10 November 2005

Secretary-General, in Video Message to Bilbao Meeting on Information Society, Stresses Key Role of Local Authorities in Addressing Digital Divide

NEW YORK, 9 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's video message for the World Summit of Cities and Local Authorities on the Information Society, held in Bilbao, Spain on 9 November:

I send my best wishes to this important international conference.

Let me also say how much I appreciate the work of His Majesty King Juan Carlos and President Wade, who are strongly supporting our efforts to build an open, inclusive information society.

Information and communication technologies are powerful engines of economic and social progress.  They are essential tools for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Yet a digital divide persists, not only between rich and poor countries, but within countries, too.  Often, major urban areas benefit from the Internet and other technologies, while rural and remote regions have little or no access.

Local authorities have a key role to play in addressing this challenge.  With their unsurpassed grass-roots knowledge, local authorities have long been a potent force for development.  Now they need to bring that experience to bear on the new possibilities and opportunities that communications technologies are opening up.  Local authorities can promote local entrepreneurship.  They can tailor solutions to fit local needs.  They launched the Digital Solidarity Fund, and must now build on that important step.

I am glad that local authorities are increasingly engaged in the work of the United Nations, and that many attended last September's World Summit.  Your meeting now should make an important contribution to another global event which is happening in just one week's time:  the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society.

That summit, in Tunis, will bring together leaders from Governments, from industry and from civil society.  The challenge for them is to agree on how we can maximize the potential of information and communications technologies.  I urge you to give them bold and concrete suggestions.  Together, we must build an information society that benefits and empowers all the world's people.

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