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On World Telecommunication Day, Annan calls for eliminating 'digital divide'

On World Telecommunication Day, Annan calls for eliminating 'digital divide'

One hundred and sixty years almost to the day after Samuel Morse ushered in the dawn of the telecommunications age with a simple series of dots and dashes sent by telegraph, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to the world today to eliminate the “digital divide” between rich and poor nations.

“Access to information and technological know-how is essential if the world is to defeat hunger, protect the environment and achieve the other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by Heads of State and Government at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000,” Mr. Annan said in a message marking World Telecommunication Day.

“But to harness this potential, we need to forge global partnerships for development between governments, the private sector, civil society and the United Nations system,” he added.

The MDGs seek to halve poverty and improve access to health care, education and sanitation among other targets by 2015.

“Today, many people could not imagine daily life without the use of increasingly sophisticated information and communication technologies (ICTs), from television and radio to the mobile telephone and the Internet,” Mr. Annan said. “Yet for millions of people in the world's poorest countries, there remains a ‘digital divide’ excluding them from the benefits of ICTs.”

He noted that last December, at the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva, leaders set out a shared vision of how the world can eliminate the digital divide in content and physical infrastructure in preparation for the second phase in Tunis next year.

“On World Telecommunication Day, let us resolve to do all we can to lead the way to a truly open, inclusive and prosperous telecommunications age,” he concluded.