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Statement by H.E. Ma Songde, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology and Head of Delegation of The People's Republic of China at the UN General Assembly Meeting Devoted to Information and Communications Technologies for Development

2002/06/16

Mr. President,

Nowadays science and technology are changing with each passing day. Information and communications technologies (ICT) have brought tremendous "digital opportunity" on economic and social development to countries in the world. Construction of Internet and information infrastructures have made information and knowledge, necessary for the development, spread more widely and rapidly. E-Commerce has pushed economic globalization process while E-Government is promoting governments to serve the public more openly and effectively.

But the current situation of information and communications technology development is unbalanced. While developed countries reaping huge benefits brought by the "digital opportunity", most developing countries, low-income developing countries in particular, are facing severer challenges of the "digital divide". It is quite significant that the United Nations convene the meeting devoted to information and communication technology for development at the moment. The meeting offers an opportunity for us to take serious considerations and exchange views as well as explore solutions on bridging the "digital divide". Please allow me to make three points.

Firstly, the "digital divide" is with deep-rooted social and economic background. The price stronghold of information products and monopoly on certain technologies and products are the major reasons for the increasingly widen "digital divide". In fact, some developed countries and multinational companies, counting on their economy and human resources advantages, have controlled the core technology in the field of information and communication and held the actual power of formulating standards and norms. But most developing countries are being marginalized. Although the price of information technology products is getting lower, people still have to pay a lot due to their continual upgrade which is becoming a heavy burden to most developing countries.

The "digital divide" will exert a severe influence to the world development and stability. It is related not only to the current gap between the rich and the poor but also to the further widening of it in the future.

Secondly, the international cooperation is the optimized approach to bridging the "digital divide". Developing countries possess a big market potential, rich human resources and cheap labor. It would be possible and realistic to combine the market potentials of developing countries with technology advantages of developed countries to promote jointly information technology popularization and application. The developed countries should bear more responsibilities and obligations to offer assistance and supports in the aspects of capital, technology and expertise to developing countries. It serves not only interests of developing countries for development but also developed countries' interests in exploring a new market. The developing countries should expand positively the South-South cooperation in the field of information technology and share experiences from each other.

We have seen that the international community, the United Nations in particular, is now making efforts on information technology for development. The establishment of UN ICT Task Force symbolizes the positive and important role the UN is playing.

Thirdly, as a developing country, China is also facing the great challenge of the "digital divide". There is a big gap between China and developed countries. For example, the popularization of fix line telephone is only 17% in China while more than 60% in the developed countries. We fully realize that bridging the "digital divide" will make a huge impact on development. In this regard, we have enlarged capital investment strength on information infrastructure construction under our national development strategy.

At the same time, we have carried out international cooperation under the framework of the UN. Since 2000, the Shanghai Municipal Government jointly with the United Nations Development Program has convened the High-Level Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region for three consecutive years. The forum focuses on providing a platform of promoting technology cooperation and exchanging views among government decision makers and business leaders in the Asia and Pacific regions. It also offers opportunities of case-studying, problem-shooting and project cooperation to facilitate application of information technology. In addition, under the support of the UN ICT Task Force, China, India and dozens of countries together with international organizations such as APEC established the UN ICT Task Force Asian Regional Network in Shanghai to promote the implementation of the Action Plan of the UN ICT Task Force in Asia.

Mr. President,

1999 World development Report indicates, "Knowledge is like light. Weightless and intangible, it can easily travel the world, enlightening the lives of people everywhere. Yet billions of people still live in the darkness of poverty unnecessarily."

Although the ICT has created prosperous future symbolized by information and knowledge transmitting in the speed of light, obstacles in social, economic and cultural area still exist. Large-scale commercial electricity grids have been operating for nearly 100 years, one third of the world population can't get power supply yet. The invention of telephone is more than one century but it is still beyond the reach of one third of the world population. Internet has been widely used for more than ten years but only less than 10% of the world population can afford to log on the Internet. Science has created great civilizations to be proud of, but the huge gap is making it difficult to serve all human beings.

We expect that under the joint efforts of the UN, the governments and people all over the world, large-scale and effective campaign on bridging the "knowledge divide", "technology divide" and "digital divide" will be in a full swing in the world.

Thank you for your attention.

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