25 September 2006

United Nations Task Force for Closing Digital Divide Brings Tech, Finance, Government, Media Chiefs to Meeting on 27 September

NEW YORK, 22 September (UN Headquarters) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan will open the first-ever meeting at the United Nations of the newly formed Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development on 27 September.  Chairing discussion of Alliance strategic goals will be Intel board chairman Craig Barrett.

Launched in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 19 June, the Alliance promotes action to utilize new information and communication technologies to fight poverty and promote development.

In addition to Mr. Barrett, other Steering Committee members attending include Jamaludin Jarjis, Malaysia's Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations Minister; 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, Secretary-General, Norwegian Broadcasting, European Broadcasting Union; Renate Bloem, President, the Committee on non-governmental organizations, Switzerland; and Guy Sebban, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce.

The Steering Committee, which provides the Alliance with executive oversight and guidance, is composed of a chair, Mr. Barrett, and several co-chairs representing Governments, business, civil society, the media and international organizations.

The meeting will open at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 8.  Remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and welcoming remarks by Under-Secretary-General José Antonio Ocampo will be followed by a statement from Mr. Barrett.

An interactive discussion will examine the strategic goals and business plan of the Global Alliance, followed by a discussion on the Alliance's funding.

"Countries concluded, at the 2005 World Summit, that the internationally agreed development goals will not be achieved unless we do development differently," said Alliance Executive Coordinator Sarbuland Khan.  "One of the ways to do that is connect the poor with the rest of the world, with the formal economy, through information technologies."

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can help in the areas of enterprise, education, health and Government, said Mr. Khan, allowing the poor to participate in the economy.  "Many developing countries have strong growth rates, but the poor are not part of the growing economy".

The Global Alliance for Information and Communication will seek to bring together the private sector and international financial institutions, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, in big partnership initiatives, such as bringing broadband to Africa, Mr. Khan said.

In countries like Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and Ghana, mobile telephony is locally driven and demand driven, Mr. Khan said.  The greatest growth of mobile phones is taking place in Africa, and women are using mobile phones to generate businesses and income.  "The issue now is how to get mobile telephony to be a conveyor of information and knowledge on health and the economy.  For this, you need the private sector."

The Alliance seeks to bring together key organizations involved in ICT-for-development to enhance their effectiveness; introduce ICT-for-development into the broader development agenda; create an environment and business models for investment benefiting the poor; find technological solutions for specific development goals; and foster partnerships among all those involved.  Partnerships and new initiatives are expected to be announced at the closing of the 27 September meeting.

The Global Alliance operates as a decentralized network, complementing the work of existing networks and institutions.  Its activities are funded by voluntary contributions.

The Global Alliance functions as a partnership and network supported by the United Nations, under the authority of the Secretary-General and the auspices of the Economic and Social Council.

For information or to arrange an interview, contact Enrica Murmura, Global Alliance secretariat, tel.:  212 963 5913, e-mail:  murmura@un.org ; or Tim Wall, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.: 212 963 5851, e-mail: wallt@un.org .

For further information, please visit www.un-gaid.org

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