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Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman, has called on the world community to work towards ensuring more equity-based development, primarily in the field of information communication technology (ICT).
He was addressing the sixth plenary session at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, Tunisia on November 17.
The Tunis Summit represents the second phase of the WSIS. The first was in Geneva in December 2003 where the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action was hammered out.
In agreement with the plenary theme: “From Commitment to Action”, Mr. Whiteman insisted that all nation states, especially those more equipped to do so, recommit themselves to achieving the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals, which include a global partnership for development.
He also asked that the Monterrey Consensus formed from the UN 2003 International Conference on Financing for Development and the Digital Solidarity Fund not be ignored, since an important part of the Summit was the fundraising campaign, which has set a goal of CHF (Swiss Franc) 5 million (US$3.8 million) in financial contributions.
“Even as we seek to overcome.the digital divide, there are some issues, which threaten to perpetuate the gap between developed and developing countries. Critical among these is the matter of resources. The achievement of the WSIS goals and ICT development for all is dependent on the mobilization of considerable financial resources,” said the Information Minister.In noting the existence of the digital divide where only 20 per cent of the world’s population had Internet access, Mr. Whiteman made the point that inequitable resource allocation perpetuated this divide.
“Bridging the digital divide really means promoting social and economic development for the 80 per cent of our countries that struggle most with the impact of this gap,” he said.
As a direct example of equity-based development, the Minister suggested that the countries further along the “continuum of innovation” market “environmentally sustainable technologies” on equitable terms, which may at times mean preferential terms in order to “generate greater access” for the developing countries making it easier for them to bridge the divide.
At the same time, Minister Whiteman affirmed that Jamaica was committed to “equitable development of the Internet,” and ICT, propelling the country into a desirable position on the world ICT platform. “Bold and imaginative policy decisions, as well as legal and regulatory reform have positioned Jamaica in the top 20 per cent of the world’s population in terms of Internet access.”
The Jamaican ICT successes he listed included: Jamaica’s increased teledensity from less than 20 per cent to more than 80 per cent; the recent introduction of the cheaper and faster Broadband Internet Technology, following the granting of fibre optic licences; the availability of online degree programmes; the inclusion of ICT in the delivery of curricula of the nation’s 160 secondary schools and the use by government institutions of the Internet to modernise its services.
All this and more, Mr. Whiteman said contributed to Jamaica being ranked as the leaders in e-commerce in the English-speaking region by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) of the Economist Magazine and the global leaders in the Legal and policy Environment category.
Promising that Jamaica would seek to fulfil commitments made at the Summit, the Information Minister concluded: “The available information resource combined with the technology resources has the power to transform the world – for good or ill. We must make the right choice and we must do it now.” Senator Whiteman was among some 11,000 participants from 175 Nation States, who attended the two-day (November 16-18) Summit in the capital of the historic North African State.