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Internet: Good, Poverty: Bad

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At the World Summit on the Information Society organised by the UN, 170 countries found common ground on the notion that the Internet is good and poverty is not so good, and that acces to the Internet may make for less of the latter:

    The declaration of principles and action plan adopted at the summit set ambitious goals to ensure that more than half of the world has access to some form of electronic media by 2015.

    But a question mark remains over the degree of genuine political support to use technology as a tool to improve life for billions of people.

    ….And exactly how to bring these digital resources within the reach of the 90% of the Earth’s population currently offline proved too much for the summit.

    Hard decisions such as how to bankroll technology projects in developing countries and who should be in charge of the net were deferred for two years.

    ….”The choice should not be between Pentiums or penicillin,” said the Rwandan Minister for Energy and Telecommunications, Sam Nkusi.

    “We want to reap the benefits of the internet and join the rest of the world. That is when we can truly be an information society, otherwise the digital divide will widen,” he told the BBC.

    “We could probably do more, yes,” admitted the Swedish Minister for Development and Cooperation, Carin Jamtin.

    “But how much and to what extent, I can’t say,” she added, neatly summarising one of the key issues left unresolved at the summit. [BBC]

This is both poignant and laughably telling. I have the sense that the developed world would like to help out, but that until there is a sense that the “help” will yield some tangible return it wil be only marginally forthcoming. 90% of the world does not have Internet access – think how our traffic could go up if we got some of those people online.

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