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The World Summit On The Information Society

17 November 2005 - Speech By Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications & the Arts Singapore At the World Summit on the Information Society, Palexpo Du Kram, Tunis.

Speech By Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications & the Arts Singapore At the World Summit on the Information Society on 17 November 2005, Palexpo Du Kram, Tunis.

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

ICT Development and the WSIS Process

1. The advance and ubiquity of ICT has had a profound impact on the economic and social progress of all countries. The benefits from deploying ICT are apparent in nearly every field of human endeavour. So are the divides faced by those who are unable to adopt and utilise ICT for various reasons. It was the emergence and recognition of these divides which prompted the community of nations to initiate the World Summit on Information Society. Convened for the first time in 2003 in Geneva, this Summit acknowledged the need to overcome the digital divide and adopted a Declaration of Principles with a Plan of Action to foster global cooperation and guide member states towards the better harnessing of ICT for the benefits of citizens.

2. The Tunis Summit will build on the success of the Geneva Summit. Over the past two years, we have all worked in an open and inclusive manner to implement the commitments we made in Geneva. For instance, we have reached agreement on financial mechanisms for development, spam control and cyber-security. Singapore's Efforts at Building an Information Society.

3. Singapore first saw the importance of harnessing ICT for progress in the early 1980s. Since then, we have invested much effort and resources in programmes to attain our vision of deploying ICT as a key enabler to unleash the potential of our people and create opportunities for our citizens. While more remains to be done, today three out of four Singapore homes have at least one personal computer. We have achieved 99% island-wide broadband coverage with 1 out of 2 families connected via broadband (49.8% as of Sept 2005). Mobile penetration rates stand at 98.7% (as of Sept 2005) with 2G and 3G networks already in commercial service. Today Singapore offers an interconnected, mobile, broadband and wired as well as wireless environment for work, play and learning.

4. The Government is itself a lead user of ICT. We offer Singaporeans 24/7 on-line e-government service delivery as well as promote inclusive and active citizenry through on-line contacts for policy consultations and feedback. More than 1,600 government services are now available online including tax filing, checking retirement account status, seeking information on public library services and purchase of public housing. We have continued to refine and improve our e-government services so as to enhance citizens' inputs on public policies and provide more accessible and timely public services.

5. To help us advance into the next phase of growth as an Information Society, Singapore is developing a new strategic master-plan, known as Intelligent Nation 2015, or iN2015. This master-plan is an attempt to identify critical new infocomm developments and will serve as our ICT roadmap for the next ten years.

Internet Governance – Singapore's View

6. Allow me to turn now to the major issue that has preoccupied WSIS for the past two years, namely Internet Governance. It is self-evident that the Information Society is founded on the continued development of the Internet. The Internet is a truly revolutionary modern phenomenon. In a short span of less than two decades, it has become a crucial component of global commerce, communications and human development. It is no surprise therefore, that governance of this pervasive and strategic medium has been of much interest to participants at this Summit.

7. Singapore supports the Joint Statement of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, on the issue of Internet Governance. We share the view that Internet Governance must be inclusive and responsive. We also accept that while there is a need to improve governance of the Internet, we should not view such governance as the sole domain of governments. The importance of continued technological Internet developments and deployment reinforces the advantage of a partnership approach whereby Governments, industry and civil society work together for the benefit of all who are touched by this wonderful invention.

8. However we urge greater recognition of the legitimate interest of governments in the public policy issues connected and influenced by the Internet. The interest of governments in the Internet is not unfounded nor is it due to a lack of understanding of how the Internet works. Clearly the Internet affects public policies and national interests. Hence when ICANN proposed to register a new generic top level domain for adult content, .xxx, the US government intervened and called for a review. Its concern was also reflected by several other governments.

9. The challenge before us is how to better serve public interests in a manner that respects the unique architecture and traditions of the Internet. Singapore believes that a top-down inter-governmental oversight structure will not be the right fit. Instead, we should work steadily and incrementally to enhance the structures that already exist from within. Both the Internet community and the inter-governmental community need that period of evolution and transition to listen and accommodate one another as well as to learn to work side by side.

10. To us, therefore, the answer does not lie in creating a new oversight mechanism, but in strengthening and evolving existing structures to respond more positively and effectively to the growing global significance of the Internet and the legitimate aspirations of all those whose lives are affected by it. There is no question that these existing structures and institutions must become more international in nature. This process of change should gather momentum after WSIS and move forward with clear milestones and deliverables.


11. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Tunis Summit is the Summit of Solutions. It brings to a close the intense discussion of the opportunities and challenges brought about by the ICT revolution. But far from being the end of our work, it signals the beginning of concerted and global efforts to achieve an all-inclusive global Information Society. WSIS has helped chart a vision for us which we can realise as a global community working together.

12. Thank you.