how different action lines can contribute accelerating the achievement of these goals.
Subsequently, the multistakeholder consultations gave WSIS participants to engage in a discussion with ITU’s Secretary-General Zhao on ideas on the future of WSIS. It was a difficult topic to address, since the future of WSIS will depend on the decision of the UN General Assembly, who will discuss this topic in December. However, there was a general consensus among the participant that the forum has been fruitful and effective, and should continue to address Internet governance issues. One recommendation that gained widespread support in the room was to attach youth directly to the WSIS forum, and possibly have separate sessions organized by young IG experts. During the closing ceremony, two reports were presented: the WSIS Forum High Level Policy Statements and the first version of the WSIS Forum Outcome Document, which brought ended a full week of learning, networking and discussing.
[Update] Highlights from Day 4
Day four of the WSIS conference presented us with many choices. A wide range of topics was addressed in a multitude of simultaneous sessions, to do justice to the multi-faceted nature of Internet Governance. Presented here is a small selection of these sessions, as well as the launch of the report on Global Cybersecurity and Cyberwellness Profiles by ABI Research and the ITU.
Highlights from Day 3
Wednesday, the 2015 WSIS forum featured high-level policy statements and two high-level discussions, one concerning the intersection of ICT and disabled persons, and the other focusing on ICTs for sustainable development.
Making Empowerment a Reality – Accessibility for All
The third day of the WSIS forum started with a discussion on the third WSIS Action Line - Access to Information and Knowledge – with a focus on how access to ICTs could contribute to the empowerment of persons with disabilities. This session built on the conference ‘From Exclusion to Empowerment: Role of ICTs for Persons with Disabilities’ that took place in November 2014 in New Delhi. The main findings of this conference were that low-cost, easy to use ICT solutions exist, but there is limited knowledge sharing concerning the assisted technologies that have already been created at the policy level.
The topic was discussed by a diverse panel. Lenin Moreno, Special Envoy of the United Nations for Disability and Accessibility Issues and former Vice President of Ecuador started the session with a passionate speech, in which he argued that scientists need to be activists and focus on the social needs of society, rather than ‘producing expensive toys for rich children’. Stuti Kacker, Former Secretary of the Department of Disability Affairs of India, stressed the need for knowledge sharing and capacity building to bring ICTs in the reach of the marginalized. John E. Davies, Vice-president of the Intel Corporation offered an example from the private sector, and listed several examples of how ICTs can strengthen the inclusion of disabled persons in society, while Daniela Rubio, Director of Macneticos and Independent Consultant on Digital Accessibility in Spain shared her experience as a blind woman using ICT devices and emphasized that a person’s level of disability very much changes according to the environment in which he or she lives.
Michele J. Woods, Director of the Copyright Law Division of WIPO explained how WIPO helped in empowering disabled persons through ICT, by encouraging the creation of inventions, and at the same time having a sufficiently flexible intellectual property regime that allows for the dissemination of patents. Aniyamuzaala James Rwampigi, Member & Chairperson of Finance and Administration of the National Council for Persons with Disability of Uganda, stressed that we need comprehensive accessibility standards that should be prioritized and made affordable. Mr Andrew Taussig, Former Trustee of the International Institute of Communications and Voice of the Listener and Viewer in the United Kingdom recommended knowledge sharing between countries with the assistance of the UN system, as ‘we are in a catch-up process in which cooperation is essential’.
The following discussion focused on:
Innovation in ICTs for Sustainable Development
The second high-level discussion concerned the ways in which the relationship between ICTs and innovation, and its foreseen positive impact on development, could be strengthened. After Chairman Chesub Lee, Director of Telecommunication Standardization Bureau of the ITU introduced the concepts of innovation and sustainable development, Behane Gebru from FHI 360 took the floor and discussed the six factors that impact innovation processes in the ICT ecosystem: (1) research and development infrastructure, (2) access to capital, (3) access to human resources, (4), markets and marketing, (5) the industry structure itself, and (6) the macro-economic environment supporting the infrastructure. John Davies, Vice-president of Intel Corporation, argued that innovation is essentially driven by needs, and the needs are set by the Sustainable Development Goals. Innovation needs to be applied to business models, to Internet access, and in applications, such as in sectors of health, agriculture and energy.
Iwona Wendel, Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development of Poland talked about the ways in which innovation was encouraged by the Polish government. Carsten Fink, Chief Economist of WIPO then brought the discussion back to the global level by explaining the role of the intellectual property system in incentivizing and driving innovation, in which both the processes of invention and dissemination of new technologies are key. Ken Lohento of the Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation shared some examples of innovation fostered in Africa, in which the main problems are the enabling environments for innovation and the lack of funding for new initiatives. Finally, Istvan Manno, Ministerial Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary welcomed us all to Budapest where the ITU Telecom World 2015 conference will be held in October, and where these issues will be discussed in further detail.
High Level Policy Statements
Just like yesterday, high level policy statements continued to be delivered, and many governments extensively shared their experience in implementing the WSIS outcomes and offered their view on the future of Internet governance. In general, the speakers praised the achievements that have been made, but warned about challenges ahead. The statements often emphasized the need for a multistakeholder model of cooperation to bridge the digital gap, particularly stressing the need to connect rural areas. Other themes were the need for affordable access to ICTs, the inclusivity of the Internet, the encouragement of innovation, the importance of an enabling environment, ICTs applicability in emergency response and cybersecurity. When summarizing the statements, Chairperson Magdalena Gaj said that the task of creating an inclusive information society is huge, but not out of reach, and ‘if we want to go far, we need to go together’. Houlin Zhao, ITU’s Secretary-General closed the session by thanking everyone who participated and awarded a Certificate of Excellence to Magdalena Gaj for her efforts.
Highlights from Day 2
The second track of the WSIS Forum, the High-Level Track (HLT), started on Tuesday, 26 May, and continues on Wednesday 27 May. It features high-level statements from high-ranking officials representing governments, the private sector, civil society and international organisations.
Throughout the day emphasis was placed on linking the WSIS process with sustainable development. The UN overall WSIS+10 review kicks off in New York after this meeting, and will culminate with a UN General Assembly decision in December 2015. In the words of Ms Magdalena Gaj, President, Office for Electronic Communication, Poland, appointed the chairperson of the Forum, ‘WSIS is not the problem, it is the solution’. While the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets will be finalised in September, the WSIS process is critical in their implementation, according to the majority of the officials speaking at the WSIS Forum today. ITU Secretary General, Houlin Zhao, pointed out in the morning that ‘only 4 out of the 17 SDGs refer specifically to development, and this is not enough’. They underline the role played by ICTs in the post-2015 agenda, the WSIS-SDG Matrix released by the ITU.
Many of the speeches stressed the need for innovation and for working across the board, in a multistakeholder spirit, to develop an enabling policy environment. Among the recurrent themes in the official addresses were mobile technology (and related challenges and opportunities), sustainable economic growth, and intergenerational equity (thinking ahead about opportunities for young people). ‘In ten years time, our kids will be in jobs that don’t exist today’, highlighted Noaman Fehri, the Tunisian Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy.
The United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) also held a closed meeting in the morning, with the participation of 30 different agencies working in areas related to ICTs. UNCTAD was elected as the new chair.
Highlights from Day 1
The WSIS Forum started today with a series of parallel sessions proposed by a range of actors; discussing information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives; presenting progress made on the implementation of WSIS Outcomes in selected national contexts; and showcasing multi-stakeholder collaboration.
Geneva Internet Platform session
The Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) held a session entitled ‘Engaging digital actors - fostering effective digital policy - monitoring digital governance’ on Monday, 25 May. With a full room, it discussed the complex picture of Internet governance (IG) and different pillars of activities to navigate this dense policy space. In an interactive format, this session addressed the challenges of coordination across sectors and across different levels, as well as the priorities of different actors regarding digital policies. The majority of the people in attendance represented telecom regulators and civil society from developing countries and were particularly interested in ways to reconcile multistakeholderism and multilateralism; tensions between local sensitivities, on the one hand, and domestic and international priorities in IG, on the other; mobile governance challenges; and trust-building activities.
On this occasion, Jovan Kurbalija, Head of the GIP, also announced the upcoming launch of the Digital Watch observatory, a tool which offers a concise overview of Internet governance issues, actors and governance instruments. The observatory will offer a comprehensive summary of Internet developments and provide access to the latest research and data on Internet policy, substantiated through quantitative research (based on data-mining of open data), an element currently missing in the IG research.
Launched in 2014, the GIP is an initiative of the Swiss authorities operated by DiploFoundation. It aims to provide a neutral and inclusive space for digital policy debates with a focus on Geneva's international stakeholders. Many of its activities are tailored to assisting small and developing countries for deciphering and contributing to Geneva-based digital policy processes by putting forward tools and methods for in situ and online engagement.
Briefing: ITU’s Connect 2020 Agenda
Unanimously adopted at the ITU 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-14), the Connect 2020 Agenda (introduced through Resolution 200 'Connect 2020 Agenda for Global Telecommunication/ICT Development') will guide the efforts of the ITU and its member states during the next 5 years, according to a shared vision: ‘an information society, empowered by the interconnected world, where telecommunication/ICT enables and accelerates socially, economically and environmentally sustainable growth and development for everyone’. The four main goals agreed on are:
(1) growth (to enable and foster access and increased use of telecommunication/ICTs);
(2) inclusiveness (to bridge the digital divide and provide broadband to all);
(3) sustainability (to manage the challenges);
(4) innovation and partnerships (to lead, improve and adapt to the changing telecommunication / ICT environment).
There was strong commitment from member states for Connect 2020 at the PP-14 in Busan, with 107 policy statements in support. The ITU will contribute to the Connect 2020 Agenda through its 2016-2019 Strategic Plan adopted at PP-14. As Malcolm Johnson (Deputy Secretary-General, ITU) explained, this year is pivotal for defining a methodology to assess progress and promote the roles of various stakeholders in implementing the agenda. For him, in negotiating the post-2020 development agenda, it is important to ensure that ICTs are recognized as the key means of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
For Jack Hamande, Chairman of the Council, Belgian Institute For Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT), the technological progress in the past decade is impressive, yet more has to be done from a policy point of view. While the infrastructure is available to connect the next 1.5 billion users, we have to commit at different levels to ensure an adequate connectivity, and safeguard against risks.
One of the most ambitious targets of the Connect 2020 agenda is to reduce the e-waste volume by 50% by 2020. ‘This is achievable with the right approach’, said Matthias Kern from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which commended the inclusion of sustainability goals in the agenda. In his opinion, future discussions should focus not only on ICT services, but also on the lifespan of products and their disposal. The latter presents both health hazards (primarily in developing countries) to those disassembling computer equipment, and the waste of precious metals that could be reused if properly collected. Education is critical in sensitising users about reducing waste by using the appropriate device for their particular needs, and incentivising business to adopt trade-in models and promote recycling.
Lea Kaspar from Global Partners Digital, representing civil society on this panel, pointed out that Connect 2020 uses vague language on partnerships, and that this is partly due to the unresolved discussion on the roles of stakeholders, also prominent in the WSIS context. While some progress in conceptually framing the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders has been made in an issue-based approach, more needs to be done, potentially looking at what the Internet Governance Forum has recently been developing: best practices and intersessional activities.
The session concluded with an invitation for all relevant stakeholders to be involved in further developing the agenda, which is expected to provide concrete outcomes before the SDG targets are achieved (currently set for 2030).
The GIP will host a session: Engaging digital actors - Fostering effective digital policy - Monitoring digital governance
Internet governance (IG) is presently at a crossroads. The international community must address the risks and vulnerabilities faced by governments, corporations and citizens; while still ensuring digital growth and innovation.
The GIP’s activities will be implemented based on three pillars:
The WSIS Forum 2015
The WSIS Forum 2015 represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for development’ community. The WSIS Forum, co-organised by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, in close collaboration with all WSIS Action Line Facilitators/Co-Facilitators (UNDESA, FAO, UNEP, WHO, UN Women, WIPO, WFP, ILO, WMO, UN, ITC, UPU, UNODC, UNICEF and UN Regional Commissions) has proven to be an efficient mechanism for coordination of multistakeholder implementation activities, information exchange, creation of knowledge, sharing of best practices and continues to provide assistance in developing multistakeholder and public/private partnerships to advance development goals. This forum will provide structured opportunities to network, learn and participate in multi-stakeholder discussions and consultations on WSIS implementation.
ITU, UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDP welcome all WSIS Stakeholders to the WSIS Forum 2015 to be held on 25-29 May 2015. This event builds upon the tradition of annual WSIS May meetings, and its format is the result of open consultations with all WSIS Stakeholders. Emerging trends in 11 WSIS Action Lines both in terms of Policy and Technology are produced as an Outcome of WSIS Forum in a multistakeholder environment on an annual basis. The WSIS Forum 2015 Open Consultation Process on the Thematic Aspects and Innovations on the Format aims at ensuring the participatory and inclusive spirit of the WSIS Forum 2015 by actively engaging governments, civil society, the private sector and intergovernmental organizations in the preparatory process. The Agenda and Programme of the WSIS Forum will be built on the basis of the official submissions received during the Open Consultation Process. Further information will be available soon after the Open Consultations period has ended.