Press Releases

         8 October 2004

    Task Force on Financial Mechanisms for Information and Communication Technologies for Development Launched at UN Headquarters

    (Issued on 7 October 2004.)

    NEW YORK, 6 October (UN Department of Public Information) -- A new Task Force on Financial Mechanisms was launched on 4 October at the United Nations Headquarters. It will assess existing financial mechanisms in meeting the challenges related to promoting investment in and the use of information technologies to enhance development in developing countries.

    The establishment of the Task Force on Financial Mechanisms was requested last December by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Member States felt that, while all existing financial mechanisms should be fully utilized to bring the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICT) to developing countries, a review of their adequacy in meeting the challenges of ICT for development should be completed by the end of December 2004.

    This review was entrusted to a Task Force under the auspices of Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The report is to be submitted to the World Summit's second phase, to be held in Tunis from 16 to 19 November 2005. The Secretary-General asked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to lead the Task Force, in collaboration with key partners including the World Bank and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The chair of the Task Force is UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown.

    “It has been demonstrated that ICT can change the way development takes place and, used effectively, it can be a powerful tool, contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals”, said Mr. Malloch Brown. “Through a review of emerging trends and analysis, the role of this task force is to present a range of options for achieving greater access and use”, he said. “The role of the Task Force is not to come up with a negotiated text -- this is the task of the Summit process -- but to provide expert inputs and recommendations that can contribute to facilitating the negotiations.”

    It was noted that access to ICT has grown at dramatic rates as a result of private sector participation. Yet, large sections of developing country populations, particularly those living not in large cities, remain outside the reach of such technologies. ICT could enable them to better access public services and key types of information and benefit from its potential use in enhancing the reach of education and healthcare services. José Antonio Ocampo, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, reiterated the need for the task force to look into different forms of provision and to make its recommendations on the basis of what is actually working in practice.

    At its inaugural meeting, participants also discussed the different dimensions of the financing question including the regional challenges and those of small island States. They looked into the role of supportive policy and regulatory frameworks and other non-financial issues, such as capacity development, that were critical to enhancing private and public sector investment and increasing the effectiveness and sustainability of ICT for Development (ICTD) initiatives and financing. “While there has been a lot of focus on telecommunications infrastructure, the role of human infrastructure development, though absolutely central has been less emphasized, said Rajindra Pawar, CEO of NIIT, a major human resource corporation from India. “This is not an area that will automatically solicit the interest of the private sector at the scale needed in developing countries, and we need to ensure through various means that we do not adopt a technology-first approach but focus on a number of related areas at the same time”, he said.

    Other participants noted that ICT for development is relatively new as well as dynamic, being characterized by the emergence of new technologies and changing roles and responsibilities. This implied the need to think creatively and to adapt existing financing approaches so that they could keep up with the changing reality. Participants also looked into the question of whether new and emerging mechanisms, including various types of innovative approaches that had been proposed at the time of the Geneva phase of the World Summit on the Information Society and after, would be effective in meeting the current challenges. There was a strong feeling that the report of the Task Force should be actionable and should provide the kinds of evidence and assessments of current mechanisms that could help to facilitate negotiations on the difficult issue of financing in the context of the preparatory process leading up to WSIS in Tunis.

    “The work of the Task Force will be open and consultative”, said Shoji Nishimoto, Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP’s bureau of Development Policy. Inputs are being solicited from experts and broader consultations with stakeholders are upcoming, including informal consultations in Geneva on 16 November and virtual consultations on WSIS-online and other platforms. The recommendations and the draft report of the Task Force will be finalized at the 29 November meeting at the United Nations Headquarters. The final report will be presented to the Secretary General in December, and will be taken up at the second meeting of the Summit Preparatory Committee, to be held in Geneva next February.

    Confirmed Task Force members to date include:

    -- Sérgio Amadeu da Silveira, Director-President, Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia da Informação, Brazil;

    -- Ali Abbasov, Minister of Communication and Information Technologies of Azerbaijan;

    -- Owen Barder, representative of the European Union on behalf of the Netherlands EU-Presidency;

    -- Jim Crowe, Deputy Director, Foreign Affairs/United Nations and Commonwealth Division, Canada;

    -- Mamadou Diop Decroix, Minister of Communications of Senegal;

    -- Alar Ehandi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Look@World Foundation, Estonia;

    -- Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director, Association for Progressive Communications;

    -- Nissim Ezekiel, UNDP and earlier Executive Director, Commission on Private Sector and Development;

    -- Jonathan Fiske, Senior Manager, Group Public Policy, Vodafone Group Services Ltd;

    -- Representative from the Global Knowledge Partnership

    -- Ayesha Hassan, Senior Policy Manager, International Chamber of Commerce;

    -- Mohsen Khalil, Director, Global Information and Communication Technologies, the World Bank;

    -- Sarbuland Khan, Director, Office of ECOSOC Support and Coordination,

    United Nations Department of Economic Social Affairs;

    -- Ayisi Makatiani, Chairman, Gallium Venture Capital and CEO, African Management Services Company;

    -- Zouhair Masmoudi, Director-General, Ministry of Communication Technologies and Transport, Tunisia;

    -- Rajendra Pawar, CEO, NIIT, India;

    -- Gisa Fuatai Purcell, ICT Secretary, ICT Commission, Samoa;

    -- Ambassador Daniel Stauffacher, Swiss Executive Secretariat for WSIS;

    -- Ichiro Tambo, Development Co-operation Directorate, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),

    -- Hamadoun Toure, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU;

    -- Pedro Urra Gonzàlez, Director, Infomed, Cuba;

    -- George Vradenburg, President, Vradenburg Foundation, United States;

    -- Yoichiro Yamada, Director, Specialized Agencies Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan;

    -- Mohamed Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank, Bangladesh.

    Charles Geiger (Assistant Executive Director WSIS Secretariat) and Ambassador Janis Karklins (President of the WSIS Preparatory Committee for the Tunis Phase) are observers to the Task Force, so as to facilitate coordination with the Summit preparatory process.

    For further information, Contact: Radhika Lal, Policy Advisor, Bureau of Development Policy, United Nations Development Programme, tel.: (212) 906-5020, or Edoardo Bellando, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.: (212) 963-8275.

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