UNGA president calls for more efforts to overcome global digital divide

UNITED NATIONS, (PNA/Xinhua) — President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Vuk Jeremic said Wednesday that one in five households in developing countries are now connected to the Internet but more must be done to bridge their digital divide with the developed world.

One of the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls for “making more widely available the benefits of new technologies, especially Information and Communications Technologies (ICT),” said Jeremic at a panel discussion at the UN headquarters on boosting regional telecommunications transit routes.

He urged governments to continue working in public-private partnership to expand broadband infrastructure in the developing world, and stimulate efforts to provide local content and develop regionally-appropriate software applications.

“One-fifth of all households in developing countries are now hooked up to the internet — up from 13 percent just three years ago,” Jeremic told the discussion entitled “Improving connectivity in Eurasia,” organized by the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the UN.

“This is a significant achievement, but much more needs to be done in order to overcome the digital divide with the developed world, where 78 percent of homes are linked to the internet — many through affordable and reliable broadband networks,” he said.

“This means that billions still do not have access to information and knowledge-sharing that would help them improve their livelihoods. They remain unconnected to the globalized, digital society of the 21st century,” the UNGA president added.

Earlier, the UNGA adopted a resolution, inviting UN member states to explore ways to support the proposal by Azerbaijan to establish the Eurasian Connectivity Alliance with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The aim will be to promote the development of telecommunication transit routes in the region and improve coordination between the governments, private sector, civil society and international development institutions.

As the UN takes further steps to define the post-2015 agenda, Jeremic said, the transformative potential of ICTs to provide new solutions to sustainable development challenges will be recognized.

ICTs “can help establish a more level playing field, expediting the integration of developing countries into the global economy — especially the least developed countries (LDCs), nations with few natural resources, and post-conflict countries,” he noted.

The president added that ICTs can also increase opportunities for education and professional training, contribute to delivery of healthcare and other essential services and assist with business and technical fields.

“Technology has never been an end in itself, but a means — an opportunity — to improve the human condition, when put to good use,” Jeremic said.

Later this month, the UNGA will host a high-level special event to follow up on those efforts.

The UN is currently in the middle of 1,000 days of accelerated action to reach the targets set by the MDGs, including poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS and malaria reduction, and a global partnership for development. The post-2015 development agenda is expected to build on the progress made by the MDGs.