In parallel to the World Summit, the present conference was devised to emphasize the Role of Science in the Information Society.
Luciano Maiani. CERN Director General
Role of Science in the Information Society
CERN, Geneva, Dec. 9, 2003-12-09
We at CERN, together with our scientific colleagues at UNESCO, at the International Council for Scientific Unions and the Third World Academy of Science, felt that the voice of the scientific community should be heard at the World Summit, for at least four reasons.
it was basic science that made possible the technologies underlying the Information Society.
the needs of scientific community have often driven new developments in Information Technologies, such as the Internet and the World-Wide Web.
continuing scientific research is necessary to underpin future developments of the Information Society, from new electronic devices to the future architecture of the Internet, for example through the sharing of distributed computing resources via the Grid.
the scientific community has the potential to empower scientists from many regions of the world that have not been prominent in recent scientific research, but have valuable human resources and have original perspectives on many of the fundamental problems we all face what Adolf Ogi termed science sans frontières, and what Adama Samassékou indicated as indigenous knowledge.
Our efforts to organize this conference were stimulated by the challenge made by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to the world scientific community. As he wrote in Science magazine last March, while "recent advances in information technology, genetics and biotechnology hold extraordinary prospects for individual well-being and humankind as a whole, the way in which scientific endeavours are pursued around the world is marked by clear inequalities." Annan called on the world's scientists to work with the United Nations to extend the benefits of modern science to developing countries. One of the objectives of RSIS has been to respond to challenge. Adama Samassékou reminded us here of the need for solidarity in confronting this task.
With input from the on-line forum we have conducted over the past few months, you scientists, policy makers and stakeholders from around the world have reviewed the prospects that present developments in Science and Technology offer for the future of the Information Society, especially in education, health, environment, economic development and enabling technologies. I feel that RSIS has helped to develop a vision for how information and communication technologies can be applied for the greater benefit of all. These are some of the results that have emerged from the five parallel sessions.
1. In the field of education, there is consensus that education is necessary for development, that South-South cooperation can play a key role and that ICTs are essential in the learning process in all stages of life.
2. Health: ICTs can help in priority public-health areas such as safe water, for example in capacity-building.
3. Environment: planners and decision makers need accurate and timely information; scientific North-South collaboration is essential to ensure the accessibility of data.
4. Economic Development: open-source software should be made available; the exchange and use of scientific data could be a model for the rest of society.
5. Enabling technologies: it is important for scientists to engage in the policy arena and define projects with clearly visible benefits, for example the GRID.
As Princess Sirindhorn reminded us, there is no single formula for development, but I feel that several general themes have emerged as guidelines and have received clear support at RSIS:
- That fundamental scientific information be made freely available;
- That the software tools for disseminating this information be also made freely available;
- That networking infrastructure for distributing this information be established world-wide;
- That training of people and equipment to use this information be provided in the host nations
- That general education is an indispensable basis for the Information Society.
Several of the objectives defined by RSIS are making headway.
The WSIS draft Declaration of Principles recognizes:
¨that science has a central role in the development of the Information Society¨, and that many of the building blocks of the Information Society are the result of scientific and technical advances made possible by the sharing of research results.
Moreover, the WSIS draft Action Plan aims to:
- Promote affordable and reliable high-speed Internet connection for all universities and research institutions,
- Promote electronic publishing, differential pricing and open access initiatives,
- Promote the use of peer-to-peer technology to share scientific knowledge,
- Promote the long-term systematic and efficient collection, dissemination and preservation of essential scientific digital data,
- Promote principles and metadata standards.
On your behalf, I shall urge the Heads of State gathered at WSIS to adopt these aspects of the draft Declaration of Principles and Action Plan and to endorse fully the guidelines that have emerged from our discussion. We scientists must then commit our best efforts to implementing the Action Plan and demonstrating real progress by the time of the next WSIS meeting in Tunis in 2005.
I thank you for your engagement in this meeting, and look forward to working with you to attain these worthy goals.