The Digital Dividend

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Vol. XLVIII No. 3 2011

This issue looks at global efforts made towards bridging the digital divide. Leading experts in the field analyse aspects connected with creating a world information society, such as the nexus between information and communication technology and poverty, a UN-based digital bridge, and mobile communication and socio-economic development in Latin America.

Despite the persistence of widespread poverty, the use of mobile telephony in African countries in the last few years has grown more rapidly than in any other region in the world. There are now an estimated 500 million mobile phone subscribers across the continent compared to 246 million in 2008. By late 2010, Africa exceeded Western Europe in terms of the number of mobile connections.

Recognizing the potential for both good and bad uses of the Internet, ICT4Peace aims to facilitate improved, effective, and sustained communication between peoples, communities, and stakeholders involved in conflict prevention, mediation, and peace building through better understanding and enhanced application of ICT, including media.

E-governance should play the leading role in creating usable e-government tools, regardless of the level of education. Some governmental websites are very complicated and unfriendly both in access and content. Adopting an integrated and citizen-oriented approach may lead Governments to increase equal opportunities in the use of ICTs.

The impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is not limited to the sector in which they are produced, but rather spreads to all sectors of production and consumption. This is also valid for mobile telephony. In addition, its influence increases as network effects do; that is, when the number of people using the service rises.

A fundamental change in the years since the MDGs were agreed upon is the appreciation of the role that ICT can play in meeting health targets. It was not so long ago that health decision makers were questioning the utility of adopting ICT in health services and systems -- that is, "e-Health" -- particularly in developing countries.

Information and communications technology (ICT) holds the promise of making the world a fairer place. Indeed, in many countries, increased information access and social networking are giving citizens a larger voice in local, national, and regional affairs. While the individual and social transformational capacity of information and communications technology is immense, it is often those who already have a voice in national agendas that benefit from the amplifying effect of the technology.

Sustainable development is a critical issue in the management of global survival and environmental preservation. Increasingly, it is extending its reach across a broad multidisciplinary policy canvas, impacting on economic, social and cultural spheres aimed at securing an improved quality of life for the international community.

Information and communication technology is deeply woven into the fabric of society and is integral to the way we do business, entertain ourselves, talk to each other, learn about the world, and even feed ourselves. With nearly five billion mobile phones worldwide, the reach of ICTs is increasingly global. However, even with this near ubiquity, the benefits of ICTs remain uneven -- access to the "world information society" does not immediately grant membership.

The United Nations plays a key role in overcoming one of the major challenges and harnessing one of the greatest opportunities facing humankind today -- bridging the digital divide, both among and within countries.

At the beginning of 2011, there were 5.4 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, meaning that we have effectively achieved the goal of bringing all of the world's people within reach of the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICTs). It is a good time for us to take stock, therefore, with just four years left before the 2015 deadline set to achieve the targets set by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in combination with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Change is accelerating in the Asia-Pacific region, including in rural areas, as it becomes the global economy's growth driver. In 2010, the region's developing countries grew at an impressive rate of 8.8 per cent compared to 2.7 per cent for the world's developed economies.