Report offers ways to bridge the digital divide

Members of the World Economic Forum (WEF) presented Japanese Prime Minister

Yoshiro Mori last week with their suggestions for how leaders from the world's

major industrial powers, the Group of Eight, can address the growing digital

divide between nations.

The report addresses the gap between those who have access to information

technology, and those who don't, the so-called digital divide. The Group

of Eight (G8) comprises U.S., U.K., Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Canada

and Russia.

The report, which was commissioned by Late Japanese Prime Minister Keizo

Obuchi as part of the run up to the G8 Summit, which took place over the

weekend in Okinawa, recommends nine initiatives that the WEF thinks could

be pursued by the international community, under the leadership of the G8,

together with businesses, nonprofit groups and other organizations.

Chief among the recommendations was the need for the G8 to take the lead

in organizing a coordinated effort to assist developing countries in bridging

the gap. Coordination among multilateral institutions, the international

business community and civil societal and philanthropic organizations is

also key, the report said.

The WEF, which is made up of business leaders from major multinational corporations,

outlined steps it believes should be taken to help address the problem —

one it sees as a "global digital opportunity" for both the people of the

world and business.

Access to education is another key area highlighted by the report and by

Richard Li, chairman and chief executive officer of Hong Kong's Pacific

Century Group. "In our opinion, it is not a digital divide, but an education

divide," he said. "We feel IT is only a conduit to the knowledge-based economy.

We can use IT to spread basic education to everyone."

The report also noted the need for national economic stability and new sources

of funding if entrepreneurship is to flourish, as well as access to information

technology for every citizen as a foundation for the Information Age. In

addition, it called for the establishment of government policies that encourage

competition in telecommunications, the Internet infrastructure area and

global electronic commerce.


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