JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 15 March 2005
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) welcomes the arrival of the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) launched in Geneva on March 14 2005. The DSF is based on the concept of ‘digital solidarity’ and is rooted in the pooled voluntary contributions of individuals, governments (in particular cities and local authorities) and the private sector.
APC is confident that the fund will develop into a valuable financial mechanism for ICT for development. It will play an important role alongside other financial mechanisms in maintaining the momentum towards ensuring digital inclusion for all and fostering the various development- and empowerment-enhancing uses of ICT that have long been on global and national agendas.
While market growth has expanded access to telecommunications dramatically, particularly to mobile telephony, this trend alone will not usher in an ‘information society’ where everyone is included.
Providing access of isolated and poor people to the global information networks contributes to a global public good, but is only paid by the poor people themselves. The addition of more countries and users to the internet increases the value of the network for everybody, and in particular for ICT industries in the North that gain news markets for devices, software and connectivity, both among the newly connected as well as among the already connected that communicate with them.
"Big industries are ‘free riders’ that benefit without paying, and a global tax on microchips or on domain names would be justified and provide reliable resources for developing countries to connect their people," argues Roberto Bissio, director of the Third World Institute (ITeM), an APC member organization doing research and advocacy.
APC believes that there is an urgent need for innovative approaches such as those the DSF has the potential to provide that can build capacity and partnerships that can enable countries, sectors and individuals, to link to and benefit from global information and communication networks.
This is particularly important in areas that are under-served by markets or “development zones” (as opposed to market zones).
In development zones a range of technologies, including new wireless technologies, is needed to deliver open-access ICT infrastructure, content and services, operated by multiple providers who are not encumbered by high entry barriers, or gate-keeping by either public or private monopolies.
Development of regional and national infrastructures is important in laying the foundations for more cost-effective access and delivery of services. It is on those networks, if access to them is open and not subject to monopoly or excessive rents and charges, that integration into the national and global economy depends.
Equally important is ensuring that citizens are able to make use of network infrastructure with the secure knowledge that they have the right to free expression. Without human rights there can be no truly inclusive information society.
with its focus on cities and the local level has a vital role to play in mobilising partnerships and resources, and directing attention to the importance of bridging the information gap between the global and the local.
APC pledges its full support to the Digital Solidarity Fund as it begins its task to bring the most marginalised into the information society.
For more information about the Digital Solidarity Fund:
For more information on the Association for Progressive Communications (APC): http://www.apc.org