Fifteen Years Since the World Summit on the Information Society

In November 2005, the international community gathered in Tunis for the second and final session of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). That gathering concluded a process, begun in 1998,1 to build global understanding of the growing importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in many aspects of economy and society.

WSIS established a vision for the international multistakeholder community of ‘a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge,’ to promote sustainable development in their communities and improve their quality of life.

Enormous change has taken place in ICTs since then. Technologies which were in their infancy at the beginning of this century have become mainstream, and in some cases already been displaced by later innovations.

Mobile telephony has become geographically pervasive, while the Internet and online social networks have become important to the lives of majorities in many countries. Digitalisation has had major impacts on economies, public services and governance. Successive waves of new technologies have emerged, offering new opportunities and posing unexpected challenges for governments, businesses and individuals as expectations of the Information Society have rapidly evolved. The pace of technological development and the scope and scale of its impact on economy, society, culture and governance are accelerating.

There have been important developments in other international priorities alongside this, particularly the adoption by the United Nations (UN) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ICTs will play a substantial role in delivering the SDGs.

The General Assembly (UNGA) reviewed progress towards achieving WSIS’ goals after ten years in 2015, and committed to review them further, through a high-level meeting involving all stakeholders, after twenty years in 2025.

This report briefly summarises developments halfway between UNGA’s ten- and twenty-year reviews and suggests priorities for the assessment to be made in five years’ time.

  • Section 2 summarises outcomes from the WSIS meetings.

  • Section 3 describes the current state of access and connectivity.

  • Section 4 describes the changing world of digital technology and services.

  • Section 5 comments on underlying trends affecting Information Society development.

  • Section 6 reviews developments concerning governance and human rights.

  • Section 7 summarises challenges and priorities for UNGA’s twenty-year review.