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Digital Solidarity Fund - Full Steam Ahead!
Highway Africa News (Roland Stanbridge)Feb 22 2005original
Posted by giovaFeb 27 2005 - 11:33
Representatives from the whole world today supported the development of a Digital Solidary Fund - an African initiative aimed at alleviating digital divides in all societies.

Governmental, civil society and private sector spokespersons met in a crowded plenary hall at the United Nations HQ in Geneva, where ambassador Olivier Second of Switzerland summarised the main points of the fund. The meeting was part of PrepCom-2 - a conference taking place all this week in preparation for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which will be held in Tunis in November this year.

Originally proposed by president Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, the concept of a Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) was developed within NEPAD and endorsed by the African Union at its June 2004 Summit. It has subsequently been the focus of intense debate at several WSIS preparatory meetings.

Ambassador Second said the fund will primarily aim to intervene in social sectors and disadvantaged areas which would otherwise not attract private investment. It will focus on small scale community projects, in order to make it possible for all to have access to the future Information Society. It would give particular consideration to priorities set by governments.

"The fund will rely on voluntary commitment of stakeholders -- it will be financed through voluntary contributions by governments, local authorities, the private sector, civil society and international organisations," he said. As of today, the DSF had received donations of -4.5 million.

The details of how the fund will be financed, implemented and managed will be the focus of firther discussion in the coming days of the Prepcom-2 meeting.

Ambassador Second said one favoured financing mechanism was that a voluntary contribution of 1% on contracts obtained by private ICT service providers should be made to the Digital Solidarity Fund. "Enterprises that win bids and contribute 1% of their profits to the fund would be given the right to display a 'Digital Solidarity' label'" he told the meeting. Other financing solutions will be discussed during the week's deliberations.

Sixty percent of resources collected by the fund will be made available for projects in least developed countries, 30% for projects in developing countries, and ten per cent for projects in developed countries.

"Even developed countries suffer from digital divides, particularly between urban and rural areas" Second told the gathered delegates.

In response to concerns voiced by spokesmen from Venezuela, Cuba and Indonesia, Ambassador Second said strict external controls would be implemented to ensure the proper use of DSF monies. A system of inspections would be introduced.

Following a decision made by African heads of state the DSF has been registered as a foundation under Swiss law and will be administered from Geneva.

It is expected that once the details of the Digital Solidarity Fund have been thoroughly debated during the week, it will be endorsed by a majority of the conference delegates.

The official inauguration ceremony of the Digital Solidarity Fund is set to be held in Geneva on March 14 in Geneva, where it will be launched by Olusegun Obasanjo, president of Nigeria and chairperson of the African Union.

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