18 September 2003 The top United Nations communications official today launched an initiative that will link thousands of students from around the world in one of the largest educational events ever attempted on the Internet and said the programme fits well with the world body’s desire to see the benefits of information technology spread as widely as possible.
“There is still a long way to go before the benefits of new technologies are available to all people, and some fear that these technologies might actually widen the gap between rich and poor countries,” Under Secretary-General of the UN Department of Public Information Shashi Tharoor said during the launch of the World Summit Event for Schools.
The Programme will, for three months, enable students to examine the impact that communication technologies are having on their right to give and receive information and on their right to an education.
A series of on-line activities, set up and managed by the UN’s CyberSchoolBus web site in partnership with European Schoolnet, will guide their exploration. These will conclude with a live interaction, via the Internet, between students and a Head of State at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) to be held in Geneva at the end of the year.
Mr. Tharoor said he hope the project would show teachers, governments and donors what can be achieved for so many students with a simple computer and a telephone.
“Schools, in particular, are playing a critical role in equalizing access to new technologies – across gender, race, socio-economic grouping, and geographic locations. In developing countries, computers installed in the schools have become a key tool for both education and community development,” he added.
Students from Switzerland, Tanzania, and Uganda joined Mr. Tharoor and other UN officials during today’s launch. The students discussed their cross-cultural project for WSIS.
At the conclusion of the three months of student interaction, the CyberSchoolBus and European Schoolnet will invite educators – responsible for computer networks that link thousands of schools in over 40 countries – to Geneva for a special gathering that will parallel WSIS, Mr. Tharoor announced.
The three-month event will feature activities at www.cyberschoolbus.org.