Press Releases

    SG/SM/8158
    12 March 2002

    "DIGITAL BRIDGES" MUST BE BUILT TO BILLIONS OF PEOPLE
    IN EXTREME POVERTY SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL,
    IN MESSAGE TO INTERNET MEETING IN GHANA

    NEW YORK, 11 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) being held in Accra, Ghana, from 10 to 14 March:

    It is a great pleasure for me that so many of the leaders of the Internet world have gathered in Ghana, and not only because this is my home country. More importantly, this meeting will underline both the immensity of the challenge we face in Africa, and the great potential of information and communication technologies to spur dramatic advances in socio-economic development throughout the continent.

    To realize this potential, we need to build digital bridges to the billions of people who are trapped in extreme poverty, untouched by the new technologies that are changing our world. If developing countries are to compete in the increasingly knowledge-based global economy, one key factor will be their ability to participate effectively in processes and fora that deal with new policy and technical issues such as this one. The presence of Africans and representatives from other developing regions on the ICANN Executive Board is a good sign. I salute ICANN’s efforts to ensure that the voices of users across the globe, particularly in the developing world, are heard. Such efforts are, of course, only a beginning.

    I encourage ICANN to join hands with the United Nations Information and Communication Technology Task Force that I established last year, which is addressing this and many other issues. I also see a key role for ICANN in addressing various questions being worked on by the World Intellectual Property Organization and the International Telecommunication Union that affect the future of the Internet and its community.

    Information and communications technologies are not a panacea or a magic bullet. But they are without doubt enormously powerful tools for development. They create jobs. They are transforming education, health care, commerce, politics and more. One of the most pressing challenges in the new century is to harness this extraordinary force, spread it throughout the world, and make its benefits accessible and meaningful for all humanity, in particular the poor. By working to bridge the digital divide in Africa and beyond, we can make an important contribution to global peace, progress and harmony. In that hopeful spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.

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