Infopoverty and development

Publié: 23 février 2005

• The International Federation approaches the World Summit on Information Society as an event which has great potential for identifying ways in which the future information society can help protect the most vulnerable people and assist the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

• As a worldwide network, at national and local levels, the International Federation believes the connectivity options available from modern technology are an essential tool.

• ICT offers special opportunities for poverty alleviation and development. These are clearly identified by many National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, especially in countries challenged by remoteness.

• ICT is also a particularly valuable tool for the promotion of mutual understanding between peoples, tolerance and work against discrimination.

• Remoteness is not only a geographical concept. People living in dense urban environments can also be remote for a variety of reasons including ethnic or religious difference and cultural background.

• National Societies' experiences include working with people discriminated against because of their difference, and rendered remote. Migrant populations are particularly vulnerable to this.

• In many communities the breakdown of traditional support within families has left ageing populations remote and even more vulnerable.

• Many National Societies look to the new Information Society and ICTs to help address the poverty this remoteness creates. Some examples: French Red Cross work in distressed urban areas and Spanish Red Cross work with the elderly.

• Geographic isolation is easily understood in the desert context introduced at this Infopoverty Seminar.

• The Tunisian village, Borj Ettouil, which is to be developed as a showcase for the Summit in December 2003, demonstrates the value of extending Information Society to such environments as a means of breaking down the vulnerability of remoteness and assisting real development objectives at the local level.

• The International Federation and the Tunisian Red Crescent Society are actively involved in supporting this venture. We congratulate OCCAM in Milan and the partnerships it has developed with the Government of Tunisia, the International Telecommunications Union, UNESCO, the World Bank, the University of Oklahoma and others. We are also very pleased to have been invited to be a member of the Infopoverty Advisory Board.

• We attach, however, particular value to the chance to take part at the national and local level through the Tunisian Red Crescent and our own sub-regional office in Tunis.

• We look forward to taking the experience gained from this participation to other countries where the needs are just as acute.

• We also see Infopoverty as an exercise which can help donors and others understand the value of ICTs for disaster preparedness, a core International Federation program.

• As an example of how modern ICT links to traditional systems and capacities, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has an agreement with the Meteorology Bureau for the distribution of weather warnings. The links work very well, and save lives.

• The Bangladesh experience also shows how ICT and strong local connectivity works without discrimination of any kind. Communities are protected and prosperity is enhanced by the involvement of the whole community population, and ICT helps ensure that nobody is excluded.

• Another example is the readiness of National Societies and others in particularly disadvantaged countries like Small Island Developing States to accept and use ICT.

• It is not true, despite a consistent myth, that people in developed countries are more equipped to accept and use the Internet. Our experience is sometimes the reverse - people in remote locations understand well the need for connections and the relevance of these connections for their own development.

• One of the first National Societies to sign up for and use the International Federation's intranet was the Cook Islands Red Cross.

• Remoteness is often the factor which drives acceptance of the technology, and then puts it to innovative and practical use.

• We have the example of the Icelandic Red Cross, a world leader in Telemedicine. That experience was brought to the 2004 Infopoverty Conference in Milan by Dr Fridfinnur Hermannsson of the Icelandic Red Cross and Managing Director of the Health Centre at Husavik in northern Iceland from which some of the best work is done for the Arctic Circle region well beyond Iceland itself.

• This work, as for disaster preparedness and work for humanitarian values, was also identified by the International Federation as especially relevant at the January 2005 Mauritius International Meeting for Small Island Developing States.

• It shows that Borj Ettouil is much more than a project for a desert environment. It is one with worldwide application.

• To work well, it needs full community involvement, especially engaging volunteers, Youth and ageing populations. The Youth components of the International Federation are ready to work with these ideas, as are many of our 97 million volunteers.

• It also needs partnerships in all countries. ICTs are part of the new world of multistakeholder activity and diplomacy, and we expect Borj Ettouil will bring forward the same experience. This can be a direct contribution to Millennium Development Goal 8 on partnerships for development.

• Partnerships and commitments must be built on a long-term basis. There is a clear need for sustained support for the projects, enabling them to reach the critical mass required to be self-sustaining.

• The International Federation, hence, sees Borj Ettouil as an example of what everyone will have to accept as part of ordinary life in the future.

• It will show how vulnerability can be addressed at the local level through improved connectivity and everything that flows from it.

• It will also enable that vulnerability to come immediately to the notice of decision-makers at the national level, and at the same time to the international community decision-makers at the United Nations and elsewhere.

• That is why we are so pleased that the Tunisian Red Crescent Society has been invited to play a part on behalf of the local people themselves.

• That local involvement is the key to the success and viability of the project.


La Fédération internationale des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge constitue, avec ses 190 Sociétés nationales membres, le plus vaste réseau humanitaire du monde. En tant que membres du Mouvement international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge, nous sommes guidés dans notre travail par sept Principes fondamentaux: humanité, impartialité, neutralité, indépendance, volontariat, unité et universalité.