Press Releases

    PI/1563
                                                                                                                            25 March 2004

    UN ICT Task Force, Wireless Internet Institute Unveil Wireless Universal Connectivity Initiatives

    NEW YORK, 24 March (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) -- Heeding a call from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to extend Internet connectivity to underserved populations around the world, the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force and the Wireless Internet Institute announced today a series of programmes to accelerate the adoption of wireless Internet in support of universal connectivity.

    In his challenge to Silicon Valley in 2002, the Secretary-General said:  "We need to think of ways to bring wireless-fidelity applications to the developing world so as to make use of unlicensed radio spectrum to deliver cheap and fast Internet access."

    In response, the UN ICT Task Force and W2i have put together "Wireless Internet for Underserved Populations and Local Communities", a programme designed to address one of the leading development challenges of our time -- universal connectivity -- by involving all key stakeholders, from government and civil society to the private sector and field practitioners.

    Under the programme, field conferences and publications undertaken in partnership with the private sector and international development organizations will seek to accelerate adoption of broadband wireless Internet in underserved areas and communities around the world.

    Early underwriters of the initiative include IBM and Intel.  “Intel is a strong proponent of enabling affordable Internet connectivity worldwide, and we are developing wireless technologies and working with organizations like w2i to help accelerate the adoption of broadband wireless technologies worldwide”, said Julie Coppernoll, director of marketing for Intel’s Wireless Networking Group.

    More than 15 conferences, seminars and interactive workshops are being planned for Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East to help policy makers, regulators, development experts, field practitioners, technology and service providers, and user organizations explore how to best make available broadband wireless Internet technologies in their countries, communities, and underserved areas.

    "W2i has received requests from business organizations and governmental regulatory agencies in several countries to facilitate consensus among local stakeholders in emerging broadband wireless Internet standards", said Daniel Aghion, Executive Director of W2i.

    Four series have been outlined to complete the agenda of the initiative in time for the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in 2005.  They include:

    -- National Regulator Capacity-Building

    -- Global Wireless Internet and Local Authorities

    -- Wireless Internet and the Arab World

    -- Wireless Internet and African Continent

    Overseen by a multinational, multidisciplinary advisory board, the four series will confront issues surrounding needs and applications identification, policy and regulatory framework development, backbone availability, demand aggregation, and infrastructure funding.  Proceedings will be captured and published in the form of Web-based resources, books, reports and white papers, constituting the most comprehensive knowledge base available to all ICT-for-development stakeholders.  Steering committees will guide the development of each, setting goals and objectives and conclusions to be presented at the Tunis phase of the World Summit in November 2005.

    With a global reach and a multi-year agenda, the series will meet head-on the urgent need to ensure that local regulatory environments and policies take full advantage of the new wireless Internet technologies.  Moreover, these initiatives will enable the private sector to respond to the Secretary-General’s challenge.

    "I look forward to the impact these initiatives will have in raising private and public stakeholders' awareness of the potential Wi-Fi and related technologies present as an economic development tool for underserved populations in developing nations and local communities around the world", said UN ICT Task Force Chairman Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen.

    This ambitious, one-of-a-kind program comes after one year of successful collaboration between W2i and UN ICT Task Force.  In June 2003, the two bodies co-hosted a conference at United Nations Headquarters called "The Wireless Internet Opportunity for Developing Countries", featuring panelists and brainstorm sessions with wireless Internet and ICT-for-development stakeholders from around the world.

    Then, in December, the UN ICT Task Force, W2i, and the infoDev programme of the World Bank released a book of the same name at the World Summit on Information Society in Geneva, in which the Secretary General, in his introduction, wrote:  "Indeed, it is precisely in places where no infrastructure exists that Wi-Fi can be particularly effective, helping countries to leapfrog generations of telecommunications technology and infrastructure to empower their people."

    In addition to IBM and Intel, the UN ICT Task Force and W2i have pulled together a broad base to support the initiative, including international organizations such as the European Commission, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and regional and local professional organizations such as the Wi-Fi Alliance and the WiMax Forum.  The first field conference is scheduled for Amman in May 2004 in cooperation with the World Economic Forum.

    The UN ICT Task Force is intended to lend a truly global dimension to the multitude of efforts to bridge the global digital divide, foster digital opportunity and thus firmly put ICT at the service of development for all. The Task Force has forged a strategic partnership between the United Nations system, private industry, financing trusts and foundations, donors, programme countries and other relevant stakeholders.

    Launched in 2001, the Wireless Internet Institute is an international, independent think tank bringing wireless Internet stakeholders together to accelerate the adoption of wireless Internet in support of universal connectivity for economic, social and educational development around the world. W2i, a division of World Times, Inc., addresses policy, regulatory and economic models, and sharing of best practice issues associated with the deployment of wireless Internet technologies.

    For information or to partner with these initiatives, contact:  Samuel Danofsky, UN ICT Task Force, tel.:  (917) 367-2424, e-mail:  danofsky@un.org; or Daniel Aghion, W2i, tel.:  (617) 439-5400, e-mail:  daghion@w2i.org; or visit www.unicttaskforce.org or www.w2i.org.

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