Almost 1,000 participants from over 60 countries gathered at the United Nations Centre in Addis Ababa to explore how the latest information and communication technology (ICT) can help countries overcome poverty and advance development.

*“ICT for Development and Prosperity”* is the theme for the three-day **World Information Technology Forum (WITFOR)** which kicked off yesterday in the Ethiopian capital. WITFOR is organized by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) and hosted by the Federal Government of Ethiopia, in cooperation with the Ethiopian ICT Development Agency (EICTDA), the Ethiopian Information Technology Professional Association (EITPA) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

In a news release today, the UN points out that the Forum grew out of the 2003 and 2005 World Summit on the Information Society, which affirmed the importance of bridging the so-called “digital divide” that separates poor communities from affluent ones through their lack of access to such technology. It seeks to help developing countries in particular to use ICT to achieve the set of agreed global anti-poverty targets known as the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

An opening message read by Aida Opoku-Mensah, ECA’s Director of ICT, Science and Technology Division, on behalf of Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, stressed that *“through globalization new ideas and innovation are spreading faster than ever before and as a result, knowledge-based development is becoming a reality for all countries irrespective of whether they are developed or developing.”*

Participants will look at successful and sustainable ICT strategies in developing countries, as well as issues such as human resource development, leapfrogging rural communications and low-cost telecommunication systems and information services for rural communities.