FROM DIGITAL DIVIDE TO DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY:
July 22, 2000
Today, the world has an historic opportunity to promote global participation in the network economy and society. New information and communication technologies like the Internet are transforming the way we live, learn and work. Nations that succeed in harnessing its potential can look forward to greatly expanded economic growth, dramatically improved human welfare, and stronger forms of democratic government. Developing nations have an unprecedented opportunity to meet vital development goals such as poverty reduction, basic healthcare, and education far more effectively than before.
The challenge to bridge the global digital divide cannot be underestimated. But it is essential that developing nations become full participants in the network economy and society. Technology is no "silver bullet" for the problems of the developing world. Yet if we fail to ensure that all nations have the opportunity to participate fully in the network economy and society, we run the risk that the divide between nations will grow. It is against this background that we issue A Global Call to Action with the stated goal of achieving digital access and education for all before this decade is out.
We recognize that to be successful in turning the digital divide into the digital opportunity a concrete and coordinated effort must be undertaken with the participation of all partners and stakeholders, including companies, foundations, non-governmental organizations, governments and multilateral organizations. The G-8, developing nation, multilateral institution, private sector, and foundation commitment to the creation of a Digital Opportunities Task Force (the dot force) is a vital and unprecedented first step toward the goal of achieving digital access and education for all by the year 2010.
We also recognize that the diverse conditions and needs of the developing nations should be taken into account, and that local cultures be preserved and promoted. There is no "one size fits all" solution. The critical success factor will be developing nations' ownership through the adoption of coherent strategies to build national information infrastructure in pursuit of core development goals, expanded human capacity, community initiatives and indigenous entrepreneurship, and a pro-competitive policy and regulatory environment.
There has never been a better time to take action. An unprecedented willingness exists in industrialized nations, developing countries, the private sector, and civil society to work together and offer their efforts to eradicate digital inequity among rich and poor, young and old. The developed nations offer their efforts to create the policy framework and enabling conditions that can allow nations and their citizens to benefit from the digital opportunity. And multilateral institutions and global networks of non-governmental organizations offer their efforts as catalysts and guarantors in this process.
As companies, foundations, and non-governmental organizations we are committed to help create digital opportunity for the people of the developing nations, and to take concrete steps in the following five key strategic areas:
1. Fostering Policy, Regulatory and Network Readiness: Help developing countries adopt the policies, practices, and regulatory frameworks that will encourage private sector investment but also reap the full economic, social and cultural benefits of the widespread diffusion of the Internet, e-commerce and other information and communications technologies.
2. Expanding Basic Connectivity to People Everywhere: Support the expansion of community access points or other forms of shared connectivity so that the Internet and telecommunications services are within walking distance for everyone on the planet. Invest in R&D that will lead to products and services tailored to the needs of developing countries and poor communities everywhere, such as low-cost, low-power, wireless devices.
3. Building Human Capacity in Education and Training: Increase significantly the number of people in developing nations with the technology skills and know-how needed to build, manage, and effectively use the information infrastructure of the 21st century. Equip more people in developing nations become technologically literate" through the appropriate use of educational technology in schools, universities, communities, and the workplace.
4. Enhance Healthcare and Quality of Life Using Information Technology: Promote applications of the Internet and information technology -- such as e-health, distance learning, natural resource management, and preservation of cultural heritage - that have particular relevance to improving the quality of life for the people of the developing world.
5. Create New Opportunities for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Through E-commerce and E-business: Encourage the development of micro-enterprises and small businesses that harness the power of new information and communications technologies. In all societies, develop venture-financing sources that can drive innovation.
COMPANIES AND ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTING PRESIDENT CLINTON'S
GLOBAL CALL TO ACTION FOR DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY
ALTS (Association for Local Telecommunications Services)
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for International Development, Harvard University
Communities in Schools
Digital Broadband Communications
Ernst & Young LLP
Global Information Infrastructure Commission
Information Technology Association of America
Information Technology Industry Council
Internet Policy Institute
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Lyceum Network Integration
Massachusetts Corporation for Educational Telecommunications
New York Life International, Inc.
Open Society Institute
People Technology Foundation
Solar Electric Light Fund
The Chubb Corporation
World Links Organization
World Resources Institute
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