Digital divide deepens in developing world

Nearly one-third of villages worldwide do not even have a telephone Copyright: http://www.morguefile.com

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Information and communications technologies (ICTs) can make a crucial contribution to efforts to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals — but only if action is scaled-up now, said world leaders speaking at a side meeting of the UN world summit being held on 14-16 September.

The IPS News Agency reports how Jose Antonio Ocampo, chair of the UN taskforce on ICTs, told delegates that connectivity and infrastructure were stabilising factors and vital for development and ridding the world of poverty.

But worldwide, one in six people has no access to a telephone, and nearly one-third of villages lack any communication technologies, participants were told.

Not only that, despite the growth in these technologies the UN Millennium Project says the ‘digital divide’ between those in poor countries who can connect to global information networks and those who still lack access continues to widen.

Ocampo said that a strong focus on science and ICTs from leaders of all countries, donor agencies, the private sector, civil society and international bodies was essential for the success of the Millennium Development Goals.

Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf called for ‘virtual universities’ to be created. These would allow students to study for high-quality degrees without needing to travel to Europe or North America.

Other leaders who spoke at the meeting include the prime minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Badawi, and president Leonel Fernandez Reyna of the Dominican Republic.

Link to full news story in Inter Press Service News Agency