Background

The Secretary-General noted that CEB would devote its autumn 2004 session to a full discussion on the issue of “bridging the digital divide”, on the basis of preparatory work by HLCP. He invited CEB members, meanwhile, to make an initial assessment at the present session of the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society and its implications for the United Nations system.

The Secretary-General recalled that, in the Plan of Action adopted at the Summit, he had been requested to establish a working group on Internet governance and to organize a task force on financing mechanisms to bridge the digital divide. As a first step, he was setting up a small secretariat based in Geneva to support the process of consultations on the issue of Internet governance and underscored the importance of active cooperation by organizations of the system in advancing this process.

The Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) presented an overview of the outcome of the Geneva phase of the World Summit as well as the state of preparations for the second phase in Tunisia. The Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs stressed the importance of a system-wide mobilization in implementing the Summit’s outcomes. The Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) noted that work was under way to address general issues of financing, including official development assistance, for information and communication technology and highlighted the challenge of mobilizing resources to help bridge the digital divide, recalling that financing in the information and communication technology area was generally regarded as largely a matter for the private sector.

Discussion

The Board noted that important work was ongoing in the organizations of the system in the area of information and communication technology. Emphasis was placed on addressing the unequal access by the developing countries to such technologies through training and education, capacity-building, improving connectivity and e-readiness, as well as strengthening information technology infrastructures, particularly in developing countries.
The Board considered the first phase of the Summit to be a success and expressed its appreciation to the host authorities and to ITU as the organizing agency.

Action

CEB stressed the importance of implementing the Plan of Action of the Geneva phase and collectively addressing the challenges ahead, in particular those involving the key issues of Internet governance and funding mechanisms to bridge the digital divide. It urged its members to participate actively in the preparatory process of the Tunis phase of the Summit and to contribute to ensuring its success. CEB requested HLCP for a substantive, action-oriented paper to assist in its deliberations on the subject at its Autumn 2004 session, building on the work of the High-level Summit Organizing Committee.