London cyber conference addresses plight of poor

by Julie Mollins | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 2 November 2011 12:58 GMT
British foreign secretary emphasises need for universal access to cyberspace

By Julie Mollins

LONDON (AlertNet) - The world must work towards establishing a broad agreement about norms of behaviour in cyberspace with the same intensity as its efforts to eradicate global poverty or tackle climate change, Britain’s foreign secretary said in London on Monday.

William Hague emphasised the need for universal access to cyberspace – a key aim of United Nations Millennium Development Goal Eight (MDG 8), one of eight measurable goals established in 2000 to be achieved by 2015 as part of a global effort to try and improve the lives of the poor.

“Just as our climate is ever-present and all-pervasive, our way of living dependent on our environment and our prosperity inseparable from that of the global economy, so we are all linked by the innumerable connections of the networked world,” Hague told 900 delegates from 60 countries at the London Conference on Cyberspace.

MDG 8 stipulates that the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications, should be made available in cooperation with the private sector as part of an overall commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction.

“There is a tremendous interest in technology as an enabler of social cohesion, participation, economic development, linking isolated communities, linking the poor into opportunities bringing marginalized groups in from the cold,” United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) chief Helen Clark told AlertNet.

Challenges for UNDP include determining how to use technology to encourage democratic participation in government, as a platform for socio-economic human development and developing its potential in preventing and mitigating crises.

The UNDP helped facilitate the creation of an Ethiopian commodities exchange, which linked the country with world markets and prices. Transparent pricing helps improve the prospects of small farmers and their standard of living, Clark said.

Non-governmental organisation Oxfam is working throughout the developing world to encourage the use of mobile telephones as a way of bringing together isolated communities, to improve safety, emergency preparedness and wellbeing.

“People say they are poor because they have no control over their own lives,” Oxfam GB chief executive Barbara Stocking said. “If people can easily share information it gives them enormous strength.”

The charity is working on mobile phone projects to better dispense warning information about potential military or climate-related dangers and to improve banking services.

“In development we are always in the hope business so we look for the transformative opportunities and ICTs (information and communications technology) offer that,” Clark said.

(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)

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Harish, 11, a school boy uses a laptop provided under the "One Laptop Per Child' project by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) as a calf stands next to him, on the eve of International Literacy Day at Khairat village, about 90 km (56 miles) from Mumbai September 7, 2010. International Literacy Day is celebrated each year on September 8. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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