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WTPF and WSIS 2013, Geneva

The World Technology Policy Forum and the
World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2013

The WTPF and WSIS were hosted by the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, May 13-17. These international forums brought together telecommunications ministers, government policy experts and business representatives for discussions of issues tied to the future of communications networks. Also on hand in as observers were technologists, academics, representatives of non-governmental organizations and members of civil society.

A team from Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center conducted interviews during the forums to assess people's attitudes in order to inform policy, identify key issues and provide a record of what people today think about the likely future. This page holds links leading to video survey pages with hundreds of video clips from dozens of interviews with WTPF and WSIS attendees who were asked six questions: 

1 - THE CONDITION OF GLOBAL INTERNET POLICY: Describe the condition of global Internet policy today in one of the following weather terms: Is it sunny, partly cloudy or stormy, and WHY?

2 - WHAT'S NEXT? Some global leaders have said the Internet is facing a dangerous time right now. Is there a battle for control, what do you think will happen next and what do you think should happen?

3 - ACCESS QUESTION: Access to gaining and sharing knowledge for all people is a primary goal of WSIS. What threats and benefits do you foresee if we double the number of people online, going from 2.5 billion to more than 5 billion in the next few years?

4 - HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: What is your greatest hope for the future of the Internet?

5 - CONCERN FOR THE FUTURE: What is your greatest fear or concern for the future of the Internet?

6 - THE FUTURE IN A NUTSHELL: Briefly describe the future of the Internet, using only a few words - in five seconds or less.

BACKGROUND: WTPF, 2013

WTPF 2013 is the fifth such high-level ITU-hosted policy event. ITU members from government, industry and the global regulatory community exchanged views on the key policy issues arising in the fast-changing information and communication technology environment. The ITU billed the event as "designed to foster debate, build multistakeholder consensus expressed in the form of 'Opinions' illustrating a shared vision to guide ongoing global ICT policies, regulatory and standardization efforts worldwide."

WTPF is the ITU's final preparation for its 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, Oct. 20 to Nov. 7, 2014. High-level delegates from the ITU's 193 member states and 700 sector members participated, and the sessions were open to representatives from UN agencies, the media and the general public upon special request. The "ITU Secretary-General's Report" was a starting point for discussion of issues at the forum. It included contributions from experts from a variety of stakeholder groups.

Click on the hyperlinks and you can read the ITU's official briefings on the top topics of discussion for WTPF 2013:

Internet Exchange Points - The Internet is a network of networks, currently comprising 42,000 discrete networks. The way in which they interconnect and exchange traffic is vital, and the way in which an IXP is managed can impact an entire region's economy. The benefits of establishing an IXP depend upon the amount of traffic and costs of network connections.

Internet Protocol Version 4 and Version 6 Issues - Every device connected to the Internet is identified by a unique IP address. The 4.3 billion possible IPv4 addresses have nearly been depleted, thus IPv6 is being implemented gradually. It uses 128 bits to represent addresses, generating 340 undecillion addresses.

Supporting Multistakeholderism in Internet Governance - The UN-facilitated World Summit on the Information Society has determined that people from civil society, the technology sector, business, government and non-governmental organizations should all have a stake in decision-making processes tied to the future of communications.

The Enhanced Cooperation Process - A key outcome of the WSIS process has been the establishment of the Internet Governance Forum and a process for "enhanced cooperation" in governance issues. Discussions regarding the definition of enhanced cooperation and the ways in which it can be implemented are still in early stages. 

The WTPF also devoted a day to a "Strategic Dialogue" on "Building Our Broadband Future."

BACKGROUND: WSIS Forum, 2013

WSIS 2013 was the annual meeting to review and measure progress towards targets set in Tunis in 2005 at the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). This meeting of the WSIS Forum also marked 10 years since the first such summit was held in Geneva in 2003. More than 1,300 people from more than 140 countries, including more than 120 ministers, ambassadors, CEOs and civil society leaders took part in the WSIS Forum in more than 150 sessions.

This is the world's largest annual gathering of leaders working to further develop information and communications technologies (ICTs) for global development. The goal of WSIS is to achieve a common vision, desire and commitment to build a people-centric, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information. Official WSIS documents note that the WSIS+10 process brings "all emerging challenges related to the information society into perspective, ensuring that the new vision for WSIS beyond 2015 builds upon real needs of people at the bottom of the pyramid." Following the opening ceremony of WSIS, a high-level session titled "Emerging Trends and Innovation in the Ecosystem," brought together industry leaders and more than 50 government ministers from around the world.

Dialogue topics included: scalable, systematic strategies for the empowerment of women in the Information Society; expanding access to information on weather, climate and water to achieve smart climate-change monitoring; implementing ICT innovations and standards to create technology for the next 3 billion; securing cyberspace in a borderless world; post-2015 WSIS goals; and youth and ICTs. 

As part of the summit, the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) agreed on a joint statement emphasizing the importance of ICTs for development, noting they should be the tools with which poverty and inequality are fought in the 21st century. UNGIS is made up of 30 UN agencies, including, among others, ITU, UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDP.

The Imagining the Internet Interview Team

WTPF and WSIS 2013 interviews were conducted for Imagining the Internet by undergraduate researchers Joe Bruno, Julie Morse, Brian Mezerski and Ryan Greene of Elon University's School of Communications, under the supervision of Elon faculty members Brian Walsh and Janna Anderson.