Tuesday, November 22, 2005

WSIS: was it worth it?

The geek invasion of Tunis has moved on, all of the bloggers have gone home, and the WSIS has concluded. The World Summit of the Information Society has left us with two documents, the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society and the Tunis Commitment. After several years of preparatory meetings, conferences, reunions and enough paper to bury a small city, the question has to be, was it worth it?

The most important document is the Tunis Agenda. It is unfortunate that this is an "agenda", I still wonder if this was a wasted opportunity, such a massive effort should have ended in a full agreement, but that option was never on the table realistically. What we have is another wishy-washy document that sounds very good, but has very little in the manner of action. The financial agenda for ICT development is full of UN-speak with commitments like these:

"Multilateral, regional and bilateral development organisations should consider the utility of creating a virtual forum for the sharing of information by all stakeholders on potential projects, on sources of financing and on institutional financial mechanisms. [...]
Multilateral, regional and bilateral development organisations should consider cooperating to enhance their capacity to provide rapid response with a view to supporting developing countries that request assistance with respect to ICT policies. [...]
Encouraging increased voluntary contributions"
There is however a very good recommendation, and it is the last point of the financial agenda. It asks for the "debt cancellation and debt swapping, that may be used for financing ICT for development projects". This is a worthwhile effort that could be translated immediately into IT projects in developing countries, particularly after the unveiling of the $100 dollar laptop.

The documents also deal with the issue of governance, but it has already been reported that not much will change in that area, other than the creation of another international overseeing body.

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