17 November 2005

Role of Partnerships Remains Key to Success of World Summit on Information Society

NEW YORK, 16 November (UNFIP) -- The issue of partnerships will be high on the agenda in Tunis this week.  The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, organized by the United Nations and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), will foster a multi-stakeholder approach to enable millions of people to take advantage of opportunities in the digital economy.  Heads of State, ministers, regulators, government delegations, leaders of industry and international organizations from throughout the world will gather to finalize the plans -- developed during years of preparatory meetings -- to realize a worldwide, universal, information society and provide a blueprint for the building of a global information economy.

In advance of the Summit, Microsoft and the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP) co-hosted a parallel event, which took place yesterday in Tunis and brought together Government, business, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and academia to discuss issues around digital inclusion as it impacts the knowledge economy.  The Digital Inclusion Round Table focused on collaborative projects with the aim to share best practices and collectively discuss how each other's efforts can be refined so as to further the impact of existing and future collaborations.

The main partnership event in Tunis is the "Global Pledge to Connect the World" taking place today, Wednesday, 16 November 2005.  The Connect the World initiative was launched by ITU Secretary General Yoshio Utsumi, with the objective of helping "connect the unconnected" and thus contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals of connecting all communities to information and communication technologies (ICT) by 2015.  At present, ITU estimates that around 800,000 villages -- or 30 per cent of all villages worldwide -- are still without any kind of connection.

"No one living in today's interconnected world can doubt the importance of ICT in achieving development Goals.  It's important to remember, however, that it's not ICT that will solve the problem of the digital divide, it's people.  More than that, it's people working in partnership.  So, while "Connect the World" is about harnessing the power of ICT, it's also about harnessing the power of partnership." said Mr. Utsumi, ITU Secretary-General.

Connect the World has 22 founding partners, including leading international companies, international organizations and government agencies.  This global multi-stakeholder effort will showcase the many innovative and successful development initiatives already under way.  In doing so, it aims to encourage new projects and partnerships to bridge the digital divide.  Connect the World will focus on three key areas of activity, which are considered to be the primary "building blocks" required to reach the goal of connecting all communities by 2015:  (i) enabling environment, (ii) infrastructure and readiness, and (iii) application and services.  The UNFIP is a key founding partner and will moderate the interactive session of the event in Tunis.

Also today, the Village Phone Replication Manual will be released at the infoDev Pavilion in the ICT4All Exhibition Hall by Peter Bladin, Grameen Foundation USA Vice-President.  The event is featuring several speakers, including Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Mostafa Terrab, Programme Manager, infoDev; and Amir Dossal, Executive Director of UNFIP.  The manual is the product of a broad partnership:  authored by the Grameen Foundation USA, it was funded by infoDev, an international consortium of official bilateral and multilateral development agencies, facilitated by an expert secretariat housed at the World Bank and published by the UN ICT Task Force.  "This replication manual is an invaluable how-to source for setting up a Village Phone project.  It contains a realistic, practical, and detailed set of instructions, templates and lessons learned, and it is generic enough to be applied in any context were a Village Phone initiative can help empower people and promote development" said Sarbuland Khan, Executive Coordinator, UN ICT Task Force.

Another important partnership effort is the High-level Round Table on Putting ICT to work for the United Nations Development Agenda, which will take place on Thursday, 17 November 2005. The round table, organized by the UN ICT Task Force, in collaboration with UNFIP and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), is the second in a special ongoing series of thematic discussions on ICT for development issues.  It will build on the results of the  13 September round table on innovation and investment:  scaling science and technology, especially information and communication technologies, to meet the Millennium Development Goals, held in New York on the eve of the 2005 World Summit.  The round table will promote further crystallization of thinking on effective and sustainable ways to raise awareness of ICT as an enabler of development, and examine how ICT can be applied to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals.  The round table will afford a multi-stakeholder cross-sectoral forum with a view to increasing support and commitment, and to promoting scaling up of successful initiatives in order to accelerate the impact of ICT on development.  It will thus continue the work launched in New York, with a view to providing a further contribution to multi-stakeholder follow-up and implementation of the outcomes of the 2005 World Summit and the World Summit on the Information Society.

The UNFIP promotes new United Nations partnerships and alliances worldwide.  Established by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in March 1998, UNFIP is an autonomous trust fund set up to serve as the interface between the United Nations system and the United Nations Foundation, the public charity responsible for administering, over a period of 15 years, Ted Turner's $1 billion contribution in support of United Nations causes.  Over the years, UNFIP has expanded its functions to provide a "one-stop" service for partnership opportunities with the UN family.

For more information contact:  Camilla Schippa, Outreach Officer, UNFIP, at e-mail:  schippa@un.org ; or tel.:  212-963-3441.  Or visit:  www.un.org/unfip , www.unicttaskforce.org/feeds , www.itu.int/partners/factsheet.html

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