Finland and World Summit on the Information Society

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Helsinki, 19 July, 2005 — Finland and World Summit on the Information Society

The two-phased World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva 2003 - Tunis 2005) successfully promoted the global understanding of the possibilities of building information societies all over the world. Many countries are now actively developing their information society policies and concomitant tools like e-strategies. Countries donating development aid are mainstreaming ICTs in their development policies.

Finland has actively been taking part in this long, still ongoing process, and has reached the goals set for the negotiations. The Finnish information society is internationally greatly appreciated and, thus, it is expected that Finland share the knowledge she has about building information societies with other countries.

Finlandís Prominent Presence

The Finnish 50-person delegation taking part in the first phase of the Summit of Geneva 2003 was headed by President Tarja Halonen. In the side-event "ICT4D" Finland was well presented, as was Nokia.

The first phase in Geneva was able to adopt a common global strategy on a broad range of difficult issues connected to building information societies, such as human rights, freedom of speech, and ethical questions. Furthermore, agreement was achieved on the need to create an enabling environment with supportive and predictable policy and a regulatory framework, which encourages human participation and innovation.

Finland was deeply engaged in these negotiations and our main ideas were well received, at first within the European Union and thereafter by other UN countries.

International negotiations like these are often tedious work for the participants. Information society policies have now been on the UN agenda for three years, and it is interesting to note that we have moved from the suspicions harboured at the early stage to a far reaching consensus on how to best benefit from the information and communication technologies to boost the development and well-being of all people.

Wide Acceptance Based on Concrete Results

The principles adopted in Geneva are now widely accepted as a basis for implementing future work. This acceptance is also strongly based on the concrete results achieved in many countries that have taken action along the WSIS-principles. Also, most of the suspicions entertained by many are now beginning to be dispelled and are gradually disappearing as the positive impact of ICTs in many areas of society is becoming better visible.

This Summit is unique as it is held in two phases within two years. This means that we now have the opportunity to move forward together towards the targets we have set ourselves. In Tunis, we aim to move from principled theory to action. Now is the time to agree on the implementation on the Geneva principles in Africa, Asia, and Latin America as well as in other continents together with governments, the civil society, and the private sector. Also, an agreement on the outstanding issues from Geneva, ie. Internet governance and financial mechanisms, will be important in Tunis.

Just like Geneva, Tunis will not only be a political summit but also a meeting place of utmost importance for all information society activists from all over the world. At the side-event "ICT4d", Finland will be presenting her experiences in building information societies and best practices and solutions which might be of interest to others, especially developing countries.
WSIS, while recommending representation from governments at the highest level also invites participation of all relevant UN bodies and other international organizations, non-governmental organizations, private sector, civil society, and media to establish a truly multi-stakeholder process.

The writer, Mr. Timo Heino works as Counsellor in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Fnland

The article is published in ICT Cluster Finland Review 2005.

More information
ICT Cluster Finland Review 2005