[Interesting story - from IPS today. Mark]
By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 4 (IPS) - A coalition of 133 developing countries wants
the United Nations to keep radio, and other traditional media outlets, as a
means of disseminating information rather than relying only on the internet.
The switch to the global information super highway would give an unfair
advantage to rich nations over the poor, say the developing nations..
Ambassador Samuel Insanally of Guyana, chairman of the Group of 77, says
that the introduction of modern information technology increasingly has
favoured rich nations and is detrimental to the peoples of the developing
world ''who are clearly disadvantaged by their lack of access to such
''The gap in information technology is likely to affect inter State
cooperation in a number of areas, including commercial and economic
relations,'' Insanally told the UN Committee on Information Monday.
''The United Nations must ensure that developing nations are more equitably
served,'' he added.
Insanally said that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has admitted that about 90
percent of all access to the UN web site (www.un.org) comes from industrial
As a result, Annan assured the Group of 77 that the UN's Department of
Public Information will continue to maintain and expand the use of
traditional means of information - including radio and printed material -
because of the constraints faced by developing countries in an age of
computers and the global information superhighway.
Insanally says that despite these assurances, there seems to be little or no
progress in a proposed pilot project for the establishment of a UN
''The radio remains for most of our countries, the major medium for the
dissemination of information,'' he says.
''Our Group would therefore expect that, as attempts are made to introduce
costly, high-tech changes within the United Nations, such as digital
television technology, similar diligent efforts will be made to strengthen
the UN Radio...''
Insanally says there is a need to proceed with the proposed broadcasting
facility in order to reach a world wide audience and thus redress, to some
degree, the imbalances and inequalities between developed and developing
countries in the field of information and communication.
Kensaku Hogen, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public
Information, told the Committee that the United Nations has tested the
viability of an international radio broadcasting facility. But the
development of the long-term project depends on the availability of
substantial extra-budgetary resources.
So far, he says, there have been no concrete financial offers either from
member states or private Organisations which will lead to the establishment
of the pilot project.
''In the circumstances, we have no choice but to await such offers, before
commencing with concrete measures on any aspects of the proposal,'' he adds.
Hogen says the UN web site has attracted strong interest by UN member
states. Accesses to the web site have grown exponentially over the past
As of last week, the UN recorded some 45.8 million ''hits'' for this year
compared with 25 million during the corresponding period last year. ''Even
more encouraging is the fact that the UN web site is becoming known around
the world,'' Hogen says.
This year, some 150 countries have gained access to the web site. ''While
the bulk is still from the industrialised countries, current growth
indicators suggest a very rapid and encouraging expansion of accesses from
the developing countries,'' Hogen says.
He also points out that the capacity of the Internet to carry messages
instantaneously around the world has enabled the Department of Public
Information to place a great variety of information materials on it.
Such material included statements by the Secretary-General, reports of major
inter-governmental bodies, daily news highlights, promotional materials on
major UN themes and priorities, and information about major world
conferences and special sessions of the General Assembly.
Hogen says his Department also plans to introduce digital technology which
is expected to replace analog technology in the near future. ''New
technology is indeed a key factor in expanding outreach and in getting
messages to target audiences on time.''
With assistance from UN Information Centres worldwide, the Department's News
Service will transmit breaking news via electronic mail and facsimile
directly to news desks of key media and other opinion-influencing audiences.
The Department also will continue to place planned and coordinated op-ed
articles by senior UN officals in newspapers and other journals around the
''The central focus of the new service will be to ensure that media
everywhere will be able to receive the latest news material from the United
Nations in a redily useable format almost immediately as it is issued at
Headquarters,'' Hogen says. (END/IPS/td/mk/99)