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
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
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