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Director-general in Davos says education and cultural diversity are key to bridging digital gap
Paris, January 29 - UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura spoke of the importance of education and of respecting cultural diversity in seeking to bridge the digital divide at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) today.
 In an address at a Special Session on the Global Digital Divide Initiative, Mr Matsuura described bridging the digital divide as “one of the central challenges of our time […] in order to build knowledge societies.” Highlighting UNESCO’s human concerns in its work in education, the sciences, culture and communication, the Director-General cautioned: “If the knowledge societies are ever to take proper root and gain global acceptance, we must look beyond the technical and gadget appeal of ICTs [information and communication technologies] and home in on the human dimensions of the digital divide: cultural and linguistic diversity of contents, empowerment of civil society, privacy and ethical issues, and access, especially by safeguarding the public domain.”
 “There will be no information for all without education for all”, Mr Matsuura declared, referring to the international community’s pledge to provide universal access to quality basic education by the year 2015. “The education for all agenda, adopted last year in Dakar, aims at combating poverty and ensuring development and growth through an expansion of educational attainment and quality,” the Director-General explained. Pointing to UNESCO’s role as the lead agency in the drive for education for all, Mr Matsuura declared: “We are determined to harness ICTs to the full in translating the lofty political goals into practical and tangible progress on the ground.”
 Mr Matsuura further recalled his recent initiative in “suggesting a new international Forum - the Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity.” He explained: “This alliance should bring together all players, from North and South, to launch concrete actions to support developing countries which respect copyright regulations in building information-age cultural industries. This is not the only initiative since our partnership experience with teachers, scientists, artists, librarians, archivists, media professionals and their respective umbrella groups and associations, as well as with the private sector, and our broad fields of expertise, are together a unique asset within the UN system.”
Mr Matsuura stressed the fact that UNESCO - with its direct access to governments, its long-standing and confident links with professional associations and civil society organizations; including influential media organizations and its budding relations with the private sector - is ideally placed to initiate a badly needed new, global policy dialogue involving all actors in the campaign to bridge the digital divide.
  UNESCO has broken new ground by using radio to introduce rural communities to the new technologies. A new partnership programme to combine community broadcasting with Internet and related technologies was launched at the seminar “Integrating Modern and Traditional Information and Communication Technologies for Community Development” organized last week by UNESCO with the Sri Lankan government, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and the Kothmale Internet Project of Kothmale Community Radio.
More information on the Seminar and on Recommendations adopted by the grass root community development workers who attended it, can be found on the Net at:
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