Experts from around the world gathered at UN-HABITAT headquarters in Nairobi this week for the fourth session of the Web for Development conference.
Setting the tone for the three-day conference gathering some 300 experts from UN bodies, governments, non-governmental organizations, universities and the business world, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Information and Communications, Dr. Bitange Ndemo, said that computer technology had helped, for example, to reduce corruption in his country:
“We have the technology. We have the educated youth, and what we need to do is to channel all of this. We need to digitise our government records,” he said. “All of this would go a long way towards reducing corruption.”
Since its inception at a conference organized by the World Bank in 2003, the Web for Development meetings are now well established as a platform to show how the Internet can promote development. The Nairobi gathering which opened on Wednesday, excamined the theme, Driving Economic and Social Development with the Internet, with a focus on using the Internet to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
In a message read out on her behalf, UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said, “The idea is that we produce new blueprints on helping developing countries bridge the digital divide. The Kenyan capital offers you a first-hand experience of what is involved in coming up with new ideas and solutions.” Thanking the delegates for bringing their expertise to Africa, she added: “In the developing world, these have to be customised for an environment with limited computer skills, inadequate telecommunications and other infrastructure that still lags behind that of wealthier nations.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by other keynote speakers, Mrs. Elizabeth Lwanga, the Resident Representative in Kenya of the UN Development Programme, and on behalf of the United Nations Assistant Secretary General, Mr. Choi Soon-hong, the world body’s information technology chief.
One of Kenya’s premier television personalities, Ms. Julie Gichuru, then moderated a lively panel discussion with eight specialists representing government, the private sector, NGOs and universities.
They were then taken on a visit to the crowded Nairobi slum of Kibera, home to about a million people crammed into a space roughly the size of a gold course. They saw at first-hand a computer education project run by the Cisco Networking Academy Program at two local schools.
The delegates then reconvened for two days of special workshops aimed at producing new blueprints to see how the Internet can best help developing countries. For further information, see http://www.unhabitat.org/categories.asp?catid=546