21 November 2001


NEW YORK, 20 November -- A Task Force mandated to facilitate global interconnectivity and spread the benefits of the digital revolution was launched today at United Nations Headquarters.

"The ICT age has dawned, but not yet for all", Secretary-General Kofi Annan said at the launch of the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force, calling on the new body "to help build digital bridges to the billions of people who are now trapped in extreme poverty, untouched by the digital revolution and beyond the reach of the global economy".

The ICT Task Force is unique in having a balanced representation of members from the North and the South, and from governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foundations and United Nations bodies.

The launch was attended by the President of the General Assembly, Han Seung-soo, the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Martin Belinga-Eboutou, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on ICT, José María Figueres Olsen, who yesterday was elected Task Force Chairperson at the first meeting of the new body. Mr. Figueres, a former President of Costa Rica, is a leader of digital development in his country. At that meeting, the Task Force also adopted its Plan of Action.

At today's official launch, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that new technologies "are not a panacea or a magic bullet, but they are without doubt enormously powerful tools for development", creating jobs, transforming education, health care, commerce and politics, helping to deliver humanitarian assistance and contributing to peace and security. "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. The principle mission of this Task Force is to tell us how we might accomplish this ambitious goal."

The new body, which includes the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), will work with partners such as regional development banks, international donors and non-profit organizations to help mobilize resources around specific programmes and initiatives. It will also work closely with the Implementation Teams set up as a follow-up to the Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force) of the Group of 8 (G-8) countries.

The Task Force will not be directly involved in implementing programmes and initiatives, but will work through existing and emerging institutions and mechanisms and facilitate the creation of new partnerships.

Plan of Action

According to its Plan of Action, the 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 firmly put ICT at the service of development of all". The body has the support of the heads of State and government of all Member States that endorsed the ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration at the Millennium Summit in September 2000.

The Task Force's objective is to provide leadership to the United Nations in formulating strategies for the development of information and communication technologies and putting those technologies at the service of development. It is also to forge strategic partnerships between the United Nations system, private industry, financing trusts and foundations, donors, programme countries and other actors.

The Task Force will not be an operational or implementing body, but will build upon current and emerging initiatives, adding value by helping to scale up such efforts and fostering coordination and collaboration among all actors. A high-level panel of advisers, composed of ICT leaders and experts, will provide advice on broad policy issues.

The new body will work to advance the United Nations development goals and targets, in particular those set up by the Millennium Declaration. Eradication of poverty and the special needs of Africa and the least developed countries (LDCs) will be the main focus of its activities. It will also seek to make a tangible difference in such areas as promoting education, combating diseases, promoting gender equality and fostering the empowerment of women, youth, the disabled and the poor. It will contribute to the preparations for the World Summit on Information Society, to be held in 2003 and 2005.

In the short term, the Task Force will:

-- Promote the commitment of political leaders by organizing national seminars for heads of State and government, cabinet ministers and other policy makers on the potential of ICT for eradicating poverty and for promoting development goals, including education, health, e-government and e-commerce;

-- Establish a Task Force Web site and Portal to carry out its outreach and policy objectives and serve as a platform for sharing lessons learned and best practices. The Web site will also include the Task Force's own policy recommendations, and a global inventory of ICT activities;

-- Develop networks of stakeholders interested in contributing to ICT for development from the public, private and non-profit sector, and carry out global, regional and subregional stakeholder campaigns;

-- Enhance resource mobilization through innovative funding arrangements and mechanisms, bringing together public, private and non-profit partners for ICT-for-development programmes.

Medium-term objectives include:

-- Assist countries in designing national and regional ICT strategies;

-- Support universal participation in addressing new international policy and technical issues raised by ICT and the Internet;

-- Improve connectivity, increase access and lower costs;

-- Promote national and international efforts to support local content and application creation;

-- Promote ICT for health care and for the fight against HIV/AIDS and other infectious and communicable diseases;

-- Foster enterprise and entrepreneurship for sustainable economic development and poverty alleviation, by promoting, in particular, female entrepreneurship, youth employment, human capacity development, and knowledge creation and sharing;

-- Advise the Secretary-General on ICT-for-development issues.

Please visit the ICT Task Force Web site at:

For further information on the ICT Task Force, please contact Sarbuland Khan, Director, Division for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, Tel: (212) 963-4628; e-mail:; or Edoardo Bellando, Tel: (212) 963-8275, e-mail:; and Ellen McGuffie, Tel: (212) 963-0499, e-mail:, Development and Human Rights Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

* *** *