By Peter M. Robinson
At last year’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunisia, UN member states and other Internet stakeholders sought to tackle the challenge of broadening access to information technology, electronic communications and e-commerce worldwide. In follow-up, the global business community – led by the International Chamber of Commerce, the world business organization that serves as one of USCIB’s key global platforms for policy advocacy – is playing a key role in ongoing discussions of these issues.
Obviously, the concept of a global “information society” is key to many companies’ business plans, since the growth of e-commerce depends both on the continued expansion of Internet usage and on wider access to more advanced information technology and tools. So whether the topic is Internet governance or bridging the digital divide, business has a major stake in policies and programs affecting the Internet.
As ICC Secretary General Guy Sebban observed at WSIS, “Creating the necessary conditions for business to do what it does best – create jobs, train workers, invent new technologies and develop business models – is essential for business to help build a more inclusive information society.”
In late October, the UN’s Internet Governance Forum, a key WSIS offshoot, will holds its first meeting in Athens, bringing together stakeholders from around the world to discuss access, openness, diversity and security of the information society. In preparation, ICC last June unveiled a new initiative, Business Action to Support the Information Society (BASIS), to lend business expertise and experience to the global dialogue that is shaping the broad agenda on Internet governance, particularly at the UN.
At the Athens meeting, ICC and the government of Canada will organize a workshop on “building human and institutional capacity for meaningful participation in Internet governance.” The workshop will focus on the experiences and challenges at the national, regional and international levels of getting stakeholders involved in Internet governance policy issues. It will also help all stakeholders to better understand each others’ needs and perspectives.
The business community, and indeed the international community as a whole, has much to gain in these ongoing debates. If done right, governments and other stakeholders can foster the development of a truly inclusive information society. If done wrong, we face the possibility of a fractured and ineffective Internet, lack of access to information technology among those who need it the most.
For more information or to get involved, contact USCIB’s Heather Shaw (212-703-5068, email@example.com).
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