21 November 2001


NEW YORK, 20 November (UN Headquarters) – Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to today’s launching of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Task Force:

It gives me great pleasure to formally launch the United Nations Task Force on Information and Communications Technology.

The new technologies that are changing our world 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. They can help in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and even contribute 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 principal mission of this Task Force is to tell us how we might accomplish this ambitious goal.

This task force comprises an inspiring group of government officials, industry experts, non-governmental organization leaders and others from every part of the world.

We look to you to tell us, realistically, what ICT can and cannot do.

We look to you as a source of new ideas, advice on policy, and information on "best practices" that have been shown to work.

We look to you to raise awareness, to forge new partnerships, and to be catalysts for change.

We look to you to support the World Summit on the Information Society to be held in 2003, and to recommend ways in which the United Nations system itself can make more effective use of ICT in its development activities.

Most of all, we look to you 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.

We have made considerable progress since April of last year, when President Figueres first proposed that a United Nations ICT Task Force be formed. The idea was subsequently endorsed by the Economic and Social Council and, last September, world leaders expressed their support in the Millennium Declaration.

Since then, through extensive global consultations, we have been exploring ways to support -- and most importantly, to avoid duplicating -- the many initiatives that are already under way, such as the Digital Opportunity Task Force -- the Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force) -- created at the G-8 summit in Okinawa last year, while drawing on the unique strengths of the United Nations: its universality, legitimacy, global presence and experience.

The Task Force is now ready to move forward. Support from the private sector will be particularly important. Fortunately, the use of ICT for development is one of the areas where the long-term interests of the international community, governments and private business most obviously coincide. Empowering the poor and the marginalized can unleash vast creative energies. It can help level the playing field for entrepreneurs and for small- and medium-size businesses. And it can help expand and create new markets. Private companies can, in short, "do well by doing good".

Ultimately, the Task Force will be able to achieve its goals only if it is supported by all stakeholders. The Task Force belongs to all of us -- governments, civil society, the private sector, and the organizations and agencies of the United Nations system. Let us nurture it together.

The ICT age has dawned, but not yet for all. Let us show that we can unite the great promise of ICT with the needs of the poor. And be assured that you will have my full support in this important work.

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