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The following interview was carried out with H.E Othman Jerandi , Ambassador of the Republic of Tunisia on the occasion of the first Anniversary of the Korea IT Times as well as of the WSIS to be held in Tunisia forthcoming November.- Ed. Question one: How do you asses Korea's IT environment Indeed, Korea succeeded in accumulating within short time world class technologies and know-how, a fact proven by the country's ranking 9th under the world Economic Forum's Technology index. Korea is also n 1 in the world in terms of broadband internet service penetration rate, CDMA handset market dominance, TFT-LCD's market dominance as well as several other IT products. Korea should be also proud to have the world highest subscriptions for internet services
On the other hand, Korea ICT's industry is placing itself as the new engine of the Korean economy, contributing up to 13% of the country's GDP.
Korea is also seen worldwide as a leader and a focal point of knowledge, contributing substantially in scientific researches and innovation, especially in high technologies, including ICT's and biotechnology, in which Korean researchers and scientists have a big word to say.
Question two: How do you see IT cooperation between Tunisia and Korea
Tunisia is keen to take benefit from the rich and successful experience of Korea in ICT's sector.
In this respect, Tunisian Minister of Communications Technologies, Mr. Montasser Ouaili, paid recently two visits to Korea, respectively on November 2004 and on May 2005, where H.E took part to Seoul Digital Forum which brought together top business executives and prominent leaders from different countries to exchange experiences on the current digital era.
During these visits, the Tunisian Minister of Communications Technologies met with the Korean Minister of Communication and Information as well as with several CEO's and business executives of the Korean ICT's companies.
H.E also met with Presidents of several Agencies and Institutes operating in ICT sector, including International Cooperation Agency for Korea IT, KADO and DGK-KTC. Ways to boost the bilateral cooperation in ICT sector was in the center of all these discussions, during which the Tunisian Minister also stressed the importance of an active and large participation among the Korean ICT's companies and NGO's to WSIS to be hosted by Tunisia next November .
Several Korean firms and IT institute have either confirmed their participation to the WSIS or are seriously considering the contribution to Tunis Summit and take advantage of the numerous opportunities of contact, commercial events, exhibitions and workshops to be organized on the sideline of this event , from November 14th to 19th, 2005.
There is also a growing potential of bilateral cooperation in the field of ICT's technical assistance, as illustrated by the increasing number of Tunisian trainees visiting Korea for training sessions and special programs with several ICT's Agencies and Institutes, as DGK-KTC and KADO…
Question three: what efforts is devoting the government of Tunisia to promote It business
The edification of the information and communication society is, for Tunisia, a fundamental choice which it has striven to materialize, as part of a comprehensive approach based essentially on continuous structural reforms as well as on the consolidation of the ICT infrastructure.
Tunisia worked also, since independence, to promote its human potentialities, by generalizing free and compulsory education for all and by creating high institutes for technological and computer studies, as well as technological poles and centers for innovative projects in all the Country's Provinces.
Tunisia has also been keen on disseminating the digital culture on the widest scale possible, through the mass media and child-oriented computer centers, and by connecting all educational institutions to the Internet. This in addition to the generalization of the Internet and computer clubs in cultural centers, and the establishment of a network of Internet centers accessible to the large public even in the remote rural areas thanks to Internet buses. Tunisian Government have also provided medium-income Tunisian families and students with facilitations and incentives to purchase "family computers" at low prices.
However, Tunisia isn't a simple consumer of ICT's products but established itself as one of the leader countries in the region as regards ICT's industry and is constantly consolidating its market share in the region. For instance, Tunisia is considered now as the first software exporter in the region and an attractive site for foreign investors in ICT who enjoy today free access to several Countries in Africa and in the Middle-East in addition to the European market, following Tunisia's conclusion in 1995 of an Association Agreement with the European Union.
The best illustration of Tunisia's successful experience in ICT sector, is the telecommunications technology park of "El Ghazela" which is one of the biggest and rare projects in Africa and Middle East. The project aims at implementing a policy of operational, scientific and academic partnership, with the assistance of private operators acting in the field of telecommunications such as Cynex Software, ALCATEL, BFI, IRSIT, OmniaCom, Pico Soft, Archimed…
Thus it comes no surprise, that Tunisia is today the most advanced country in its region regarding ICT's development . According to a recently issued report by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Tunisia was ranked first in Africa and 31st among 104 Countries considered as the most developed in ICT sector, as regards the Networked Readiness Index Rankings. Tunisia's ranking was even better than some developed Countries in Europe and some BRIC countries.
I would like to add that the Korean companies operating in ICT's sector should prospect the great potential of the Tunisian ICT's market and the large package of incentives and encouragements offered by the Tunisian Government to investors in this sector. The WSIS's side events and exhibitions constitute in this regard a propitious occasion to make contacts and prospecting cooperation and partnerships opportunities with Tunisian and foreigner counterparts who will take part to the event.
Question four: Please elaborate on the WSIS to be held in Tunisia forthcoming November in Tunisia
Initiated by H.E Zine El Abidine BEN ALI, President of the Republic of Tunisia in 1989, The second and decisive phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), constitutes undoubtedly the major event of the new Millennium, that my country Tunisia is proud to host this year, from the 16th to the 18th of November 2005. The first phase was already held at Geneva (Switzerland) in December 2003.
WSIS constitutes indeed a historic opportunity for the international Community to reach negotiated and harmonious solutions for the widening gap in ICT sector between the North and the South and to develop an approach for action allowing the advent of an Information Society that is balanced and accessible to all, because as stated by H.E, Mr. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of Tunisia, in Geneva first phase, "the digital culture has, in our days, become an essential factor of rapprochement among peoples and their different cultures, reinforcing the opportunities of peaceful coexistence, entente and constructive dialogue".
The digital divide is indeed a big concern today for all international community, as reflected in highly uneven connectivity and access to ICT's across countries. According to recent figures issued by the ITU, illustrating the digital divide, industrial countries with only 15% of the world population, are home to 88% of all internet users (9 times the users rate in the developing countries). The statistics show also that 800.000 or 30% of the villages across the world are still not connected to any kind to communication. Furthermore, the number of connected peoples to the fixed and mobile phone in the developed world, is five times superior than the connected peoples in the developing countries.
The situation is even worse in Africa and in some other areas, where even if the telecommunications systems were in place, many communities are still excluded from the information revolution, because of illiteracy and lack of basic computer skills.
Thus, Tunisia is particularly committed to make of the second phase of the WSIS an occasion to seriously tackle this issue and setting global solutions accepted by all international community regarding, the establishment of a solidarity-based partnerships intended to reduce the technological development inequalities in the world and facilitating access to information- communication technologies for all.
While striving to provide optimum conditions for the success of this big international event, Tunisia is firmly keen to increase the participation opportunities for all stakeholders including the private sector, NGOs and members of the Civil society from less developed Countries to this Summit.
In this respect, Tunisia hosted , over the past few months, several meetings and conferences within the preparation dynamic to the WSIS. We can mention among these meetings the preparatory meeting (PrepCom-1 of the Tunis phase) which took place at Hammamet (Tunisia) from June 24 to 26, 2004 and to which more than one thousand Officials, members of civil society and business representatives from 125 countries took part. The participants reviewed during this meeting the issues of the Information Society that should form the focus of the Tunis phase of the WSIS and agreed on the structure of the preparatory process for the second phase.
Several regional and international meetings took place in the last period within this preparatory dynamic, including the thematic seminar hosted, on June 23 and 24, 2005, by the Korean Government and the Korea Agency for Digital opportunities and Promotion (KADO) with the collaboration of the International Telecommunication Union, on the "multi-stakeholder partnerships for bridging the digital divide".
The multi-stakeholders approach to which Tunisia is attached, recommends to adopt an inclusive and comprehensive approach between all the ICT stakeholders to tackle and resolve the digital divide. Tunisia believes that all concerned parties: Governments, International Organizations, Civil Society and the Private sector, should come together, and without exclusion, to jointly setting a common approach in order to resolve the issue of digital divide and internet governance.
It is within this spirit, that the Tunisian Government is endeavoring to ensure a large and a high level participation, devoting a special fund to encourage the participation of NGOs and components of the Civil society from the Less Developed Countries to the Tunis Summit.
In addition to the Korean governmental delegation that will participate to the WSIS, I would like to seize this opportunity to launch a strong appeal to all the Korean operators in information and communication sector; businessmen, private companies as well as non government organizations to actively participate to the Tunis Summit and its side events, so as to bring their valuable experience to all participants and to strengthen by the way their cooperation activities with the other partners from all over the world.
The Tunis Summit's side events, will be organized under the banner "Partnership for development of the information society", and they will include an exhibition organized on the theme "Partnership for development of information and communication technologies and a partnership area, to provide support for the establishment of partnership agreements between the various stakeholders, based on the complementarity of partners and stakeholders in the building of the information society. There will be also a Space for different activities (meetings, conferences, panels, workshops, project presentations, etc.) and parallel events of global nature
A land of hospitality, tolerance and friendship, a place of rich cultural heritage, Tunisia looks, forward to Korea, which is a world leader in ICT sector, to actively participate to Tunis Summit and to contribute to its success.