Two major UN internet agencies are to locate in Ireland next year. The Global eSchools and Communities Initiative and the Global ePolicy and Resource Network are to establish offices in Dublin and they will employ 30 people initially.
The decision was revealed last night at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Dermot Ahern TD.
He likened the work of the agencies to the efforts of thousands of Irish missionaries that had nurtured and educated the poor of the developing world, only this time they would be utilising the opportunities made possible by the information age.
The Global eSchools initiative emerged from a UN ICT Task Force and is aimed at integrating information and communications technology (ICT) into schools in the developing world with the twin goals of improving education and increasing the connectivity of communities. A four-month joint study by McKinsey and Company/UN ICT TF team concluded that a Global eSchools and Communities Initiative, driven by a new global, independent organisation is needed as a catalyst.
The initiative was led by Ireland and Sweden and is now being developed in partnership with Canada and the European Commission. It is intended to partner with members of the private sector, other development organisations and civil society in progressing this. It is intended to engage in a first round of eSchools initiatives in Ghana, Namibia, Bolivia and Andhra Pradesh (a state in India).
The Global ePolicy Resource Network (ePol-NET) is designed to mobilise global efforts in support of national e-strategies for development. The Network brings together providers of e-strategy and e-policy information and expertise for the benefit of individuals, organisations and governments in developing countries.
The network is made up of partners from private sector organisations and international bodies that include the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Canadian, Irish, Italian, French, Japanese and UK governments are also partners, each contributing expertise to ePol-NET. ePol-NET will operate as a virtual network, through a secretariat established in Ireland.
“This is a very proud day when we can announce that two major UN agencies are to locate in Ireland,” Minister Ahern said. “As a nation we have always held our hand of friendship out to the Third World. By locating these two agencies in Ireland we will be at the cutting edge in developing communications technology globally in schools and co-ordinating strategies on a worldwide basis for the information age.”
He added: “Both of these agencies will be significant drivers of change in the developing world. The information and communications age is the new industrial revolution. These countries, like Ireland in the 19th century, lost out in that revolution. Unlike Ireland they are losing out again now. We must redress that and the UN agencies will be at the cutting edge in that policy.”
Minister Ahern concluded: “The fact that they are being located in Ireland sends out a strong message that Ireland is aware of its responsibilities to the developing world. It provides us with an opportunity to showcase our leadership role at a global level on the issue of the Information Society and the knowledge economy. It also builds on the international perception of Ireland as a leading knowledge economy.”
By John Kennedy