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23rd Session (2001)

General Debate: Pakistan

Statement by Ambassador Shamshad Ahmad, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations (30 April 2001)

Mr. Chairman,

As we prepare to mark the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, let me begin by paying tribute to all those media persons who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The World Press Freedom Day is certainly the right occasion to acknowledge the achievements of such individuals.

My delegation joins the Committee in extending a warm welcome to Armenia and Libyan Arab Jamahiriya as the new members of the Committee. We hope that the admission of new members will bring fresh ideas to the work of this Committee.

I would also like to associate myself with the statement made by the Islamic Republic of Iran on behalf of Group of 77 and China.

We have noted various reports submitted by the Secretary General on different aspects of the work of the Committee on Information. I am certain that the Committee, during its deliberations, will reflect on these reports with a view to promoting the objectives set out by the General Assembly in the field of public information and communication as a means to strengthen peace and international understanding.

Mr. Chairman,

Modern information technology is the key to progress and prosperity. The advancement in information technology has taken place at an unprecedented pace radically transforming all areas of human activity.

Though the flow of information has become a global phenomenon transcending state boundaries, application of information technology still remains restrictive. While the developed countries are coming closer by mutually sharing their technologies in various fields, the developing world lags behind in benefitting from the ongoing information and technology revolution. It is true that today millions of people can access the information highway, but the fact remains that member states of this august body are at completely varying levels of development in terms of their access to information and communication. This imbalance in the global information and technology revolution needs to be corrected so that its benefits are shared on a more just and equitable basis by all.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out that everyone has the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” The Millennium Declaration also proclaimed the right of universal access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

The Secretary General’s Millennium Assembly’s report had very timely taken a close look at this digital divide. I quote what the Secretary General said in his report: "At present a yawning digital divide still exists in the world. There are more computers in United States than in the rest of the world combined. There are as many telephones in Tokyo as in all of Africa."

In his report, the Secretary General also noted that the United Nations had not fully tapped the potential of the Information Revolution. Inadequate information technology infrastructure, lack of training and change-resistance culture were mentioned as main impediments in this regard. We fully agree with the Secretary General’s assessment that there is a need to update and upgrade the UN’s internal information technology capacity to make the entire UN system fully equipped and better integrated to provide the people with information and data needed by them. This objective could only be achieved through efficient, qualified and experienced leadership, which provides professional guidance and understands the dynamics of the new revolution.

We welcome Secretary General’s initiative called United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) for training groups of people in developing countries to apprise them of the uses and opportunities in the field of information technology. We also welcome the establishment of an ICT Task Force in the UN. We hope that DPI would closely coordinate with the ICT Task Force not only to develop the UN capacity in the field of information technology but also to help bridge the digital divide.

We have also noted with interest DPI’s electronic mail-based news alert service which is expected to be launched before the next General Assembly session. The service, which will be organized both on regional and thematic lines, is a welcome initiative, though extra care needs to be taken to ensure that news breaking and news alert are accurate and free of any bias.

The Secretary General’s goal to have a universal and transparent information network would certainly be instrumental in addressing numerous problems and difficulties faced by the international community, including under-development, poverty and deprivation.

Mr. Chairman,

Pakistan attaches great importance to the work being done by the UN in the areas of information and communication. We also appreciate the work of the UN Information Centers (UNIC) in various countries. We believe that the United Nations Information Centers should serve as UN window to the outside world by disseminating knowledge and information on global affairs. However, we believe that an emphasis is needed on introducing technological innovations into the working of UNICs.

The close cooperation between the UNIC’s officials and the host government is very essential. DPI should ensure that its representatives operate in close harmony with the host country officials. Professionally efficient and impartial personnel and prudent management of existing resources would certainly improve the functioning of these centers.

Mr. Chairman,

In Pakistan we fully realize the importance of information technology and have taken concrete measures for the development of information technology in the country. The resource allocation in this area has been increased manifold during the last one and a half year. The main focus of this drive is on building Pakistan’s technological prowess in the 21st century by leap frogging into new markets, developing a larger pool of human resource for reverse brain-drain, integrating the software technological infrastructure into modern technological base, promoting e-commerce, and strengthening the technological institutions.

Cognizant of the fact that the use of information technology has to be promoted all over the country, the Government of Pakistan has taken a number of steps to narrow the digital divide in the country. Provision of universal and affordable access to Internet is the top priority in this respect and already a sizeable portion of our population has acquired access to Internet facility. Thousands of Internet kiosks are also being installed in post offices, petrol pumps, railway stations, hotels and airports. The cost of bandwidth for the Internet connectivity has been reduced to a level where it is affordable by the common man.

In line with the Government’s policy on promoting close cooperation amongst the countries of the South in the field of information technology, the Chief Executive of Pakistan, at the Havana South Summit last year announced to establish a South Institute of Information Technology in Pakistan. The process for the establishment of the Institute has already started.

Mr. Chairman,

In today’s world of fierce competition, information is the life line for crucial decision making and strategic planning, not only for governments but also for private and corporate sectors. As this process is gradually gaining speed, the competitive edge of nations is now gauged by their effectiveness in information processing. It will be a pity if the developing countries are made to lag behind because of their lack of access to information or advanced means for obtaining vital information.

The United Nations must come forward to meet the needs of the developing countries and to ensure that the benefits of the information technology are enjoyed equally by the entire humanity. The formidable challenge before the UN is to bridge the ever increasing digital divide and to link the have-nots of the world to the information connectivity highway. If the UN could help an individual from a poor country acquire his or her first newspaper, first television or first computer on his journey on this information highway, then it would deem to have succeeded in promoting the universal access to information technology.

I thank you Mr. Chairman.

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