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Thursday, March 02, 2006

India pledges N153b to special fund on digital divide

Indian government has pledged to support the Special Commonwealth Fund (SCF) on the Digital Divide with the sum of a million Euros, about N153,230,403.80.

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr. Don McKinnon, revealed this in an address to the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) held recently in New Delhi, India.

“I would like to thank the Government of India for its generous pledge of a million Euros to the Special Commonwealth Fund on the Digital Divide,” he asserted.

He also said that in no distance time, CBA would be invited to join the Steering Committee on the Digital Divide.

According to the Commonwealth scribe, the theme of the conference, “Making A Difference in a Multi-Platform World” is timely in that technological advances have changed how people work and view the world in its entirety.

Mr. McKinnon said the Commonwealth Action Plan on the Digital Divide would in the coming months be felt within the group made of former British colonies, as his office is working towards reduction of this gap among member states.

Pointing out that events of last few weeks have naturally heightened the consciousness of this gap within Commonwealth about the need to be sensitive, just as true democracies encourage an atmosphere of choice and diversity.

New technology, he said, meant that television has been liberated from the living room floor, and the advent of the satellite dish means a hundred TV channels could be accessed onto those portable screens.

At Malta during the CHOGM last November, the Commonwealth boss said, leaders recognised the growing need to bridge digital divide within its members, because “the gap between those communities that have access to computers and the Internet and those who don’t needs to be bridged”.

He noted however, that in some of the member countries, press freedom is still fettered.

“Information is restricted, journalists are harassed, intimidated and in some cases imprisoned. It highlights the difficulties of putting these high ideals into practice. In these countries there is clearly a deficiency of ‘information democracy’ because the choice is limited” he declared.

The Commonwealth has sought to play its part to assist the fourth estate through the Commonwealth Media Development Fund, of which the CBA has been a beneficiary.

This, he explained was why Commonwealth Secretariat invited over 20 journalists to the CHOGM in Malta to report on the outcome of the meeting and all the ancillary events which took place in the margins.

He also acknowledged India as an example of democracy with its avalanche of Indian media having one of the strong features of this, as he described it as “the world’s largest democracy”.

Mr. McKinnon stressed that India provides an excellent example of what a free press means to a democratic society, especially with large scale of television stations, such as NDTV, Star TV, Zee TV and Doordarshan among those telecasting now to a worldwide constituency, saying, “they compete against the biggest everywhere”.

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