UN Economic and Social Council asked to guide information technology issues

11 July 2006 – The United Nations should continue to play a leading role in expanding information and communications technologies to promote development, participants have told the world body’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), currently meeting in Geneva.

The calls during Monday’s session came as delegates discussed follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which was held in 2003 and 2005 and produced a global strategy to harness the power of the Internet and information and communications technologies in the fight against poverty.

ECOSOC President Ali Hachani said the Council needed to act on a number of recommendations advanced by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to ensure that all parts of the UN system carry out the results of the Summit. He pledged to hold intensive informal discussions to advance the Summit’s follow-up immediately after the end of the ECOSOC session.

“Access to information should now be regarded as a utility and basic human right,” said Malaysia’s Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Jamaludin Jarjis, adding that conventional development means were no longer adequate in today’s economic climate where knowledge capital was the new currency and the new raw material.

Assistant Secretary-General Patrizio Civili said implementation of the World Summit decisions would require consistent support and guidance from governments, as well as input from intergovernmental bodies and other interested parties in order to sustain the momentum generated in the follow-up.

The Geneva Plan of Action, adopted in 2003, established a set of connectivity targets to be reached by 2015 and set forth a series of areas for action, such as information and communications infrastructure, access to information and knowledge, and e-business, e-learning and e-government. In the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, adopted in 2005, world leaders agreed on concrete mechanisms to achieve those objectives, involving all interested parties and with particular reliance on different UN institutions and bodies.

As requested by the World Summit, a UN Group on the Information Society is to coordinate the work of the UN system, in cooperation with the UN resident coordinators in developing countries. The Group is to hold its first meeting in Geneva in July.

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