Everyone living in the Asia-Pacific region should be able to access the Internet by the year 2005, and governments across the region have committed to turning this into a reality, according to a declaration made at the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) Summit on the Information Society, which ended Friday in Tokyo.
In a statement called the Tokyo Declaration, ministers of information and communications from APT member countries said they will do their best, both in domestic efforts and through international cooperation, to enable people in the Asia-Pacific region to have access to the Internet by the year 2005 to the fullest extent possible, including access from public facilities such as schools and post offices.
The meeting concentrated largely on the digital divide -- the gap between those with access to ICT (information and communications technology) and those without -- within and between member countries.
The 35-member APT includes many of the region's most developed ICT economies, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. It also includes several countries with only rudimentary telecommunications infrastructures, such as Afghanistan, North Korea, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea.
"We must strive to give every citizen access to communication tools, so that the opportunities and benefits brought by ICT can be shared by all, and individuals can be given new ways to demonstrate their creative abilities," the declaration said. "In order to promote economic, social and cultural development and achieve affluent coexistence among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, both the private and public sectors should cooperate in all fields to strengthen the foundations of ICT."
The ministers produced an action plan with several technical and human resources recommendations. These included:
-- governments should promote Internet access in public places such as schools and post offices in line with the model of the Multipurpose Community Telecenters (MCTs) promoted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-- governments should make efforts to promote pilot projects that help to enhance ICT literacy and to diffuse electronic commerce in rural areas -- to achieve economic and social development by using ICT, APT should launch regional, sub-regional and country projects ranked by priority -- APT should establish effective cooperation with the activities of other international bodies in bridging the digital divide, including considering ways to encourage more participation from the private sector-- governments should encourage the introduction of mobile and satellite systems and the development of broadband backbone networks-- governments should promote standardization of ICT both to enable the interconnection and interoperability of infrastructure and to minimize the cost of its development-- governments should participate in international joint research and experiments in the Next-Generation Internet (NGI) and promote its smooth implementation-- governments should make efforts to transfer technology between developed and developing countries.
The summit also emphasized the need to develop a pool of skilled ICT personnel.
"As ICT rapidly penetrates wide areas of social and economic activities, we must find ways to make sure that every citizen has at least the basic skills needed to fully participate in the information society," the declaration said. "It is our vital and urgent task to enable people to use ICT in their daily lives, at the same time we must increase the number of skilled personnel in advanced areas of ICT."
More information about he APT can be found on the Web at http://www.aptsec.org/.