UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
told media executives Thursday they should
bring not only news and information to the developing world,
but educate it as well.
"One of the things you can do is to inform people about the
Internet and its possibilities, and so help create the demand
for the next stage," said Annan, kicking off the fifth annual
two-day U.N. World Television Forum.
"But at the same time, you must help the spread of literacy and
other basic skills. Connecting the poor to the Internet will
hardly improve their lives if they cannot even read or write,"
The forum focused on the "digital divide" between rich and poor
nations with access to the Web, and the use of television to
teach about the Internet.
The United Nations says some 2.5 billion
radios and 1.5 billion television sets are estimated to reach
three-quarters of humanity, while only 5 percent of the world's
population have access to the Internet.
Annan said new information technology had "enormous potential
to promote economic growth and to help eradicate poverty."
The president of the U.N. General Assembly, Harri Holkeri, said
such communications could be used to publicize the scourge of
AIDS and other diseases in developing
"Technology can improve knowledge: in Africa where one in four
adults is HIV-positive and 40 percent cannot read or write,
technology, including through television, radio and the
Internet, could spread knowledge ... and help reduce illness or
death," Holkeri said.
Some media executives were uncertain about the best way to make
"This is a real challenge, to keep the universality of the
delivery of information so that the unsophisticated can learn
and be informed, or position ourselves to be watched by the
most affluent who can afford the new technologies," said Robert
Kwiatkowski, president of TVP, Poland's public television
Others cautioned against modeling all programming on the
American formula at the expense of local cultures.
"We are told the world is globalizing. That is only partially
true. What is actually happening is it has been Americanizing,"
said Greg Dyke, director general of the British Broadcasting