Information and communication technologies have great potential in fighting poverty. Yet, the benefits of ICTs are far from having been harnessed. The availability, use and deployment of ICTs vary considerably between rural and urban areas, according to the income level of people, their level of education, their age and their gender.
This is why, to celebrate this year’s World Telecommunication Day on 17 May 2002, ITU members have selected the theme "ICT for all: empowering people to cross the Digital Divide".
ICT can connect individuals, small companies or groups of artisans in the poorest and most isolated areas of the world and bring them to the attention of national and even global markets. It makes it possible to leapfrog poor transport infrastructures so that distance from markets is no longer a drawback and inadequate, complex or costly distribution channels become a thing of the past.
How can these inequities be redressed? Technology itself is just the beginning. How that technology is put to use in the service of development must also be considered. While much has already been done, more action is needed by governments, industry and civil society if all humanity is to benefit from ICT.
World Telecommunication Day 2002 is therefore an excellent opportunity to launch public campaigns and advocacy activities in favour of equal access to ICT for all those who find themselves at an information disadvantage. The challenge is to empower all people to cross the Digital Divide.
Countries are invited to celebrate this year’s World Telecommunication Day by organizing national programmes that would address:
how to measure and take stock of the situation concerning ICT access, and in particular, with respect to women in rural areas
how to put into place policies that would help break down the gender and geographic barriers in ICT access (review of policy and regulatory frameworks and legislation)