African Leaders Endorse World Summit on the Information Society
UN Secretary-General supports call for global partnerships to bridge 'Digital Divide'
Geneva, 14 July 2003--The African Union, which includes fifty-three African nations, has passed a resolution calling on world leaders to participate in the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva (10-12 December). The resolution proposes regional and global partnerships between private, public and civil society to ensure that the developing world has equitable access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), which are key catalysts for social, economic and cultural development.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, stated that the existing digital divide, "threatens to exacerbate already-wide gaps between rich and poor, within and among countries." He welcomed the decision of the African leaders and also called upon "leaders from the developed and developing world, private sector and civil society to use the unique opportunity provided by the Summit to forge an action plan that will put technology at the service of human development."
The African Union resolution noted that it was one of its own members, Tunisia, that brought forth the idea of having the United Nations specialized Agency for Telecommunications (International Telecommunication Union) convene the World Summit on the Information Society to ensure the benefits of the information society are extended to all of humanity. Tunisia will host the second phase of the Summit from
16-18 November 2005.
The objectives of the Summit include how best to utilize information and communication technologies to overcome poverty and achieve the development goals agreed by world leaders at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. ICTs are giving rise to innovative ways of delivering community health and education initiatives, and possibilities for new private sector investment, trade and employment opportunities in Africa and other regions.
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The World Summit on the Information Society provides a unique opportunity for all key stakeholders to develop a common vision and understanding and to address the whole range of relevant issues related to the Information Society.
It aims to bring together Heads of State, Executive Heads of the United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society entities, industry leaders and media representatives to foster a clear statement of political will and concrete plan of action to shape the future of the global information society and to promote the urgently needed access of all countries to information, knowledge and communication technologies for development.
The Summit has been endorsed by the UN General Assembly and will take place under the high patronage of Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, with the International Telecommunication Union taking the lead role in its preparation.
The Summit will be held in two phases: Geneva (10-12 December 2003) and Tunisia (16-18 November 2005).