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The Information Society
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) gets underway on Dec. 10 in Geneva. Eight thousand people are expected to take part in deliberations on how to bridge the digital divide and reduce the imbalance in knowledge -- which are seen as the main obstacles on the road to sustainable development in the new economy.
Among the key objectives of the Summit is the interconnection of all cities, educational institutions, health centers and hospitals and local and central government bodies before 2015.
Among the WSIS participants will be more than 50 heads of state, and thousands of representatives of governments, international organizations, civil society groups, the private sector and the communications media.
In the first phase of the WSIS, in Geneva, the delegates are to adopt a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action. The second phase, in Tunis in 2005, will revolve around issues of development and evaluation of progress made.
The 2000 report by the United Nations Economic and Social Council says that the revolution in information and communications technologies (ICTs) offers new opportunities for economic growth and social development, but that it also poses new challenges and risks.
The report points to applications for development such as electronic commerce and access to financial markets, the creation of jobs, increases in agricultural and industrial production and even "tele-medicine" and "tele-education" -- providing services to communities in remote areas.
But the text underscores that the majority of the global population still lives in poverty and has yet to benefit from the ICT revolution.
The report "Sustainability at the speed of light" states that of the eight billion micro-chips produced in 2000, just two percent ended up in computers. Most people around the globe live in continuous proximity to technology -- in their cars, toys, cellular phones and even their sports shoes, says the study.
Dubbed by some as "the second industrial revolution", the rise of the ICTs is expected to continue, and could ultimately reach each person in the world.
Some observers fear that the pace of expansion could mean that issues like the environment and sustainable development will be ignored.
Among the proposals to anticipate the spread of this new economy is the Digital Opportunity Initiative, a public-private association involving the Accenture company, the Markle Foundation and the United Nations Development Program.
Launched at the G-8 Summit in Okinawa in 2000, the initiative aims to identify the roles of ICTs in promoting sustainable economic development and social equalities.
Among the case studies are Costa Rica and Brazil, as the Latin American examples of successful government strategies to insert themselves in the economy of the future.
If you are looking for more information about the WSIS and links related to ICTs, Inter Press Service is providing special coverage on the unfolding of the information society.