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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Digital Divide in Developing Nations

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The Internet is a system of electronic communication. It helps people share information, communicate with family and friends, and start businesses. But these people must have use of a computer, and know how to use it. And they must have a connection, usually through a telephone line or an Internet center. All this costs money. For many poor people, a so-called "digital divide" exists. People who cannot connect to the Internet become poorer, while those who can become richer.

The United Nations is working to solve this problem. In December, it will hold a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, called the World Summit on the Information Society. Political and business leaders will come together with delegates from non-governmental organizations, educational groups and others. They will discuss the fast-growing information technology industry and its effects on the world.

U-N organizers say they hope the gathering will lead to a political declaration and action plan. The goal is to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor nations. A second conference, to examine progress, will take place in Tunisia in two-thousand-five.

Kofi
Annan
Kofi Annan

U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan recently spoke to business leaders at a meeting in New York. Mister Annan urged them to take part in the World Summit on the Information Society. He told them that industry can play an important part in limiting technological differences between countries. He noted that some companies already support efforts to improve Internet skills among poor Americans. The U-N secretary general urged businesses to also look for projects in developing countries.

Cisco Systems in San Jose, California, is one company that already does that. In nineteen-ninety-seven, Cisco began a special program to teach Internet technology skills to people around the world. Today, the Cisco Networking Academy has spread to one-hundred-forty-five nations.

Mister Annan says more ideas like this are needed to close the digital divide. He says information technology is not a magic answer for poor nations, but it can lead to peace and development. He says news and information provided through the Internet helps build trade, employment, good government and democracy around the world.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.

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