unctad.org | UNGIS Side Event: Harnessing ICTs for development: Opportunities and challenges for LDCs
Statement by Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
UNGIS Side Event: Harnessing ICTs for development: Opportunities and challenges for LDCs
Istanbul, Turkey
11 May 2011


Ladies and Gentlemen,

When it comes to establishing a more inclusive development path, strategic policies matter; especially those aimed at achieving economic diversification, productive investment, job creation and technological upgrading. Our discussions today will mainly focus on the last of these: technological upgrading and the better use of technology. Without active national policies and an enabling international environment that support and promote technological learning and catch-up, LDCs will become increasingly marginalized in the global economy.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) can contribute to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. However, LDCs are lagging far behind other countries in areas such as Internet use and broadband connectivity.

Against this background, this session, organized by the UN Group on the Information Society (UNGIS), is most timely. The high-level representation here today from several UNGIS members is testimony to the importance that the UN system attaches to the role of ICTs in the development process. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to my UNGIS colleagues and to the collaborative spirit that characterizes our joint work. Let me also thank the other distinguished panellists who are here to share their views and experience.

As you know, one of the principal tasks of UNGIS is to strengthen the role of the UN System in facilitating the access of developing countries to new and emerging technologies, promoting the transfer of technology, and mainstreaming science, technology and innovation policies into national development policies or poverty reduction strategies.

However, the current situation is not satisfactory and we can improve and revitalize our common efforts. Technology generally does not feature prominently in poverty reduction strategies, which currently act as one of the main frameworks for bilateral and multilateral assistance. Similarly, in the preparation process for the UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs), there is still no requirement to consider technology, in particular ICT. In a recent review by the Economic Commission for Africa of 20 such Frameworks in Africa, only two included ICT-related projects. At UNCTAD, we reviewed 30 UNDAFs for evidence of specific technology capacity development activities at the country level. We found that only seven of them included an identifiable technology component. The treatment of science and technology was also examined in eleven poverty strategy reduction papers; only four mentioned science and/or technology as a priority policy concern.

The new ICT landscape is creating many new opportunities for development. In particular, improved mobile connectivity now makes it possible for populations, even in remote areas, to access essential information and knowledge, and to communicate whenever the need arises. Such basic services have the power to transform societies and to improve the livelihoods of the poor.

At the international level we can also do more to facilitate the further use and application of ICTs for development. From UNCTAD´s perspective, and in collaboration with other UNGIS members this means that we must continue to assist LDCs in the formulation of their development policies in ways that fully utilize ICTs, for example in building efficient and modern productive capacities. This applies to the development of business activities in agriculture, fisheries, small-scale manufacturing, and services, among others.

Let us therefore use today´s discussion as a stepping stone towards a common effort to accelerate the use of ICTs for development in the least developed countries. As a sign of UNCTAD´s commitment to this end, I would like to organise - in partnership with our UNGIS colleagues - a special session, at the forthcoming UNCTAD XIII conference next year, dedicated to the opportunities that exist for ICTs to support productive capacity development.

I hope this session will make a constructive contribution towards our joint efforts at enhancing growth and development prospects in the LDCs. It is time for technology to move from the periphery to the centre of the development agenda.

Thank you very much for your attention and I look forward to the discussion.

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