Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/11/22/world_summit_in_pics/

The World Summit in pictures

Ben Ali, Ustumi, Annan and the rest...

By Kieren McCarthy

Posted in Media, 22nd November 2005 16:12 GMT

WSIS Tunis Since the Internet is a multi-faceted beast, we felt it only right that we also make use of its ability to displays photos. As such here is a brief pictorial review of the World Summit in Tunis this week:

The World Summit saw just under 20,000 people turn up to a series of giant tents, otherwise known as the Kram conference centre. The first day saw long queues at the main entrance, not helped by the fact the metal detectors had been set too high and delegates' badges were setting them off. One of the main problems for people until late in the conference was getting food. For the first few days, and until the day after the main opening, all that was available was a brand of sandwich which no one had ever heard of, and are unlikely to do so again.

The opening ceremony saw Swiss president Samuel Schmid make some hard-hitting criticism of Tunisia's record for silencing and jailing critics of the ruling party and president Ben Ali. The leaders of virtually every western country stayed away from the Summit for that very reason, but the Swiss delegation later stated it had decided to come and talk about the problem. The Tunisians reacted very badly and the controversy was to plague the whole summit.

Before the Summit proper kicked off, there was the thorny issues of Internet Governance to be sorted. Finally, at the last minute, agreement was reached with some hard and fast diplomacy. The Swiss delegation played a minor role in the Net governance dispute but were later put under pressure following their president's criticism of the Tunisian government, when ministers were followed around by a Tunisian press pack demanding answers to questions about Swiss banking law.

Tunisia's policy of filtering the Internet across the country also came under increased criticism when the government blocked access to Swiss news site Swissinfo.org after it published its president's opening ceremony comments. President Ben Ali (pictured) has consistently promised a free and open Internet but extra-legal filtering measures remain in place.

The Net governance and human rights issues somewhat clouded what the Summit's main focus was intended to be - bridging the "digital divide", where rich countries push for 8Mbps broadband links, while poor countries, especially in Africa, have villages without even a phoneline. The Summit has pledged to connect up everyone in the world by 2015.

The Net governance agreement was reached largely thanks to the remarkable abilities of committee chair, Masood Khan of Pakistan (right). However, it still left the United States and ICANN in charge of the Internet, and ruined yet again the ITU's efforts to take over the Net. ITU secretary-general Yoshio Utsumi (left) then appeared to ignore the entire agreement when he told a closing press conference that the ITU was in the best position to take over the Internet in five years' time.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan was on hand - although rarely for more than 10 minutes a time - to lend his remarkably self-controlled form of diplomacy to problems. One event he turned up to was the "launch" of the $100 laptop by Nicholas Negroponte. Despite having managed more column inches about the laptop this year than anything but the Iraq war, Negroponte admitted he still didn't have a single contract for the device. The press did their best to ignore a thick cable and a suspicious-looking box underneath the desk when the laptop prototype was "run".

Despite the Summit being about the future of the Internet and, in part, the world, the attitudes that dominated it remained very much in the Old World.®