UN's Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) will launch on October 19 its Asia-Pacific regional network from Shanghai in a field seen as having much relevance to India.
It is a "multi-stakeholder forum" meant to bring together advocates of diverse sectors, to promote ways of using information and communication technologies (ICT) to fight global problems like poverty and move towards the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan earlier this year started GAID, which is led by a steering committee with Intel's chief Craig Barrett as its chairperson.
It also has a strategy council, a set of high-level advisors, and a "champions' network". GAID held its first meeting on June 19-20, 2006, in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
For a series of reasons, Asia is seen among the leading areas where ICT is used to address developmental needs.
Yifan Yang of the GAID Secretariat in New York told IANS that the theme of the meeting was to formally launch the work of the Global Alliance in Asia and discuss the activities and development of the regional network.
In addition, the meeting is expected to "arrange exchanges and dialogues among the regional representatives of GAID as well as provide a platform for multi-stakeholders in the region to discuss strategic plans and share experiences and knowledge on the growth of e-government development in the region".
Annan approved the alliance in April 2006 as part of a larger effort to stress that ICT is essential for achieving the UN's MDG.
The MDG includes eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowerment of women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.
But ICT-for-development campaigners, ever in an understandable hurry to see the sometimes-over hyped magic of information technology works effectively, have been asking questions about what role the UN's latest arm could actually play.
South Asian journalist and ICT campaigner Nalaka Gunawardene told APC.org in an interview: "It's now more than 60 days since UN-GAID was launched in Kuala Lumpur - and we are one-third into the six months that I then [at its launch] suggested should be allowed 'to prove its worth'. In the rapidly changing ICT world, that's a long time."
In August GAID sought the views of the stakeholders on possible "communities of expertise" that it said could be established under its purview.
In a statement, the UN-GAID team analysed the "outcome" of the organisation's inaugural meet held in June in Kuala Lumpur. In particular, it spoke of plans for cyber development corps and resource centres.
It added: "The irony of the present situation is that those who are currently with the least access to technology are precisely the ones who would benefit the most if wonders of modern information and communication technologies become indeed accessible and relevant to all of humanity."
It announced that GAID would "strive" to overcome the social and digital divides by promoting policies and partnerships that can help create an "arc of digital opportunity".
"In the area of ICT, the best minds of the world are busy solving the problems of the rich.
"The alliance will help put the problems and needs of the majority of humanity on to the 'radar screens' of thinkers, business executives and government decision makers," it added.
Proposals at the Kuala Lumpur inaugural meet include considering a cyber development corps (CyDevCorps) under the umbrella of the UN, promoting resource centres to build human capital, and thematic and regional networks and working groups.