World Information Society Summit Assessment: ICT Services Deemed Less Costly16/05/2011 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 3 CommentsShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.More than five years since the last UN-led World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and less than five years before the 2015 target date of the Millennium Development Goals, experts and representatives of needy countries are in Geneva to assess how it is going. One thing they are being told: the price of information and communications technology services has dropped in the past two years. The UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) organised the WSIS in two parts, Geneva in 2003 and Tunis, Tunisia in 2005. The summit resulted in a range of commitments intended to profoundly improve access to and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in developing countries, with an eye toward development.The WSIS Forum, co-sponsored by several UN agencies and being billed as the “world’s largest annual gathering of the world’s ‘ICT for development’ community,” is taking place at the International Labour Organisation from 16-20 May.The event website is here.Some 70 members of parliaments, ministers and deputies from 17 countries are among the roughly 1,000 participants this year, according to the ITU.The weeklong agenda includes plenary sessions and numerous side panels, and will address issues such as the right to communication: new social media and social transformations; innovation for digital inclusion; ICTs as an enabler for development of LDCs; and building confidence and security in cyberspace. Other topics address access for those with disabilities, improving broadband infrastructure, e-learning, cloud computing, indigenous education, and every manner of societal activity online.ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré told a press briefing today that the progress made in ICTs globally shows the success of WSIS, and the work continues. “We are still committed to connecting the world,” he said.ICT Cost Paradox: Poor Still Pay MoreTouré told a press briefing today that ICT services have dropped in a number of areas, though costs remain paradoxically much higher for individuals in least-developed countries than in developed countries.The average price that consumers and businesses pay for entry-level ICT services is 18 percent less than it was two years ago. And the average prices for mobile cellular services dropped by nearly 22 percent from 2008 to 2010, while fixed telephony costs went down 7 percent on average. Meanwhile, during that period the number of mobile subscriptions rose from 4.0 billion to 5.3 billion worldwide.The statistics are drawn from ITU’s “ICT Price Basket,” a composite affordability measure based on fixed telephone, mobile cellular, and fixed broadband internet services, and computed as a percentage of average Gross National Income per capita. Today, initial data were shared, but the full set of data will not be provided for several months, ITU said.Two areas that need further work, according to the statistics, are that rich countries still enjoy much lower relative prices for ICT services. In number of least developed countries (LDCs), the price of fixed broadband, for instance, still amounts to about a half-month’s income.This is “not acceptable,” Touré said. “The ones who can afford to pay the least are the ones paying the most.”This is, however, a significant improvement over two years ago, when it cost about a full month’s income. One approach ITU takes is to encourage countries to create business-friendly “enabling” environments. When he visits countries he often meets with parliamentary members to give this message.The price of fixed broadband in developing countries dropped by 52 percent compared with 35 percent in developed countries. But there are still some developing countries where prices remain as much as ten times more than monthly income.As to prices dropping due to the economic crisis, he said the telecom sector was not negatively impacted by the crisis and showed a “resiliency.” He said was known to say the ICT sector would take the world out of crisis, and believes that it has.Separately, Touré was asked about whether there was any regret that the second WSIS had been held in Tunisia, a country that showed itself to be repressive about online information sharing. He said he was one of the first to issue criticism of Tunisia when it acted against openness in cutting off mobile services, also Egypt, as “this is a basic human right.”Asked whether any members have concern about actions taken by some governments – especially the United States – to crack down on websites deemed to be infringing on intellectual property rights, Touré said no.India Claims Rise to InclusivenessOne of the key principles of the WSIS process is inclusiveness. India today launched a report entitled, India: Journey from Knowledge Economy to Inclusive Information Society,” detailing its extensive progress in this area.The report says that India has “emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world,” and says in addition to government policies, “above all, the role of ICTs and new media technologies in enabling information enabled growth.”The Indian Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Kapil Sibal, introduced the report. The report details India’s performance on the Millennium Development Goals and ICT for development, including health, gender, literacy, environment and other indicators.During a plenary session, he was asked about a lag in spending resources designated to boost rural connectivity in India. He said the government is following its national broadband plan and in two years it expects to have every village connected.Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)RelatedWilliam New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."World Information Society Summit Assessment: ICT Services Deemed Less Costly" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.