Highlighting the "great potential" of information technologies in fighting poverty, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has welcomed efforts by ICANN, the international body managing the Internet's domain name system, for its efforts to build digital bridges to developing countries.
"If developing countries are to compete in the increasingly knowledge-based global economy, one key factor will be their ability to participate effectively in processes and fora that deal with new policy and technical issues" such as the ones addressed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Secretary-General said in a message to the meeting of ICANN that opened in Ghana, Mr. Annan's home country, on Sunday.
"I salute ICANN's efforts to ensure that the voices of users across the globe, particularly in the developing world, are heard," the Secretary-General said, adding that the presence of Africans and representatives from other developing regions on the ICANN Executive Board was a "good sign."
Noting that information and communications technologies were powerful tools for socio-economic development, he stressed that to realize that potential digital bridges had to be built to the billions of people who were trapped in extreme poverty.
"One of the most pressing challenges in the new century is to harness this extraordinary force, spread it throughout the world, and make its benefits accessible and meaningful for all humanity, in particular the poor," Mr. Annan said. While acknowledging that new technologies were "not a panacea," he pointed to their impact in creating jobs and transforming such areas as education, health care, commerce and politics.
The Secretary-General also encouraged ICANN to "join hands" with the UN Information and Communications Task Force he had set up last year, and said that he saw ICANN playing a key role in addressing various questions relating to the future of the Internet currently being worked on by the World Intellectual Property Organization and the International Telecommunications Union.