Lyon's Senator-Mayor, Mr. Gérard Collomb, told the World Summit of Cities and Local Authorities that local authorities had a critical role to play in bridging the digital divide between north and south.
|Mr. Joan Clos, Mayor of Barcelona, Spain, Mr. Daniel Biau, Deputy Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Mr. Gérard Collomb, Senator-Mayor of Lyon at UN-HABITAT's Exhibition during the Lyon Summit|
The meeting in Lyon, 4-5 December, to prepare for this week's Geneva World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), was organized by the cities of Lyon and Geneva. It welcomed over 1,700 participants, including 150 mayors and 300 elected local representatives from around the world, and highlighted the unique contribution that cities and local authorities can make to the debate on the information society to complement the efforts of central governments, civil society and the private sector.
The summit tabled a "Lyon Declaration" of mayors and local authorities, paving the way for real action to narrow the increasing digital divide between the north and the south. The declaration, to be presented at WSIS, calls on the Secretary General of the United Nations to strengthen the role of the United Nations Advisory Committee (UNACLA) in promoting use of information and communication technologies for good governance, particularly in relation to the Global Campaign on Good Urban Governance coordinated by UN-HABITAT.
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who serves as Vice-President of the new Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), proposed the establishment of a solidarity fund in favor of the south, which could be financed by voluntary contributions from governments, local authorities, civil society, and the private sector to help poor countries to fully participate in the Information Society.
Mercedes Bresso, Elected President of the Province of Turin and President of the World Association of Cities and Local Authorities Coordination (WACLAC) described local authorities as key players in developing the information society. Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union pledged close cooperation in implementing a new information society plan of action.
Meanwhile, Daniel Biau, UN-HABITAT's Deputy Executive Director, appealed to international and local authorities not to forget the one billion people living in slums: "These men, women and children have practically no access to basic services such as clean water, electricity and telephone. Of course, they have no access to the Internet. The Information Society ignores them and this is what we must change, what you must change."
|Mr. Daniel Biau, Deputy Executive Director of UN-HABITAT during the opening of the Lyon summit|
Mr. Biau went on to say that a great number of cities do not possess reliable data on their own situation and even when they do have the data, they have no means of analyzing or using the data. On this front, UN-HABITAT is working to help cities to collect, analyze and communicate cities data. With the 1000 Cities Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Programme of UN-HABITAT, local authorities can have easy and quick access information for policy making and monitoring. The programme offers GIS software and related training packages to 1000 institutions such as local authorities, and other urban development stakeholders. The packages include modules on how to monitor and analyze urban information, and then translate these results into local policy.
Delegates agreed that full involvement of the south in the information society was important. The summit also called for the use of new information and communications technologies not only to better inform people, but also to listen to them and in particular to the voices of the poor. Disadvantaged people have been treated as passive consumers by modern technology; local authorities were challenged to transform these technologies into tools for integration and social progress.
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