Closing Digital Divide Critical to Social, Economic Development, Delegates Say at Second Committee Debate on Information and Communications Technologies

GA/EF/3432
28 October 2015
Seventieth Session, 21st & 22nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Closing Digital Divide Critical to Social, Economic Development, Delegates Say at Second Committee Debate on Information and Communications Technologies

Only 5 per cent of households in least developed countries had Internet access, Bangladesh’s delegate told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today, as he expressed concern over the “strong probability” that the digital divide would continue to grow and poor nations would be further left behind.

As the Committee began its debate on information and communications technologies (ICT) this afternoon, the representative of Bangladesh, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, urged for the technology constraints of poor countries to be reflected in United Nations debates.

Least developed countries constituted 25 per cent of United Nations Member States and yet they fell far behind in reaching adequate technology resources.  Poor countries had little broadband Internet access, especially in rural areas, he said, as he urged development partners to strengthen the ICT backbone and build necessary infrastructure to ensure easy Internet access for all.

The representative of Zambia, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, also outlined ICT constraints faced by her category of nations, saying that, while the average percentage of individuals using the Internet in landlocked countries had improved from 2.2 per cent in 2003 to 20.6 per cent in 2013, it still lagged behind.  The average for the developing world was 32.4 per cent in 2014 and 40.6 per cent for the world in general.

Landlocked developing countries lagged behind because broadband costs were much higher there than in coastal countries located close to submarine communication cables, she said.  To bridge that digital divide, landlocked States and transit developing countries had to work together to modernize transit facilities.  It was time to “translate what is on paper into reality”.

The representative of the United States called ICT among some of the most powerful tools for enabling social and economic development with their ability to transform markets, create new industries and drive efficiency gains.

Earlier in the day, the Committee concluded its discussion on macroeconomic policy questions, during which several delegates spotlighted the unique challenges of landlocked developing countries.  Paraguay’s delegate stressed the need to increase market access for products originating in landlocked countries.  To protect it from international market volatility, Paraguay had focused on diversifying its economy through the development of the service and tourism sector.

The delegate from Mongolia said his country also aimed to diversify the economy through further integration with international markets.  Its landlocked geography had made Mongolia prone to repeated “boom-bust” cycles.  While it had experienced steadfast growth in the mining sector, its economy had grown more dependent on a few commodity exports and had become more vulnerable to fluctuations in prices on international markets.

Taking to the floor this morning on the issue of macroeconomic policy questions were representatives of Thailand, Zimbabwe, Libya, Kenya, Indonesia, Pakistan, Qatar, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Benin, Republic of Korea, Armenia, Holy See, Common Fund for Commodities, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The representatives of Turkey and Armenia exercised the right of reply.

Addressing the Committee this afternoon on the issue of information and communications technologies were representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Maldives (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), European Union, Israel, Belarus, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Kenya, Ethiopia, Albania, Paraguay, Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia, China, Russian Federation, Nigeria and Armenia.  A member of the International Telecommunication Union also addressed the Committee.

The Chief of Science and Technology at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development introduced the Secretary-General’s report and a note by the Secretariat on information and communications technologies for development.

The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 29 October, to begin its debate on countries in special situations.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to conclude its debate of macroeconomic policy questions.  For background, please see Press Release GA/EF/3431.  In the afternoon, the Committee took up its discussion on information and communications technologies for development.

Macroeconomic Policy Questions

THANAVON PAMARANON (Thailand), associating herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stated that her country had been promoting conventional and innovative means of financing for businesses, including micro, small and medium enterprises as well as small holder farmers, through the provision of “micro and nano financing”.  Her delegation also stressed the importance of empowering local communities for the preservation and full utilization of their traditional knowledge.  The mechanism of liberalized international trade was an inextricable factor for development and financing.  Calling for urgent reforms to the international financial architecture, she added that creditors should provide sound and realistic lending conditions, especially to countries suffering from unfortunate epidemics and natural disasters.

FREDERICK SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, stated that the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would depend on the international financing system that would be in place.  It was imperative that international financial institutions supported the economic growth of developing countries by providing resources while respecting the policy space of sovereign States.  Further, the World Trade Organization (WTO) must pursue development-oriented policies and create a level playing field for fair trade between countries.  His delegation also stressed the importance of a multilateral legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring.

ABDULMONEM A. H. ESHANTA (Libya), associating himself with the Group of 77, said international trade would be vital to attaining the 2030 Agenda.  Structural changes over the last few years had endangered the future of open, non-discriminatory trade based on multilateralism, he said, emphasizing that WTO must be the only framework where international trade would be regulated.  Taking advantage of lessons learnt from the global economic and financial crisis, it was important to review international financial organizations to make them more democratic and better able to respond to the needs of developing countries.  External debt had negatively affected developing countries’ efforts in reaching development.  Money laundering and capital flows to tax havens had slowed development, he said, urging countries to cooperate in the fight against corruption.

ANTHONY ANDANJE (Kenya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country continued to face development challenges which, if not addressed, would adversely impact its efforts to achieve external debt sustainability.  Those challenges included a low export base, budgetary deficits, low commodity prices and the high cost of debt servicing.  His Government had made efforts to address those challenges.  Among them was the promotion of value addition to the country’s traditional export products as well as a medium-term national debt strategy aimed at ensuring that external borrowing was carried out on sustainable and responsible terms.

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said his Government had been working towards economic development and social inclusion on the basis that “no one must be left behind”.  With a focus on the rule of law, Paraguay was fighting money laundering and working to create an environment conducive to investment.  Trade was among the pillars of sustainable development, he said, reiterating the need to increase market access for products originating in developing States, especially landlocked developing countries.  His delegation stressed the need to reduce the volatility of prices on the global market, especially of basic products.  A large sector of developing populations’ livelihood depended on agriculture.  Paraguay was focusing on developing service and tourism sectors as well.  He advocated the implementation of initiatives that fostered dialogue between the public and private sectors and urged Member States to give due consideration to the special challenges of landlocked developing countries.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that sovereign debt in his State had risen sharply, reaching 58.3 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP).  While it had experienced steadfast growth in the mining sector, its economy had grown more dependent on a few commodity exports and had become more vulnerable to fluctuations in prices on international markets.  That lack of diversification had made it prone to repeated “boom-bust” cycles.  His Government aimed to diversify the economy through further integration with international markets and improvement of resource utilization efficiency.

Ms. SUMARNO (Indonesia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said that trade was an imperative source of financing for development, along with advanced official development assistance (ODA).  The challenges of commodities trade, such as volatile prices and their impact on real incomes as a result of speculation, were highly relevant to developing countries, especially in light of recent global crises.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda emphasized the need to sustain or strengthen frameworks for macroprudential regulation and counter-cyclical buffers to address possible systemic vulnerabilities in the financial system caused by capital flow surges and outflows.

NAUMAN BASHIR BHATTI (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that geopolitical tensions and humanitarian crises had added new dimensions to development problems.  The global financial turmoil and the high debt vulnerability of developing countries negatively impacted their ability to create jobs and maintain long-term stability.  A cohesive and resilient global economic system was important and scaled-up international assistance was crucial to attaining the 2030 Agenda.  While the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda was a step in the right direction, meaningful implementation of its commitments was necessary.  The Action Agenda still lacked tangible commitments on the part of developed countries and it had also not addressed the issue of double-counting climate finance.

FAHAD MOHAMMED AL-KHAYARIN (Qatar), associating himself with the Group of 77, called on Member States to focus on creating an environment conducive to sustainable development.  Developing countries had suffered from a slowdown in ODA, investment flows and trade following the 2008 global economic crisis.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda provided a solid basis towards achieving the post-2015 development agenda.  What was now needed was the mobilization and guaranteeing of resources.  Successful partnership between the public and private sector would be vital in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  More than 2.4 billion people still lacked access to safe drinking water, he said, urging a global recommitment to energy, water and sanitation.  He underscored the importance of empowering women in attaining economic growth.  New technologies were a catalyst of sustainable development, he said, stressing the need to transfer clean technologies to developing countries.  He also urged the establishment of a trade system based on multilateralism.

MARÍA CONCEPCIÓN CASTRO MAZARIEGOS (Guatemala) said that sustainable development would require the creation of stable macroeconomic policies that generated growth and created decent work.  For developing countries, the picture of development was not positive because of the rise of prices of commodities and the drop in the price of oil.  It was also necessary to increase investment flow to developing countries.  She suggested that developing countries focus their fundraising in their national space.  She also called for the strengthening of international cooperation in tax matters and proposed that the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters was transformed into an intergovernmental body.

LEULSEGAD TADESSE ABEBE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that international trade could be an engine for poverty reduction, economic growth and job creation when Governments developed an integrated development strategy that integrated trade.  As one of the acceding countries to WTO, Ethiopia reiterated its commitment to join the organization and stated that the negotiation process should be based on the development levels and needs of acceding countries.  In that regard, demand-driven technical assistance should be given to acceding countries before, during and after the accession process.  The guidelines for the accession of least developed countries should be fully implemented.

JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that sound macroeconomic policies were conducive to poverty reduction in his country.  With the 2030 Agenda, the planet had pledged to eradicate poverty in the space of a generation.  The world had been gradually recovering from a financial crisis and the volatility of prices of commodities, including food and energy, had a negative impact on his country’s economy.  It was paramount to bolster cooperation and coordination among international institutions, he said, calling on the international financial system to undergo reform to successfully implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  There was a need to mobilize sufficient resources to aid developing countries, diversify economies and improve global and regional value chains.  For Benin, economic difficulties had always been of concern, he said, reiterating that access to capital was a prerequisite for development.

LIM HOON-MIN (Republic of Korea) said Member States must establish an enabling environment for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  Underscoring the importance of revitalized global partnerships, he said the Committee and other forums described in the Action Agenda must continue their efforts to include the voices of stakeholders.  Private sector entities should be considered not just as a source of financing, but also of innovation and technical development.  The financing for development follow-up process should be integrated within the follow-up and review process of the 2030 Agenda and both processes should be efficient and inclusive.

SOFYA SIMONYAN (Armenia) said that her country had been streamlining a liberal external trade regime through customs rules and procedures, resulting in growth in the foreign trade turnover and better opportunities to integrate into the world economy.  As a landlocked developing country, it fully supported all processes aimed at addressing detrimental barriers to development.  Turkey’s unilateral coercive land blockade against her country unduly inflicted a heavy burden on Armenia’s economy, as well as on businesses in both countries.  Those actions significantly increased import and export costs.  The closed borders blocking her country’s guaranteed access to the sea had been detrimental to international economic cooperation and effective integration with multilateral trading blocs.  Moreover, Turkey, instead of allowing the operation of a highly important state railway (Gyumri-Kars) between the two countries, was financing the construction of a new railroad system that would circumvent Armenia.

JOSEPH GRECH, Holy See, said a multidimensional approach to development was essential to ending poverty, promoting inclusive societies and building an equitable global economic system.  Market forces must be accompanied by solidarity and social justice at the economic, financial, political and environmental levels.  While each country was responsible for its development, he urged mobilizing financing from domestic, international and private sources, as well as ODA.  A specific mechanism could be needed to enhance the prospects for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small islands.  Fair trade regulations and “vigorous” financing for development schemes would also improve the competitiveness of products from weaker countries.

ANDREY KULESHOV, Common Fund for Commodities, stated that the volatility in commodity markets had received much attention in recent years.  Mitigation measures should include investment in capacity for supply response in developing countries.  Vulnerability related to reliance on primary commodities was at the root of development challenges facing commodity dependent developing countries.  The Member States of the Common Fund for Commodities had undertaken a deep reform of the organization, opening it up to innovation from the public and private sector.  Development impact bonds and targeted public-private impact investment funds were two such examples.

AJAY MADIWALE, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that in an age of growing humanitarian need, increasingly intense and frequent natural disasters, protracted crises and cross-border health emergencies, the advances made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda had to be backed by concrete measures on the ground.  There were more than 60 million forcibly displaced people in the world today, the highest since the Second World War and the average period of displacement was now 17 years.  Those people had long-term needs for education, health care, jobs and livelihoods.  The countries and communities which were supporting them also needed support to reduce the strain on infrastructure and basic services that came with large influxes of people.  He called on donors to fulfil their commitment to allocate 1 per cent of ODA funding to disaster risk reduction.

AMBER BARTH, International Labour Organization (ILO), stated that her organization was extremely concerned that “a third faltering” in global growth since the financial crisis began in 2008 would add to the already huge jobs gap.  The persistence of a macro “headwind”, in the form of a continuing deficit in aggregate demand, would not go away without effective policy to counter it.  Further, the labour market policies that had been used to generate employment had caused further slack in the market so much so that many advanced economies were now threatened by deflation, led by weak wages.  The question of macropolicy to boost aggregate demand for output and employment was critical, especially in the face of a third slowdown.

CARLA MUCAVI, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), stated that food prices remained higher than in the years preceding the 2007-2008 spike and were projected to continue at a higher plateau.  Collaboration on agricultural commodity issues between international organizations and Governments was vital for an effective response.  Food import bills were also falling as a result of decreasing international food prices and low-income food-deficit countries were expected to pay 22 per cent less on food in 2015.  While that was good news for poor consumers, declining prices might weaken investment in agriculture.  Stressing that “food prices are not an abstraction”, she added that their movement affected the lives of millions worldwide and required action at the global and local level.

Right of Reply

In an exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Turkey, responding to Armenia, said that Turkey had supported States in special situations, especially landlocked developing countries.  Turkey’s record of economic cooperation spoke for itself, and the remarks made by Armenia on the blockade were baseless.  Turkish goods are exported to Armenia, its airspace remained open to that country and its citizens could visit Turkey with a visa.

In response, the representative of Armenia said the border was blocked unilaterally and it continued to hinder the development of his country, having a devastating impact.  The railroad linking Armenia and Turkey could be operational in days, but instead of allowing it to run, Turkey was building another railroad at the price of $600 million to circumvent Armenia.  It was time to restore trade and transportation links between Armenia and Turkey.

Taking to the floor again, the representative of Turkey said she was interested in hearing the analysis from the representative of Armenia on the 20 per cent of the land Armenia occupied.

The representative of Armenia said it was not clear what occupation the representative of Turkey was referring to.  If the representative meant the occupation of Turkey, then she had no information on that.

Information and Communications Technologies for Development

DONG WU, Chief of Science and Technology, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introducing the Secretary-General’s report and a note by the Secretariat on information and communications technologies for development (documents A/70/63–E/2015/10 and A/70/360) provided some key trends in that field.  The number of mobile subscriptions was almost equal to the world population and half the world’s population would have access to ICT by the end of 2016.  However, the digital divide within and among countries persisted, and while 87 per cent of households in developed countries had Internet access, only 11 per cent of households in Africa had that.  The rapid pace of change had led to the emergence of many new opportunities, especially in the use of big data and analysis.  However, those developments also posed substantial policy and regulation challenges.

LYNDALL SHOPE-MAFOLE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said that while there was encouraging growth in the adoption and use of ICT in both developed and developing countries, access to the Internet was unequal, while fixed and mobile broadband connections were more widely available and affordable in developed countries.  Further, it was disconcerting that least developed countries might fall behind developed and other developing countries in broadband access and use, and rural areas were often disadvantaged in comparison with urban areas.  The gender gap in access to ICT was another phenomenon that the international community should not ignore.

Within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, she added, ICT had enormous potential.  Both the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda had recognized them as “essential development enablers”.  It was vital to enable “those less capable among us” to productively use ICT to derive social and economic gains in numerous areas including health, education, agricultural development, early warning systems and responding to the impacts of climate change.

NORAZLIANAH IBRAHIM (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of ASEAN and associating herself with the Group of 77, said that despite tremendous progress made since the Geneva and Tunis phases of the World Summit on the Information Society, the digital divide and socioeconomic gap between developed and developing countries had yet to be addressed.  According to statistics released in 2015 by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 34 per cent of the population in developing countries would have access to the Internet by December 2015, compared to 80 per cent in developing countries.  That 46 per cent difference underscored the urgent need for progress in bridging the digital divide.

Particular attention needed to be directed at the ICT challenges facing developing countries, including those in Africa, the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries, she said.  Noting the recent establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, she said a robust ICT infrastructure would foster an innovative, inclusive and integrated ASEAN community.  The Association was also on-track towards completion of the ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2015, which had been adopted and launched five years ago to chart the development of ICT in the region.  Mobile, satellite and Internet lines had been upgraded throughout the ASEAN region to enhance communication networks.

EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said the digital divide underscored the need to overcome barriers to the design, dissemination and use of ICT.  He agreed that more attention should be given to measuring and assessing the development impact of such technologies at the national and international levels.  The timing of the review should allow for improving policy and measurement tools.

For its part, CARICOM had identified ICT as an enabler of socioeconomic transformation, he said, and thus had elaborated a vision for a Caribbean information society that would transition the region towards a knowledge-based community.  It had established an “ICT for development” programme, as well as a regional digital development strategy.  Yet, mobilizing resources was a challenge.  The establishment of legal frameworks, greater research and capacity-building were priority areas for further engagement.  Expanding the use of ICT required a multi-stakeholder approach and he urged forging closer linkages between environmental issues and World Summit action areas.

ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that only 5 per cent of households in least developed countries had Internet access.  Most of the poorest countries had very little broadband Internet access in rural areas.  He expressed concern over the “strong probability” that the digital divide would continue to grow and least developed countries would be further left behind.  International cooperation was vital in ensuring the necessary infrastructure and technology transferred in order to provide easy Internet access to people at all levels.

He called upon the international community, organizations, private sector and other stakeholders to provide meaningful assistance in building and strengthening the ICT backbone in least developed countries.  Furthermore, the constraints facing those countries must be adequately reflected in United Nations debates and discussions.  Least developed countries constituted 25 per cent of all United Nations Member States and must be included in the promotion of an information society.  He urged development partners to fulfil their commitments to help eradicate poverty and strengthen productive capacity.

AHMED SAREER (Maldives), speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that, for small island developing States, the opportunity to harness technological innovation and ensure its universal access had huge implications.  However, high transaction costs made it difficult for those States to invest in technology infrastructure.  In light of commitments made in the “Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway”, adopted in Samoa in 2014, he called for support of States’ efforts to gain access to appropriate, reliable, affordable, modern and environmentally sound technologies, increased connectivity and use of ICT.

Those technologies played a huge role in eradicating poverty, he said, adding that connectivity bridged gaps and provided access to public services to large populations in sectors such as e-banking, e-government and e-agriculture.  ICT could also be developed to minimize the risks posed by climate change and disaster through early warning systems, remote sensing and computer-based mapping systems.  Noting the widening digital divide, he said content and technology must be geared towards local needs and priorities while enhancing capabilities of end users to make productive use of the data.  Small island developing States had always been “constrained in finding a seat at the table”.  Processes and discussions on the matter should be transparent and participation in it equitable.

MWABA KASESE BOTA (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said the average percentage of individuals using the Internet in those countries had improved from 2.2 per cent in 2003 to 20.6 per cent in 2013.  While that was a major accomplishment, it still lagged behind others — the average for the developing world was 32.4 per cent in 2014 and 40.6 per cent for the world in general.  Broadband costs were much higher in landlocked developing countries than in coastal countries that were located close to submarine communication cables.

Landlocked States and transit developing countries had to work together to modernize transit and transport facilities, she said.  The Group took note of the importance the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda placed on ICT.  In that regard, she called on the international community to “translate what is on paper into reality”.  Development partners, South-South partners, development banks and the private sector must join to support investments in the ICT sectors and help close the digital divide.

ANTONIO PARENTI, European Union, said the evolution of ICT and the Internet as drivers of innovation and economic growth continued to present new opportunities for the international community as it built an inclusive information society.  His regional bloc and its Member States attached great importance to the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and to the fundamental aim of the World Summit on the Information Society, namely, using technology to improve people’s lives and bridge the digital divide.

The Internet Governance Forum, he added, had established itself as an essential venue for cooperation in the areas of Internet governance, bringing stakeholders together to share best practices and shape policy.  There had been much considered discussion on how to improve the Forum, and the Union supported the work already underway to increase the sustainability of its funding and to ensure that its outcomes were more visible.

TIBOR SHALEV-SCHLOSSER (Israel) said that while over 3 billion people had some form of access to the Internet, “far too many are being left behind” in the technological revolution.  In today’s world, lack of access to the Internet ensured increased isolation and even greater poverty.  He called on the international community to reaffirm its commitments to connect the unconnected.  Lacking natural resources, Israel, through entrepreneurial determination, had transformed from a land of swamps into a “start-up” nation.  Two examples of Israeli ICT innovation were the navigation application, Waze and the USB flash drive.  Israel had a well-earned reputation for technological innovation that helped the developing world.

OLGA VORONOVICH (Belarus) said it was important for the United Nations to focus on ICT issues including consultative technical assistance and the exchange of recent technologies.  That was important for all States, but particularly middle-income countries.  There was a need to bridge the digital divide between developing and developed countries, in terms of standardization and ensuring equal access.  Over the last five years, her country had completed digitalization and developed digital infrastructure.  The Organization had a key role to play in strengthening partnerships to ensure security and minimize risk in cyberspace, she said, calling for an international agreement to that end.  Internet governance must be carried out in a non-discriminatory basis that was transparent and foreseeable.

ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said the continuing digital divide between developed and developing countries did not bode well for sustainable development.  Alarming statistics showed that 78 per cent of households in developed countries had Internet access while only 5 per cent in the least developing countries did.  With the implementation of a carefully calibrated national policy that focused on people, Sri Lanka’s information technology literacy had grown from 3 per cent in 2005 to nearly 50 per cent in 2014.  For example, an ongoing free Wi-Fi project enabled citizens access 100 megabytes (MB) of data monthly at a maximum speed of 512 kilobytes per second (kbps).  Free Wi-Fi connections would be available throughout the country by March 2016 through Google’s Project Loon, giving the entire country universal Internet access.

ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77, said there was more access to ICT around the world, with their innovations impacting how Governments provided services and how businesses interacted with consumers.  However, the digital divide remained a serious obstacle, especially for least developed and middle-income countries.  His country would work constructively to strengthen the multi-stakeholder model.  International coordination was necessary to achieve sustainable development and build a more inclusive society.  His delegation emphasized the need for a “safe and open Internet” and called on Member States to promote investment in sustainable infrastructure.

KENNEDY MOKAYA (Kenya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that his Government in 2013 and 2014 had put together a master plan under Vision 2030 to facilitate the creation of a conducive legal and regulatory environment.  That initiative had resulted in job creation and the growth of businesses related to ICT.  Among its other accomplishments was the completion in 2009 of a strategic rollout of the East African Marine System — submarine fibre-optic cables connecting the country with the rest of the world.  The country’s mobile payments system M-Pesa had revolutionized the banking system in the region in an inclusive way, ensuring that “no one would be left behind” with regard to mobile money transfer.  According to McKinsey & Company, Kenya’s GDP contribution from the Internet in 2014 was at 2.9 per cent, more than double the rest of the continent.  Over 50 per cent of Kenyans now had access to the Internet, primarily through mobile phones.  His Government was also setting up a technology city, Konza Techno City, to create a conducive environment for investment and job creation.

LEULSEGAD TADESE ABEBE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said his State had taken concrete steps towards eradicating poverty by making ICT one of its development priorities.  Through policy implementation, it had improved its ICT infrastructure and continued to harness ICT in the agriculture, education and health sectors.  It had also implemented a national e-government strategy to improve Government services with the enhanced involvement of citizens and the private sector.  His country had inaugurated its first “Ethio-ICT Village” to attract investment in ICT.  As a result, it had increased the number of mobile subscribers, Internet service and connectivity, particularly in school net and court services programmes.  His country would continue its efforts to improve the access to and the quality and affordability of ICT services.

CASSANDRA Q. BUTTS (United States) stated that her delegation saw tremendous value in a World Summit on Information Society 10-year review that would allow the Committee to examine in detail the evidence of the last decade, celebrate the multi-stakeholder efforts that had led to the development of the information society and recognize that continued efforts by all stakeholders must aim to make that information society more accessible and tangible for all people, including the billions who still lacked access.  ICTs were some of the most powerful tools for enabling social and economic development with their ability to transform markets, create new industries and drive efficiency gains.  While the international community was still identifying ways that ICT could be used to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, it was important to focus on providing an appropriate framework where all stakeholders could come together to discuss, collaborate, measure and review their efforts.

INGRIT PRIZRENI (Albania), associating herself with the European Union, said that people’s access to broadband Internet and to reliable data and information was a major driver for the development of a transparent society.  Albania aimed to provide more e-services for its citizens and the business sector, and include digital technologies in the education system.  It focused on extending digital infrastructure countrywide so that ICTs were accessible to everyone.  She reaffirmed that Albania strongly believed that the General Assembly High-level Review Meeting in December would provide Member States with an opportunity to make societies more inclusive and innovative.

FEDERICO ALBERTO GONZÁLEZ FRANCO (Paraguay), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that to attain development goals it was indispensable to take into account the characteristics of the world’s most vulnerable populations.  ICTs were conducive in bridging gaps between developing and developed countries.  His delegation was in favour of discussions on ICTs taking into considerable their relevance to promote cultural diversity and education.  In those discussions, it called for a guarantee on the protection of children and security in cyberspace.  ICTs were critical in expanding markets, development of the services sector and the improvement of Government services.

Mr. PINYOWIT (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said that to tackle the digital divide, technology had to be used to enable sustainable development and people needed to be placed at the centre of such initiatives.  Since 1995, the Distance Learning Programme had been broadcast via satellite from Wang Klaikangwon School to overcome the shortages of teachers in remote rural areas and to ensure every child in the Kingdom had access to quality education.  Currently, approximately 1 million students from 15,000 schools nationwide had access to 15 channels — one channel for each of the 12 grades and three channels representing vocational training, university courses and international programs.  Those channels were broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the digital divide had become even more pervasive than before.  Noting that unprecedented innovation had spurred progress in many societies, he stressed that those trends must work in favour of reducing inequality instead of driving it.  He also voiced concern about the role of the digital divide in increasing social exclusion.  The Brazilian Internet Steering Committee had been established in 1995 on the belief that Internet governance required the full participation of the private sector and civil society, alongside the Government.  In that multi-stakeholder approach different participants had different responsibilities.  Noting that Brazil would be hosting the tenth meeting of the Internet Governance Forum in two weeks, he stressed that the Forum had played a unique and fundamental role in the matter and should have its mandate extended beyond 2015.

RINA SOEMARNO (Indonesia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said that a healthy ICT sector had a positive effect on the economy and society of a nation.  The worldwide spread of mobile telephony and the growth of Internet networks had impacted international production.  More countries were seeking to capitalize on those digital dividends; however, it was not a level playing field.  Developing countries needed to catch up on many facets of ICT and had to expand their infrastructure, including in rural areas.  Noting that the 2030 Agenda recognized the power of ICTs, she emphasized that while building a high-quality ICT ecosystem was important, the international community must also ensure that the information society was people-centred.  The high price of broadband internet access in low-income countries was a matter of concern.

LIU JUN (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that alongside the rapid development of ICT, new technology products such as big data had made human life easier while bringing about great economic benefits.  At the same time, there still existed a digital divide.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda expressed the international community’s consensus on using ICTs for sustainable development.  His delegation believed that there should be measures to support ICT capacity building in developing countries, including through human resource training, institutional capacity building, and transfer of knowledge and technical assistance.  South-South cooperation and North-South cooperation had a valuable role to play in that.

ANTON Y. MOROZOV (Russian Federation) said that the international community must make efforts to reduce the digital divide, while transforming the information society to a knowledge society that was as inclusive as possible.  States had the sovereign right to protect their citizens from crimes on the Internet.  Thus, all countries must have a share in transparent and inclusive Internet governance.  His country would work constructively towards that, he added, stressing that monitoring private data and accessing Internet communications were illegal acts that contravened international law.

RABIU SHEHU (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that the African continent had witnessed growth in investment in international and national broadband infrastructure, improved connectivity, increased bandwidth and services including e-governance and development applications.  Ownership of mobile telephones and internet accessibility had grown rapidly, while some countries within the continent were positioning themselves to export information and communications technology goods and services.  However, broadband deployment in Africa had not kept pace with other regions.  Unless concerted efforts were directed towards redressing the digital divide, many Africans might miss economic opportunities that depended on high-quality communications.

SOFYA SIMONYAN (Armenia), associating herself with the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, underscored the connection between ICTs and sustainable development.  Ten years ago, e-government had been just a vision.  Now it was a reality that was contributing to growth.  The issue of the digital divide must be reviewed, she said, urging Member States to reflect on the role ICTs played in achieving the goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda.  The United Nations had a role in promoting inclusive policies and it was critical that ICTs retain their powerful role in achieving sustainable development. It was also important to reflect on the linkages between poverty eradication and information technologies.

GARY FOWLIE, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), recalled that Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals noted the importance of global connectivity and ICT to advance human progress, while Goal 17 recognized them as an essential means of implementation, to be applied as a cross-cutting enabler for each of the Sustainable Development Goals.  “We have already begun to see an avalanche of innovative solutions” to specific problems that access to ICT could implement, he said, providing a number of examples.  Today, the company Intel estimated that bringing 600 million additional women and girls online could boost global GDP by as much as $18 billion.

For information media. Not an official record.