Remarks at the World Summit Awards Winners Conference

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the World Summit Awards Winners Conference Monterrey, Mexico, 2 September 2009

Professor Bruck,
Distinguished Delegates,
Dear Award Winners,

I would like to thank Professor Bruck for inviting me to join this important event and for his leadership of the World Summit Awards for local e-content and creativity.

The World Summit on the Information Society set the framework for the global effort to bridge the digital divide, meeting in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005. Launched at Tunis, the World Summit Awards have done much to promote innovation in local e-content – and thus to show what people in developing countries can do to meet their own needs.

Rich and relevant e-content is what drives the development of a meaningful information society. We know from the latest indicators that progress is being made to connect the unconnected, although cost and affordability remain major concerns. Yet, as access expands, we must redouble efforts to foster local content and applications. Content must be not only local, but also relevant and accessible.

When the farmer toiling on the arid soils of Mali connects to the Internet on her cell phone, she wants to find information that can help higher crops yields or better prices for his produce. It would be even better if he or she can find tips from other farmers. Communities in developing countries must be empowered and provided with the necessary skills to create and share their own content for their own purposes.

The ICT revolution offers us a new perspective to help address development challenges and advance the Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, the initiatives showcased here are clear evidence that ICT and e-content solutions can be applied innovatively to the problems of disadvantaged communities, covering the broad development spectrum, from business and trade to health, education, governance and sustainable development.

For instance, Lil’ MDGs – founded by a 13 year-old boy – brings awareness of the United Nations Development Agenda to youth around the world. Voices of Africa fosters sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa through information empowerment. These are just a few of the many innovative and inspiring initiatives that we are celebrating today.

The World Summit Awards fulfil an important function by acknowledging, rewarding and spreading the word about innovative applications of ICT to development challenges, particularly at the local level. Such knowledge sharing must be nurtured and encouraged as an integral part of any smart and effective development strategy.

In this context, I would like to mention a new publication just released by the UN’s Global Alliance for ICT and Development and its Committee of e-Leaders for Youth and ICTs: Best Practices on Youth and ICT for Development. The report showcases community development projects for youth by youth, highlighting success stories from around the world.

Let me close by extending my warm congratulations to all the winners of the World Summit Awards. I hope that you take this recognition of your achievements as an incentive for you to do even more. I know that your example will inspire young people in all regions to innovate and take action in their own communities.

Thank you.