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                                                            17 June 2003


Information and communication technology (ICT) must be mainstreamed into developing countries to achieve any success in reaching Millennium goals, Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Information and Communication Technology, told journalists at a Headquarters briefing today.

To that end, the United Nations ICT Task Force had created six working groups to bring together a multi-stakeholder platform combining governments, the private sector and leading non-governmental organizations in the field, he said. Mr. Figueres-Olsen was briefing journalists on the General Assembly's meeting on ICT for Development.

The Task Force had set up a series of regional nodes that acted as coordinators and information flow enhancers within definite regions that had been identified to create more synergy and possibilities for cooperation, he said.

The UN ICT Task Force was never intended to be the "mother of all task forces", he said, adding "we have gone about seeking cooperation with other initiatives out there -- cooperation that is now coming to fruition."  That collaboration would help the Task Force focus on its main aims of lowering productivity costs, policies and regulatory frameworks to achieve greater productivity and human and technology capacity-building.

Mr. Figueres-Olsen was joined by officials from two companies who had signed on with the World Economic Forum's CEO Charter for Digital Development, which calls for corporations to pledge no less that 20 per cent of their corporate philanthropic budgets to mainstream information and communication technology for development.

Debra Dunn, Senior Vice-President of Corporate Affairs at Hewlett-Packard, said strong cooperation must exist between the public and private sectors if ICT was to effect development.  The UN ICT Task Force was a vehicle for "pulling together representatives of the private sector, governments, civil society and multilateral organizations in coming up with an integrated plan that leverages all strengths and assets . . . " she said.

However, laying down successful models of collaboration across the sectors was challenging, she admitted.  "We have different ways of doing things and different ways of thinking, and I think it’s a learning experience for everyone who is participating."

Bruce Brooks, Director of Community Affairs at Microsoft Corporation, noted that the public sector and NGOs had vital roles to play if ICT was to have a sustainable effect on development.  "I am particularly pleased to see greater convergence occurring.  I wouldn't kid anyone that we have found success yet, but actually having that conversation beginning in meaningful ways is very important."

Asked whether ICT efforts in developing countries would merge into one initiative, Mr. Brooks said the main objective was to bring different players together to share information and opportunities, but not as a single entity. Organizations could then converse, for example, over one particular country -- about its partners, interests and opportunities. 

Another correspondent noted that ICT efforts in developing countries were costly for companies involved.  Would they eventually gain from participating governments? he asked.  Ms. Dunn replied her company was committed to improving society, but was also a business that wanted to grow and build its brand. Participating in ICT activities gave it a chance to align all of those interests, and play an even bigger role in the future.

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For information media. Not an official record.