The World Summit on the Information Society took place to discuss the creation of a world “where everyone can create, access, utilize, and share information and knowledge, enabling individual, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life”. This was the goal of the many countries who gathered in Geneva, Switzerland in 2003.
Prior to this assignment, I had never heard of the World Summit on the Information Society. After reading their Declaration of Principles, it seemed like there was nothing missing from their list of challenges that they hoped to face and reconcile. I mean, they see the potential in information and communication technology to obliterate the issues of poverty, hunger, disease, and sustainability.
Though these issues are significant and integral to the well-being and survival of our species, the whole concept of information science and communication remains futile without the ability for one to freely express thoughts, ideas, and questions. The Information Society directly supports this ability “to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” while “securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others” with morality, pubic order and general welfare. Of all the major concerns that the Information Society want to tackle, the notion of free speech is the most fundamental yet most important. Not only is free speech a basic human right, but it is the foundation of progression and innovation. Without free speech, we would still believe that planet earth was flat, have not founded the country of the United States, and have no civil rights for women and minorities. Altogether, it is free speech that will enable information and communication to be effective factors in acknowledging the existence of, discuss options and strategies, and finally, eradicating poverty, hunger, and disease to begin with.
Because the liberties of free speech and access to information are not embodied by all international governments, there will be countries and peoples who are left behind while others are learning and exploring new media and society outside their own. These processes of learning and exploring are how people find if a movie will be shown in local theatres or how much corruption has plagued the country of Somalia. It is the collaborative effort of the individual and another to initiate discussion, discover truths, invent vaccines, or support political uprisings. Without free speech and access to information, the digital divide separates people even further and makes it more difficult to obtain perfect information. Information science and communication can only positively affect those who collaborate and share knowledge. Thus, the world that the Information Society aspires to build becomes a fantasy as long as the digital divide exists.