Govt considers WSIS participation

Government representatives appear cooler than the civil society lobby on the World Summit on the Information Society.

Government representatives appear cooler than the civil society lobby on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

The WSIS is to be held in Geneva in December (see NZ civil society readies net ideas for UN).

“We’re still working out where New Zealand’s strategic interest lies,” the director of the UN and Commonwealth Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), John Hayes, said last week. He says the ministry is “swamped” with requests to contribute to such international exercises, but funding is limited, so there has to be careful prioritising of needs. “We have to ask: what’s in it for NZ Inc? We’re not sure of the benefits [of government participation in WSIS].”

MFAT and the National Library are jointly in charge of formulating the New Zealand government’s approach to the conference, with the latter being the visible front for the exercise. IT and communications technology “is not really our area of expertise”, Hayes says.

The National Library’s Winston Roberts says government interests are still working on a paper to the preparatory conference (Prepcom 2), later this month, but “we have been given to understand that this will be a private briefing for delegates, not a public position paper”.

After the preparatory meeting, the library and the ministry will be putting their views on participation to appropriate ministers, Hayes says. They will also be conferring with delegates from other governments to judge the extent of international interest in the eventual December Geneva conference and the 2005 follow-up in Tunis.

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