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18.04.2012 - UNESCO

5th World Information Technology Forum focuses on ICT for sustainable development

Janis Karklins, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information - © UNESCO

The 5th World Information Technology Forum (WITFOR) is being held on 17 and 18 April 2012 in New Delhi, India, under the overall theme “ICT for Sustainable Human Development”. India was selected to host WITFOR 2012 because it presents enormous development challenges, as well as models of innovation and globally competitive IT capabilities. The use of ICT in areas like education is opening up new avenues for reaching out to remote and marginalized populations, while offering affordable and accessible solutions to persistent challenges of development.

The Forum provides an opportunity for policymakers, development professionals, IT businesses and experts both to share their vision and to enhance their understanding of the innovative uses of IT for development. Representatives from over 30 countries are attending WITFOR 2012 to share their knowledge, views and best practices in the use of IT for governance and delivery of key public services, allowing them to showcase successful working models of the use of ICT for development.

Inaugurating the 5th World IT Forum 2012, the Union Minister of Communication & IT and Human Resource and Development, Mr Kapil Sibal, said that e-Governance promotes transparency and openness, which helps keep people better informed, resulting in higher government accountability.  The Minister said that if the goal of sustainable development is to be achieved, an enabling ecosystem is to be created in order to address the issue of content, connectivity and accessibility in a holistic and integrated manner.

The Minister of State for Communications and IT, Mr Sachin Pilot, said the Government faces the challenge of increasing IT and broadband penetrations, and a key obstacle here is the high cost of IT hardware and connectivity. He also noticed that this challenge can be overcome by encouraging domestic IT manufacturing. According to Minister Pilot, Parliament is considering a bill that will mandate provisioning of all public services compulsorily through electronic means to ensure transparency, efficiency, accessibility and reliability in delivery of such services. 

In his address Janis Karklins, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, said that technology is offering tremendous opportunities towards sharing knowledge and information. According to him, education brings sustainability to development and technology can be a powerful education multiplier. He emphasized that innovative and creative use of technologies are crucial for the achievement of international development goals along with literacy and quality education.

WITFOR has emerged as a unique global platform to bring together different stakeholders involved in the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for sustainable development. After Lithuania, Botswana, Ethiopia and Vietnam, WITFOR moved to India, one of the world's fastest growing economies and a pioneer for several ICT initiatives in development. Like its previous editions, the goal of WITFOR 2012 is to highlight the successful application of ICT for development, with a focus on replicable projects that combine research, policy and practice, as well as successful 'resourcing' of the same. The growing use of ICT, especially its role in providing sustainable development, continues to pose newer questions and challenges every day – for policymakers, innovators and ordinary users alike.

Some of the themes that were discussed on the first day of the Forum included:

  • open government,
  • IT revolution in agriculture,
  • vocational training and skill upgrading,
  • e-governance issues,
  • institutionalizing ICT for better health care,
  • State Data Banks and issues of privacy, etc. 

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