Third UNESCO Congress on Ethical, Legal and Societal Challenges of Cyberspace
Live report  

Monday 13 November - Opening, 9.30 am

 Infoethics is now opened

UNESCO INFOethics 2000 Congress on the Theme " Right to Universal Access to Information in the 21st century " opened this morning at the Organization’s Headquarters in Paris, France.

Opening Ceremony

The meeting was opened by Iceland’s former President Vigdis Finnbogadóttir, Chairperson of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST). Alain Modoux, UNESCO’s Assistance Director-General for Communication and Information, welcomed the participants on behalf of UNESCO.

Vigdis Finnbogadóttir:
"Sustainable access to information is needed in order to not dehumanize technology."

Welcoming the more than 300 participants, Ms Finnbogadóttir said that Congress is expected to lay the foundation of "building up an international consensus on a series of appropriate principles to be applied at the virtual space of the Internet". "The principle of ‘sustainable access to information’ has to be fully put in place, in order to not dehumanize the technology we are dealing with", Vigdis Finnbogadóttir said. (Full text of the speech)

Alain Modoux:
"Education is the ultimate answer to the universal access to information and knowledge sharing."

Alain Modoux warned of the dangers of the widening digital divide and of the emerging cyber-illiteracy. Therefore, UNESCO would concentrate its action on helping to ensure access to information for all, to share knowledge and to promote diversity in cyberspace. "Education is the ultimate answer to the universal access to information and knowledge sharing" Modoux stated. (Full text of the speech)

David Konzevik:
"With information grow increases expectations."

In his keynote paper, David Konzevik said that policies to be proposed in the area of accessibility to information, copyright laws and freedom of expression should take account of the limited trade-off between investment in education and time to learn the new languages of globalization and the urgent need to stop the growing confrontation. " We are witnessing an expectation revolution", Konzevik said, " with information grow increases expectations.

Session I – Broader and more efficient provision of public contents

The first working session, chaired by Elizabeth Longworth, New Zealand, discussed the challenges how to define the concepts of "public domain" and "universal access" in a global context where common public welfare is juxtaposed to private initiative and economic interests.

Background study
"The Role of Public Authorities in Access to Information : The Broader and More Efficient Provision of Public Content" by Elizabeth Longworth, Principal, Longworth Associates, New Zealand (Full text in RTF format)

Thomas B. Riley:
 "The Internet is a medium that allows people to involve themselves in the democratic process in new and unique way."

Thomas B. Riley Canada, looked at ways in which governments can facilitate better access to information in both the public and private sector. The particular emphasis of his presentation was on the growing influence of the Internet on all sectors of society, including on electronic democracy. Riley’s paper discussed the way on how an information intensive society is changing the expectations of the citizen. (Full text of the paper)

George Papapavlou:
"There is now emerging an encouraging future for new initiatives in public-private collaboration in information dissemination."

George Papapavlou, speaking on behalf of the European Commission,said that improved access to public sector information is increasingly possible through the use of the Internet and information technologies. Such access is important for citizens, in the context of their democratic rights and new information society/electronic government possibilities. In presenting the Commission’s Green Paper Papapavlou said that access is also important for industry in order to make its investment strategies and the information industry in particular (Full text of the paper)

Ekaterina U. Genieva:
"The information society is in the first place a publicly useful humanitarian information content."

Ekaterina U. Genieva, Russian Federation, provided some general information on the development of Internet in Russia within the last 10 years and looked at the issues of access to information and topology of generally valid informational resources. She presented the most important content-projects. Ms Genieva also formulated recommendations on the creation of an efficient system of free access to information and "public domain" based on the analysis of the problems and possibilities of international cooperation. (Full text of the paper).

Session II - Facilitating access to networks and services

In the afternoon session of the first day of the INFOethics conference chaired by Christine Maxwell, ISOC, discussion on the role of public authorities in access to information continued with special emphasis on access to networks and services.

Arthur Levin:
"If the goal of universal access is to be attained, it will require commitment by governments."

Ensuring and expanding affordable access to telecommunications services has long been a fundamental goal of national and global policy in communications. However, with the rise of the Internet, access to telecommunications has become even more urgent, since phone networks supply much of the conduit for Internet connectivity. Levin reviewed the historic concept of universal access and service in telecommunications, examined a number of ways in which the rapid growth of the Internet impacts on the longstanding policy debate on universal access and assesses the phenomenon of the Internet in the context of the Right to Communicate." (Full text of speech)

Yasuhiko Kawasumi:
"There still remain barriers for improvements of accessibility."

Thanks to the remarkable progress of digital technology, radio communication technology such as satellite communications and fixed/mobile terrestrial wireless communication technologies, costs for provision of infrastructure for rural and remote communications services have come down close to the realistic level for the affordable and sustainable services. However, according to Kawasumi, there still remains barriers for improvements of accessibility such as radio frequency use or license fee and the issue of cost sharing of international access lines for Internet which affect the end user prices. (Full text of speech) (PowerPoint presentation)

Jean-Noël Tronc:
"In order that access to information, to networks and to services is beneficiary for all, actions taken by the public sector are critical."

Since 1997, through the launch of the Government's information society policy, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has wanted online networks and services to be tools that serve democracy, justice and solidarity. Education is naturally given top priority. Access facilities open to all are being established to combat the emergence of a digital gap. Mr Tronc presented the steps taken by the French Government to encourage the development of high-speed networks as well as the provision of electronic administrative services and by developing free access to essential public information. (Full text of speech)

Alugro Agudo
Director, School of Libraries and Archives, Venezuela (Full text of speech)

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