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UN task force calls for more political will to bridge 'digital divide'

UN task force calls for more political will to bridge 'digital divide'

Since the goal of integrating technology into society in effective and sustainable ways remains "a work in progress," strong political will is necessary to ensure that people can use the information revolution to improve their lives, a key United Nations task force on technology and development says in a new report.

In its third annual report to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the UN Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force stresses that the "digital divide" is about more than access to new technologies. Policies designed to enhance the role of ICT in development and stimulate collective learning and skills training can create new avenues for reducing poverty, improving health and overall living conditions for the world's poor.

Government action is important in spreading the benefits of technology, and governments have the power to balance the needs of their citizens for long-term economic growth and social prosperity, the report says.

In the context of the General Assembly's upcoming mid-term review of the Millennium Declaration, ICT should be seen as "critical enablers" in the development process, the report says. In essence, with the intensive, widespread and innovative use of ICT-for-development programmes and polices, the global development agenda, including the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), becomes much more possible to realize.

"In order for ICT to positively foster development goals, they must be employed where relevant, appropriate and effective, as part of a truly integrated and multi-stakeholder development approach," the report concludes. Strategic alliances between governments, business, civil society and international organizations are necessary because it is clear that no one sector alone can deliver the complexities of sustainable human development alone.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the ICT Task Force to bring together a variety of actors – from community leaders to captains of industry – united by the goal of using ICT to reduce the gap between the information-haves and have-nots.