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General News of Tuesday, 22 February 2005

Source: GNA

African delegations to WSIS support Digital Solidarity Fund

Accra, Feb. 22, GNA - Delegations from Africa at the Second Prepcom of the World Summit for Information Society (WSIS) taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, have unanimously supported the Digital Solidarity Fund (GSF) and called upon all other delegations to assist in designing a Fund that all nations could and would support.

"I think the DSF is necessary. It must be a complementary financial mechanism," Ghana's Minister of Communication, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah said in his statement made available to the GNA in Accra.

"It must be accessible by all. Its registration under Swiss law will provide transparency that is crucial for its survival," said Mr Kan-Dapaah, who is leading Africa's negotiation at the PerpCom-2.

As part of the negotiations at the PrepCom-2, the issue of the Digital Solidarity Fund proposed to secure investment resources for the development of communications infrastructure in developing countries has come under serious contention from the more endowed countries. The mechanism for financing the Information Society has attracted the concern of the UN Secretary-General, Busumuru Kofi Annan, who has appointed a Special Task Force to advise on the particular issue. Mr Kan-Dapaah said essentially, the Fund was to complement existing financial mechanisms.

"It is necessary only because, as the Task Force on Financial Mechanisms acknowledged, the limitations and the shortcomings of the market do not permit the private sector to intervene in all areas where intervention is needed," he said.

He added that the DSF was the suggested solution to address this special need or gap.

"The DSF will go to assist, on global basis, areas where existing financial mechanisms will not go. That is what we mean by 'complementary'.

"The DSF will not, indeed, should not be allowed to compete with other known and efficient financing mechanisms such as the private sector and the International Financing Institutions," Mr Kan-Dapaah said.

The Minister said the Task Force concluded that the DSF was yet to be operational, but this was not entirely true.

"Indeed, following its conception during WSIS I by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, his country teamed up with the cities of Geneva, Lyon and the Province of Turin to operationalise the DSF by registering the Fund in August 2004 in Geneva as a Foundation under Swiss Law with a Secretariat in Geneva.

"It has since been endorsed by the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Governments and received the support of many local authorities and intergovernmental organisations." Mr Kan-Dapaah said the Fund relied on voluntary commitment of stakeholders, which is made up of voluntary contributions of governments, local authorities, private sector, civil society and international organisations.

It had also been proposed that a voluntary contribution of one per cent on contracts obtained by private ICT service providers was made to the Fund, he said adding that a disbursement formula had also been put in place.

Mr Kan-Dapaah said the mechanics of how the Fund works were not cast in concrete and could be improved upon.

"Here, we recognize the expertise and experience of our development partners in running similar funds. They know the mistakes associated with similar schemes elsewhere and it is our expectation that once the concept is accepted they can help us to improve upon the mechanisms."

He, therefore, recommended to all stakeholders - governments, private sector, civil society and local authorities - to support the Digital Solidarity Fund.