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Sunday, 6 October, 2002, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Annan on bridging the digital divide
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Annan: Technology is a powerful instrument
The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, explains why he believes that information and communication technologies can improve the lives of people in developing countries.
The past year has been marked by a great surge in the United Nations' effort to build international consensus around the central goals of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Great hopes have been raised. The challenge now is to translate them into reality.

There is a vast potential for investment growth in the developing countries. Information and communication technologies (ICT) can help us turn this potential into concrete opportunities that will help the poor work their way out of poverty, while at the same time benefiting the world community as a whole.

ICT is not, of course, a magic formula that is going to solve all the problems. But it is a powerful tool for economic growth and poverty eradication

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But bridging the digital divide, in Africa and elsewhere, is a formidable task that requires not only leadership, but also a major commitment of resources.

UN Millennium Development Goals
Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Achieve universal primary education
Promote gender equality and empower women
Reduce child mortality
Improve maternal health
Combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases
Ensure environmental sustainability
Develop a global partnership for development
All 189 UN members have pledged to meet the goals by 2015
With innovations such as wireless fidelity, commonly known as wi-fi, and other low-cost technologies and business models that are now being explored, we should aim to provide cheap, fast, and eventually free access to the internet.

But investments will still be necessary, not only to ensure that people have the technical skills and the literacy level needed to use information technology facilities and service them, but also to create content that reflects the interests of that part of the world.

Clearly, if we are to succeed, the process must engage all stakeholders - donors, the private sector, civil society organisations, governments, and especially those in the developing world itself.

The Millennium Development Goals, adopted by the world community at the highest level, should help rally all stakeholders around a common agenda.

ICT is a powerful instrument for speeding up the realisation of these goals.

Now is time to think of partnerships and initiatives for concrete programmes and projects that will make a difference on the ground.

Kofi Annan was speaking at the a meeting of the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force in New York on 30 September.


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16 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
02 Oct 02 | Technology
03 Oct 02 | Technology
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