|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
18th Meeting (AM)
Speakers in Second Committee, Discussing Information and Communications Technology
for Development, Stress Importance of Universal Access to Broadband Connectivity
With information and communications technology increasingly driving development in everything from business to health-care services to education programmes, it was imperative that all countries had the necessary broadband connectivity, speakers told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.
As the Committee considered information and communications technology for development, Tunisia’s representative recalled that world leaders had reaffirmed in September the importance of information and communications technology for development and committed particularly to promoting its use. The outcome document of the recent Millennium Development Goals summit called for upgrading the quality and quantity of existing telecommunications infrastructure, supporting modern information and communications technology applications, as well as increasing connectivity while boosting access to and investment in innovation and development, so as to expedite realization of the Millennium Goals.
The Committee should monitor an annual review of progress towards those objectives, he said applauding the fact that the target set by world leaders at the World Summit on Information Society — ensuring access for more than half the world’s people by 2015 — had already been met, thanks largely to the mobile revolution. Still, many development challenges remained and new ones were emerging due to the economic and financial crisis. There was a need to narrow the digital gap between developed and developing countries in terms of broadband access and programme content, he stressed, adding that broadband was critical for deploying the most recent Internet-based services and advancing socio-economic development objectives, mainly in education and health-care.
Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, added that the report of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development called for broadband-friendly practices and policies to ensure that connectivity and content serviced development aims. Indeed, information and communications technology had tremendous potential for eradicating poverty, promoting socio-economic development and bridging the ever-widening technological divide between developing and developed countries. The information society should be seen as an important step in bearing out that potential. The wide gaps in access to and affordability of such technology between the developed and developing world must be closed, he said.
Nepal’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said countries had a tough time making information and communications technology affordable and readily available to the neediest and poorest people because their lack of resources, infrastructure, education and capacity prevented them from reaping its expected benefits. He said the international community must implement the Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003, while ensuring pro-poor information and communications technology policies. He also called for the smooth transfer of technology, related infrastructure and funding to support development of e-governance and e-commerce initiatives in the developing world.
Belgium’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed full support for the Broadband Commission’s recommendations, describing broadband as a key socio-economic driver. The European Union was fully committed to its development worldwide, particularly in Africa, where the regional bloc had formed a comprehensive partnership framework to support development of the information and communications technology sector. Like most other speakers today, he supported a five-year extension for the mandate of the Internet Governance Forum, which, since its 2005 inception in support of the objectives of the World Summit on the Information Society, had proven useful in addressing public-policy issues and Internet-related challenges.
China’s representative said the Forum should focus on the interests of marginalized and vulnerable groups and countries, while guiding development of the information society to benefit everyone. He lamented that in the past five years, the Forum’s budget had not been included in the regular United Nations budget, making it difficult to guarantee funding for participation by developing countries. During the next five-year period, the Forum’s budget should be part of the Organization’s regular budget, he stressed, calling for improvements in its secretariat, operations and other relevant mechanisms.
Presenting reports for the Committee’s consideration today were Jānis Kārklins, Assistant Secretary-General for Communication and Information of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), who introduced the report of that agency’s Director-General on communication for development programmes in the United Nations system; Thomas Selzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Interagency Affairs, who introduced the Secretary-General’s note on the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum; and Mongi Hamdi, Head of the Science, Technology, and ICT Branch of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), who presented the Secretary-General’s report on progress made in implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels.
Also speaking today were representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, or ASEAN), Malawi (on behalf of the African Group), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, or CANZ), Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Singapore, United States, Malta, India, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Uruguay.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 27 October, to conclude its discussion on information and communications technologies for development and take up globalization and interdependence.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to consider information and communication technologies for development.
Before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels (document A/64/64-E/2010/12), which discusses key trends and developments in the information society, noting that connectivity continues to improve, particularly in mobile telephone use. However, in fixed telephony, Internet access and broadband connectivity, least developed countries still lag far behind other developing countries.
The report notes the negative impact of the financial crisis on the diffusion and development of information and communications technology, and says that public capital financing, such as counter-cyclical stimulus packages to build broadband infrastructure, can replace the expected loss in private investment. There is a need for regional and international capacity-building programmes, policies that foster competitiveness, strategies that encourage optimal telecommunications infrastructure development, as well as indicators to build a more inclusive society and bridge the digital divide, the report states.
It goes on to say that public policies can significantly encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) in the information and communications technology, increase national budgets for the sector and encourage research in science and technology, the report states. It also stresses the merits of e-Government, saying it can strengthen public administration actions and policy decisions in carrying out regulatory reforms, as well as public service delivery to help Governments respond to an expanded set of demands, even as revenues fall short. The costs of telecommunications infrastructure and human capital continue to impede e-Government development, but effective strategies and legal frameworks can compensate significantly, even in least developed countries.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum (document A/65/78–E/2010/68), in which he recommends that the General Assembly extend the Forum’s mandate for five years, and proposes that improvements to its format, functions and operations be considered at its sixth meeting in 2011. Member States should consider whether to continue the Forum, in the context of a 10-year implementation review of the outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2015.
According to the report, the most significant concerns expressed by stakeholders were that the Forum, despite its role in promoting dialogue and understanding, has neither devoted enough attention to its development remit and the management of critical Internet resources, nor provided concrete advice to intergovernmental bodies and other entities involved in Internet governance. Greater engagement of stakeholders, particularly from developing countries, is needed in Internet-governance mechanisms, it stresses. It suggests that the Assembly invite Member States to give more funding to increase participation by developing countries while encouraging both Member States, through funding, and relevant United Nations organizations, through enhanced technical assistance, education and training materials, to support capacity-building for Internet governance in developing countries.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General’s on communication for development programmes in the United Nations system (document A/65/276), which transmits to the General Assembly the report of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), submitted in accordance with Assembly resolution 50/130, and the recommendations of the eleventh United Nations Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development.
The report recommends concrete country-level steps to ensure communication for development is well-positioned and resourced within the programming of the United Nations system, and that it is coherent and complementary, in keeping with the “Deliver as One” principle. It recommends continued investment to enhance communication for development capacity, particularly with United Nations country teams and Member States, through learning and round tables, training programmes, enhanced collection and analysis of knowledge and data, information dissemination and sharing.
It proposes that the United Nations Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development create formal links with the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) to ensure a harmonized and coherent working approach in the field, which could resolve some common challenges, particularly concerning the prioritization of communication for development within the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).
Introduction of Reports
JĀNIS KĀRKLINS, Assistant Secretary-General for Communication and Information, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, introduced the report of the agency’s Director-General on communication for development programmes in the United Nations system (document A/65/276), saying there was no universal formula to address all situations. Therefore, initiatives relating to communication for development and social change should be based on, respond and adapt to the prevailing social, cultural and economic context.
To harness the potential of information and communications technology to empower efforts to communicate for sustainable development, he said, there must be legal environments conducive to accessing information, as well as commitment on the part of public bodies to put them into practice. He stressed also the importance of freedom-of-information laws backed by systematic measures to make citizens aware of their rights and make officials aware of their obligations. “Now is the time to recognize the potential and power of these instruments and to utilize them to unshackle people from their ‘unfreedoms’,” he said, quoting Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
“It is time to actively engage such people in our efforts for sustainable development,” he continued. Communications for development should enable people effectively to utilize society’s entire communications system, including interpersonal, social, community and organizational networks. There must be sustained efforts to create an environment for inclusive communication for sustainable development at the country level. In that regard, there was need for open, transparent and accountable governance that would encourage public debate, discussion and input, a free and independent media system, and public access to a variety of communication media.
THOMAS SELZER, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Interagency Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s note on the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum, noting that participants had described their participation as useful and worthwhile for discussing common problems and learning from each other. The Forum had also indirectly shaped decisions made elsewhere. For example, its work had been reflected in ministerial declarations of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
He noted the spread of the Forum’s national and regional initiatives since 2006, pointing out that, while all regions had different concerns and priorities, Internet access was the top-priority issue in developing countries. Participants had felt there was room for improving the Forum’s agenda, he said, adding that some had said it should be more focused on key elements of Internet governance. Others wanted more time devoted to specific issues, such as freedom of expression, gender equality, and the cost and affordability of Internet access.
After thoroughly reviewing the Forum’s progress, he said, the Secretary-General had determined that its mandate should be extended for five more years beyond the 2010 expiration date. Furthermore, the Secretary-General had recommended that the Assembly give guidance on which policy issues to prioritize in the next five years and prepare a report for the Assembly’s sixty-sixth session on steps taken to improve its format, functions and operations.
MONGI HAMDI, Head of the Science, Technology, and ICT Branch, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels, saying that it noted that, for the first time, many of the world’s poor had gained access to an interactive communication tool. Non-voiced-based applications — including text and picture messaging, Internet access, mobile-money and micro-insurance services — had spread to developing countries, as well as those populations at the “bottom of the pyramid”.
“We must seize every opportunity to make use of them in our efforts to reduce poverty,” he stressed, noting that nearly 1.8 billion people globally were Internet users by the end of 2009. Only 2.4 per 100 inhabitants of least developed countries were Internet users, he said, pointing to such barriers as low levels of fixed telecommunications, lack of awareness and high costs. The report also noted that financing for information and communications technology development remained a key area of concern, and that cybersecurity was a global challenge requiring global solutions, while at the national level, Governments were responsible for ensuring the security of critical information infrastructures.
He went on to stress the importance of online local content, adding that Governments could play a key role in improving access to the market for all software providers, as well as assisting open source software initiatives in accessing market opportunities. However, more needed to be done, he said, warning that without adequate responses from policymakers at all levels, there was an increased risk that new forms of information and communications technology would increase, rather than reduce, inequality.
MOHAMMED AL-HADHRAMI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said information and communications technology had tremendous potential for eradicating poverty, promoting socio-economic development and bridging the ever-widening technological divide between developing and developed countries. However, despite significant recent advances in new technologies, the developmental promise of science and technology, including information and communications technology, remained unfulfilled for most of the poor, and it was vital to promote its transfer to developing countries. The information society should be seen as an important phase and requirement for achieving developmental objectives by bridging both the digital and development divides, he added.
The report of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, he said, called for broadband-friendly practices and policies in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development targets, so as to ensure that broadband connectivity and content serviced development. In recent years, the Internet had become a very important source of information, he said, noting that there were more than 1.9 billion users around the world today. The Group of 77 supported continuation, for another five years, of the Internet Governance Forum, which, through its multi-stakeholder nature, had proven very useful in providing a framework for open dialogue on public policy issues relating to the Internet.
He said the establishment of the working group of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, which would seek to compile and review inputs on improving the Forum, should be open and inclusive so that all parties could contribute. The wide gaps in access to and affordability of information and communications technology must be closed, he stressed, calling for upgrading the quality and quantity of existing telecommunications infrastructure in developing countries. For those nations to benefit from information and communications technology, a greater focus was needed on reducing their cost, including that of broadband connections, and on building capacity for increased use and application in the developing world, he said.
PIERRE CHARLIER (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, recalled that in the five years since the World Summit on the Information Society, the Internet Governance Forum had demonstrated fully the value of the non-decision-making, multi-stakeholder approach to addressing the public-policy issues and challenges relating to the Internet. The high number of participants — including Governments, the private sector, civil society, and many others — had proven the suitability of the multi-stakeholder model to the bottom-up dynamics and diversity of the Internet.
Expressing support for the extension of the Forum’s mandate for another five years, he said it should continue under its present mandate, in such a way as to preserve its main characteristics while maintaining respect for the provisions of paragraph 77 of the Tunis Agenda. Remote participation, which allowed stakeholders with limited travel funds to follow proceedings in the Forum, was another important element, he said, adding that the European Union looked forward to discussing potential improvements to the Forum in the working group.
On the digital divide, he underscored the importance of access to broadband, saying the European Union bloc supported fully the recommendations of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development. Broadband was a key driver of socio-economic development, and information and communications technology had a huge and rapid transformational power in all socio-economic sectors. In closing, he reiterated the European Union’s full commitment to support broadband, particularly in Africa, where a comprehensive partnership framework had been established to support development of the information and communications technology sector.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said he was disheartened that the digital divide remained an obstacle to equal access to information and communications technology and its socio-economic benefits. He also noted with concern the negative impact of the global financial and economic crisis on development, which had affected vital economic sectors and reduced the investment needed to ensure universal access. The implications of reduced investment for achieving the Millennium Goals were troubling, given the technology’s potential to contribute significantly to economic growth and poverty reduction, he said.
It was crucial to develop and promote the information and communications technology sector, in terms of infrastructure development and services, through regional and international cooperation, and public-private partnerships, he said. ASEAN was striving to enhance intra-regional information and communications technology connectivity to increase regional trade, investment, tourism and development for the benefit of all its members, he said, adding that the bloc had the potential to be a hub for the transport, information and communications technology, and tourism sectors. Enhancing intra-regional connectivity would help build a competitive ASEAN community increasingly interlinked with the wider Asia-Pacific region and the world.
Central to the promotion of ASEAN connectivity was the development of links to connect physical infrastructure, multimodal transportation, information and communications technology, and legal infrastructure and software, he said. To that end, ASEAN sought the support and cooperation of dialogue partners among international agencies and development partners. It had set up a high-level task force, in cooperation with relevant international organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), to study the bloc’s internal and external connectivity and develop an ASEAN master plan on regional connectivity, he said.
DORA NATH ARYAL ( Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating with the Group of 77, said information and communications technology remained central to all developmental aspects. It had the potential to provide new solutions to development challenges and to foster economic growth, competitiveness, access to information and knowledge, poverty eradication and social inclusion. Least developed countries faced a great challenge in making its use affordable and readily available to the neediest and poorest, he said. Due to their lack of resources, infrastructure, education and capacity-building, most of them lagged behind in reaping its expected benefits.
He expressed great concern that the developmental promise of information and communications technology remained largely unfulfilled, owing to the wide gap between developed and developing countries in terms of penetration and affordability of information and communication technology. The digital divide threatened the pursuit of sustainable development, and the international community’s efforts, therefore, should be based on reducing it and ensuring that the benefits of information and communications technology were made available to all. In that context, he emphasized the critical need to implement the Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003.
Least developed countries attached great importance to the smooth transfer of information and communications technology and related infrastructures, he said, underlining the need for support in the development of e-governance and e-commerce initiatives through required funding and appropriate technology. The international community must ensure pro-poor information and communications technology policies, with a view to narrowing the digital divide. Furthermore, their applications should be a shared responsibility, he said, calling for a just, inclusive and pro-poor information and communication order.
MIKE MWANYULA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that, in addition to integrating information and communications technology into development initiatives, African countries were implementing national and regional programmes, such as “Africa Society for ICT”, in addition to subregional workshops on information and communications technology, in order to bridge the North-South digital divide. He also pointed achievements in the framework of the Information and Communications Technology Broadband Infrastructure Programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Describing Africa’s progress in information and communications technology as “remarkable”, he said the use of cell phones, low-cost media, new mobile electronic equipment and other innovative and modern channels of communication had made it easier for the rural masses to employ information and communications technology in their daily lives. That was manifested in the banking, marketing, agriculture, education and health-care fields, he said, calling on development partners to support and sustain that momentum. The African Group commended private companies for investing in technological infrastructure such as fibre-optic networks and satellite connections.
Expressing hope that the private sector and civil society would continue to honour their pledges to help the public sector achieve the Millennium Goals, he said the African Group would continue to promote public-private partnerships in order to strengthen the use of information and communications technology in development programmes and plans. Noting that security issues had become urgent due to the rise in cybercrime, he welcomed the report of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, and expressed support for the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum to address Internet-governance policy issues.
JEREMY ADLER (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), expressed support for the multi-stakeholder model in addressing the opportunities and challenges facing the Internet and the global information economy. The five meetings of the Internet Governance Forum held after the World Summit had been successful in fostering global dialogue, promoting cooperation and addressing the digital divide. Moreover, it had served as a constructive platform for dialogue among all stakeholders, which allowed for open discussion on Internet governance issues, he noted.
CANZ joined others in supporting fully the renewal of the Forum’s mandate for another five years without substantial change to its format, he said. It had been an active participant in the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group and had supported participation by developing countries through a contribution administered by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). However, he stressed the need for the Forum to continue evolving and improving, and welcomed its efforts to take heed of suggestions made during the Sharm el-Sheikh consultations. Further, he noted the dramatic increase in remote participation, which had contributed to the fifth Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius.
ZHAO XINLI ( China) said the information society should be people-centred, development-oriented, and inclusive in order to benefit everyone. There was still a “gaping gap” between developed and developing countries in the information and communications technology field, especially in terms of Internet development, with the least developed countries at risk of “information marginalization”, he warned. The Internet Governance Forum should strengthen participation by developing countries, focus on the interests of marginalized and vulnerable groups and countries, and guide the development of the information society to benefit different countries and groups, he stressed.
He noted that in the past five years, the Forum’s budget had not been included in the regular United Nations budget, and its funds had had to be donated by certain countries and organizations. Due to the lack of regular financial support, it was difficult to ensure fairness in the Forum’s secretariat and to guarantee funding for participation by developing countries. In the next five-year period, it would be necessary to include the Forum’s budget in the Organization’s regular budget, he emphasized, adding that its secretariat, operations and other relevant mechanisms should be improved. Paragraph 78 of the Tunis Agenda should be implemented to create a cost-effective bureau to support the Forum so as to ensure balanced participation by regions and countries, he said.
Turning to his own country’s efforts, he said the Government of China advocated and actively supported the development and application of the Internet nationwide. China had the most Internet users in the world, and the rapid development of the national Internet industry benefited from a policy favouring of reform and sustainable development, he said. China would continue to promote Internet development, encourage the use of new technology to provide new services, meet the growing and diversified needs of its population, and administer the Internet in accordance with national law, he said.
ALVARO AUGUSTO GUEDES GALVANI (Brazil), associating with the Group of 77 and China, stressed that in order to harness the full potential of information and communications technology in supporting the pursuit of all international development goals, the United Nations system must be enabled to play the pivotal role it had been mandated to perform at the World Summit on the Information Society. The international focus must be on measures to overcome the digital divide and ensure adequate treatment of cyberspace. Policies must be discussed and implemented to ensure that Member States could benefit equally from the new potential of instant networking, he said.
He went on to emphasize the critical importance of free or low-cost access to information, education, cultural goods, and the promotion of cultural diversity — in line with the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression. Brazil was concerned about the insufficient progress made in implementing the Digital Solidarity Fund and its mechanisms, and therefore called on other Member States to adhere to and support its activities. South-South cooperation in the use and development of information and communications technology was crucial in strengthening national capacities, he said, emphasizing that the building of an open, inclusive, diverse and reliable information society depended on the deployment of democratic intergovernmental decision-making processes. The United Nations was the forum of choice in that respect.
TARIQ AL-FAYEZ ( Saudi Arabia) said his country’s Government had focused on progressively liberalizing the information and communications technology sector, focusing its policies on achieving the goals of the information society. It was strengthening frameworks in that field to strengthen cybersecurity, and had also adopted a national policy on science and technology, which served as a framework for continuing development efforts to sustain Saudi Arabia’s long-term information and communications technology goals. The adoption of a national communications plan on information and communications technology was part of that effort, and it involved Government, the business community, e-training programmes and other sectors and initiatives.
Calling for international cooperation on the transfer of knowledge and for a reduction of the digital divide, he said his country was in third place in terms of Internet use in the Middle East, with 9 million users. Saudi Arabia’s Al-Abdullah Institute for Science and Technology was an important centre for technology and development, while local universities used their technological knowledge to help develop industry. Saudi Arabia played an active role in all regional meetings aimed at developing information and communications technology in all technological fields, he said, reiterating the country’s support for the Tunis Agenda. It was also an active participant in all meetings of Arab communications ministers.
THOMAS SCHNEIDER ( Switzerland) noted that his country, as a regular contributor to the Internet Governance Forum’s voluntary trust fund, was pleased that the Forum’s budget had been increasing steadily as a result of more contributors. For that reason, Switzerland supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend the Forum’s mandate for five more years. He pointed out that the vast majority of stakeholders were not calling for fundamental changes to the Forum’s set-up, but for further refinements based on the current model. However, the Forum had not devoted sufficient attention to the issues of critical Internet resources, development and human rights, and Switzerland thus requested that human rights be the subject of a main session.
He went on to note that, while the Forum had had a clear impact on improving the inclusion of developing-country stakeholders in the debate, there was still room for improvement. Of the 124 responses received in the formal consultations, only six had proposed a change in the Forum’s funding, from the well-proven voluntary model to a mechanism within the regular United Nations budget. He urged all Member States to adopt the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend the Forum’s mandate for another five years and to participate in the Working Group. The decision by the World Summit on the Information Society to let the General Assembly decide on the continuation of the Forum was a wise one, he added.
JEREMIAH LO ( Singapore) said information and communications technology was a key enabler of his country’s economic competitiveness. Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority worked with private and public organizations to spearhead the strategic use of information and communications technology in various sectors, such as education, health-care, manufacturing, logistics, tourism, transport, entertainment and finance. It also worked with other public agencies to improve e-Government services, he said, noting that today, about 1,600 public-sector services were available online.
The Authority was driving efforts to make those services available on mobile platforms, he said, adding that, beyond the business and Government sectors, it was developing initiatives to encourage the less “savvy” to adopt and use information and communications technology in a more sophisticated way. The Authority helped low-income households, senior citizens, and people with disabilities to acquire computers and get connected to the Internet, he said, adding that it also had the longer-term benefit of enhancing the education of future generations.
Singapore’s 2009-2014 Master Plan for ICT in Education aimed to strengthen the integration of information and communications technology into curriculum assessment and pedagogy, create environments for teachers to reflect and learn from each other, improve the sharing of best practices and successful innovation, and enhance information and communications technology applications for students. The Singapore Cooperation Programme shared technical and system skills with other developing countries, he said, noting that since 1992, it had organized courses for trainees from 169 countries on economic development, education, environmental management, public administration, governance and information and communications technology.
JOHN SAMMIS ( United States) stressed the importance of information and communications technology in promoting the sustained and inclusive growth that developing States required to realize the Millennium Goals. However, its social and economic benefits could not be realized without ensuring that States safeguarded the environment that made advances possible. Societies must therefore be stewards of free innovation, he stressed, adding that the Internet Governance Forum was a prime example of such a vision as it had proven itself an essential venue for information-sharing and international dialogue.
It was clear that in its current, multi-stakeholder form, the Forum was realizing the vision set forth by the World Summit, he continued, adding that, for that reason, his country shared the view that the Forum must be renewed within its current mandate. The United States delegation looked forward to finding new ways to increase the participation of developing States, a key issue to be left to the experts of the working group for further examination. He expressed hope that the cross-cutting themes of development and capacity-building would find renewed emphasis in future Forums.
SAVIOUR BORG (Malta) expressing support for the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend the Forum’s mandate until 2015, said his country was making great strides in creating the right environment to advance information and communications technology for development in all spheres of life. In the last decade, Malta had worked to become a regional centre of excellence, and had built SmartCity Malta, a state-of-the-art information technology and media hub. The eSkills Alliance Malta aimed to ensure that the country offered the best possible information and communications technology professionals needed in the industry, both nationally and internationally, he said, adding that discussions on the creation of an eSkills Competence Framework were under way.
Internationally, he said, Malta was working to share its information and communications technology knowledge through its overseas development policy by supporting local non-governmental organizations active in development and humanitarian aid. Through the CONMET Foundation for ICT Development, the Government of Malta and the Commonwealth Secretariat were helping Commonwealth and other developing countries transform the potential of information and communications technology through capacity-building and technology transfer, as well as by creating national strategies and telecommunications regulatory frameworks and e-Government services, he said. Malta’s DiploFoundation Capacity Development in ICT Policy and Internet Governance for Africa-Caribbean-Pacific was training key beneficiaries and institutions in Internet governance and information and communications technology policy, he added.
GOVINDRAO ADIK ( India), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said information and communications technology had made the world a global village in which distances, barriers and boundaries had become meaningless. With the mobile phone, personal computer and Internet now key enabling tools for development, developing countries must harness, and be assisted in harnessing, their benefits. He noted that enhancing the penetration of information and communication technology into developing countries was a target under Millennium Goal 8, adding that the fact that some developing countries had achieved 100 per cent mobile penetration demonstrated the possibility of their “leapfrogging” the cycle of technology development.
He aid his country was happy to be one of the success stories of mobile telephone penetration, pointing out that the Indian’ model was being used an as example in other developing countries, because its mobile telephony costs were among the lowest in the world. However, while information and communications technology had brought immense benefits to development worldwide, it had also brought with it challenges that must be collectively overcome, including cyber attacks. To that end, the international community must work closely to confront the transnational nature of cyber threats, he stressed. As for broadband connectivity, greater efforts were required, particularly by the international community, to bridge the digital divide, he said.
ELYES LAKHAL ( Tunisia) recalled that world leaders had reaffirmed in September the importance of information and communications technology for development and committed particularly to promoting its use. The outcome document of the recent Millennium Development Goals summit called for upgrading the quality and quantity of existing telecommunications infrastructure, supporting modern information and communications technology applications, as well as increasing connectivity while boosting access to and investment in innovation and development, so as to expedite realization of the Millennium Goals.
Emphasizing that the Committee should monitor an annual review of progress toward those objectives, he applauded the fact that the target set by world leaders at the World Summit on Information Society to ensure that more than half of the world’s people had access to information and communications technology by 2015 had already been met, thanks largely to the mobile revolution. Still, many development challenges remained and new ones were emerging due to the economic and financial crisis. There was a need to narrow the digital gap between developed and developing countries in terms of broadband access and programme content, he stressed.
Broadband was critically for deploying the most recent Internet-based services and advancing socio-economic development objectives, mainly in education and health care, he said, pointing out that it would not be possible to have more countries participate in the global digital economy without narrowing the gap in broadband access between developed and developing countries. Many applications did not operate effectively without sufficient broadband. Expressing his country’s support for continuation of the Forum’s mandate, he said Tunisia had launched important initiatives nationally, regionally and internationally to enhance the visibility of its information and communications technology and business-process outsourcing sectors.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), associating with the Group of 77 and China, underscored the need for greater efforts to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries, least developed countries, in Internet access and broadband connectivity. In light of the negative effects of the global financial and economic crisis on their respective capacities to mobilize funding, he said his delegation shared the Secretary-General’s concerns regarding the impact of the crisis on the progress achieved in the diffusion of information and communications technology. Egypt also supported continuation of the Internet Governance Forum for another five years in keeping with its current mandate and multi-stakeholder nature.
He went on to say that his country looked forward to the working group’s report, and expressed hope that it would provide recommendations for tackling the means to enhance the participation of stakeholders from developing countries, among other things. Egypt was committed to the broader World Summit process through its continuous collaboration with regional and international partners for the development of the international agenda for the information and communications technology sector, as well as through its recommendations of specific priorities and actions. Egypt had consolidated its national efforts to implement World Summit recommendations by developing the adequate infrastructure, programmes and policies needed to achieve the goals of the Information Society, he added.
ALMAT IGENBAYEV (Kazakhstan) said the information and communications technology revolution had immense potential to accelerate growth in the developing world, and called on developed countries to make good on their promises to increase financial and technical assistance to developing countries, promote exchange and cooperation among States, and give full play to the role of information and communications technology in achieving the Millennium Goals. The international community must also bridge the digital divide, he said, calling for effective partnerships in sharing knowledge and technology.
Countries should also formulate their own information and communications technology development strategies, he said, noting that the effective use of such technologies, and access to the Internet, was important for his own country’s socio-economic development. The Government of Kazakhstan encouraged a climate conducive to investment in addition to a legal, political and regulatory framework suitable for economic development and growth. Kazakhstan supported fully an extension of the Forum’s mandate for five more years and consideration of improvements to its format, functions and operations, he said.
Global sustainable development required greater transfer of technology and knowledge to developing countries, he said, adding that the Government of Kazakhstan understood the importance of e-governance. It had mandated that every State agency have a global web presence and that all high-ranking national officials maintain their own blogs and host regular blog conferences. In April, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs had honoured and recognized Kazakhstan for its e-governance system, he recalled, pointing out that by 2008-2009, most Kazakh schools and universities had been equipped with their own computer centres, boasting the latest generation of computers, and enjoying quality access to the Internet.
BENEDICT LUKWIYA (Uganda), associating with the Group of 77, the African Group, and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that while Uganda had made some progress in implementing the outcomes of the World Summit, it still faced several challenges, such as low information-technology literacy, high Internet-access costs. “Old” mindsets or cultures and low-income levels were shared among developing countries and must be overcome in order to realize the full benefits of information and communications technology, he said.
He stressed that security, privacy and openness on the Internet were mutually reinforcing preconditions for enabling users freely to express themselves and access information, he continued. In light of potential increased demand for secure services, there must be a requirement for some regulatory safeguards to ensure the security and stability of the Internet for all its users, he said, stressing the importance of that issue. An extension of the Internet Governance Forum’s mandate would enable it to address the issue more intensively, as well as questions of cybercrime and terrorist use of the Internet. Those challenges justified the urgent need for Member States to engage in international legal cooperation, he added.
With regard to Africa, he said great priority had been placed on increasing basic access to information and communications technology needs, as well as strengthening Internet governance on the continent. He noted, however, that Africa did not see within the Forum the kind of space for solutions that it longed for, and countries on the continent had therefore shown minimal interest in the international process. Nevertheless, there was a need for more serious engagement by developing countries in the Forum’s activities, he said.
PALITHA KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said the recent Millennium Development Goals summit outcome document echoed the need to strengthen public-private partnerships in order to enhance the role of information and communications technology in empowering societies and income groups, particularly through access to the relevant education. He called for the exploration of new avenues to use information and communications technology as a catalyst for the global development agenda and to bridge the digital divide. Sri Lanka supported the extension of the Forum’s mandate for another five years, and stressed the need to link the Forum to regional Internet governance initiatives.
He said the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka had created programmes and strategies such as the e-Sri Lanka Development Project, a national information technology action plan. It entailed building information infrastructure and an enabling environment, developing human resources in information and communications technology, modernizing Government and citizen services, leveraging the technology for socio-economic development, and promoting Sri Lanka as an information and communications technology and knowledge hub in South Asia.
Thanks to those policies, computer literacy had jumped from 5 per cent in 2005 to almost 30 per cent today, he said. Cognizant of the national digital divide, the Government had set up rural information and communications technology centres and a “one laptop per child” project, he continued. It had also launched a public-private partnership project, with World Bank assistance, to build an open-access, high-speed optical fibre backbone network to enhance Internet access. The Government’s flexible regulatory environment encouraged Internet service providers from the private sector to operate independently, he said, emphasizing, however, that it had introduced stringent laws to prevent Internet pornography and child abuse.
MAHMOOD ABDULAAL (Bahrain), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said his country’s national strategies focused on the use of information and communications technology for the benefit of development in the economic, social and cultural spheres. In line with Millennium Goal 8, Bahrain had used it to create real progress in the areas of governance, production, human development, medicine and construction. “We cannot focus exclusively on communications and technology for development,” he said, underscoring the importance of technologies that more effectively protected the environment as key to sustainable development.
On governance for development, he said the United Nations report on e-governance for the period 2009 to 2010 ranked his country third among 192 countries, which showed Bahrain’s true success in that regard. In light of its success in statistics, observation and data collection, the country had drafted its first population census during the first half of 2010. As for education and health-care, the Government had undertaken a pioneer project called “Schools of the Future”, which utilized the most sophisticated technology. The Health Ministry attached great importance to harmonizing information and communications technology with primary preventative health-care strategies, and had launched a centre linking health-care providers with all patients and citizens, he said, affirming Bahrain’s readiness to share the knowledge behind its successes in the e-governance sphere.
ABDUL HANNAN ( Bangladesh) said developed countries had been able to weather the global financial and economic crisis because of their advancement in the information and communications technology sector. But developing countries, particularly the least developed ones, lagged behind in terms of the health of their fragile economies and the information and communications technology field. It was vital to promote the transfer of technology to developing countries so they could keep pace with globalization, he said, emphasizing the need to close the digital divide between developed and developing countries, and to create a “digital dividend” for the South. He expressed support for the recommended extension of the Internet Governance Forum’s mandate for five more years.
Despite being a least developed country, Bangladesh had achieved tremendous success in the information and communications technology field, he said, adding that the Government had enacted “Vision 2021” to digitalize every aspect of governance and development. A national information and communications technology policy was in force, and the Government had identified universal access to information and communications technology as a key way to achieve its development policy objectives and poverty alleviation strategies. The Government had installed some 15,000 kilometres of fibre-optic lines to facilitate nationwide connectivity. It was working to develop the “backbone” infrastructure for promoting broadband connectivity and also considering the establishment of a universal access fund to subsidize connectivity on an equitable basis, especially for rural populations, he said.
LILIAN SILVEIRA ( Uruguay) said it was essential that the international community meet the new challenges of science and technology and provide universal access to information. The Government of Uruguay had initiated efforts in 2007 to produce educational connectivity with the goal of putting into practice the “One Laptop per Child” plan, under which children from the first to sixth grades were provided with laptop computers, while the teaching staff was offered training. Designed to be innovative, the programme had led to the development of an apprenticeship programme for schools.
Furthermore, the State had allocated funds for technology prototypes and programme of maintenance, she said. Nearly 96 per cent of schools today had access to technology and over 371,000 laptops had been provided thus far. Such advances worked towards the provision of equal opportunities for all in order to produce a more inclusive and better-balanced society. Success could be translated to other countries that share similar challenges, she said, calling on the international community and the United Nations to increase their efforts to promote cooperation with least developed countries.
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