18 April 2005

UN Dublin Forum Calls for Practical Interventions to Promote Education Through Information Technology

NEW YORK, 15 April (UN Headquarters) -- Education experts and political leaders at the United Nations Global Forum on ICT for education, which concluded yesterday in Dublin, called for practical interventions to put new technologies at the service of education in developing countries.

Organized by the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force and co-hosted by the Irish Government and the Task Force’s Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI), the two-day Forum was part of the Task Force's eighth meeting, held from 13 to 15 April.

"The cause of development occupies pride of place in my proposals to world leaders”, said Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his message to the Forum, delivered by the Chair of the Task Force, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo. To achieve development “we must harness the potential of ICT", Mr. Annan said, adding "we must fully integrate the global ICT agenda into the broader United Nations development agenda." He stressed the need to improve the use of ICT within the United Nations itself, "so that the organization's collective mindset and methods of work are brought fully into the digital age".

"I warmly welcome the attention that this meeting is giving to education", Mr. Annan said. “One of the Millennium Development Goals is achievement of universal primary education by 2015. We must ensure that ICT is used to help unlock the door to education, whether for young girls in Afghanistan, university students in Uganda, or workers in Brazil, so that they can fully seize economic opportunities, and live lives of dignity, free from want."

Irish Communications Minister Noel Dempsey said “the importance of education cannot be overstated. Our discussions over the last number of days have underlined the crucial role ICT can play in education. By continuing a multi-stakeholder approach, we can work together to raise standards of education worldwide and realize universal primary education by 2015.”

Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who is also Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General, said that science and technology in general, and ICT in particular, are critical in the path to the end of poverty and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. “We need not just software, we need hardware and connectivity right down to ground level -- of schools, health clinics and rural areas”, he said.

In his keynote speech, Dr. Sachs called for practical interventions in ICT requiring modest financing at the grass-root level. He stressed that connectivity enables aid in new ways, allowing more effective monitoring and delivery of aid where it is most needed. “We need the engagement of private industry”, Mr. Sachs said, pleading to the private sector to bring connectivity down to the local level, in order to help people meet their basic needs.

Other Forum participants included: Nedurumalli Rajyalakshmi, Minister for School Education of Andhra Pradesh (India); Nangolo Mbumba, Minister of Education of Namibia; Ambassador David Gross, United States Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy; Hewlett Packard Vice-President Maureen Conway; Nokia Vice President Veli Sundbäck; Victoria P. Garchitorena, President, Ayala Foundation, the Philippines; and Titi Akinsanmi, SchoolNet South Africa.

Contact: Enrica Murmura, tel.: +39 338 302-5554, e-mail: murmura@un.org; and Andrea Pappin, tel.: +353 1 678.2503, e-mail: andrea.pappin@gesci.org.

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