Working Together to Bridge the Digital Divide

Article excerpt

The leaders of the G-8 nations are taking bold steps to bridge the so-called "digital divide," and to ensure that the world's poorest countries share in the blessings of free and unfettered global electronic commerce.

In relative terms, we've only moved a few steps from the starting line of the information- and communications-technology revolution. This revolution may already have created untold wealth in the United States and Europe. But the cornucopia of benefits remains largely untapped for the developing nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Currently, 80 percent of the world's population has never even heard a telephone dial tone, while only 2 percent of the world's population is connected to the Internet. Even more incredibly, 2 billion of the earth's inhabitants subsist on the equivalent of $2 or less a day.

The world's media paid scant attention to the e-commerce aspects of the G-8 summit in Okinawa in July. But G-8 leaders adopted policies to help broaden the reach of the Internet and e-commerce that were visionary.

First, a free flow of goods and ideas through cyberspace is imperative; and to accomplish that, the private and public sectors must agree on responsible and reasonable rules for the Internet.

In addition, access to education, to healthcare information and medical services, to buyers of local products, and to ideas and assistance with local business initiatives can be made available to all underdeveloped areas swiftly and cheaply via the Internet.

The world's business leaders in the e-commerce sector are also committed to bridging this significant technology divide. We know it is an investment that will cost us proportionately little when we consider the unlimited dividends likely to flow from it.

The Okinawa summit articulated a plan of action to accomplish this by establishing a Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force) to address education, promote sound government policy, and encourage public-private partnerships.

Moreover, the G-8 leaders committed to expand their efforts to build greater understanding of the Internet's power in connecting individuals around the world. By enabling this myriad of individual relationships, the Internet holds the great promise of advancing international peace and prosperity much further than anything yet achieved by governments or corporations.

The leaders meeting in Okinawa embraced global and market-driven solutions to e-commerce issues, and renewed their commitment to working with all governments to develop policies and regulatory and legal frameworks to ensure the free flow of commerce through cyberspace. …