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Seizing the Present and Future of the Information Society Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Roentgen, Philippines Oct 29, 2003
Technology   Opinions
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Seizing the Present and Future of the Information Society When world leaders converge in Geneva this December 10-12, 2003, they would be adopting two main documents – the Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action- that will chart the future of this planet. When Heads of States attend the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), they will be tackling the present and the future of a world which is increasingly being characterized by the proliferation of information and communications technologies (ICTs). Now, more than ever, communication and the exchange of information are done easier and faster. From Santiago to Dakar, from Helsinki to Sydney, people’s lives are increasingly being shaped by the use of ICTs. At the thought-speed, and at the click of gadgets, wonders in communication are being formed.

The existence and the rapid innovation of ICTs have shrunk space, distance and time. This is the era of information and ICTs have provided previously unimaginable opportunities, empowering countless people in the process. The costs of communication have fallen tremendously in many parts of the globe, facilitating more global interaction. When before, parcels and mail take at least a day to be delivered, today electronic mails are transmitted in seconds to minutes. “A 4-page document can be sent from Madagascar to Cote d’Ivoire, for example, by five-day courier for $75, by 30-minute fax for $45, or by two-minute e-mail for less than 20 cents- and the email can go to hundreds of people at no extra cost.”* In many areas, information can also be accessed easily through the Internet. Cyberspace and other manifestations of ICTs have also spawned numerous opportunities for other aspects of human lives – health and education for example. Business transactions have also been relatively more comfortable and for many firms, productivity and efficiency are enhanced. At the level of national economies, the information society has opened new doors for advancement, giving many markets the capacity to compete globally and leapfrog into the global economy. India’s software exporting business has boosted its economy. In the Philippines, call service providers and telecenters have employed thousands.

However, the same is not true everywhere. While in some countries people have seized the opportunities, others have been left behind. Ironically, these are the people who need information the most. People in the developed countries or those living in more developed areas of developing countries have the most to gain. “The United States has more computers than the rest of the world combined…Just 55 countries account for 99% of the global spending on information technology. Most telephones in developing countries are in the capital city, although most people live in the rural areas.”* Thus, this so-called revolution in information and communication has also resulted to further exclusion of many people who lack the choice. In this era of information, a world of ‘know and know-nots’ have been created. In this era of information, two sub-societies have been formed: the society of people who have the access to information and the society of people who continuously face the barriers to information. A digital divide is created.

This is the main challenge facing our leaders and all of us in general, today. How do we harness the benefits of, and further develop ICTs and at the same time, bridge the digital divide and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Declaration Goals?
Availability of and access to information are important concerns. Governments should invest in the setting-up of communications infrastructure or encourage private sector spending in telecommunications. “When Senegal privatized telephone services, operators were required under license to install public telephones in 50% of the rural villages containing more than 3,000 people by 2000.” * The requirement in the Philippines for cellular phone operators to install connections in non-landline covered areas have aided the spread of mobile phones and abetted the popularity of SMS and SMS-services. At the same time, governments should provide enabling environments so that access to information and technology would be facilitated. It is in this regard that the right to information should be respected by states and right to privacy and freedom of expression be observed. Human rights should not be violated.

Focus should also be given on the need for local content and the promotion of diversity in the Internet and other facets of the information society. The challenge is not merely to convey information but how to make it relevant to local communities. Similarly, policies should gear toward the use of our diverse languages and vernaculars in the Internet so that participation would be encouraged and further exclusion prevented.

Issues related to the information society should not also be separated from other social development issues. Information should be translated to knowledge and there is a need to build the capacity of people to capture the prospects offered by the information society. Education is very important and policies and programs should be responsive to present times.

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A good article
Iwu Ifeanyi | Nov 14th, 2003
It highlighted the fact that through communication peoples standard of living could be enhanced. It also highlighted the fact that many of the people who need communication do not have access to it.

Eddie G. Fetalvero | Nov 24th, 2003
Kabali sida Nad! Pwedeng paquote? hehehe Tama nak gador ka dahil rili sa ato kag digital divide ay payapar nak payapar. Abang negative pati ka inra nak perception towards technology rili sa school. Ta-imbitahan yang ngey ka namo one time nak mag-bisaya rili sa amo pag permanente ey ako. More power!

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