The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was held in two phases, in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005. Its outcome documents called for Governments and other stakeholders to work towards the development of a “people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society.” The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) has been charged by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to review progress towards implementation of WSIS objectives at the international and regional levels, with particular attention to development.
Structure of the report
This report summarises progress at the midpoint between the second phase of WSIS and the comprehensive review of implementation which is scheduled for 2015. It is based primarily on reports published by a range of organisations and on the results of a consultation process conducted in late 2010. The report is structured as
Chapter 1 summarises the outcomes of WSIS.
Chapters 2 to 5 review progress towards achieving specific outcomes which were established in the Geneva Plan of Action and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society.

  •  Chapter 2 summarises growth in the availability and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) since 2005.
  • Chapter 3 reviews progress towards achieving the 10 targets for connectivity and ICT deployment which were established by the Geneva Plan of Action.
  • Chapter 4 describes the work of the 11 action lines which were established by the Plan of Action and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society as the framework for continuing multi-stakeholder activity towards the Information Society.
  • Chapter 5 summarises work since 2005 on Internet governance and financing mechanisms for ICTs and ICTs in development (ICT4D), and describes the work of the United Nations Regional Commissions,member agencies of the UN Group on the Information Society, and a selection of other stakeholders.

Chapter 6 is concerned with new developments which have taken place since 2005, including the rapid expansion of mobile and broadband markets, innovations such as social networking and cloud computing, and new thinking about ICTs and development, rights and the environment.
Chapter 7 summarises the findings of the report and makes recommendations towards the comprehensive
review of the implementation of WSIS outcomes which is scheduled for 2015.
Substantial progress has been made towards achieving the universal availability and use of basic
telecommunications since 2005. The expansion of mobile telephony has considerably exceeded expectations at the time of WSIS and, for the first time, enabled the majority of people worldwide to communicate with one another at a distance. The digital divide in voice telephony has narrowed and is now focused on a relatively small proportion of the world’s population, mostly in rural areas of Least Developed Countries.
Internet use has grown rapidly in developed and middle-income countries, but is at much lower levels in less developed countries and is not yet growing there as quickly as in the industrial world. Internet use is particularly limited in sub-Saharan Africa. Broadband networks, meanwhile, have become pervasive in many developed countries, but are much less available in many developing countries. While the digital divide in basic access has diminished, there is increasing concern about continuing, and perhaps even growing, divergence in the quality of access to communications, including the Internet, and in the value which can be derived from it.

Chapter 3 of the report illustrates the progress which has been made towards achieving the ten targets set by the Geneva Plan of Action. Most progress has been achieved in ensuring that everyone has access to ICTs “within their reach” and in enabling access to ICTs in rural areas. Progress towards achieving connectivity in facilities such as schools and clinics is more variable, and has proved difficult to measure because of a lack of precision in the targets and weaknesses in data collection. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other entities in the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development have suggested indicators which should improve our ability to measure progress before the comprehensive review in 2015.
There has also been progress in each of the action line thematic areas which were established at WSIS. Here too, however, progress has been variable, and there have been significant shifts in priorities as a result of ongoing developments in technology, networks and services.
Much attention has been paid to developments in Internet governance since 2005, including the work of the Internet Governance Forum and the process towards “enhanced cooperation.” Separate review processes are currently underway concerning these, and developments are briefly summarised in Chapter 5 of this report.
The need for multi-stakeholder participation in achieving WSIS outcomes was emphasised in the WSIS outcome documents, in both implementation (for example, public-private partnerships) and policy development. Many stakeholders have seen this as one of the most important legacies of WSIS. This report focuses primarily on the international and regional organisations involved in WSIS implementation, though it also illustrates the participation of the wide range of other stakeholders involved. It suggests that a comprehensive survey of the work of the private sector and civil society organisations in WSIS implementation would add considerable value to the review scheduled for 2015.
The story since 2005 is not only one of progress. Respondents to the consultation for this report identified a number of constraints which have inhibited the achievement of WSIS outcomes. The lack of affordable infrastructure remains a challenge for many, especially in lower-income areas. There are continuing weaknesses in investment and in communications regulation. Users need the capabilities to make use of communications services and access to relevant content if they are to take full advantage of the potential of ICTs. Policy approaches need to be rooted in a more holistic understanding of the changes that are taking place in society, economy and culture, at international, national and local levels.
Information and communications technology and markets change very rapidly. Although it is only five years since the end of WSIS, major changes have taken place in the communications landscape which affect how ICTs interact with society and how the Information Society is developing. Some of these are rooted in technology and in the ways in which technology has been adopted by citizens and consumers—for example, exceptionally rapid growth in mobile telephony and increasing importance of broadband. Entirely new services have emerged and become significant since 2005—including social networking and other aspects of what is known as Web 2.0, the
increasing emergence of the mobile Internet, and cloud computing. The relationship between ICTs and society, and the thinking about this in Governments, international agencies, business and civil society, is also constantly evolving, as ICTs become more prevalent and pervasive. These changes, which are described in Chapter 6,
have been unpredictable, and similarly unpredictable changes are likely to follow in the next five years. Many are rooted in the way that people make use of ICTs.
Assessing progress towards the kind of Information Society sought in the WSIS outcome documents requires going beyond measuring targets and summarising action lines. The vision of WSIS is a “people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society.” To understand the development of the Information Society, when a comprehensive review of WSIS implementation takes place in 2015, will require a thorough analysis of wider social and economic developments in world society and the relationship between these and ICTs.