United Nations Conference: Information Technology and Developing Countries

Geneva hosts thousands of meetings a year....this week in Geneva has meetings devoted to IT and development issues first brought forward on the formal international stage by the UN World Summits on Information Technology: Geneva four years ago, Tunisia two years ago.

Usually these discussions are like ships passing in the night....people worried about globalization gather to attack the Internet as a mechanism of globalization, people worried about unequal distribution of resources worry about the Internet as the vehicle of domination, people worried about cultural imperialism worry about the Internet as the pathway for Western cultural domination. 

 

Think of Engineers Without Borders, or GeekCorps....volunteers with technical expertise who are contributing their time, and their company's support, to changing lives in the developing world.

The questions are simple; the answers are complicated. 

What can computers and networks contribute to changing the lives of the four billion people who have intermittent power, or no power, struggle for clean water, lack good roads or telephone connections... 

Last year, Athens hosted the continuing talks on Internet governance--international code for the feeling the International Telecommunications Union has that since it is one of the few members of the UN family to deal with technology,  and since it has a great deal of experience in setting telephony and communication standards, it should have some role in deciding how the Internet works.

Here, we have the multilateral agencies: ITU, WHO, UNCTAD, WIPO, the UN Secretary General; we have NGO's; we have sixty countries; we have Oracle, Sun, IBM,

ITU has an initiative with Grameen Bank called "Network for the World",  to bring inexpensive devices and microcredit to the world. Language recognition tools are needed, a lot of innovative research is needed, according to Deputy Secretary-General of the ITU Houlin Zhao.  Zhao heads the standards efforts of the ITU.  With Cisco, ITU is creating training centers world-wide for Internet access.
 


 

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