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Swiss Minister Proposes Global 'Information Tax'

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

23 May 2007

Swiss Communications Minister Moritz Leuenberger has suggested a 'tax on information' to help bridge the digital divide between wealthy countries with good communication infrastructure and poor countries where most of the population have no access to modern communications.

Leuenberger revealed his proposal to a United Nations meeting convened to follow up on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held jointly in Geneva and Tunis in 2003 and 2005.

"Today more than half the world's population don't even have a telephone and four out of five people don't have access to the internet," Leuenberger told the conference. "They are cut off from information and any possibility of exchanging information, training or improving themselves."

"If we don't want these people to leave their countries, we must do something to ensure that the gap doesn't grow wider between those who surf the internet via high-speed ADSL and those who have to walk ten kilometres to the nearest phone box," he added.

Leuenberger surmised that such a tax could be raised on information content which is paid for and computers, although he stressed that there would be exemptions for low-cost providers. Revenues raised from the levy would then be spent on internet development educational initiatives in countries with poor telecommunications infrastructure.

A UN General Assembly Resolution endorsed the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in two phases. The first phase took place in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003 and the second phase took place in Tunis, from 16 to 18 November 2005.

The objective of the first phase was to develop and foster a clear statement of political will and take concrete steps to establish the foundations for an Information Society for all. Nearly 50 Heads of state/government and Vice-Presidents, 82 Ministers, and 26 Vice-Ministers from 175 countries as well as high-level representatives from international organizations, private sector, and civil society attended the Geneva Phase of WSIS and gave political support to the Geneva Declaration of Principles and Geneva Plan of Action that were adopted on 12 December 2003.

The objective of the second phase was to put Geneva's Plan of Action into motion as well as to find solutions and reach agreements in the fields of Internet governance, financing mechanisms, and follow-up and implementation of the Geneva and Tunis documents.

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series examining offshore e-commerce and online gaming is available in the Lowtax Library at and a description of the report can be seen at

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