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WSIS delegates fail to agree on open-source 'support'
Draft was changed after objections by U.S.
TOKYO -- A three-day meeting that brought together Asian governments,
organizations, companies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
ended Wednesday morning with the approval of a declaration that, among
other things, calls for encouraging the development of open-source
software. A draft of the declaration had called for open source to be
"supported" but was changed after objections from the U.S. government
delegation late Tuesday night.
The U.S. opposition was largely perceived to be support for its
domestic software companies and in particular Microsoft, said
officials from other governments on the sidelines of the conference on
Wednesday. After a short debate with a number of countries, including
Pakistan, that wanted the original language to remain, all sides
finally reached agreement and the declaration was changed to read:
"Development and deployment of open-source software should be
encouraged, as appropriate, as should open standards for ICT
(information and communications technology) networking."
The change was one of a number made during a late-night session at the
end of the second day of the Asian Regional Conference. The event is
one of a number of conferences being held around the world to solicit
regional input for the World Summit on the Information Society, a
government-leader level U.N. summit that will take place in December
this year in Geneva, Switzerland, and in Tunis in 2005.
At the meeting, representatives of 48 countries, 21 international
organizations, 53 private sector entities and 116 NGOs discussed a
number of issues related to the information society and debated over
the content of the final output of the meeting, a document called the
Tokyo Declaration. The declaration will go forward to a meeting in
Geneva next month and bring together participants from around the
world as part of the large planning process that must precede the
The declaration touched on a wide range of issues related to the
information society and included a call for greater information
security, a balance between content owners and users in the area of
intellectual property rights, and more work on the digital divide.
The lack of awareness of the need for information security was
recognized as a weakness for the Asia-Pacific region. The declaration
touched upon the need for greater awareness of cybercrime and
cyberterrorism while recognizing that equal and fair access to
information technology is also important.
"Special attention should be paid to the fact that ICTs can
potentially be used for purposes that are inconsistent with the
objectives of maintaining international stability and security, and
may adversely affect the integrity of the infrastructure within
states, to the detriment of their security in both civil and military
fields," it said.
In the area of copyright, the declaration recognized the "vital role"
that intellectual property rights play in innovation in software,
e-commerce and related areas, but also noted the need to strike a fair
balance between such rights and the interests of users.
The same two areas were identified by a Japanese government official
as possible areas of which participants to WSIS in December will agree
require the creation of a legal and policy framework that spans
international borders. Agreement on the need to create a global legal
and policy framework for the information society is one of several
goals already identified for the summit.
"I think the big issues that need to be tackled are intellectual
property rights and information security," said Yoshio Tsukio, vice
minister for policy coordination and Japan's Ministry of Public
Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications (MPHPT).
The conference heard more pledges to bridge the digital divide and
several points in the declaration focused on extending the benefits of
the information society to the poor and otherwise disadvantaged.
"The digital divide unfortunately is widening," said Kim Hak Su, the
executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social
Commission for the Asia-Pacific and the U.N.'s highest ranking
official in Asia.
"It is not only between the countries but within the countries and
between generations and the able-bodied and disabled. The
international community is trying to help to assist those countries
who do not have a national strategy and a national political
commitment is also essential. Also, the Government of Japan is
offering a substantial ODA (overseas development aid) package to
developing member countries," he told IDG News Service.
"This digital divide will be with us for some years to come and we
have to work very hard. There is no magic formula but we should work
hard," he said. Kim admitted that promises to help have been made
before and the problem often comes down to paying for things. "We need
the private sector to do many things. Governments cannot do everything
"We need more money and more discussion but Tokyo has set the
direction," he said. "The direction is right and WSIS could be
important because political commitment is also important."
Speaking after the event, a number of NGOs that had taken part in the
summit said they were broadly satisfied with the outcome but had hoped
for greater commitment in a number of areas such as a social justice.
They were satisfied with the inclusion of a reference to human rights
in the declaration, despite some attempts to change it, they said.
The groups also repeated protests over the deregistration of NGOs from
Taiwan on Tuesday as the result of repeated protests by the Chinese
"There is discrimination against the principles of WSIS for a
comprehensive inclusion of all stakeholders in the information society
including civil society, which includes Taiwanese NGOs as well," said
Chuang Chiting, the international affairs director of the Taiwan
Association for Human Rights.
"As Taiwan is a very powerful ICT country and it provides major input
to the information society, we do hope our voices can be heard and be
constructive towards a better future in the international community,"
she said. The representatives were allowed to stay at the meeting
under the affiliation of a Japanese NGO.
Martyn Williams is a Tokyo correspondent for the IDG News Service,
an InfoWorld affiliate.