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[FYI] (Fwd) NTY: U.N. Fears Divisive Impact of the Internet
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- Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2000 19:18:23 +0200
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Date sent: Thu, 29 Jun 2000 09:57:55 -0700 (PDT)
From: Margarita Lacabe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: NTY: U.N. Fears Divisive Impact of the Internet
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une 29, 2000
U.N. Fears Divisive Impact of the Internet
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
GENEVA, June 28 -- Delegates to a United Nations summit
meeting on poverty and development expressed concern this week
that the growing power of the Internet risks widening the divide
between the world's haves and have-nots.
"Eighty-eight percent of the world's Internet users live in the
industrial countries, only 0.3 percent in the poorest countries of the
world," Germany's Economic Development and Cooperation Minister, Heide
Wieczorek-Zeul, told the government representatives who are gathered
here for five days of talks on how to further social development and
reduce poverty by 2015. The meeting is part of an effort to follow up
on 10 commitments toward the same goals that were made at a United
Nations conference in Copenhagen in 1995.
The difference in Internet use is showing up not only between rich and
poor countries but also between rich and poor individuals within
countries, the German representative said.
The United Nations Development Program estimates that by 2001 the
world will have about 700 million Internet users, compared with 50
million users in 1997.
The overwhelming majority of those users come from wealthy countries,
while three billion people live on less than $2 a day, by United
"Currently, Internet traffic doubles every three months with
e-commerce growing by 100 percent a year," said Mark Malloch Brown,
the administrator of the United Nations Development Program.
While the Internet could be considered a tool for limiting differences
between rich and poor countries and between rich and poor individuals
within the same country, the widening gap in use could also be seen by
many in the developing world as a threat, he said.
This gap in usage reflects a "digital divide" between those with
access to and knowledge of computers. More than that, Russia's
delegate, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvryenko, said it means
that not all countries have the same opportunity to access
technological and scientific information that could be valuable for
progress in other areas.
Part of the problem in narrowing the gap in usage is that poor
countries cannot easily establish the telecommunications
infrastructure needed for accessing the Internet, last year's United
Nations Development Program report acknowledged.
Wireless technology, satellite reception and mobile phones, among
other technologies, remain the privilege of the few in many countries.
Where it is available in poor countries, the cost of using the
Internet is often prohibitive for all but a wealthy few. For example,
using the Internet for an hour in Chad in 1999 cost $10.50, United
Nations figures show, while the average yearly salary of its
inhabitants is $187.
Meanwhile, the rapid expansion in the use of e-commerce holds little
gain for four-fifths of the world's population, which does not have
credit cards, the United Nations report said.
But the digital divide is also found within rich countries between men
and women, young and old, the literate and the illiterate, urban and
rural dwellers and between those who can speak English -- 80 percent
of all Web sites being in English, the agency said.
The United Nations Development Program has set up financing and
technical aid programs and strategies to broaden Internet access in
poor countries, largely through so-called cybercafes.
But neither the United Nations Development Program nor the delegates
here could put a figure on plan costs.
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