Science, technology and innovation have become key factors contributing to economic growth in both advanced and developing economies. In the knowledge economy, information circulates at the international level through trade in goods and services, direct investment and technology flows, and the movement of people. Information and communication technologies (ICT) have been at the heart of economic changes for more than a decade.
ICT sector plays an important role, notably by contributing to rapid technological progress and productivity growth. However, it has been observed that there is a vast digital divide between the developed and the developing countries, and as such the economic and social benefits of the global ICT regime are not percolated equally among nations.
The Non – Aligned Movement representing the largest grouping of the developing countries has constantly undertaken steps to ensure that developing countries modernize and revitalize their economies taking full benefit of advancements in ICTs. Further, NAM has also stood up against the discriminatory practices and policies that hinder access by developing countries to the benefits of information and communication technologies and to networks established in developed countries.
In order to bridge the digital divide between the developed and developing nations, NAM’s policy objectives have been to transform the digital divide into digital opportunities. In the Tehran Declaration of 2012, NAM reaffirmed its commitment of ensuring universal, inclusive and non-discriminatory access to information and knowledge related to ICT in order to strengthen all aspects of the information society and the knowledge economy. NAM stands for a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society based on information.
NAM has also taken steps to ensure that the objectives and declaration of World Summit on Information Society (WIS) related to reach of ICT to developed countries are fulfilled. The World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) is a two- phase UN Conference that defined the issues, policies and frameworks to tackle the Information and Communication technologies to foster development. The first phase of the Summit was held in Geneva in 2003 and concluded with a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action identifying specific action lines to advance the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The second phase of the Summit was held in Tunis in 2005.
The Geneva Declaration recognizes that building an inclusive Information Society requires new forms of solidarity, partnership and cooperation among governments and other stakeholders, i.e. the private sector, civil society and international organizations. Realizing that the ambitious goal of this Declaration – bridging the digital divide and ensuring harmonious, fair and equitable development for all – will require strong commitment by all stakeholders, the Declaration then calls for digital solidarity, both at national and international levels.
In order to achieve the above principles, the Non Aligned Movement has called for an increasing South –South cooperation based on universal, inclusive and non-discriminatory access to information and knowledge relating to ICT, as an essential requirement to reduce the growing digital divide between developed and developing countries. NAM also organizes and supports events that focus on the optimal use of technology in the developing nations of the global South.
An example of the above was the meeting of the Governing Council of the Centre for Science and Technology of the Non Aligned and Other Developing Countries (NAM S&T) held at Sandton City, South Africa in September 2013. The event highlighted the significance of South -South cooperation and collective self reliance amongst member states. In the event, India expressed its active commitments towards the achievement of the principles and assured that the country was always ready to expand its scientific engagements and extend support for South- South technological collobartion.
The digital divide can never be contained in isolation but the effort has to be multi-dimensional and multi-pronged. As such NAM recognizes that ICTs are one of the enabling tools to bridge digital divide. Creation of ICT infrastructure and content are core methodologies and a thrust to technology growth in a planned manner will certainly lessen the gap.
By Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Editor