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Americas Region meeting defines ICT development priorities

Broadband infrastructure deployment and affordable Internet access main objectives

Santa Marta, Colombia, 15 September 2009 — The Regional Preparatory Meeting in the Americas for the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference 2010 (WTDC) concluded Friday in Santa Marta, Colombia with delegates reaching consensus on regional strategies to foster the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The agreed strategies and priorities will serve as inputs to next years WTDC.

The meeting was opened by the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies for Colombia, Ms María del Rosario Guerra in the presence of Mr Marcos Mejía, representing the Governor of Magdalena; Mr Juan Díaz Granados, Mayor of Santa Marta, the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid; and Mr Daniel Enrique Medina, Vice-Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, who was nominated Chairman of the meeting.

The Opening Session was broadcast live on national television networks, focusing on the role of ITU as well as Colombia’s national Compartel programme, which has connected public institutions, including schools and libraries to ICTs. The initiative has launched special programmes to promote online government services, computers for education and assistive technologies for persons with disabilities as well as safe Internet use. In addition, Compartel has funded two floating Internet centres that sail on rivers and along the Pacific coast, bringing ICT services to remote communities.

The Chairman of the meeting, Mr Daniel Enrique Medina underlined the need to narrow the digital divide by reducing the barriers to entry and deployment of ICTs in the region. The meeting agreed that five initiatives were a priority in the Americas region: emergency communications, digital broadcasting, broadband access and uptake, reduction of Internet access costs, and human capacity building, with emphasis on people with disabilities or living in rural and deprived urban areas.

Mr Al Basheer recognized the rapid growth of ICT in the Americas region, essentially a result of the deployment of mobile technologies. However, he regarded the imbalance between the countries that have attained higher growth in ICT and those that still have limited access as a barrier to harmonious regional integrated economic development. While 750 million Americans have mobile phone subscriptions, Brazil and Mexico count for two-thirds of all computers in Latin America.

Ms María del Rosario Guerra highlighted the importance of the impact that ICT services have on the quality of life and economic development, including business, trade and commerce. She insisted on the need to lower access costs to foster development and on the major role that the international community has to play to create regional and global strategies to strengthen cybersecurity in order to prevent cyberattacks as well as to protect youth and adolescents in cyberspace.

Following a review of the 2006 WTDC Doha Action Plan, the meeting set priorities for future development consolidated into four broad programmes and five regional initiatives. It also identified topics to be the subject of study over the next four years.

The programmes cover:

  • Information and communication Infrastructure
  • Cybersecurity and ICT applications
  • Enabling environment
  • Capacity building and other initiatives
  • Programmes will be implemented through the creation of tools, the development of training materials, and information dissemination (workshops and seminars), as well as through direct assistance.

    In addition to these four broad programmes and five regional initiatives, the meeting agreed that the BDT should place special emphasis on the unique needs of the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, to provide these economies with dedicated assistance so that the benefits of both programmes and initiatives are made accessible.

    Connect a School, Connect a Community

    The Director of BDT introduced ITU’s flagship initiative ‘Connect a School, Connect a Community’ and took the opportunity of visiting the "Escuela Rodrigo Bastidas de Santa Marta" school, which is also used as a community telecentre. Noting that this project fully illustrated the philosophy of ITU, Mr Al Basheer declared, "ICTs have a multiplying and inclusive effect: connecting one is connecting many. Our flagship initiatives can make a real difference in bridging the digital divide. Colombia is showing the way."

    The meeting was attended by 71 participants representing 20 countries.

    The Chairman’s report will be available here as from 18 September 2009.

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    Updated : 2009-09-16