DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL OF WIRELESS INTERNET TECHNOLOGY EXPLORED AT HEADQUARTERS CONFERENCE

27 June 2003
PI/1490

DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL OF WIRELESS INTERNET TECHNOLOGY EXPLORED AT HEADQUARTERS CONFERENCE

27/06/2003
Press ReleasePI/1490

DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL OF WIRELESS INTERNET TECHNOLOGY

EXPLORED AT HEADQUARTERS CONFERENCE

NEW YORK, 27 June (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) -- On 26 June, the UN Information Communication Technology Task Force and the Wireless Internet Institute (W2i) hosted “The Wireless Internet Opportunity for Developing Nations” conference at United Nations Headquarters in New York City.  The event drew 200-plus participants, including practitioners, government regulators, international development experts, academics, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private-sector technology experts to explore solutions for successful deployment of wireless Internet in the developing world.

The conference was opened by Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Vice Chairman of the ICT Task Force and Chief Executive Officer of TAG International, who delivered an opening statement from Secretary-General Kofi Annan:  “We urgently need to reach a clear understanding of wireless Internet’s development potential, identify the obstacles, and develop a realistic plan of action that would bring together all stakeholders –- governments, the private sector, civil society –- in a coherent, synergistic and sustainable endeavor”, he said.  “This conference offers a valuable forum for doing just that.”

Mr. Abu-Ghazaleh added:  “Our meeting today is a concrete step for positive bridge-building across the digital divide.  We will discuss ways and means of mobilizing support for the objective of attaining the Millennium Development Goals with the use of ICTs.”

"We are pleased to participate in the General Secretary's call to action", said Patrick Gelsinger, Chief Technology Officer at Intel Corporation who gave the keynote address.  "We believe an aggressive embrace of Wi-Fi and emerging wireless technologies and progressive telecom policies in unlicensed and unregulated spectrum and products will enable emerging nations to not only close the digital divide, but leap ahead."

The Conference included plenary sessions and workshops resulting in a variety of innovative suggestions for using wireless Internet technology to benefit the developing world, noting that one of the biggest challenges is bringing such capability to the South.  One concrete suggestion, proposed by Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships, was to consider launching an “Adopt a Hot Spot” campaign, to enable individuals to contribute to bridging the divide.  That would make available the necessary pipelines for providing technical assistance, especially to schools and hospitals, in areas such as education, health and environment.

Concluding the conference, Sarbuland Khan, director of the Division for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs said: “With wireless internet applications having the potential to achieve access at low cost, we have heard today a call for us to think outside the box and devise sustainable models, which combine market expansion with social responsibility, that will enable us to leapfrog the technology hurdles and improve the quality of life in the developing world. I am pleased to announce that the Secretary-General’s ICT Task Force, together with the Wireless Internet Institute, will be looking into the innovative suggestions you have put forward as we develop a road map for action”.

In March 2001, the ECOSOC requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to establish an ICT Task Force.  The Task Force is intended to lend a truly global dimension to the multitude of efforts to bridge the global digital divide, foster digital opportunity and thus firmly put ICT at the service of development for all.

W2i, a division of World Times, Inc., is an international and independent think tank bringing wireless Internet stakeholders together to foster universal connectivity in support of economic, social and educational development around the world.  W2i provides news watch and analysis, hosts international inquiries and consensus building workshops and publishes white papers.  In addition to partnering with the United Nations Task Force, W2i has launched the Spectrum Policy Group, a subscription-based program providing news watch and analysis on the Federal Communications Commission’s rapidly evolving overhaul of spectrum policy.

For more information, visit the Web site of the ICT Task Force at www.unicttaskforce.org, or of the Wireless Internet Institute at www.w2i.org; or contact Samuel Danofsky at the ICT Task Force, tel.: 917-367-2424, e-mail: danofsky@un.org, or Maria Lehtinen at the United Nations tel.: 212-963-7478, e-mail: lehtinen@un.org.

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For information media. Not an official record.