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OUTLINE FOR SECRETARY OF STATE F. BLANKART'S SPEECH AT THE BONN CONFERENCE ON GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORKS, July 1997

First Plenary Session: Building Confidence

Enabling Participation of All” - Key Message

  • The emergence of Global Information Networks will bring about new opportunities and challenges, such as the issue of information “haves” and “have nots” or the accessibility of information equipment. Both are of great importance for securing that information technologies do in fact contribute to democracy and pluralism in our societies and economies.
  • an important goal of governments is therefore to assure participation of all, be it as citizen, employee, consumer, producer, and regardless of their geographical location, social background, age, health or gender.
  • a first step to overall participation consists in ensuring equal access to up to date information infrastructure and a minimum range of basic telecommunications services at affordable prices. Such undertaking should ground on liberalisation of telecommunication markets and should be flanked by a guarantee for universal service.
  • Decisions on the scope and financing of Universal Services should in particular include due considerations of the role of global networks in ensuring integration of peripheral regions, participation of small and medium sized enterprises, but also fostering and broadening education and enabling elderly or disabled people as well as disadvantaged groups. However, while ensuring Universal Service, Governments should give priority to market solutions and avoid hampering private initiative.
  • Participation of all includes open and affordable access to public sector information.
  • Participation of all also means global solidarity. The emergence of global networks should help narrowing the gap between rich and poor. Indeed, the new information technology, with its potential to ease exchange of information and knowledge and to integrate remote regions, should foster technology transfers and world wide match making, thus enabling developing countries to take the frog-leap into the information century.
  • But access is only one of many prerequisites for enabling participation for all: Effective participation requires also availability of contents in an accessible format and language, as well as appropriate education and knowledge.

In short, 1) access to technology and equipment 2) availability of contents and 3) education and knowledge represent necessary preconditions for making the best use of the potential of information technology and services as well as for ensuring participation by all in the future development of the information society.


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