Harnessing ICTs to alleviate poverty
Overcoming the challenges and seizing the opportunities offered by ICTs is be the main subject of discussion at a special session of the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS), which is being held today at the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), in Istanbul (Turkey).
The session will be opened by UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, who currently chairs UNGIS. Panelists will include Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Brahima Sanou, Director of Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU, and Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Director of the Democratic Governance Practice of the Bureau of Development Policy for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development requires empowering people with knowledge and the ability of taking charge of their lives. The strategic use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) can accelerate the acquisition of knowledge and the provision of basic services that enhances lives.
Numerous examples exist to show how ICT's have contributed to reduce poverty by bringing basic services to the most vulnerable and marginalized populations for the first time in history - from community radio in Haiti to the development of service centres in Bangladesh and the explosion in the use of mobile telephones by farmers, fishermen, and micro entrepreneurs to access vital information and maintain important contacts. According to figures from the International Telecommunications Union, there are now more than five billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world, most of which are in developing countries.
ICTs have fostered the dissemination of knowledge for development and promoted good governance by enhancing transparency and accountability. For many areas of development, it has become unthinkable not to use these technologies and deploy innovative solutions on the ground.
At the same time, a number of challenges have emerged, threatening gains made so far. Climate change, rising food prices, natural disasters and the recent global economic crisis, for example, have undermined past investments and are jeopardizing future efforts by LDCs to achieve their development goals.
The UNGIS session is bringing policy makers and ICT experts together to look at ways of harnessing ICTs for development, to further strengthen and leverage their power as development tools and integrate them into development strategies.
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