The UN Millennium Declaration includes a specific commitment to ensure
that the benefits of new technologies, especially ICTs, are available to
all. Access to information, and thereby to the creation of knowledge, is
considered a critical factor in the development process. On the one
hand, this requires an adequate range of ICT networks and services. On
the other hand, it implies the ability to use those tools to develop
applications that benefit society (learning by doing). But both the
tools and the ability to use them are unevenly distributed.
Despite considerable progress in recent years,
access to ICTs,
notably the telephone, mobile phone, Internet and broadcast networks,
remains unequally distributed.
There are, for example, more televisions in Brazil; more fixed line
telephones in Italy; more mobile phones in Korea; and greater Internet
connectivity in Luxembourg; than in the whole continent of
Africa. Yet the population of Africa, and the needs of its people,
greatly exceeds those of these other countries.
In recent years, these disparities have come to be known as the
“digital divide”. In this part of the agenda, it will be possible to
reflect on the scale of the divide and the multiple causes of it. But
beyond this, the Summit will provide an opportunity to evaluate those
success stories that have allowed an increasing number of developing
countries to develop world-class ICT networks and services. For many,
the route to success has involved a combination of private sector
participation, market liberalization and the creation of independent
regulatory agencies. It is anticipated that country case studies,
designed to illustrate best practice examples, will provide an important
input to the work of the Summit.
In passing the Resolution, UN Members States declared themselves
to be convinced of the need,
at the highest political level, to marshal the global consensus and
commitment required to promote the urgently needed access of all
countries to information, knowledge and communication technologies for
development so as to reap the full benefits of the information and
communication technologies revolution. Under this part of the
agenda, the global consensus and commitment needs to be converted into a
plan of action. This would be geared towards converting the digital
divide into a digital opportunity.