28 September 2006

United Nations Secretary-General Welcomes "Network of Networks" to Spread Digital Revolution

NEW YORK, 27 September (UN Headquarters) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told leaders from business, finance, Government and the media that their participation in the Global Alliance to step up access to digital technology gives an important direction to "our work towards an open and prosperous information society" and "the use of ICT [information and communication technology] as a tool for advancing development".

The idea of the initiative, he said, is to develop "a decentralized 'network of networks' on a global scale, so that the Alliance can draw in the relevant stakeholders, particularly as new issues emerge".  It will operate, he added, in four priority areas: health, education, poverty reduction through new enterprises and citizen participation in Government.

The Secretary-General of the world body thanked Craig Barrett, Intel Board Chairman, for taking on the position of Chairman of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID).

Today's meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York was attended by Alliance Steering Committee members Jamaludin Jarjis, Malaysia's Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation; Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank; Walter Fust, Director-General, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation; Titi Akinsanmi, Programme Manager, Global Teenager Project, South Africa; John Bernander, Director General, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and Vice-President, European Broadcasting Union; Renate Bloem, President, the Committee on NGOs, Switzerland; and Guy Sebban, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce; as well as Mr. Barrett.  United Nations Under-Secretary-General José Antonio Ocampo participated in an ex-officio capacity.

The Alliance will not be an implementing agency, Mr. Barrett said in a press conference prior to the meeting, but would "combine the efforts of private and public sectors with non-governmental organizations to bring the benefits of technology to all parts of the world".  He said that, in middle-income countries, private-public partnerships are already making great strides.

United Nations statistics show that, while the digital divide is still a yawning chasm -- in 2004, 7 out of 100 in the developing world were connected to the Internet, compared to 54 out of 100 in the rich countries -- rapid strides indeed are being taken.  Internet connectivity in developing countries grew at an average annual rate of roughly 35 per cent between 2000 and 2004, and in the latter year Africa added 15 million new mobile phone subscribers, doubling the 1999 total.

In one of its first orders of business, the Steering Committee endorsed the establishment of new "Communities of Expertise" -- broadly inclusive networks relating to the Alliance's focus areas of education, health, entrepreneurship and governance.  Areas of activity under discussion were supporting African efforts to build infrastructure and add broadband connectivity, initiating a new wave of telecentres, making technology more accessible to the disabled and founding a volunteer "cyber development corps".

For information or to arrange an interview contact Enrica Murmura, Global Alliance Secretariat, tel.: 212 963 5913, e-mail: ; or Tim Wall, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.: 212 963 5851, e-mail: .  Or visit the Alliance website .

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