Clique-ish Technology: Another missed Opportunity

04/25/2001
Always under the guise of serving the Secretary-General, always taking cover under some resolution, or proclaiming reform, some entrenched bureaucrats with no communication culture have diverted a valuable opportunity for a unique role. A recent example relates to work in the now fashionable information technology area which members of that same clique had opposed three years ago, yet now that the UN website is a great success, they try to take credit for it - and indeed exploit it.

The positive and timely part is that former President of Costa Rica, Jose Maria Figueras, was appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to head a "UN Information and Communications Technology Advisory Group". A clearly distinguished and well connected personality, he will lead a "team of experts from Governments, private business and foundations" with the aim of "Harnessing information technology and communications potential for development for all".

While the necessary references are made to relevant resolutions by relevant bodies, questions arise, however, about the nature and purpose of this group of experts who will not work with the substantive department - that is, the Department of Public Information, which oversees the successful UN website, nor with the technology team, ably headed by Gian Piero Roz in the Department of Administration and Management. It transpires that it will be a totally different operation to be supervised by a Pakistani bureaucrat with neither relevant knowledge nor any experience in that field. That would mean diluting the focus, opening the digital divide further while claiming to deal with it and opening the door to political currents without a clue about how and where to navigate.

Just when the UN did and could play a pioneering pivotal role, some intriguing "chef dec" and his compatriot see it only as more turf to exercise some transient authority. What a pity.