unctad.org | World Summit on the Information Society: Opening Session
Statement by Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
World Summit on the Information Society: Opening Session
Geneva
16 May 2011

[AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY]

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to attend the opening of this third edition of the WSIS Forum. As in previous years, the Forum offers a great opportunity to continue the moment of and strengthen and fine tune discussions related to how ICTs can contribute to broad development areas. I would like to thank in particular Dr. Touré for hosting the WSIS Forum and Dr. Somavía for the use of the ILO´s premises.

The ICT for development agenda is gaining momentum, as evidenced by the greatly increased number of participants in this Forum. From UNCTAD´s perspective, we are encouraged by the many new possibilities that are emerging for ICTs to support the creation of jobs and income, raise productivity and link local firms more effectively to the global economy.

It is fascinating to see how the developing and least developing countries in particular are now reaping tangible gains from ICTs - in both social and economic fields. Increasing numbers of people in these countries now have access to interactive communication tools. Innovative solutions and approaches, such as distance schooling by computer in the Solomon Islands and an information sharing programme via mobile phone for farmers in Bhutan are becoming more widespread. Last week I participated in a special event organized by the United Nations Group on the Information Society during the Fourth UN LDC Conference. This was an important opportunity for the UN system as a whole to discuss how the new ICT landscape is creating development opportunities for the world´s poor, and to reaffirm the UN´s ongoing commitment to the development of the information society.

However, we still have some way to go to take to full advantage of the new ICT landscape. We need to learn more about how recent developments can be better supported, replicated and enhanced. As stressed in UNCTAD´s 2010 edition of the Information Economy Report, policymakers and other stakeholders should be more actively seeking to leverage ICTs in enterprises for reducing poverty and improving livelihoods. In partnership with our UN Group on the Information Society colleagues, we will be addressing these challenges in our quadrennial conference, UNCTAD XIII, which will be held in April next year in Doha.

It is my hope that stakeholders in the public and private sector, as well as in civil society, will make the best use of this Forum to identify constructive approaches to advancing the ICT-related development agenda. I am convinced that our discussions will help highlight how successful initiatives can be extended, replicated or scaled up so that a larger number of people and societies experience real benefits from ICTs.

As we have already passed the half-way point between the Tunis phase of WSIS and 2015 - when the United Nations General Assembly will review progress towards achieving the WSIS targets as well as the Millennium Development Goals - we need to start thinking about the ten-year review. The UNGIS Open Consultations on this issue will begin in earnest on Friday afternoon during the WSIS Forum. I urge all of you to take active part in these deliberations.

I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you to attend the 14th session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, which will take place next week under UNCTAD auspices at the Palais des Nations. The outcome of this Forum will be presented to that Commission.

Thank you.



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