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Health On the Net celebrates its 20th anniversary
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HON & the WSIS

HON and WSIS: We Serve the Information Society

What does the term 'information society' mean to you? It is difficult not to think of the Internet and other new information and communication technologies (ICTs). Health On the Net Foundation (HON) is a child of the information society, created in 1995 as the World Wide Web gained importance as a vehicle for health information.

To fulfil the promise of Internet for the delivery of vital health information, HON has developed a range of services to address the central issue of information quality.

The American humorist Mark Twain said, "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint". His remark, made at the turn of the 20th century, is all the more true today with the lack of control over online health information.

At WSIS, governments and other stakeholders will discuss the controversial subject of control over e-content. To address this critical issue, HON pioneered a voluntary approach: a code of ethical conduct, the HONcode, which information providers can adopt to distinguish their web sites as trustworthy sources.

Identifying information as credible is just the first step; quality information needs to be made available to those who seek it. General-purpose search engines can help, but they stop short of verifying the information or the credentials of its authors, and their ranking criteria are kept secret from the public for business reasons. Specialized expertise, human intervention and neutrality remain essential. HON has developed a range of tools to help Internet users find trustworthy information, and to help information providers by setting minimum standards for health and medical web sites.

MEDNET: Internet in Health for All

This year, Health On the Net Foundation has the honor and responsibility of organizing the annual meeting of the Society for the Internet in Medicine. MEDNET 2003 will bring together several hundred researchers, developers and users of applications of the Internet in Medicine in an official WSIS parallel event, to take place in the days leading up to the summit (4-7 December).

HON selected by World Summit Award

HON has been selected as one of five finalists in the e-Health category of the World Summit Awards, a three year global project that aims to go beyond the general issues of infrastructure development or network access and to recognise, select and promote the world’s best e-content and innovative applications in the Information Society.

An event showcasing the Award will take place on day 2 of the WSIS, in the presence of representatives of member state governments, private sector companies, civil society entities and Heads of State present for the Summit.

HON and ICT4D Platform

Health On the Net is associated with the Geneva University Hospitals, which have set up projects to use their expertise in medical information to support tele-medicine applications in several developing countries.

These projects (listed below) will be exhibited during the summit, from 9th to 13th December at Palexpo. HON has been involved in the content aspect of these programmes, contributing its advanced search-engine technologies and its experience with natural language processing and distributed database access.

Their activities include:

  • webcasting of scientific conferences so that remote participants can
    intervene and ask questions live to speakers;

  • Exchange of knowledge South-South, with post-graduate and public
    health courses webcasted to regional hospitals in Mali. This includes
    the exchange of images obtained using digital still cameras;

  • The exchange of South-North knowledge, to enable medical students
    training in tropical medicine in Geneva to follow seminars on leprosy or
    iodine efficiency organised by experts in Mali;

  • North–South knowledge exchange, by sending high-quality images to
    enable remote areas to access or review radiographic images.

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