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Preparations for UN information summit move ahead with agreement on development fund

Preparations for UN information summit move ahead with agreement on development fund

Preparations for the second phase of a United Nations summit on information technology wrapped up today after delegates moved forward on the creation of a voluntary fund to help build up sorely needed know-how and infrastructure in developing countries.

The second Preparatory Meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which began on 17 February, reached agreement on a Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) proposed by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal at the Summit's first phase in December 2003 in Geneva.

According to the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the main organizer of the WSIS, the DSF represents an innovative financial mechanism aimed at transforming "the digital divide into digital opportunities by addressing specific and urgent needs at the local level and by seeking new voluntary sources of 'solidarity' finance."

The DSF will complement existing funding mechanisms which should continue to be fully utilized to fund the growth of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and services.

The Fund will be managed by a foundation headquartered in Geneva that decides on the criteria for contributions and on the use of the funds. Currently, 60 per cent of the resources are earmarked for the 50 least developed countries (LDCs), 30 per cent for developing countries and 10 per cent for developed and transition economies.

In addition to cash and in-kind donations made by private companies, citizens and any other institutions, voluntary gifts can take the form of a 1 per cent contribution on public ICT procurement contracts or through a donation by public authorities.

A third and final preparatory session is scheduled to be held in September to finalize the details of the Summit, to be held from 16 to 18 November in Tunis, Tunisia.