Importance of Radio for Information Stressed

UN Integrated Regional Information Network, 15 November 2000

Nairobi—Developing countries have criticised the digital divide between developed and third world nations, with the Central African Republic (CAR) stressing the priority importance of radio for information in developing countries.

During a debate at the United Nations in New York this week, the Group of 77 developing countries and China said the digital divide was probably the most serious problem worsening the information gap between developed and developing nations. The countries, debating within the UN's Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonisation), believed UN public information activities should be sustained in areas of concern to developing countries and nations in economic transition.

The CAR representative, Fernand Poukre-Kono, noted that the rapid development of new information technologies had widened the information gap and hoped that international solidarity would help to bridge it. However, at present, radio remains the most accessible medium to most of the world's people, he said. He also expressed appreciation for the UN radio component of the former mission in CAR (MINURCA), whose impartial, varied broadcasts had been enjoyed by many listeners in the country.

The US expressed support for initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide. Its representative Larry Carp also stressed that an adequate information structure in any peacekeeping operation was critical to its success and the safety of its personnel, something underscored in Sierra Leone this past May. He spoke in favour of a rapidly deployable or surge capacity for public information in peace operations, and suggested that all UN offices should coordinate their outreach activities thereby freeing up funds and staff to be directed towards current priority areas, including peacekeeping, humanitarian relief and the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

The meeting concluded on Tuesday with the adoption of two draft resolutions. The first, entitled Information in the service of humanity, was aimed at reducing disparities in information flows by increasing assistance for the evolution of communication capabilities in developing countries.

In the second, United Nations public information policies and activities, the General Assembly would underline the need to achieve a more equitable and effective global information technology to rectify imbalances. It would also stress that radio is one of the most cost-effective and far-reaching media available to the DPI [UN's Department of Public Information] and an important instrument in UN activities such as development and peacekeeping.