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
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.