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PRESS CONFERENCE BY INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES TASK FORCE

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

4 February 2002

The United Nations Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Task Force hoped to be able to contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, Pekka Torjanne, Executive Coordinator of the Task Force, said at a Headquarters press briefing this afternoon.

Mr. Torjanne said that such a role in rebuilding Afghan society would be in the context of information and communications technology for peace-building and peacekeeping, which was a major topic discussed today when the Task Force held its second meeting since its launch last 20 November.

The 39-member ICT Task Force would hold its next meeting in September, he said. Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched it last June, appointing 18 members from governments, eight from among chief executive officers of major global information and communications companies and the rest from non-governmental organizations and academia.

He said the Task Force was unique in its composition, and by the fact that, although it was a United Nations-based body, it was independent of the Organization with its own budget and reported directly to the Secretary-General. The Task Force had a three-year mandate to assist developing countries in bridging the digital divide.

The Task Force comprised six working groups dealing with entrepreneurship, policy and other applications of information and communications technology, he said. In addition, it had established four regional networks for Africa, the Arab States, Asia and Latin America. Today's meeting had discussed Eastern Europe and Central Asia as emerging markets that should also be included.

There were very high expectations of the Task Force, he said, because it had become clear that information and communications technology was the basic infrastructure of modern society.

He said the Task Force had been in contact with the "Group of 8" industrialized countries and the World Economic Forum. It was also in touch with preparations by the International Telecommunications Union for the World Summit on the Information Society. All parties had agreed not to misuse resources and to avoid overlapping with other efforts.

Asked where the Task Force got its budget, Mr. Torjanne said it depended on voluntary contributions, including from about eight governments, some international organizations and a few private companies. It also received contributions in kind from companies.

Regarding the size of the Task Force, he told the same correspondent that the Secretary-General wanted to keep it as small as possible. However, the working groups and the Task Force itself could take on various panels of experts as and when they saw fit.

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