ACP-EU Update: Funding for the Information Society

At the end of WSIS Summit in Geneva, the question of how to finance efforts to bridge the digital divide remained unresolved. The proposal of President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal to create a ‘Digital Solidarity Fund’ was warmly received in the South, including in many ACP countries. Northern countries, including the European Union, were much less receptive to the idea.

Recently, in a communication to the WSIS Bureau, the EU expressed its opinion that ‘it is yet to be convinced as to the need for the creation of a separate Digital Solidarity Fund’. Instead, the EU leans to the view that ‘ICTs should be regarded as tools for development and not as an end in themselves’, and welcomes that ‘donor funding for ICTs in development is increasingly provided through their integration and incorporation … into country-owned development strategies and, where appropriate, Poverty Reduction Strategies’.[1]

Yet, the EU is prepared to earmark some development funding for ICTs. This became apparent at the WSIS Summit in Geneva, when on 10 December 2003, the EU and the ACP countries signed a Joint Position on the Information Society for Development. In this document, the signatories declared their intention to intensify collaboration to develop information society strategies in ACP countries. They also called for regulatory environments to include provisions on universal access at affordable costs. Most importantly, the signatories expressed their support for an ‘ACP Programme on ICTs’ to be submitted ‘to the appropriate EU decision-making bodies’, stressing the importance that ‘the programme addresses key themes as they emerge from the WSIS …’.[2]

On 13 July 2004, the European Commission announced that it had ‘recently approved an "ACP ICT Programme" as a first step towards implementing the [Joint Position] signed between the EU and the ACP countries at the Geneva Summit’.[3] At the time of writing, a feasibility study for this programme is being reviewed.[4]

Meanwhile, in Africa, where the issue of funding will feature prominently on the agenda of the regional WSIS Conference in Accra in February 2005, support for the Digital Solidarity Fund appears to be growing. On 3 July 2004, the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) called upon member states ‘to support the Digital Solidarity Fund and its effective implementation’. More recently, at the third EU–AU ministerial meeting in Addis Ababa, 2–3 December 2004, African ministers requested their European colleagues to provide support for the Fund. Whereas the EU delegation ‘took note of the request’ [5], the issue of funding for the information society remains as yet undecided.

 

Maarten H.J. van den Berg, Editor ICT Update.

 

[1] Preliminary EU Views on the Preparatory Process for the Tunis Phase of the Summit (EU-2004-0527, short version), 28 May 2004.
[2] ACP–EU Joint Position on the Information Society for Development, 10 December 2003.
[3] European Commission, Communication on WSIS (COM 480), 13 July 2004.
[4] In September 2004, The European Commission assigned InfoDev to supervise a feasibility study, including recommendations for the design of a possible new ICT for development program in ACP countries. See:
[5] African Union communiqué: Africa–Europe Dialogue, third meeting of the Troikas, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 4 December 2004.

 

Attached files:
ACP-EU Joint Position on Information Society for Development ( eu-acp-fi...

WSIS Geneva, December 2003

27 December 2004

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