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United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS):
A Legacy


UNITeS History

"Many people would volunteer their time and skills to narrow the digital divide if they were asked"
Sharon Capeling-Alakija, Executive Coordinator, 1998 - 2003, UN Volunteers programme

In his Millennium Report released in April 2000, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced UNITeS as a special initiative to stimulate and channel the contributions of volunteers to help bridge the digital divide. With the responsibility of taking UNITeS from idea to reality, UNV (as the coordinating agency) put in place a consultative process to give the initiative a clear identity and set up some operational principles that could allow it to function in a short period.

The first UNITeS workshop took place in early June 2000, as am informal Working Group meeting in Bad Honnef, near Bonn. A diverse group of invited ICT for development (ICT4D) experts made important contributions on elements of identity, strategy and operations for an initial UNITeS framework. Very importantly, a set of initial principles was developed to endow the initiative with a unique identity and sense of purpose. A follow-up meeting in August 2000 by a comparatively larger group of participants from likely UNITeS stakeholders, including volunteer-sending agencies, civil society organizations, private sector, governments, and UN organizations specially involved in ICT for development - e.g. UNDP, ITU, UNESCO, WHO. These representatives reviewed plans for the initiative and offered additional ideas and support.

In late June 2000, a preliminary web site was launched to provide basic information about the emerging initiative. The current site, re-launched in mid-April 2001, will serve when fully developed as the direct interface for accessing all UNITeS information services and management support tools.

UNITeS was highlighted at the ECOSOC high-level segment on IT and Development in July 2000. The report of a Panel of Experts commissioned by ECOSOC (UN Economic & Social COuncil) for this meeting called on UNITeS as a potentially significant support to improve human and institutional capacity on the developmental use of ICT. Ms Sharon Capeling-Alakija, then head of UNV, delivered an address to the meeting, and delegations from several countries already expressed support for the initiative.

By the time of the Millennium Summit in New York (6 September 2000), a first set of UNITeS assignments was under way. The group of 23 UNITeS/UN Volunteers (11 internationals and 12 nationals) were posted in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Benin, Tanzania, India, Ecuador and Jordan. A number of important media outlets, like The Economist, Computerworld or Spainīs El Mundo, took notice of the Secretary General's initiative to set up an ICT volunteer corps.

In early 2001, UNV established a new unit, "e-Volunteering", to increase institutional capacity to handle UNITeS activities. By the end of 2001, UNITeS and UNV had placed and/or supported more than 65 ICT volunteers in more than a dozen developing countries, and many new partnerships and activities had been established. UNITeS achieved a number of further accomplishments during its more than five years of active service).

Following the departure of Secretary General Kofi Annan at the end of 2006, support from within UNDP and UNV for the UNITeS initiative waned. From 2005 through most of 2009, the web site was still available at www.unites.org, but was no longer updated. As of November 2009, all UNITeS web site materials were taken down from the orignal UNITeS web site.

 
To see the complete, original UNITeS web site and its resources, including its extensive knowledge base, look up unites.org at archive.org

 
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This archived version of the UNITeS web site is hosted by Jayne Cravens