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Innovation To Help The Poor

Need To Harness Technology, Innovation To Help The Poor Stressed At UN Forum

New York, Sep 13 2005

A high-level meeting of political and business leaders and other policy makers at United Nations Headquarters in New York today stressed the importance of using technology as a way to promote development and improve the lives of people around the world.

"We must provide incentives to various stakeholders, including the private sector, so that they do indeed focus their efforts on the needs of poor people," Deputy-Secretary-General Louise Fréchette told the "Global Roundtable Forum on Innovation and Investment." The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways in which science and technology, and especially information and communications technologies (ICTs), could help meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Stressing that developing nations were the least likely to have taken advantage of technology because of lack of resources, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Jose Antonio Ocampo said that science and technology should help "cure diseases, address environmental concerns, communicate across great distances, and empower people to realize their human potential."

Bringing technology to the poor will require new political will and additional finances, said Mr. Ocampo who is also acting as Chair of the UN ICT Task force.

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, who chaired the Forum, said the development promise of science and technology "remains unfulfilled for the poor of the world." Strengthening educational institutions and research and development organizations in the developing countries and their effective linkages with industry is therefore "vital," he added.

Figures relating to the "digital divide" made for "grim reading," with 1 billion people in the world without telephone access, and 800,000 villages or 30 per cent of villages worldwide without any kind of connection, said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi. At the same time, people in the developed world own 13 times more personal computers than 85 per cent of the world population, he said.

Building scientific capacity and promoting technological adaptation for science and technology are part and parcel of the UN MDGs, which seek to slash a host of socio-economic ills, such as extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable diseases, by 2015.

ENDS

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