Brussels, 11 Dec 2003
Policy makers and other stakeholders from around the globe gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, on 10 December for the opening session of the World Summit on the Information Society.
Speakers outlined their hopes for the summit, and described the values upon which they believed an inclusive information society should be based. The draft texts for a declaration of principles and a plan of action were also presented to the conference.
Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, Erkki Liikanen, congratulated those present for reaching a balanced consensus on the draft texts. He welcomed the emergence of a common vision for an information society based on fundamental rights and the empowerment of disadvantaged groups.
'This Summit will give new incentives to citizens worldwide. [...] It marks the development of a new frontier very different from frontiers in the territorial sense. It is a cyberspace: a space without limits, except those of our creativity and imagination,' said Mr Liikanen.
Speaking on behalf of the EU, Italian Minister for innovation and technology Lucio Stanca said that the Union firmly believed that the values of human rights and fundamental freedoms should be the foundation stones of an information society for all.
Mr Stanca added that the second instalment of the summit in Tunisia would only be successful 'if two key players in the information society - civil society and the private sector - were fully and deeply involved in the preparatory activities and discussions.'
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stressed that delegates must remind themselves that they have an active role to play in shaping the information society, and that they should approach the challenge 'as makers of [their] own destiny.'
'This summit is unique - whereas most global conference focus on global threats, this one will consider how best to use a new global asset. [...] However, even as the power of technology is discussed, there is a need to remember who is in charge. While technology will shape the future, it is people who shape technology,' he said.
A developing country perspective was provided by Mozambique's President, Joaquim Alberto Chissano. Mr Chissano stressed that issues of language, culture, religion and dialogue between civilisations must take centre stage in the development of an information society.
'[I]n Africa, the information society would not be complete if cultural expressions such as singing, dancing and arts are not included. They convey messages of education and training and pass on vital traditional knowledge,' he concluded.
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