STATEMENT FROM Ireland
It is a great honour to be here in Tunis this evening and
to speak at this the second phase of the United Nations World Summit on the
Information Society. The phrase `information Society' is one that may not be
used in the daily lives of many people around the world. But the power of
technology to change people's lives is understood and accepted.
Much has been said about ICT. Technology is an enabler
and driver of change. However, technology alone cannot and should not
dictate how our societies are developed. We always need to think of the
citizens — as they are the people whom we serve and they must be involved in
deciding their own futures.
I would like to address three issues:
the institutional changes needed to address the emerging
global ICT agenda
Ireland's experience and
who should be involved
Information and Communication Technologies present us
with huge opportunities and challenges. The power, scale and scope of the
technologies together with the speed at which these technologies can be
rolled out present us with new challenges at a global level. Our current
institutional structures may not be sufficiently flexible or capable of
We have seen at this Summit how the role of technology
can both improve people's governance. (e.g. of the Internet) or human rights
issues (e.g. controlled access to the internet). These are new challenges
for us but these are at a global level. To respond effectively to the
challenges we need to build on the global corporate governance structures.
Let's hope the follow on to this Summit will result in the correct
structures being put in place.
This Summit has also raised other issues that challenge
our traditional institutional roles. For example, we have all committed to
the importance of engaging the private sector in the development agenda —
but I am not convinced that we have actually found the best ways of engaging
this sector either in the Prep Coms or even in the broader debate. We have
to be prepared to challenge the existing structures and to facilitate the
development of new structures that will allow the full participation of the
private sector and NGOs in addition to Governments.
In Ireland, we have begun to tap into the huge pool of
ICT expertise in government and business in a new partnership in support of
achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Since the Geneva phase of this
Summit, we have consulted and are supporting business and Third Level
educational institutions as they develop new areas of research into ICT and
development. We are working to develop new bridges and partnerships between
Irish ICT companies and enterprises in developing countries.
We have, in collaboration with other like minded
countries and organisations supported the development of the UN sponsored
Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative. We see the role of education as
absolutely critical in development and we particularly see the role of ICT
within education as very important. This multi-stakeholder initiative,
launched at the first phase of this Summit, works at the local, national,
and international level to support, create, and implement strategies to
harness ICTs for education and community growth. Ireland is working with our
partners to create a strong organisation that will have a positive and
sustainable impact on the ground.
Achieving universal primary education is not only one of
the Millennium Development Goals but it is also critical to the attainment
of all the other goals. Building partnerships is critical to achieving the
goal of universal primary education. This initiative will strive to assist
in the achievement of this critical goal.
Ireland's development cooperation programme works with
some of the poorest people in some of the least developed countries of the
world. Ireland will work with its partner Governments in our programme
countries in support of their national ICT strategies. As stated we want to
see ICTs used to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015. We
believe ICTs can make a vital contribution to the implementation of HIV/AIDS
treatment regimes in countries where millions face death because they have
no access to life-saving drugs.
Development Cooperation Ireland will use ICTs as a new
and powerful tool in its programmes of development cooperation. We will
advocate greater use of ICTs in national poverty reduction strategies. We
will promote regulatory systems which encourage the open flow of information
and widespread access to the Internet and other communications media.
ICTs hold out great promise for the future, and should
help us in our common effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
However, we have to be realistic and pragmatic about their application. The
digital divide in access to ICTs is a symptom of a wider development divide.
Unless we tackle the root causes of global inequality and injustice, we will
not bridge the digital divide.
The Information Society is about understanding the
challenges and looking at solutions that technologies makes possible –
technologies that have opened up many new doors to rich sources of
information and knowledge. As a global society, we must ensure that all our
citizens enjoy the benefits and the opportunities that an inclusive people-centred
Information Society offers. If we do not ensure this, we will be remiss in
our responsibility and duty as governments.
I congratulate the Tunisian Government on hosting this
the second phase of the UN World Summit on the Information Society. The
Irish government is committed to ensuring that this Summit is a success and
that its commitments to the world are delivered. In referring to the
follow-up to the Summit I would make a strong appeal that we seriously
consider ensuring inclusion not just of Governments but also
non-governmental organisations and the private sector. We must also ensure
that those charged with driving the development of the agenda include those
people outside the economic sphere – the poets, the musicians, the
philosophers, the theologians and the social workers not to mind young
people, disabled and the marginalised. I would not like to live in a world
designed and regulated by technologists, business people and governments.
Let's ensure that we live in an inclusive society and let's use the
opportunities provided by Information and Communications technologies to
build that inclusive society.