High-tech volunteers, civil society working to bridge the digital divide
05 August 2003
In March 2001, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed serious concern over the growing digital divide between some developing countries, as well as the existing gap between the developed and developing countries in the area of Information Technology (IT). "We talk a lot about South-South cooperation, but practise it too little. We are particularly concerned about the growing gap between the information-haves and -have-nots,'' Annan stated at a session titled Closing the Digital Divide organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in Hyderabad.
The so-called digital divide is exacerbated by the reality that some countries have underdeveloped IT legal and regulatory frameworks and that access to bandwidth, computer hardware and software is artificially expensive because of monopolised supply. Also, many developing countries face severe IT skills shortages, with technically skilled citizens drawn to more lucrative work in developed countries.
To counter this growing problem, the UN is implementing a number of recommendations made by the Information and Communications Technology Task Force established under the UN Economic and Social Council. Further, the United Nations has initiated a high-tech volunteer corps -- known as UNITeS -- to train people in developing countries in the uses and opportunities of IT.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) are involved too. As part of their Building Digital Opportunities (BDO) programme, OneWorld is conducting case studies to provide decision-makers with a clear understanding of how civil society actually uses information and communications technologies. Cases are drawn from around the world and include such activities as wireless communication equipment for tribal nomads, online broadcasting of radio programmes, teaching slum-dweller children how to use a computer, and training CSOs how to build websites.
Source: Civicus Newsletter
Edition 206, 1-14 August 2003