Press Release
International Telecommunication Union

ITU Launches a Multi-million Dollar Project
to Bridge the Global Digital Divide

Geneva, 17 May 2001The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) announced today the launch of its Internet Training Centres Initiative for Developing Countries (ITCI-DC),a multi-million dollar project aimed at closing the gap in Internet and "new economy" skills in developing countries. Launched on World Telecommunication Day, held this year on the theme of "Internet: challenges, opportunities and prospects", ITU’s Internet Training Centres Initiative is considered a tangible contribution to sustainable development in a partnership approach.

Under the initiative, ITU plans to establish 50 training centres to provide skills in Internet Protocol (IP) networking and services by July 2003 in existing non-profit institutions in developing countries. It is expected that the centres will also function as incubators to help small and medium-sized enterprises to develop Internet-related services.

Fifteen sites are expected to be rolled out by the end of 2001, another 20 by the end of 2002 and a further 15 by mid-2003. Each centre initially involves a partnership between the ITU, industry partners, relevant government agencies, not-for-profit training institutions and local service providers. At the end of the project however, it is expected that each training centre will be sustainable and self-financing.

Leaders and experts around the world increasingly recognize human resource capacity development as one of the most crucial ingredients for developing countries to bridge the Digital Divide. Through a "train-the-trainers" approach, ITU will work with public and private sector players to provide students and telecom/IT professionals in developing countries with access to affordable and relevant training in a mentored e-learning environment. It will also provide funding to enable trainers to participate in the programme and for additional tools and reference material. It will also coordinate the activities and help each Internet Training Centre develop a liaison with those providing the necessary national infrastructure.

Following an appeal to the industry to contribute to this ambitious and important project, the first partner to have confirmed participation is Cisco Systems which will contribute, through the Cisco Networking Academy Program, in-kind contributions totalling several millions of dollars. The contributions, to be spread over three years, will take the form of staff training, Web-based curriculum and tools as well as networking lab equipment. Discussions are under way with a number of other industry partners to join.

"The overriding objective of this initiative is to ensure that growth in IP networking delivers maximum benefits to the global community," said Hamadoun Touré, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT). "It is part of a global partnership drive with public and private sector organizations which creates a win-win opportunity for all stakeholders in digital opportunities to invest in the brain trust for the new economy", Touré added. He also stressed that the Internet Training Centre initiative illustrates the new wave of ITU action in the field where programmes are tight, focused and limited in time and where benefits can be assessed concretely.

"In many developing countries, students face particular difficulties gaining access to any kind of training," said Manuel Zaragoza, of BDT’s Human Resources Development Unit. "In Africa, for instance, high costs force universities to restrict full Internet access to staff or, at most, graduate students." Thus, partnerships between the local centre and a national service provider may take the form of low-cost connectivity in return for cost-based training for a number of staff. The programme objectives include finding ways to assist student placement in local companies, especially for the most successful students.

In response to the call for concrete commitments of resources, programmes and initiatives by the third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries being held in Brussels from 14 to 20 May, priority will be given to these countries wherever training institutions have the appropriate infrastructure, such as routers, switches, computers and Internet access as well as available staff. Consistent with the recommendations of the ITU Gender Task Force, participation in this programme by women is encouraged.

In the future, ITU will also work with international agencies and not-for-profit distance-learning institutions to make their learning materials available in each Internet Training Centre.

The project is part of ITU’s plans for capacity-building through human resources development and management in developing countries as endorsed by the ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference of 1998 in programme 6 of its Valletta Action Plan.

About ITU

The ITU is a worldwide organization which brings together governments and industry to coordinate the establishment and operation of global telecommunication networks and services. The Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) is the development arm of the ITU, the main responsibility of which is to foster telecommunication development in developing countries through policy advice, provision of technical assistance, mobilization of resources and initiatives to extend access and bridge the digital divide.

More information about the Cisco Networking Academy Program is available at http://www.cisco.com/edu/academies.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Manuel Zaragoza
Project Coordinator
ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT)
Tel: +41 22 730 5428
E-mail: manuel.zaragoza@itu.int

Press Office
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