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The two day international conference of the E-9 countries on Information Communication Technology (ICT) for literacy ended on October 5, 2007 with a call to universalise literacy. Minister of Human Resource Development, Arjun Singh inaugurated the Conference at Bangalore. The Objectives of the Conference are to increasing awareness about use of ICT for promoting literacy, sharing best practices of utilising ICT for Literacy, and exploring collaborations with private sector on ICT for Literacy.

The conference was jointly organised by the Union Government and UNESCO under the auspices of the National Literacy Mission. Those participating in the meet include Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Speakers at the inaugural session included Wipro chairman Azim Premji; Chief Secretary P.B. Mahishi and Representative and Director of UNESCO, New Delhi, Minja Yang.  The plenary session took note of the significance of ICT in several fields especially in delivering and improving literacy services in the emerging economies. The need for which has been recognised as being crucial to the successful reduction of illiteracy worldwide where over 771 million adults were still illiterate out of which 304 million were in South Asian Countries.

The Conference was structured into five Sessions. During the first session ‘Sharing of Country Experiences in ICT for Literacy/Education’, each participating country circulated a brief country paper outlining the present status of literacy in their country, the extent of the problem faced, recent efforts made, etc., indicating the role played by ICT in helping in the eradication of illiteracy, specific innovations and lessons learnt.

The following session ‘Successful Cases in Asia, ICT for Literacy and Education’  included presentations by UNESCO as well as organisations involved in implementation of ICT-based literacy programmes.

The session on ‘Other Successful Initiatives’ focused on other ICT-related literacy initiatives that have worked successfully in India and elsewhere, including both government and non-governmental projects.

The session ‘Collaboration with Private Sector’ looked at initiatives taken by private partners, and explored the manner in which some of these strategies for social and educational development can be taken forward in the E-9 countries.

During the Group discussion session, participants broke up into three groups, and charted the 10 recommendations including the decentralisation of ICT programmes.  The charter document felt that locally – relevant context specific and flexible content for literacy can be delivered at low cost to cover the literacy programme in places that is most needed.

The charter also appealed to the governments to increase incremental investment in ICT for literacy. The charter also stated that there has to be greater bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation between the countries, so that successful initiatives and best practices in one country may be replicated and delivered to beneficiaries elsewhere. The participating countries in this network have to establish a close network of E9 Focal Points as well as other focal points for adult literacy and elementary education, on the lines of similar, pre-existing knowledge sharing networks, to facilitate the speedy and efficient dissemination of information between the E9 countries.

Acknowledging the importance of civil society organisations and the private sector in modern-day development, the charter recommended the deepening and augmentation of existing partnerships with these groups so that government efforts may be supplemented and enhanced to deliver literacy services to last-mile recipients, with a particular emphasis on girls, women, those from the most deprived sections of society and those residing in scattered and hard to reach areas of each country.

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