[Steering] UN ICT Task Force launch

Gareth Shearman shearman@victoria.tc.ca
Mon, 12 Nov 2001 09:11:37 -0800

Event: launch of the United Nations Information and Communication
Technologies (ICT) Task Force.

When: on November 20 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am.

Where: UN Headquarters in New York, ECOSOC Chamber.

Who: José María Figueres Olsen, Special Representative of the UN
Secretary-General on ICT, former  President of Costa Rica and a leader
digital development in his country.

Speakers will include Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as UN
Assembly President Dr. Han Seung-soo and ECOSOC President Martin

Mr. Annan's opening statement will be followed by the launch of the Task

Force Website and Portal and the lighting of the IT Globe -- a
state-of-the-art technology which, through high-resolution satellite and

aerial imagery, delivers a streaming, 3D map of the entire world.

The ICT Task Force is mandated by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to
new, creative and quick-acting means to spread the benefits of the
revolution--from which four billion of the world's people are currently

The members of the Task Force come from the public and private sectors,
from civil society and the scientific community, and from leaders of the

developing as well as the most technologically advanced countries.

The launch, originally scheduled for September 14, was rescheduled due
the tragic events in New York.

Please visit the ICT Task Force site to be launched on 20 November:

See attachment for further details.

Here is the content of the attached file:

Taking action where the 'divide' runs deepest

Information and communication technologies are creating a new global
information society - from which four billion of the world's people
currently are excluded.
The ICT Task Force of the United Nations has been set up by
Secretary-General Kofi Annan to find new, creative and quick-acting
means to spread the benefits of the digital revolution and avert the
prospect of a two-tiered world information society.
The Task Force represents in its composition the public and private
sectors, civil society and the scientific community, and leaders of the
developing and transition economies as well as the most technologically
advanced. Operating under the aegis of the United Nations, it is well
positioned to build strategic partnerships and to meld diverse efforts.

Electronic Spring
The world's less advanced countries are at a disadvantage in the
high-tech realm, but the electronic revolution may yet prove to be a
springboard to development.
The new global economy elevates the value of sophisticated information
and information technology, while depreciating the return on raw
commodities. In the process, many poor countries have become less
competitive and more marginalized, and their struggle against poverty an
even steeper uphill climb.
Nevertheless, many proponents of digital development perceive signs of
an electronic Spring. Some developing countries have become global
leaders in production of hardware and software. And even in the poorest
countries, access to computers and the Internet is growing fast, albeit
from an extremely low base. The rapid development of wireless access is
one particularly promising avenue for countries in which telephone lines
are unreliable and limited in reach.
  ICT capability can catapult small and medium-sized firms in emerging
economies, and even local artisan guilds in the poorest and most
isolated regions, directly into the heart of regional, national and
global markets. It can leapfrog existing obstacles to development, such
as poor transportation, rickety conventional communication
infrastructure and lack of access to advanced and specialized
information in all fields of human experience. Disasters can be avoided
and miracles, such as medical operations performed by a surgeon with a
live Internet connection to a specialist on the other side of the globe,
can happen.

Pathway to progress
To achieve tangible and sustainable results, action in the area of
ICT-for-development needs to be local; cooperation should be promoted at
the sub-regional and regional levels; and the broad agenda should be set
The contribution of the United Nations to this effort, via the ICT Task
Force, reflects the Organization's unique strengths - legitimacy,
universality, global development reach and experience, and presence on
the ground, as well as its convening and catalytic role.
The Task Force is not envisaged as an operational or executing agency.
For the execution of programmes and projects that it would wish to
promote and support, it will identify appropriate entities and
facilitate connections among interested parties.
The impetus for the Task Force derives from an April 2000 meeting of
independent experts from industry, academia, civil society and
government, convened by the United Nations. Intergovernmental
authorization came in July, in a Ministerial Declaration issued by the
UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Task Force objectives found
further support in the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, and the
ensuing Millennium Declaration.
In November 2000, Jose María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica
and a leader of digital development in his country, was appointed the
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Information and
Communications Technologies.
Consultations with governments and the private sector in the various
regions have elicited strong support and interest for the work of the
Task Force.

Task Force priorities, below, are defined by the ECOSOC 2000 Ministerial
  1. To forge strategic partnerships between the United Nations system,
private industry, trusts and foundations, donor governments, programme
countries, and other relevant international actors.
  2. To pool the experiences of both developed and developing countries
in introducing and promoting ICT for development.
  3. To develop innovative modalities for strengthening the ICT capacity
of the developing countries.
  4. To assist Member States in creation of national ICT strategies,
policy frameworks, and regulatory environment to ensure connectivity and
universal access to ICT.
  5. To promote ICT for development applications: building human
resources and institutional capacity, including e-health, e-education,
e-government, and e-commerce.
  6. To mobilise new and additional resources - financial, technical, and
human - for promoting and funding ICT-for-development programmes and

Harnessing the potential of the ICT revolution for development for all,
for the reduction of poverty, and for the empowerment of those who are
currently marginalized, is a monumental challenge. The speed of global
technological and economic transformation demands substantive and
immediate action on a global scale. The UN ICT Task Force will be
instrumental in transforming the digital divide into a digital

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