On behalf of the APEC Secretariat, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the hosts for the kind invitation to participate in Opening Ceremony of the APEC Digital Opportunity Center Week, or ADOC Week.
Chinese Taipei has always been active in the cooperation activities of APEC, in particular in the field of ICT, or information and communications technologies. The work of ADOC is one of important APEC projects that have been successfully designed and implemented by Chinese Taipei. I am confident that all these efforts by Chinese Taipei will contribute to the overall development of APEC, which seeks to strengthen trade and investment liberalization and economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Today, I would like to share with you an overview of the APEC 2005 priorities and the notable progress made so far this year. I would also like to highlight how these relate to APEC's work on the use of ICT.
APEC's work in 2005
The Republic of Korea is the host of the 2005 APEC Year, where a number of meetings and activities are taking place. All of these activities are guided by the central theme of "Towards One Community: Meet the Challenge, Make the Change."
This theme is a bold statement, which seeks to cement the achievements of recent years while seeking real change to meet our objectives for the years to come. I wish to introduce you to some of the notable progress that has been made so far this year:
First, the 2005 APEC year is a particularly important year for the APEC Process as we are now at the mid-point between when APEC was established in 1989 and the target for completing the Bogor Goals in 2020. As such, one of the most important initiatives for the year has been our work on the APEC Midterm Stocktake of progress to reach these goals. The Midterm Stocktake will be an important roadmap to be adopted by the Leaders and Ministers when they meet in Busan in November.
Second, this year APEC also endorsed the APEC Strategy on Natural Disaster Preparedness and Responses and established a Task Force to advance work in this area. The tragic tsunami disaster of December 2004 highlighted the importance of APEC Member Economies seeking to build the highest level of preparedness for dealing with such crises. Fora from a broad range of APEC areas are now contributing to the strategy.
Third, a further key issue of 2005 has been APEC's input to advancing the current round of World Trade Organization Doha Development Agenda negotiations. At their recent meeting on Jeju Island, APEC Trade Ministers adopted a statement on APEC's support for the current WTO negotiations. In the statement, ministers made a breakthrough in non-agricultural market access, or NAMA, negotiations by adopting a formula for deeper tariff reductions and committed to work together for the success of the Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference in December.
Fourth, APEC will have focused on how to enhance the efficiency of APEC's operation and to ensure financial sustainability. By November, APEC will reach consensus on various areas for the improvement of its work.
As you may well be aware, the scope of APEC's range of activities has broadened considerably in recent years. This includes attention to areas such as counter-terrorism, anti-corruption, transparency, health and culture, all of which have a significant impact on the region?s trade and investment. These are all areas that are relevant to the core APEC issues of facilitating trade and investment and strengthening the economic capacity of Member Economies.
ICT in APEC
I wish to turn to the subject of APEC-wide ICT cooperation. ICT has become one of the important areas where APEC activities have been expanded considerably in the recent decade. The theme of this ADOC Week "Transforming the Digital Divide into a Digital Opportunity" is particularly relevant to the ICT objectives of the APEC process.
The rapid process of globalization and changes in the global economy have led APEC to develop a range of strategies to increase the capacity of members to fully tap into the benefits of the digital economy.
Recognizing the enormous potential of the ICT, APEC Leaders set the APEC Action Agenda for the New Economy in Brunei in the year 2000. This agenda committed Member Economies to develop and implement a policy framework to enable all people of the region to at least have community-based access to the internet by 2010.
This agenda was further enhanced with the 2001 e-APEC Strategy in Shanghai that sought to assist APEC's progress towards a truly digital society. The strategy seeks to increase learning and employment opportunities, improve public services and to promote universal access to ICT and information services.
The work of APEC Fora is key to advancing the Action Agenda and e-APEC Strategy. The APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group, the Electronic Commerce Steering Group, Economic Committe, the Committee on Trade and Investment and events such as this ADOC Week make an enormous contribution to achieving these goals.
These ICT related objectives have proven challenging, but there have been success stories in the past five years - such as the doubling of the number of people who now have access to the Internet in the APEC Region. APEC economies have also made significant gains in improving e-Infrastructure and competition through market-oriented policies that have helped lead to innovation. With all of these concerted efforts and appropriate policy reform all APEC economies have the prospect of meeting the Brunei Goals in 2010.
This progress in ICT related areas is also supportive of objectives of the World Summit on the Information Society, or WSIS, which has the declared aim to build a people-centered, inclusive, and development-oriented information society. APEC has contributed to the First and Second Phases of the WSIS with the aim at sharing best practices and achievements toward building an information society of the Asia Pacific region.
It is fair to say that in many respects APEC economies are already world leaders in ICT areas including the delivery of broadband Internet access, e-government services and mobile communications services. These ICT related initiatives contribute to APEC's overall trade facilitation and investment liberalization goals that aim to achieve sustainable and equitable growth for the well-being of the people in our region. But, it is true that many APEC economies have shown a considerable digital divide within their economies and across the region.
APEC Digital Opportunity Center
It is commendable that Chinese Taipei has demonstrated more than a significant desire to help build this information society, and bridge the digital divide by assisting developing Member Economies to improve their knowledge and skills.
In my view, the successful implementation of the two-phase initiative "Transforming the Digital Divide into a Digital Opportunity" in 2000 is just one example of this commitment. In addition, Chinese Taipei went further by establishing the APEC Digital Opportunity Center. Creation of this cooperative mechanism for the public and private sector has certainly contributed to APEC Leaders' efforts to build a digital society in the Asia Pacific region.
APEC Leaders and Ministers have welcomed and acknowledged the significant progress made by ADOC such as the ICT Elite Camp, ICT schools set up in Chile and Peru, and a Telecenter training workshop in Singapore.
APEC Member Economies recognize that new information and communications technologies are making a significant impact on economic development and social activities in our region. Appropriate infrastructure and policies on ICT, together with human resource and development cooperation strategies, are preconditions to move APEC towards a knowledge -based society.
While recognizing the progress made so far, we also have to realize that we still have a lot of work to do in building a people-centred, inclusive, and development-oriented information society. I believe that meeting these challenges begins with people like you who understand ICT and end with the many people who will ultimately use and benefit from these technologies.
With the ongoing support of our Leaders and Ministers APEC continues to play an active role in advancing the role and reach ICT infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific. It is only by ensuring broader access to digital opportunities and increasing the capacity of people in the region to use this technology that we will reap the benefits of increased prosperity and security.
Finally, I wish to again thank the APEC Digital Opportunity Center for the excellent arrangements and warm hospitality. I am confident that this event will serve as a valuable forum for fruitful exchanges of experience, and for exploring potential of transforming the digital divide to digital opportunities in APEC region.