The Information Society has produced a tantalizing array of new information and communication technologies (ICT) that today have transformed the approach to global development. Access to these technologies is spreading rapidly. In 2005, the number of Internet users in developing countries will cross the 500 million mark, surpassing industrial nations for the first time. By some estimates, more than 75 percent of the world’s population now lives within range of a mobile network. Yet the long-heralded promise of ICT remains out of reach for most of the developing world. For the information poor, economic and social gaps are in fact widening both within and between countries.
Following on the rapid expansion of the Information Society, the United Nations called for a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) organized under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union. The two-phase summit, begun in Geneva in 2003, concludes in November 2005 with WSIS Phase II in Tunisia. The goal of this meeting is to assess progress and prompt further global action to capture the promise of ICT for all. This Special Report "Information Society: The Next Steps" looks at how the ICT landscape is changing in the developing world and what lies ahead. Experts from governments, donors, NGOs and the private sector speak out about effective policies, promising applications and innovative business models.