STATEMENT BY MR. ABDOULIE JANNEH, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY,
UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICA
Your Excellency, the President of the World Summit on the
Excellencies, Head of States and Governments, Chief
Ladies and Gentlemen
The information revolution and the extraordinary increase
in the spread of knowledge has given birth to an unprecedented knowledge and
information era which directly affects the economic, social, cultural and
political activities of all regions of the world including Africa.
Governments worldwide have recognized, the role that
information and communication technologies (ICTs) can play in socio-economic
development as it affects virtually all sectors of society.
Moreover, access to information and knowledge is a
prerequisite to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and in
turn, improving living standards for millions of people around the world.
To this end, it is important to acknowledge that our
approaches and our achievements must be inclusive.
Our point of departure should be the fundamental right to
communicate and to participate in society. This requires equity of access to
the use of ICTs.
Already, we see the power of ICTs to stimulate and
unleash Africa's economic potential being realized in a number of countries.
Farmers in Senegal can today check world markets prices
of their goods by SMS text messages through mobile telephony. School
children in western Kenya use digital textbooks to download lessons, whilst
VSATs are opening rural South Africans to online banking led by Standard
ECA's role has been to support its member States and
stakeholders in developing the appropriate policy environment whereby
countries can optimize the benefits of the Information Society.
Through the National Information and Communication
Infrastructure (NICI) policies and plans within the framework of the African
Information Society Initiative (AISI), African countries are formulating
their own vision, tied into national development goals and priorities to
ECA's support is also geared towards helping the Regional
Economic Communities to harmonize ICT policies at the subregional levels in
order to facilitate our regional economic integration goals.
At the same time, our work with various Civil Society
groups is gathering pace and enabling a much more inclusive, development
oriented approach to the creation of a shared 21St century knowledge society
Throughout the WSIS process, ECA has, with support from
the African Union and the African Ministerial Committee on ICT, assisted its
constituents by organizing regional conferences, facilitating meetings of
experts and managing electronic discussion lists (among other activities),
to ensure Africa's engaged participation.
The WSIS process has produced several important
documents, namely "Benchmarking the Information Society in Africa" and the
"African Regional Action Plan on the Knowledge Economy". We believe the
adoption of the Regional Action Plan, under the aegis of
the African Union, will comfort African countries in
their quest for digital opportunities and provide appropriate mechanisms for
further cooperation with the international community.
The same process was followed by our four sister UN
Regional Commissions, (ECE, ECLAC, ESCAP and ESCWA) and yielded similar
In this regard, Mr. President, I am pleased to inform you
that yesterday, the Regional Commissions, UNCTAD and the UN ICT Task Force,
organized two Round Tables, respectively on "Regional Perspectives for the
Global Information Society" chaired by His Excellency President Paul Kagame
of Rwanda, and on "Women in the Information Society: Building a Gender
Balanced Knowledge-Based Economy" chaired by His Excellency President
Fernandes of Equador.
Recommendations of the two Round Tables will feed into
the various programmes and projects for the "After Tunis 2005" discussion
and discourse. As stipulated by the various documents of the Tunis phase,
the UN Regional Commissions are committed to driving the follow-up and
evaluation processes after Tunis.
To conclude, I call upon member States, the International
community and all stakeholders to support the implementation of the African
Regional Action Plan as Africa's ICT road map from the moment when we leave