Messrs. Ministers, ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to be here with you and mark with this event the successful completion of a critical stage in the Knowledge Economy Project. 1.8 million more people in Romania have now access to a new technology and information and to the opportunities and benefits they can offer.
For Romania, now a member of the European Union, access to and use of knowledge and new information technologies is an important part of the integration process and of catching-up with the living standards of the member states. We, at the World Bank, are proud to support the Romanian Government in this endeavor through the Knowledge Economy Project.
Access to information means opportunity and empowerment, and coupled with the best use of technology, it offers a powerful tool to improve people’s life. This is particularly true today as we operate in an increasingly flat world, in an Information Society. In this flat world, everyone can be participant and nobody should be excluded due to lack of access to information.
Equality of access to information will shape the development of Romania by making it more inclusive. The key objective of this project was to ensure that knowledge-disadvantaged communities are not left behind. The 255 communities, the 1.8 million people who live in these communities, are no longer on the wrong side of the digital divide, they are now offered the opportunity to take part in the new knowledge-based economy.
But the Knowledge Economy Project is not just about technology and broadband access. It is about ensuring that people are comfortable using it and understand the benefits from using it. It is about providing content that is relevant to them and accessible by them. By content we mean e-government services, information sources for businesses and citizens, new teaching and learning means, new access to culture, etc.
There is much more to come under the Knowledge Economy project:
- Increased digital literacy to prepare Romanian teachers and children for modern teaching and learning techniques, and acquire the skills required by the single European market economy.
- More efficient e-government services to facilitate the citizen and business' interactions with the administration.
- E-business solutions for the SMEs to increase their productivity.
I also see a major benefit for the local authorities participating in the Knowledge Economy Project, as they will have a chance to build capacity and gain experience in management and implementation of projects and become familiar with project procedures. In view of the EU structural funds allocated to Romania, this type of experience will prove instrumental in helping local authorities apply to/and manage structural funds. Therefore, I envisage a key role for the Knowledge Economy Project in supporting local authorities to prepare for their increasing responsibilities within the European Union and to contribute to the absorption rate of the EU funds for Romania.
The conference today is called “Virtual Collaboration - Collaboration that matters”. We talk about collaboration among 255 villages and small cities, among themselves and with the rest of the world. This reminds me of what Bill Gates was saying some time ago: “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow”. Today you are all placed right in the town square. It is for the others to learn from you and the experience you will accumulate.
I wish you all the best in this challenging endeavor.