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“The most important role of ICT in development is fostering a knowledge intensive sustainable livelihood security system in rural areas, since ICT can enable us to reach the unreached and include the excluded in information, knowledge and skill empowerment.”
M. S. Swaminathan Research
“We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which a more than a billion of them are currently subjected” This explicit declaration was made by the United Nations in September 2000-the maiden year of new millennium. What a fabulous way to address the problems that are plaguing the society!
Evolution of MDGs
At the World Summit for Social Development, held in March 1995 in Copenhagen, Governments reached a new consensus on the need to put people at the centre of development. The Social Summit was the largest gathering ever of world leaders at that time. It pledged to make the conquest of poverty, the goal of full employment and the fostering of social integration overriding objectives of development. Five years on, they reconvened in Geneva in June 2000, to review what has been achieved, and to commit themselves to new initiatives. So, we can say that it was World Summit for Social Development that set the ball rolling and paved the way for Millennium Development Goals.
On 17 December 1998, the General Assembly adopted a resolution by which it decided to convene the Millennium Summit of the United Nations as an integral part of the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations. The Summit opened at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 6 September 2000.
The Millennium Declaration was adopted in September 2000 by 189 world leaders who committed to “free all men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty” by the year 2015. For that purpose, eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set up to cope with a variety of issues such as the promotion of education, maternity health care, gender equality, poverty reduction policies, child mortality, AIDS and other fatal diseases. These goals were set for the year 2015 with reference to the international situation prevalent in 1990.
Upon undertaking to eradicate poverty, government leaders around the world clearly stated that for the first time in the history of humanity it was possible to achieve such a goal using the resources, knowledge and technologies now available to humankind.
The Declaration contains numerous commitments to enhance the future of humanity in the new century. The United Nations Secretariat subsequently drafted the list of eight objectives, each with a set of targets and specific indicators.
The eight goals are as under:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability
- Develop a global partnership for development
These goals are currently being discussed both internationally and nationally, with many organisations deliberating how to include them in the various global or national strategies.
Importance of MDGs
MDGs were set to make this world a better living place. To put it in the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “for the first time, the world has agreed on a measurable set of human development benchmarks to evaluate poverty-reduction efforts, with deadlines for achieving them”. Many developing countries, donors and non-governmental organisations have made reaching the MDGs their top priority, he noted, and “for every goal there are encouraging signs of progress in some areas.” In short, we can say hat MDGs have given a direction to countries to set their priorities for development. This is vital, as all the goals have been devised taking into consideration the most pressing problems that need immediate attention.
Role of ICTs in achieving MDGs
Technology plays a vital role in development. It is through the advances in science and technology that the world has attained heights in progress. But unfortunately, the benefits of technology never reach to poor. Rich people enjoy all the benefits that technology brings along with it. However, ICTs have emerged as a ray of hope for those who were until now devoid of all the benefits of technology. ICTs have the potential to reach poor and needy as these are affordable and have the potential to transcend the barriers of region, language etc. ICTs can play tremendous role in gender equality, education, rural livelihoods etc. These can help in spontaneous flow of information and thus help in promotion of campaigns against diseases, disasters etc.
Just use of ICTs promise a society where there is free- and-faster exchange of information. It allows information to be transferred across distance without face-to-face contact. This will lead to empowerment of people, as knowledge is power. Poor people will become aware about their rights and happenings in the world. In this way they can avail the benefits of 'information society'. ICT innovations in one sector will lead to development in other sectors too as the process of development is interlinked and interconnected. e-Government applications can help the poor to access government services, to spend less time satisfying government demands, to influence government, and indeed to reduce the dead weight of so many governments on their necks. It is especially important to utilise ICTs to improve health and education services for the poor through telemedicine and distance education. The social and economic repercussions of the advances in ICT will be so great that the term “information revolution” is probably justified. On the one hand, technological progress is so fast that basic ICT services may well become universal and pervasive even in poor societies. On the other hand, developed countries spend many times as much per capita on ICT as do poor countries. Thus while ICT offer unparalleled opportunities to meet basic human needs in poor countries, aspects of the digital divide continue to widen, offering new risks to those same poor countries.
This brings the role of governments in developing countries. Policies have to be framed in a way that will ensure that benefits trickle down to the poor. International agencies also need to donate and promote ICTs in an aggressive way. Policies have to be framed keeping in mind the social and economic development of all sections of society.
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|Goals 4, 5, 6|
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