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    Press Release No: UNIS/ECOSOC/78
    Release Date: 10 July 2000
    Economic and Social Council Adopts Ministerial Declaration
    On Information Technology

    Concludes High-Level Segment of 2000 Substantive Session

    NEW YORK, 7 July (UN Headquarters) -- Deeply concerned that the potential of information and communication technology for advancing development, particularly in developing countries, had not been fully captured, the Economic and Social Council this afternoon called on all members of the international community to work cooperatively to bridge the “digital divide” and to foster “digital opportunity”.

    It took that action by adopting without a vote a Ministerial Declaration on Development and International Cooperation in the Twenty-first Century: the Role of Information Technology in the Context of a Knowledge-based Global Economy. 

    By other terms of the Declaration, the Council also recognized the need to address the major impediments to the participation of the majority of the people in the developing countries in the information and communication technology (ICT) revolution, such as lack of infrastructure, education, capacity-building, investment and connectivity.  It was also stressed that the promotion of ICT should not be a substitute for the efforts to ensure the development and modernization of basic sectors of the economy, but should complement and enhance them.

    According to the Declaration, in addition to establishing connectivity, human and institutional capacity was also identified as being critical in sustaining access and ensuring that its benefits were captured by society.  Investment in education, including basic and digital literacy, remained the fundamental way of developing human capacity and should be at the heart of any national, regional and international information technology strategy.

    Further by the text, the development of local content on the Internet and the ability of people to freely access it will help foster a culturally and linguistically diverse cyberspace and encourage broad and sustainable use of the Internet.  The United Nations system, and the Economic and Social Council in particular, could play a key role in promoting synergies and coherence of efforts by supporting national actions, serving as a global forum, contributing to a systematic study of ICT effects and providing global leadership in bridging the digital divide.

    The Declaration called upon the international community to take such initiatives as to urgently promote programmes intensifying cooperation; actively explore new financing for ICT initiatives; devise measures to reduce costs of Internet access devices in developing countries and explore measures to facilitate access to ICT training.  It called for the creation of an ICT task force and recommended endorsement of the Declaration at the Millennium Assembly.

    During a panel discussion earlier this afternoon, statements were made by representative of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Economic Commission for 
    Africa (ECA), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

    During the concluding session of the high-level segment, statements were made by the Minister of Trade of Namibia, the Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce and the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

    Addresses were also made by the representatives of:  Bolivia, Brazil, Australia, Canada, India, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Cameroon and Suriname (on behalf of the small island developing States).

    Statements were also made by the representatives of the United Nations Volunteers, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Civil Aviation Authority and the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government.   

    The representatives of the United States, France (on behalf of the European Union) and Nigeria (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China) all made statements after adoption of the Ministerial Declaration.

    Interventions were made by the representatives of the following non-governmental organizations:  Focal Point for Beijing; Population Communication International; World Information Transfer Inc., and the International Women’s Tribune Center.

    The President of the Council, Makarim Wibisono made a closing statement, as did Nitin Desai, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

    The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 10 July, to begin the coordination segment of its 2000 session focused on assessment of progress made within the United Nations system through conference reviews, in promoting an integrated and coordinated implementation of, and follow-up to, major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.

    Council Work Programme

    The Economic and Social Council met this afternoon for a panel discussion on "Information and Communication Technology and Development:  Global Challenges and Regional Imperatives" with the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions.  

    After the panel discussion, the Council was expected to have the last meeting of its three-day high-level segment, which began on 5 July.  The main theme of the segment, which initiated the Council's 2000 substantive session, is "Development and International Cooperation in the Twenty-first Century; the Role of Information Technology in the Context of a Knowledge-based Global Economy".  

    (For background on the session see Press Releases ECOSOC/5898 from this morning, 5896 dated 6 July, 5893 dated 5 July and 5892 dated 28 June.)

    Panel Discussion

     DANUTA HUEBNER, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission of Europe (ECE), chaired the panel in place of Rubens Ricupero, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Opening the panel, she said that in the interrelated world of today, cooperation was key to advancing information and communication technology (ICT) and development.  Regional commissions were an important component for cooperation, particularly in preserving diversity, which was best harnessed at the regional level.

     JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said the report for his region had placed a lot of emphasis on what he called the “internal digital divide” which also existed alongside the “international digital divide”. The internal divide could be found in societies with high levels of inequality and uneven income distribution.  That divide was something that “we have not even started to bridge”.

     The question was how it could be done, he said  One example could be found in the telecommunication sectors of Latin America, which had experienced significant modernization in the 1990s.  Some countries had devised a solidarity fund, which was like a sales tax on specific sectors.  The fund provided subsidies for the poorest sectors of society.  That approach had turned out to be quite effective in bringing telephone services to the poorer sectors of society.

     In addition to the responsibility the State had at the national level, it also had to guarantee that new technologies were used in social services, education, health and governance and to increase communication between governments and citizens.  The ECLAC’s report had also identified a number of areas where regional cooperation was possible.  The first -- the regulatory and legal aspects of telecom and ICT services -- had to be looked at, since at present it was difficult to harmonize that section so that it contributed to regional relations. The different languages of the region -- Portuguese, Spanish and the various indigenous languages -- were also issues that had to be addressed through cooperation, he added. 

     K.Y. AMOAKA, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said ICT help with on the goal of poverty reduction if it was made accessible and increased opportunities for learning.  Two main obstacles to the spread of ICT were lack of infrastructure and the scarcity of human resources.  The key to improving the situation at the infrastructure level was to stimulate the political will for implementation of initiatives.  With regard to the scarcity of skills that existed at all levels, the goal of expanding education should be at the forefront of global efforts.

     He said that a few years ago only a handful of countries in Africa had been connected to the Internet.  A key challenge for African leaders was finding ways to become engaged in technology, using ICT and empowering people to use them.  The African Information Society provided a vision of where Africa wanted to be in terms of what it wanted from ICT, including in the area of infrastructure.  Another question concerned global negotiations and government structure in the use of ICT, which worked best when handled at the subregional and regional levels.  It was also important to develop policies directed toward the African continent, including in terms of content. 

     HAZEM EL-BEBLAWI, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said his region was lagging behind the world in terms of PCs per capita.  The same applied to the number of telephones per capita.  Western Asia suffered from backwardness in terms of facilities and infrastructure and from a basic illiteracy.   

     With the exception of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa his region lagged behind the rest of the world, he said.  Capacity building, ICT, technology transfers, national policies, legislation, regulatory instruments, standardization and resources, were all areas of high priority to the region.

    RAVI SAWNEY, Director of the International Trade and Industry Division, spoke on behalf of Kim Hak-Su, Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).  He said governments had an important role to play in developing legal frameworks and infrastructure and making sure countries adapted to infusions of information technology.  

    The ICT could also be applied to very important social sectors -– education on demand in rural areas, healthcare, environmental education and gender mainstreaming.  Regional cooperation was also key, as was North-South and South-South cooperation.  The partnerships between Japan, the United Nations and various countries, were an example of the kind of tripartite cooperation that was necessary today. 

     BRUNO LANVIN, Head of Electronic Commerce, Services Infrastructure for Development and Trade Efficiency of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), speaking on behalf of Rubens Ricupero, UNCTAD’s Secretary-General, said the technological revolution was one of time and space rather than of matter.  

    The technological divide that existed today was not simply a matter of a North/South divide, he said.  It was much more complex than that and it could only be approached from the regional perspective.  That was because the knowledge that formed the basis of today’s economy was not based on book learning.  It was not an intellectual knowledge.  It changed too rapidly for that.  Rather, it was a knowledge based on experience.  The regional commissions were repositories of experience.  They helped spread ICT by exchange of information.  In addition, they stimulated diversity, encouraged the entrance of non-traditional players into involvement with the government and promoted partnerships.  Finally, they promoted confidence-building, a major factor helping to spread ICT and development.     

    MS. HUEBNER of the ECE said the regional approach was important for the spread of new technology.  Cooperation among regions was vital.  The ECE as a group encompassed those most advance in ICT and those least so.  Having that range of development within a geographic region  helped in being able to pool experience and share best practices.  In the spread of ICT, Europe as a whole was hampered by an underdeveloped telecommunications system.  That translated into cost impact, which made ICT development expensive.  

     For the global spread of ICT, however, Europe had many advantages, she said.  It had a long history of cooperation and of information exchange.  It had a two thousand year history in developing infrastructure, legislature and regulations to safeguard regional diversities, one of the fundamental requisites of ICT development.

     Responding to a question from the floor on resources, MR. SAWNEY said for future work, resources would be important.  But there were certain actions to be taken by certain countries within their own settings.  The United Nations could only guide and facilitate dialogues. 

     MR. BEBLAWI said that designing policies was a major part of the regional mandates of the Commission. 

     MR. AMOAKO said his Commission had formed partnerships with many organizations at both the multilateral and bilateral level to help coordinate and mobilize resources for ICT to work in Africa.  Many governments and organizations had also lent their support.

     MR. LANVIN said the role of regional development banks should not be ignored.  Regarding the private sector, he said a key area for consideration was that there were more telephones in the city of Tokyo than in the whole continent of Africa.  Also, in one year more telephones lines were installed in China than in 50 years in Africa.

     MR. OCAMPO said the mechanism for debt swap was something that could be considered in the area of ICT.

     MS. HUEBNER said partnerships, coalitions, government leadership, and United Nations guidance were needed if ICT was to help people.

     MARIA LIVANOS CATTAUI, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, said that her organization had business members in 130 countries -- developed, underdeveloped and least-developed.  In matters of ICT, it was vital that governments, international organizations and citizens cooperate. 

      There was an urgent need for investment in infrastructure, she said.  Many estimates existed, but they were open for much discussion.  The figures were huge, however.  Most of the investments needed to come from private capital.  Measures to ensure a proper investment climate were important.

     Policy makers did not create ITC, but creative and entrepreneurial people within the society did, she said, addressing the issue of the human factor.  Few countries had actively discouraged people from setting up ventures, but some encouragement could be used.  It was important to allow young people to benefit from the risks they took.  

     Governments should focus on the untapped potential they had in their countries, she said.  Intellectual content was dominant.  Education and lifelong learning were essential components.  Many skills needed to be improved or acquired.  The business world urged retraining efforts in developing countries.

     Small- and medium-sized companies were the backbone of economic growth, she said.  Governments needed to ensure them a conducive environment, capital access and a framework of rules.  The time had come for businesses to tell governments that they needed, among other things, to prosecute criminals and protect intellectual property.  The International Chamber of Commerce and its members stood ready to play an active role in developing mechanisms coming out of the current Economic and Social Council session.

     HIDIPO HAMUTENYA, Minister of Trade and Industry of Namibia, associated himself with the statement made earlier in the segment of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and that by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa.  He said the application of ICT by the developing countries had not yet affected the lives of a critical mass of the population, even though the report of the high-level experts indicated that there were an estimated 275 million Internet users as of March 2000 world wide, with a growth rate of 150,000 persons a day.  Web pages were growing at an annual rate of 1.5 billion, with 2 million pages being added every day.

     Africa's share in that phenomenal global development was extremely marginal, he said.  The same was true of the number of business transactions being conducted electronically on the Internet.  Those transactions were estimated to be worth $45 billion in 1998 and their value was projected at more than $7 trillion by the year 2004.  Africa's share of that was slightly less than 1 per cent.

     He said that despite Namibia's establishment of online services aimed at making ICT a critical rung on the economic development ladder, the country must still address the need for the rapid development of ICT skills and absorptive capacities in order to fully realize the benefits of ICT.

     ROBERTO JORDAN PANDO (Bolivia) said those who had knowledge had the key to development.  The developed countries held 96 per cent of technology.  Diminishing that inequality was so far unrealizable.  Development had established discrimination and poverty.  Even the liberal developed countries were instituting a sort of covert protectionism.  There was now a need for new ideas and new strategic processes.  The digital divide was also establishing gaps not only between countries, but also intra State between young and old, male and female, literate and illiterate.  It was a divide that was both vertical and horizontal.

     He said the United Nations was very backward in many respects.  Given its mandate, it could do so much more in open and wider panoramas.  But there seemed to be an institutional crisis that people were aware of but did not want face.  He said he was not speaking about the issues surrounding the Security Council, but the Organization’s approach to development, which was backward. 

     While peacekeeping costs were increasing, the same could not be said for development, he said.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for example, was becoming an agency that administered donations instead of one that financed development.  

     Was UNDP surviving or being extinguished, he asked?  Was the agency safe?  “We would like to know the truth”, he said.  The Secretary-General had also not said anything about financing for development.  

     The pillars of the Organization were peace, security and development, he said.  If there was not sufficient financing for the latter, then where was the Organization heading?  Also, when there was disrespect for the Charter, it presented a problem for Member States.  There was world consensus for use of ICT for development.  The United Nations must be the promoter of education and knowledge for all.  It must help breakdown and reduce the digital divide.  Doing that would require the establishment of clear policies.

     NAFIS SADIK, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said one of the first lessons learned about ICT was that its components were more than tools to do the old jobs in new ways.  In some cases they changed the nature of the work itself, opening new possibilities and creating new demands.  The use of new technologies had to be firmly based on universal values such as making them accessible to all and using them for constructive ends.  The creative use of ICT should also strengthen the strongest elements of diverse cultures.

     The UNFPA Web site had gained wide recognition as a credible and attractive source of information on population and development, she said.  In the future, ITC use would extend to such areas as:  building public understanding and commitment for UNFPA goals; raising the quality of reproductive health care; providing basic training and access; fostering solidarity; strengthening networks; and empowering communities and individuals. 

     GELSON FONSECA JR. (Brazil) said governments had become increasingly aware that harnessing the positive effects if ICT to promote development was a challenge that could not be left to the free play of market forces alone.  There had also been a growing perception of the important role international cooperation could play in that regard.

     Brazil had hosted a meeting of representatives of Latin American and Caribbean countries in Florianopolis, he said.  That meeting’s declaration outlined a course of action to be followed.  It was encouraging that the President of the Interamerican Development Bank had the intention to use the Florianopolis Declaration as a reference and as a basis for the Bank’s plans in supporting the efforts of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

     Effective integration of investment in infrastructure, development of capabilities and generation of adequate content required national efforts supported by the international community, he said.  The possibilities of multilateral cooperation were vast and still unexplored.  North-South exchanges should be intensified.  South-South cooperation could certainly play a role as well.  If we were to effectively bridge the digital divide, it was important that our shared vision of the future included developing countries also as providers of products and services in the new economy.

     DAVID STUART (Australia), pointed out that, although new technologies were under discussion, new kinds of rules for fairer global competition were not required.  The international community needed to establish a balance between unfettered markets and the need for a few ground rules -- providing more open and accessible telecommunications regimes and ensuring on-line security, privacy, and the protection of intellectual property.

     Liberalization in the telecommunications sector, and reduction of tariffs on ICT products, he said, was essential in promoting wider connectivity.  Also essential were skilled human resources.  As in other areas of development, education remained the most basic building block of progress and a priority for Australian assistance.  On the national level, country strategies were urgently needed, taking into account the previous experiences of the more developed countries. 

     CAROL MARKHAM (Canada) said with its relatively small population living in the second largest landmass in the world, Canada’s dependency on modern communications technology long predated the ICT revolution, and her country enjoyed one of the world’s most advanced and affordable telecommunications systems.  The current national strategy sought to deploy the most modern available means for individuals, schools, libraries, small and large businesses, rural and Aboriginal communities, public institutions and all levels of government to learn, interact, transact business and develop their social and economic potential.

     Through its development cooperation programmes and in its overall dealings with other governments and international organizations, Canada actively sought to share its perspectives and experience in that area with partners beyond its borders.  In today’s world, the ambitious national goal of making Canada “the most connected nation in the world” had little meaning, indeed that could not be achieved, unless the country was also well connected with the other nations of the world, she said.

     With all those considerations in mind, her country strongly supported the thrust of the Secretary-General’s report, particularly the steps he had identified for the United Nations and the United Nations system entities to develop and implement a more coherent, well coordinated response to the challenges posed by the ICT revolution.  With measures such as those in place, one could take satisfaction in having made a concrete, value-added contribution to improving the United Nations capacity to address the developmental challenges and opportunities posed by the communications technology revolution, but acting now, with a great sense of purpose and urgency, was essential.

     KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said the spread of information technology in his country represented a major opportunity to overcome historical disabilities and disempowerment, and to compress the time needed to reach the goals of comprehensive development.  Giving examples, he said the dramatic statistics indicated the direction in which further efforts should go in a large country such as India.  To begin with, a large amount of venture capital would have to be attracted.  And though the digital revolution was fundamentally market-driven, strategies were needed for the right balance between self-regulation by the industry and regulatory norms introduced by governments in the simultaneous “brick” and “click” economies that were emerging.  The key to success would be to harness the revolution by taking into account the social dimensions and serving them.

     He said he could not overemphasize the role of the government in providing the necessary macroeconomic and social environment for ICT development.  Government involvement was necessary for every aspect of ICT growth, from resource development to literacy and to the strengthening of infrastructure and the putting in place of appropriate policies.  India had made ICT a major plank of initiatives in South/South cooperation.  It supported the hosting of a semi-annual series of lectures by visionary, governmental, private sector and civil society leaders as well as academics, to address ICT-related issues.   

     JOSEPH MUTABOBA (Rwanda) said that simply by forging ahead with the use of ICT as a short, medium and long-term investment plan, Africa had lit a torch that could make that continent burn brightly forever.  In the case of Rwanda, it was decided at a 1998 seminar on ICT organized by the Economic Commission for Africa, to coordinate ICT activities in a way that would fully digitize the country's communications systems.  That plan, identical to that of Botswana, had been seen as a successful endeavour, so despite being largely ignored by the international community following the genocide of 1994, Rwanda had embarked on ICT of its own accord and had made a difference.  Further, an ICT Action Plan for 2000-2005 was also being finalized.

     The introduction of ICT policies needed to go beyond the routine administrative practices of governments, he said.  "We need to engage in an ongoing advocacy for the use of ICT as instruments of good governance, dialogue, peace and unhindered development that will follow."  That goal could not be reached unless the international community broke away from the traditional ways of thinking.  Computers and other ICT instruments would not mean much to uneducated or illiterate persons in Africa if traditional ways and means held true.  It was imperative, therefore that developed nations allow developing countries to gain access to new technologies.  While technological advances might lead to the loss of a few lucrative markets for the West, perhaps more importantly it might lead to a more trusting relationship between the developed and developing worlds.

     ANDRE MWAMBA KAPANGA (Democratic Republic of the Congo), associating his delegation with the earlier statement of the Group of 77 and China, said access to tools like the Internet could not only provide economic opportunities, but could also have potential impact on social development and open up possibilities for education, telemedicine, promotion of civil society and reinforcement of democratic institutions.

     He called for freeing financial resources for developing countries so that they could acquire the new technologies.  The international community could give technical support as well as taking such measures as reducing bilateral debt, easing of trade and allowing debt payments in local currencies.  Resources for science and technology for development were inadequate, and the developed countries had not offered proof of their political will to abide by their often expressed commitments.  The controls those countries imposed on the export of technologies that could be used both in civil and military areas should not prevent developing countries from having access to those technologies for peaceful development.

     His country was a victim of aggression from Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda, which caused destruction of its economic structures.  He invited the international community to back efforts aimed at a return to peace, which would make it possible for his country to not just use its resources for military goals, but also for its children and to take its place in the world economy.

     GUILLERMO A. MELÉNDEZ BARAHONA (El Salvador) said the decision by the Council to devote time to ICT this year was timely and afforded countries the opportunity to consider the challenges facing them.  His country believed that with fundamental cooperation, the benefits of the digital revolution could be redoubled.  Issues such as education, insufficient access by populations in developing countries to technical and commercial information at the global level and access to and use of new technologies all needed to be examined.  

     In respect of access and use he cited ISDN, which was used in simultaneous video conferencing.  That piece of technology was just one that was out of the reach of poor countries due to its prohibitive cost.  El Salvador attached great importance to the continuation of regional, national and international efforts aimed at strengthening information technologies and their linkages to national development plans. The United Nations, in keeping with its responsibilities could play a key role in supporting and promoting the national policies of developing countries.

     FELIX MBAYU (Cameroon) said the spectacular development of new ICT, a real digital revolution, was leading to incredible and unprecedented changes before the world’s eyes.  They had taken the world to a new era of linkages and communication highways.  Africa in particular faced challenges in ICT that were huge but not insurmountable. 

     ICT infrastructure in the African continent was concentrated in the urban area, he said.  The continent had a young population, which lived mostly in rural areas.  The cost of installing telephone lines necessary for access to the Internet to rural areas was mortgaging Africa’s communication network.  In Cameroon, all relevant indicators showed growing demand for ICT.  

     Establishment of modern, cheap, high-performance, digital telecommunications and their infrastructures demanded investment beyond the capacities of the State, and there was a need to mobilize other investments.  There was a risk that ICT would perpetuate the gap between social groups, in particular between rural and urban groups.  It was essential to identify priorities.  For that reason his Government was developing a plan for an infrastructure.  His Government counted on the support of its partners, he said.

     SHARON CAPELING-ALAKIJA, Executive Coordinator, United Nations Volunteers (UNV), said that volunteering brought benefits to both society at large and the individual volunteer.  It made important economic contributions as well as socially by building bonds of reciprocity and trust amongst citizens.  The UNV was the volunteer arm of the United Nations, promoting and supporting the contributions of volunteers for human development worldwide and serving the causes of peace and development through enhancing opportunities for participation by all peoples.

     In his Millennium Report, the Secretary-General of the United Nations announced the establishment of a major volunteer-driven initiative to help developing countries bridge the digital divide, designating UNV as the lead agency for that effort.  The United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) would provide a concrete example of how the United Nations could meaningfully respond to the Group of 77 Havana Programme of Action that urged the strengthening of its role in transferring knowledge and technology, she said.

     The UNITeS was still in the early planning stages, but was moving ahead at "Internet speed", she said.  A Web site had been launched, www.untes.org, to inform about the initiative and to get those interested involved.  In June, an informal Working Group of Experts had been convened in Bonn, Germany, resulting in a series of recommendations and conclusions.

     The year 2001 had been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Volunteers with the goals of promotion, facilitation, networking and recognition of volunteers and volunteer contributions around the world.  With programmes like UNITeS, volunteering for human development was moving into the information age.  Volunteering would be one of the components of a comprehensive response to the new challenge expressed by the United Nations in assuring "access to information and communication services for all", she said.

     VERA P. WEILL-HALLE, Director, North American Liaison Office of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that the subject of ICT was vital not only to the United Nations system, but to the development community as a whole.  As the world hurtled towards a knowledge-based global economy, ICT would play a vital role.  It was important to note then, that although members of the development community had expressed many concerns about the "digital divide" during the current session, the information revolution not only separated the rich from the poor and the developed from the developing -- it also created a chasm between the rural and the urban.

     "We live in a world where I can sit at my computer in New York and with the click of a mouse, buy tea from a shop in London", she continued.  But it was also a world where a small farmer in Burkina-Faso could not find out how much local demand there was for his produce.  With over 70 per cent of the world's "dollar-a-day" poverty occurring in rural areas, exploration of the digital divide between the rich and the poor would no longer suffice.  

     "We must not leave the rural poor behind", she said, "they possess considerable and crucial knowledge of their own conditions".  The problem however had been that traditional knowledge of the poor had remained fragmented.  Their very remoteness exacerbated a lack of access to other communities facing similar problems.

     Therefore, she continued, the poor must be provided access to the knowledge and experiences of comparable communities.  Also, their access to external knowledge and innovations must be enhanced in ways that would enable them to address the particular needs of rural lifestyles.  ICT must not merely be supplied to rural areas.  It must be supplied according to demands that had been articulated by the rural poor themselves.  Just as development efforts in general benefited from a targeted, participatory approach, so too should efforts to expand access to ICT. 

     VIVEK PATTANAYAK, Director, Bureau of Administration and Services, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), wished all delegations a safe flight home at the end of the event, but reminded them that behind that safe journey home there were myriad activities taking place.  The flights had to be provided with all kinds of information.  It involved security regulations and communication and information.  

     The flights went across developing and developed countries, demonstrating the interdependency of the States, he said.  The States needed information and must give information.  The major challenge in that was connectivity, he stressed.

     His organization was responsible for drafting the rules for safety of civil aviation, he said.  Its Web sites were a strategic source of information.  The ICAO was in the process of establishing a programme of providing developing countries software to have access to ICAO’s technical database.

     SUBHAS CHANDRA MUNGRA (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Small Island Developing States, said ICT had become one of the only ways open to such States to carve a niche market for their particular endowments.  SIDSNET was responding to inadequacies and using a knowledge basis to further strengthen the positions of island States.  He looked forward to achieving the overall target of bringing connectivity to all.  

     He also stressed the need for a universal and concerted effort under the leadership of the United Nations to bridge the digital divide and make the world a better place in which to live.

     ZUO HUAN-CHEN, Vice Mayor of the Shanghai Municipal People's Government, gave a brief report on the High-Level Forum on City Informatization in the Asia Pacific Region that had been held in Shanghai in June.  At that Forum, Shanghai's proposals for city informatization had won the approval of the United Nations.  It was hoped therefore, that the Forum would promote cooperation among Asia-Pacific cities to accelerate economic and social development by elevating the level of city informatization within the entire region. 

     The major achievement of the Forum, he continued, was the adoption of the "Shanghai Declaration" and "The Statutes of Cooperation Committee of High-level Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region".  Another achievement was the establishment of a Cooperation Committee that, as part of the United Nations Online Network in Public Administration, would sponsor training programmes, public information activities and exhibitions on cities and ICT.

     It was also important to note, he said, that a Web site on city informatization had been established and formally launched at the Forum that would serve as the platform for consultation, discussion and information exchange among municipal governments in the Asia-Pacific region.  It was critical for Shanghai, as the economic centre of China, to use new technologies, such as the Web site, to meet the challenge of a knowledge-based economy and remain competitive in an Internet-based society. 

     SUDHA ACHARYA, Representative of the Focal Point for “Beijing +5”, introducing the speakers for the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in consultative relationship with the United Nations, said that non-governmental organizations had made inordinate efforts to bridge the digital divide. 

     DAVID ANDREWS, President, Population Communications International, in presenting the contribution of a panel of experts convened by his organization, said leadership in information transfer was happening now.  The panel had endorsed several recommendations such as debt forgiveness explicitly earmarked for information technology uses and supporting research and development of cutting-edge technologies, especially “third generation” wireless adaptations that would go far in overcoming current dependence on expensive telephone infrastructure.  He said there was a fundamental right to both information and knowledge.  Without communication, plans of actions would remain forever out of reach.

     CLAUDIA STRAUSS, Director, World Information Transfer, Inc., (WIT), said that WIT had been founded in 1987 in the aftermath of Chernobyl and recognized the critical importance of information in safeguarding human health from environmental degradation.  WIT's central mandate had been to disseminate verifiable information leading to science-based knowledge.  That mandate was realized by utilizing traditional means of communication as well as ICT.

     She said it was not only the digital divide that must be worked out, but it must also be understood that traditional gender disparities existed among computer and Internet users at all levels.  To take advantage of the opportunities offered by the expanding ICT, governments must increase access to basic education.  To immediately bring the next generation into the information age, WIT recommended education promotion partnerships among governments, ICT businesses, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.  In the area of health and the environment, the benefits of ICT were especially clear.  Through the Internet, medical knowledge could quickly be provided.  The ICT industry polluted less and created a wealth of jobs much less harmful to health than traditional industries. 

    ANNE WALKER, Executive Director, International Women’s Tribune Centre, speaking on behalf of both the Tunisia 21 NGO Association and the Global Communications Network for Women, stressed the need for an ICT Gender Action Plan to be implemented with the support of a facility established under the auspices of the United Nations.

    She recommended, among other things, that the United Nations at its Millennium Assembly proclaim the right of democratic and equitable access to information and communication services, with a focus on access for women and other marginalized groups, as an important new component of the United Nations principles and conventions on human rights and development. 

    Adoption of Ministerial Declaration

    Acting without a vote, the Council then adopted its Ministerial Declaration on Development and International Cooperation in the Twenty-first Century: the Role of Information Technology in the Context of a Knowledge-based Global Economy.

    MICHAEL F. GALLAGHER (United States), speaking after adoption of the Declaration, said his country was pleased to join with other Member States in the effort to integrate developing countries into the global economy.  The United States had assisted sub-Saharan Africa and a number of developing countries in gaining access to the international information society. 

    He said his country shared the commitment to put ICT in the service of international development.  The private sector was the leading force in the promotion of ICT.  The pivotal role played by that sector was because of its market based and transparent framework.  The private sector also possessed the resources and generated the competition and dynamism to develop ICT.  His delegation felt, however, that the ministerial statement did not acknowledge the role of that sector enough.  Nevertheless, the United States had still joined in the consensus.

    EBITIMI BANIGO, Minister of Science and Technology of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the consensus was the beginning of efforts to bring the developing world to become full partners in the information age.  He prayed that multilateral agencies and the private sector, as well as governments, would work to realize the high expectations embodied in the document.

    DANIEL LE GARGASSON (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Declaration was an important document  Generally speaking, the success of the high-level segment was expressed by the high-level participation of governments and the private sector.  That participation had taken on new forms and was the promise of a new partnership.  

    NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs,  expressed his deep satisfaction at the successful conclusion.  He said the importance and timeliness of the session was exemplified by its high-level participation.  The high-level segment filled an important gap at the global level.  There had also been high-level participation of the private sector.  The segment had in some ways been an experiment, but it had established the usefulness of the Economic and Social Council as a forum for development.  He stressed that it was just the beginning of a process. 

    President of the Council, Makarim Wibisono (Indonesia) said new ideas had been heard at both the international and national levels and broad consensus had been achieved.  As had been noted, money in itself was not enough, nor was ICT the magic wand to get rid of poverty and development.  The articulation of policies in coherent development efforts was critical to the integration of developing countries in the new global development paradigm. 

    He said Council members had emphasized the unique role of the United Nations in promoting global development and the need to further strengthen the Organization to enhance ICT development.  There was a need for urgent and concerted regional, national and international actions.  The ICT could play an important role in accelerating growth, promoting sustainable development and eradicating poverty.  It could also stimulate human development.

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