Frechette calls for Fund to bridge Digital Gap

At an unprecedented three-day "high-level meeting" of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on information technology, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette stressed the UN's role in ensuring that the benefits of globalization reached all countries. "In order to make real progress, we must make information technology an integral component of all our development programmes", she told delegates. Stressing the importance of obtaining practical resources from the private sector, she suggested the establishment of a Digital Bridge Fund to overcome a serious gap which should, and could, be bridged.

The initiative by ECOSOC President, Ambassador Makarim Wibisono of Indonesia, dealt with one of the most relevant issues in today's communication field. The United Nations is the most appropriate venue to deal with it. During debates on information technology in the Committee on Information and other bodies, the gap between those moving with the speed of light and others unable - or unlikely - to advance at any speed, was a major concern. Ms. Frechette's proposal, therefore, is not only timely in the professional sense, but also meets an ascertained international need.

In order to build on the welcome ECOSOC initiative, it may be worthwhile to prepare more substantively for the next meeting in order to ensure professional "high-level" and wider participation. A positive opportunity was created by that meeting. It could be seized to highlight the UN truly at the centre of international information technology. Possessing one of the best public Web sites in today's world, the UN could, and should, play that role.