UN forum discusses use of new technology to fight poverty, improve health

26 May 2009

Experts on information and communications technology (ICT) from the United Nations, private industry, non-governmental organizations and government agencies are meeting today in Geneva to look at ways to use the latest digital innovations to fight poverty and improve public health.

“The objective is to introduce cutting-edge, innovative knowledge, experiences, expertise and best practices” to the work of the UN, and the UN Commission on Science & Technology for Development in particular, according to the UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID), which organized the one-day meeting.

“New technologies can boost education through distance learning, content creation and delivery, and teacher training,” GAID noted in a news release. “They can help create new job opportunities for people living in poverty. These technologies can also empower women and the disadvantaged to increase their access to information and participate in the economy.”

The Alliance also noted that advances in health information systems based on ICTs are improving patients care and healthcare providers’ productivity worldwide. However, developing countries lag behind in employing ICTs to these ends.

“While diseases in developing countries account for over 90 per cent of the global disease burden, it is estimated that only 10 per cent of the more than $100 billion spent annually on health research is allocated for health problems prevalent in these countries,” it stated.

Today’s meeting will discuss how this divide can be bridged, using digital approaches and opportunities. It will also address new opportunities created by the technological innovations and rapid advances in mobile access for fighting poverty and promoting development.

Other UN agencies participating in the meeting include the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

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