The third annual Web for Development (Web4Dev) Conference, which brought together more than 80 organizations to exchange ideas on how to best incorporate the use of information and communication technology in development projects, concluded at United Nations Headquarters today.
The Conference was held in conjunction with the AIT Global Eighteenth Annual Conference and Exhibit at the United Nations. AIT Global was selected by the Global Alliance to help plan and manage the information and technology component for the largest United Nations meetings and conferences.
Topics discussed over the past three days included building service-oriented information and communication technology architecture, website evaluation, multilingual websites, accessibility and inclusive development, Internet broadcasting and collaboration tools.
In closing remarks, Ahmad Fawzi, Director, United Nations News and Media Division in the United Nations Department of Public Information, said that, while access to information and technology tools was "inching" forward, real steps could truly be taken with the involvement of the private sector.
"There are more Internet cafes in Accra now than in London," he said. Indeed, the private sector was looking at ways to involve the developing world, with a very real interest. For one, this year's partnership with AIT meant that horizons had been expanded. Second, the joint cooperation signified that the "buzz" surrounding cutting-edge technologies -- and one normally reserved for the private sector -- would be accessible to the non-profit sector, as well.
He added that the Department of Public Information was tasked with a challenging mandate -- that of strategically communicating to its constituency, the world, with maximum impact. In fact, that task was larger and broader in scale than any other enterprise in the Secretariat. The Web had, therefore, become invaluable.
He said that over the few days, the Conference had included many informative presentations, including one by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Editor, Fortune Magazine, who spoke to the scope of the opportunity for the United Nations Information and Technology Task Force (ICT), in all its forms, to advance worldwide economic and social development, particularly in developing countries. Alsoilluminating was a presentation made by Professor Jeff Cole, Director, Centre for the Digital Future, USC Annenberg School for Communication, resulting in a number of concrete predictions and pointing out several, notable future trends in technology.
One such trend was Short Message Service (SMS) being the way of the future, which implied huge cost savings and benefits for the developing community, he added. The use of SMS for microbusinesses, such as those found in the slums of Mumbai, for example, allowed for cheap and accessible technology that could transform lives.
Mr. Fawzi said he hoped to see all participants again at the 2008 fourth Web4Dev Conference and he opened the floor up to proposals on where to hold it. The three locations discussed were Nairobi (to be hosted by United Nations Habitat); Paris (to be hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)); and Geneva (to be hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO)).