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Africa: Digital Solidarity Gap, 2

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Dec 15, 2003 (031215)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Meeting in Lyon, France just before the World Summit on the Information Society, representatives of cities and local authorities decided to take their own initiatives to address the global digital divide. When the World Summit failed to make a firm commitment to a new Digital Solidarity Fund, the mayors of Lyon and Geneva joined with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to commit 1 million euros to launch the fund themselves.

This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a news report and press release on initiatives from the first World Summit of Cities and Local Authorities on the Information Society. It also contains the Digital Access Index released by the International Telecommunications Union in November with its World Telecommunication Development Report, with rankings for 178 economies. Unsurprisingly, African countries dominate among those in the "low access" section of the table. Significantly, however, the authors of the report stress that their report may underestimate internet access in many developing countries, due to factors such as the spread of internet cafes and the absence of reliable surveys on usage.

Another issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin today includes several news reports on the World Summit from the Highway Africa News Agency.


Visit for news, analysis, advocacy Find recent book recommendations at Powell's, a unionized on-line bookstore:

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Senegal, Mayors Bypass Nations, Set Up Digital Fund

By Traci Hukill, U.N. Wire

December 12, 2003

GENEVA Days after representatives from nearly 200 countries put the idea on hold, two European cities and the government of Senegal today launched a global digital solidarity fund to help poor countries bridge the digital divide.

Dissatisfaction with what they described as the typical U.N. summit process of talk followed by inaction led the mayors of Geneva and the French city of Lyon to join in an unusual alliance with the African nation.

"We wanted to make sure at this summit there would not only be declarations of intent but also acts, and this is our way to ensure that enhancement of human rights in this world can be helped in this way," said Geneva Mayor Christian Ferrazino.

The two cities donated $395,000 and $368,000 respectively to the fund on the final day of the World Summit on the Information Society. The fund, initially proposed by Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade in the run-up to the summit, also received $500,000 from Senegal, bringing the total to the significant figure of 1 million euros. The three founders hope to solicit donations from other cities, nations and perhaps even the United Nations itself.

Senegalese Minister of Communication Mamadou Diop, standing in at a press conference for an unavoidably delayed Wade, seconded Ferrazino's sentiments. "We thought we should not finish with the usual resolutions, the usual commitments which are theoretical but do not give rise to concrete action," he said.

For months, controversy has swirled around the notion of a voluntary U.N.-administered fund to help technologically disadvantaged countries build telephone lines and other infrastructure in an attempt to keep the digital gap and its inseparable twin, the wealth gap, from widening further. The need to bridge the divide was obvious - half the people in the world do not have access to a telephone but how to meet it was less so. In a series of preparatory meetings before the summit, country negotiators locked horns: developing countries wanted the fund, while developed countries said it would be plagued by waste and proposed instead using existing institutions to manage the effort.

On Tuesday, in what appeared to be a defeat for Senegal and its allies, negotiators working on a draft declaration to be approved at the summit decided not to decide yet. They would instead commission a study on the subject to be completed by the second phase of the WSIS, scheduled for November 2005 in Tunisia. The agreed-upon text neither encouraged nor prohibited independently established funds or bilateral agreements.

Wade was reportedly upbeat after Tuesday's decision, and today's launch explains why. The three officials on the dais at the conference were short on details about how they would manage their digital solidarity fund details such as what criteria they would use to dole out funding and how they would assure other potential contributors that the fund was managed in a transparent manner but they clearly believe they and their unorthodox alliance are onto something big.

The two mayors especially seem to think their time has come.

Asked how countries would react to the establishment of a fund they had just refused to create, Ferrazino shrugged.

"They cannot do anything about it," he said. "This is the way things are going these days. Many people live in cities and municipalities, and within 20 years 80 percent of the world's population will be living in cities and municipalities."

"[U.N. Secretary General] Kofi Annan instructed the former Brazilian president to reflect on the future of relations between cities and municipalities with international and intergovernmental organizations," added Lyon's Mayor Gerard Collomb. "Mr. Annan knows full well that a number of large cities and municipalities throughout the world would have economic, cultural and social power that would ensure they can play a significant role as players at the world level."

"At Rio, the cities were not involved," Ferrazino said, referring to the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, also called the Earth Summit. "But who was responsible for implementing all this? The cities and local authorities."

"The role of the state is changing," Ferrazino continued. "We have the European Union, the African Union, organizations that are regrouping states. The fund we're talking about is of course a new initiative taking advantage of this new reality."

Copyright 2003 by National Journal Group Inc. Distributed under terms of use of the United Nation Foundation's U.N. Wire.

World Summit of Cities and Local Authorities on the Information Society

Press release

10 December 2003

Geneva, WSIS: the cities and local authorities from around the world present their Declaration and Action Plans for a fair and sustainable information society

[For the declaration, see]

The success of the first World Summit of Cities and Local Authorities on the Information Society organised at Lyon on 4 and 5 December (500 local authorities, 2,000 participants from all over the world) marks a major turning point in international political life. It responds to the desire of Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, to associate cities, local authorities and civil society in the UN?s projects and activities. Cities are major actors that participate concretely in the daily lives of citizens everywhere, whether in education, knowledge, culture, the combat against social exclusion, participation or involvement in democracy.

The Declaration of Cities and Local Authorities on the Information Society was unanimously adopted at the end of the Lyon World Summit. It asserts the basic rights of citizens that cities and local authorities want to have taken into consideration at the Summit in Geneva. The information society must strengthen:

  • Democracy, freedom of expression and respect for human rights;
  • Freedom to communicate and equal access to knowledge;
  • Education, particularly in setting up universal primary education;
  • Access to knowledge, to facilitate research and for cultural diversity;
  • Digital solidarity to combat exclusion and the digital divide in cities in developed and developing countries, with four possible orientations:
  • Develop the use of free software;
  • Develop decentralised cooperation programmes between cities and regions; o Support actions in favour of digital solidarity between developed and developing countries;
  • Relay the proposals of Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal and Vice-President of NEPAD on digital solidarity.

The Declaration will be presented to Mr Kofi Annan on 10 December, and to the Heads of State and Government on 12 December (WISI, 10-12 December, Geneva) by G‚rard Collomb, Mayor of Lyon and Christian Ferrazino, Mayor of Geneva.

Forever concerned with making proposals a reality, cities and local authorities are now formulating an action plan, stemming from the synthesis of the debates held during the Lyon Summit. This action plan will be presented at the congress held to found the first World Association of Cities and Local Authorities, "United Cities and Local Authorities", at Paris in May 2004.

For Gerard Collomb, Mayor of Lyon, "The great success of the World Summit of Cities relies on wide-ranging consultation, strong mobilisation of local actors and authorities, and above all concrete commitments to build a fairer and more united world, particularly between developed and developing countries."

Christian Ferrazino, Mayor of Geneva declares, "The Lyon Summit marks a major turning point in the history of international relations. Our municipalities show that they can play an international role, since they are the best placed to make known the needs and hopes of their citizens."

Cities and local authorities from around the entire world have developed international networks that permit collective expression and actions. At the end of the Lyon Summit, Mercedes Bresso, President of CAMVAL (Coordination of World Associations of Cities and Local Authorities) announced the "creation of the first World Association of Cities at Paris in May 2004 that we hope will be the first representative organisation of cities and local authorities to sit at the UN."

The exemplarity of cities and local authorities in the information society: Several hundred projects, actions and initiatives were presented at the Lyon World Summit and can be consulted on They are also exhibited at the WISI at the City of Geneva/City of Lyon stand, Forum ICT4D, Palexpo Hall 4.

Press contact:
France: Agence Isabelle Dejeux - Isabelle Dejeux, Cyril Chenu
T : 33 4 72 07 44 90 F : 33 4 72 07 44 99 - M : 33 6 08 16 91 28 /
Switzerland: City of Geneva, Philippe d'Espine
T : 00 41 22 418 29 11

Digital Access Index 2002

Source: International Telecommunication Union

The full World Telecommunications Development Report 2003 is also available on the ITU website.

High Access

Sweden                   0.85
Denmark                  0.83
Iceland                  0.82
Korea (Rep.)             0.82
Norway                   0.79
Netherlands              0.79
Hong Kong, China         0.79
Finland                  0.79
Taiwan, China            0.79
Canada                   0.78
United States            0.78
United Kingdom           0.77
Switzerland              0.76
Singapore                0.75
Japan                    0.75
Luxembourg               0.75
Austria                  0.75
Germany                  0.74
Australia                0.74
Belgium                  0.74
New Zealand              0.72
Italy                    0.72
France                   0.72
Slovenia                 0.72
Israel                   0.70

Upper Access

Ireland                  0.69
Cyprus                   0.68
Estonia                  0.67
Spain                    0.67
Malta                    0.67
Czech Republic           0.66
Greece                   0.66
Portugal                 0.65
UAE                      0.64
Macao, China             0.64
Hungary                  0.63
Bahamas                  0.62
Bahrain                  0.60
St. Kitts and Nevis      0.60
Poland                   0.59
Slovak Republic          0.59
Croatia                  0.59
Chile                    0.58
Antigua & Barbuda        0.57
Barbados                 0.57
Malaysia                 0.57
Lithuania                0.56
Qatar                    0.55
Brunei Darussalam        0.55
Latvia                   0.54
Uruguay                  0.54
* Seychelles             0.54
Dominica                 0.54
Argentina                0.53
Trinidad & Tobago        0.53
Bulgaria                 0.53
Jamaica                  0.53
Costa Rica               0.52
St. Lucia                0.52
Kuwait                   0.51
Grenada                  0.51
* Mauritius              0.50
Russia                   0.50
Mexico                   0.50
Brazil                   0.50

Medium Access

Belarus                  0.49
Lebanon                  0.48
Thailand                 0.48
Romania                  0.48
Turkey                   0.48
TFYR Macedonia           0.48
Panama                   0.47
Venezuela                0.47
Belize                   0.47
St. Vincent              0.46
Bosnia                   0.46
Suriname                 0.46
* South Africa           0.45
Colombia                 0.45
Jordan                   0.45
Serbia & Montenegro      0.45
Saudi Arabia             0.44
Peru                     0.44
China                    0.43
Fiji                     0.43
* Botswana               0.43
Iran (I.R.)              0.43
Ukraine                  0.43
Guyana                   0.43
Philippines              0.43
Oman                     0.43
Maldives                 0.43
* Libya                  0.42
Dominican Rep.           0.42
* Tunisia                0.41
Ecuador                  0.41
Kazakhstan               0.41
* Egypt                  0.40
* Cape Verde             0.39
Albania                  0.39
Paraguay                 0.39
Namibia                  0.39
Guatemala                0.38
El Salvador              0.38
Palestine                0.38
Sri Lanka                0.38
Bolivia                  0.38
Cuba                     0.38
Samoa                    0.37
* Algeria                0.37
Turkmenistan             0.37
Georgia                  0.37
* Swaziland              0.37
Moldova                  0.37
Mongolia                 0.35
Indonesia                0.34
* Gabon                  0.34
* Morocco                0.33
India                    0.32
Kyrgyzstan               0.32
Uzbekistan               0.31
Viet Nam                 0.31
Armenia                  0.30

Low Access

* Zimbabwe               0.29
Honduras                 0.29
Syria                    0.28
Papua New Guinea         0.26
Vanuatu                  0.24
Pakistan                 0.24
Azerbaijan               0.24
* S. Tom‚ & Principe     0.23
Tajikistan               0.21
* Equatorial Guinea      0.20
* Kenya                  0.19
Nicaragua                0.19
* Lesotho                0.19
Nepal                    0.19
Bangladesh               0.18
Yemen                    0.18
* Togo                   0.18
Solomon Islands          0.17
Cambodia                 0.17
* Uganda                 0.17
* Zambia                 0.17
Myanmar                  0.17
* Congo                  0.17
* Cameroon               0.16
* Ghana                  0.16
Lao P.D.R.               0.15
* Malawi                 0.15
* Tanzania               0.15
Haiti                    0.15
* Nigeria                0.15
* Djibouti               0.15
* Rwanda                 0.15
* Madagascar             0.15
* Mauritania             0.14
* Senegal                0.14
* Gambia                 0.13
Bhutan                   0.13
* Sudan                  0.13
* Comoros                0.13
* Cote d'Ivoire          0.13
* Eritrea                0.13
* D.R. Congo             0.12
* Benin                  0.12
* Mozambique             0.12
* Angola                 0.11
* Burundi                0.10
* Guinea                 0.10
* Sierra Leone           0.10
* Central Af. Rep.       0.10
* Ethiopia               0.10
* Guinea-Bissau          0.10
* Chad                   0.10
* Mali                   0.09
* Burkina Faso           0.08
* Niger                  0.04

Note: The composite indicator is based on infrastructure (fixed telephone lines and mobile telephone lines per 100 inhabitants), affordability (internet access price as percent of national income per capita), knowledge (adult literacy, and formal school enrollment), quality (international internet bandwidth per capita, and broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants), and usage (internet users per 100 inhabitants).

AfricaFocus Bulletin is a free independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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