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Presentation of the Visions and Actions of the Digital Solidarity Fund
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Geneva, Switzerland
20 March 2007

Remarks by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

 

As Secretary-General of ITU, I would like to congratulate the Digital Solidarity Fund on the successes of its first two years of operation. The DSF was created in March 2005 following PrepCom-2 of the Tunis Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). ITU played the leading managerial role in the WSIS, and is therefore proud to have been one of the “Godfathers” of the DSF.
 

In development work, it is often the simplest ideas that are the most effective and successful. Last year, ITU honoured Prof Mohammed Yunus, of the Grameen Bank, for his work in pioneering micro-finance and for the “village phone” project in Bangladesh. Prof Yunus went on to win the Nobel Peace prize.
 

The DSF is also based on a simple idea: that ICT procurement projects should include a 1 per cent digital solidarity levy. The funds raised can then be used for addressing the global problem of the digital divide. Today, with the launch of the digital solidarity label and the presentation of some innovative new projects for bridging the digital divide, we are taking that simple concept a little further.
 

The digital divide is one of the global issues that will shape our common futures in the 21st century. Our success in finding viable and sustainable solutions to bridging the digital divide will determine to what extent we are able to fulfil the WSIS vision of building an inclusive, people-centred and development-oriented information society open to all.
 

We are making tremendous progress worldwide in narrowing the digital divide in basic ICTs – like mobile phones, televisions or dial-up Internet access – through the operation of market forces, technological change and regulatory reform. In particular, where the three critical elements -- market liberalisation, private sector participation and effective regulation – are in place, we have seen rapid growth in the ICT sector. Globally, we have succeeded in bringing access to ICTs to some four billion people worldwide.
 

China and India are the two major success stories. China is now the world's largest ICT market, in terms of the number of users, while India is adding more than 6 million mobile phones each month. Other middle-income developing countries are also making great strides forward.
 

Nevertheless, the problem of the digital divide remains in two particular dimensions:

  • Access to high-speed Internet services, such as broadband or 3G mobile;
  • Access to ICTs in the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, as well as other economies recovering from periods of conflict.
     

In these two areas, market-based solutions are not enough to bridge the digital divide. That is why we welcome the Digital Solidarity Fund initiative that we are honouring here today.
 

On behalf of the membership and secretariat of ITU, as well as the wider WSIS community, I wish the Digital Solidarity Fund every possible success in its future work.

 

 

 

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