UN urges improved access to information technology in hospitals, schools

25 May 2010 – Health institutions and schools in developing countries continue to have limited access to information and communications technology (ICT), the United Nations telecommunication said in a report issued today, calling for greater efforts to improve access to high-speed Internet services.

“The health sector stands to benefit greatly from the use of ICTs and ICT applications, for example through the more efficient delivery of health-care services and the provision of health information to the general public,” the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said in its 2010 report.

“Given the soaring use of mobile technologies worldwide, m-health [medical and public-health practices supported by mobile devices] holds huge promise for improving the delivery of health services to an increasing share of the world’s population,” according to ITU’s World Telecommunication/ICT Development report 2010.

The report recognizes that funding remains the major constraint to the spread of e-health and urges Governments to seek alternative funding sources, such as donor or private funds, as well as public-private partnerships, to complement public funding.

Access to ICT within education institutions provides students with new resources and teaching tools, allowing them to acquire the skills required for the information society, the report says. Information technology also improved education administrative processes and supported teacher-training, according to the report, which was released at the ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference under way in Hyderabad, India.

“Outside school hours, connected schools can provide access to ICTs for the community, including marginalized groups,” the report notes.

The report provides a mid-term review of the progress made in creating a global information society by 2015, a commitment that governments agreed upon at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which took place in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005.

The number of Internet users has more than doubled since 2003, with more than 25 per cent of the world’s population using the Internet, Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau said in the report.

In developing countries, however, the percentage of homes with access to the Internet is as low as 12 per cent, he added. ITU urges countries where home Internet access is low to invest in public Internet access points. The agency notes that many governments are actively promoting public access and some are turning libraries, museums and post offices into Internet cafés.

The report makes three main recommendations on the policies and measures needed to help achieve the targets of creating a global information society by 2015. They are ensuring that half the world population has access to broadband Internet by 2015, building an ICT-literate society globally, and developing online content and applications.

“To this end, governments can take a number of concrete steps, such as licensing mobile broadband operators and ensuring that broadband infrastructure is accessible to all citizens,” the report says.


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