G8 Passes International Digital Divide Plan
The world’s big eight powers approved an action plan to bridge the “digital divide” with the poorest countries. Leaders at the Group of Eight summit held in July endorsed a task force report on how to harness technology in the cause of development. In 2000, the G8 summit established the Digital Opportunity Task Force.
The plan focuses on improving Internet connectivity and lowering information technology costs; helping develop national Internet strategies; deploying information technology in health care, development aid; and facilitating entrepreneurship.
“Even a year ago, demonstrators were burning computers on the streets of Okinawa saying that poor people need water and you can’t drink a computer,” Vernon Ellis, a business executive who served on the task force, told news reporters at a summit news conference.
“In fact … there isn’t a trade-off between information and communication technologies and other development needs. These technologies can make a real difference to health, to education, to empowerment and to enterprise.”
Ellis, one of 43 members on the task force, is chairman of the consulting firm Accenture. The Group of Eight is a coalition of the world’s most influential nations, which includes the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Russia.
The goal of the task force is to help people in poor countries gain access to information and communications technology, and to promote the use of these technologies in reducing poverty.
The World Bank invests about $1.5 billion annually in information infrastructure and in projects using such digital technology, and the new action plan could leverage more funding, according to Mohsen Khalil, a World Bank official.
Participants say the report’s key impact is represented by the strategic guidance it provides for bridging the North-South digital divide. Canada, next year’s G8 chair, will work with Italy for the rest of this year and next on implementing the report.
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