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Information & Communication Technology

This is another sub-theme of the" Accelerating the Equitable Development of the South" programme.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is key to accelerating development and self-reliance among NAM member countries. However, the implementation of ICT on a global scale has brought about a widening digital divide, not only between developed and industrialised countries but also among NAM member countries.

Establishing the NAM CSSTC Networking System with NAM Member Countries

Ensuring universal access to lCT facilities is critical to overcoming this growing disparity.But this can be difficult in developing countries-including in many NAM member countries-where even basic infrastructure such as electricity and telephone lines, especially in rural areas, are not available.

With this in mind, NAM CSSTC held an expert group meeting in March 2001 in Jakarta to discuss the establishment of a NAM CSSTC networking system. Representatives from 5 regions-East Asia/Pacific, Africa, South and Central Asia, Latin America and West Asia-reported on their networking status and plans. The countries in these regions have varying levels of connectivity and e-readiness with, in general, a much lower penetration ratio than developed countries.

The meeting therefore recommended that the goal for the establishment of the NAM networking system should be to encourage and furthermore, produce regional policies to develop the ICT capacity and capability of NAM member countries in order to narrow the digital divide.

What benefits would NAM member countries gain from joining the network? First, they would have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other NAM member countries with regard to, for example, ICT policy, infrastructure, regulatory frameworks and so on. They would also have access to training programmes and information on indigenous and innovative initiatives for cost-effective networking; access to sources of funding and skills databases; and a channel for finding partners to collaborate on various projects. A major benefit would be the collective voice provided by such a network for increased bargaining power in international forums.

With the rapid expansion of ICT capacity and e-commerce in an increasingly liberal world market, the need for NAM to establish a networking system is urgent indeed. The meeting therefore resolved that immediate action should be taken to establish regional e-linkages in west Asia, South and Central Asia and Latin America, all with links to the NAM Networking System. For East Asia and the Pacific, the target is to develop the interconnectivity and interoperability frameworks needed to establish such a system. In the Africa region, meanwhile, the priority is to develop the capacity and capability needed to establish regional networking. In support of this, the meeting recommended that an e-NAM Task Force be formed, with associated working groups, to work on organisational and technological infrastructure issues in order to make the NAM Networking System a reality.


Setting Up e-linkages Among NAM Member Countries Through NAM CSSTC

Establishing regional electronic linkages among the NAM member countries and strengthening their ICT capacity has been a major thrust of NAM CSSTC's activities in 2001. The expert group meeting in March (see previous article) recommended several immediate actions to be taken towards setting up the NAM Networking System. As a follow-up to this, a meeting was held in August to discuss the technical feasibility of establishing regional linkages, One of the most important products of the meeting was a series of manuals on e-readiness: "Self-assessment for E-readiness" (one volume), "Improving E-readiness" (three volumes, for basic, developing and advanced levels) and a supporting reference, "Computer History and Development".

With the help of the self-assessment manual, the forthcoming e-readiness survey will yield accurate figures on e-readiness at national level. This would also be an important first step towards establishing regional e-linkages.

Participants discussed various means for promoting the participation of NAM member countries in the NAM CSSTC Networking System; this included the enhancement of NAM CSSTC's website, for example, by hyperlinking it to individual member country websites, and improving Internet security issues.

Experts from the different countries raised various issues on this topic, among them being the need to recognize the importance of regional groupings in the network, the need for databases, and the need to make member country governments aware of the importance of ICT diffusion and connectivity.

Eliciting government support is crucial since NAM CSSTC itself is not in a position to fund infrastructural upgrading in the respective countries-this has to be the responsibility of the countries themselves. However, e-leadership seminars and training could be arranged at regional or national level by NAM CSSTC in cooperation with the countries concerned. The feasibility of finding low priced computers for electronic tele-centres in the rural areas is being looked into.






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