Lankans transferred to Christmas Island

A group of 88 Sri Lankans who had managed to reach Australia by boat on Monday have been trasnfered to Christmas Island, The Australian newspaper reported.Immigration authorities said the 88 Sri Lankans offloaded at Christmas Island yesterday were the latest in recent months to embark on the perilous boat trip of more than 3000km from Sri Lanka to the Australian territory of Christmas Island. The number of Sri Lankans seeking asylum by boat in Australia so far this year is already more than double last year’s total; since January 1, 586 Sri Lankans have reached Christmas Island. Last year, there were 211. The Australian has been told the boat trip from Sri Lanka to Christmas Island can take about 30 days, while the journey from Indonesia to the Australian territory can be as short as 30 hours if the boat is good and the sea calm.The number of Sri Lankans seeking asylum in Australia by boat in recent years peaked at 736 in 2009. In 2010, it fell to 536 and last year to a little more than 200. The boatload of mostly young men taken ashore at Christmas Island yesterday was first spotted in the Indian Ocean by a Customs and Border Protection Dash 8 surveillance aircraft. The boat was not sinking and the men were not in distress, and they continued on their way to the island in their blue-and-white wooden fishing boat. It was fitted with a wheelhouse and a large gas bottle. In those years, some Sri Lankans came on fishing vessels direct from their own country and paid people in Sri Lanka to arrange their passage. But others went to Indonesia first and were put on boats with asylum-seekers from other countries, such as Afghanistan and Iran, for the much shorter boat trip, The Australian newspaper reported. read more

Emerging information technology trends and innovation take centre stage at UN forum

More than 1,500 participants from Government, private sector, civil society and international organizations are meeting at a United Nations forum in Geneva this week to review and measure progress towards targets set almost a decade ago designed to help countries more effectively harness the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs).The WSIS Forum is an “international multi-stakeholder engagement” to meet the goals of the World Summit on the Information Society which met in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005, according to the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the host and main organizer of the event.The Summit set out Action Plans in several key areas for ICT development, including ICT infrastructure and capacity building, cybersecurity and ICT applications in key areas such as e-Government, e-Learning, e-Health and e-Environment. “Ten years after the Geneva phase of WSIS, we are witnessing some of the most innovative developments in the ICT sector,” ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré told a press conference held today on the sidelines of the opening of the Forum.“Mobile phone subscriptions are reaching the 7 billion mark,” he noted. “In 2012, two and a half billion people used the Internet from one device or another. “The thrust now is to drive content through enhanced broadband access that will feed both rural communities and urban centres,” he continued. “It is now time to look at WSIS+10 and how we can continue the momentum for the future development of ICTs, which govern so many aspects of our day-to-day life.”During the Forum, high-level dialogues with Government ministers and representatives from business and civil society will examine issues such as women’s empowerment in the information society; smart climate change monitoring; ICT innovations and standards; cybersecurity; and youth and ICTs. Also on the agenda is ICTs and the so-called ‘post-2015 agenda’ – the global development agenda beyond 2015, the deadline for meeting the internationally agreed anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “Together we will address a range of issues within the global information society and we will reflect on how ICTs continue to shape the daily lives of individuals, businesses, communities and governments,” said Mr. Touré.Addressing today’s opening, the ITU chief said that this year’s WSIS Forum is a unique opportunity to “develop consensus on what is needed for the WSIS process in the future, to ensure that the bottom-up approach of the WSIS process is preserved and that the decisions concerning modalities also respect the real requirements of the use of ICTs for socio-economic development, while ensuring growth in the ICT ecosystem itself.”Also today, the ITU awarded prizes to 18 recipients in recognition of outstanding effort and achievement in the implementation of WSIS-related activities. The winners include the education ministries of Saudi Arabia, the Civil Service Commission of Kuwait, the University of La Punta in Argentina, and Child Helpline International from the Netherlands. read more