Report from the Global Internet Summit in Yokohama
sectors of the Internet, but has begun moving swiftly into the enterprise
Severe challenges arise, however, in achieving universal or
near-universal access to the Internet in many developing nations.
Overcoming the digital divide via "digital bridges" to bring people out
from behind the "information curtain" or "knowledge curtain" is thus a
key policy challenge for government and private sectors, and many
innovative approaches are springing up in this regard.
Buses with satellite Internet hookup make tours of some Malaysian schools
in rural areas, offering monthly or fortnightly Internet access. The
first Internet café has opened recently in Baghdad. Internet community
centres in Peru have brought Internet access costs via shared lines down
to about 40 cents an hour, a model to be pursued by Sam Pitroda's
WorldTel in six Indian states.
An NGO called the M.S.Swaminathan Foundation (www.mssf.org) has been
experimenting with rural "knowledge centres" in Tamil Nadu, where trained
Net users help disseminate localised agricultural, medical,
meteorological and educational content to villagers. UNDP (United Nations
Development Fund) has helped set up online resource centres for farmers
Other NGOs active in Asian Internet initiatives include Kuala
Lumpur-based Asia Pacific Development Information Program
(www.apdip.net), Singapore-based PAN (Pan-Asian Networking initiative),
supported by Canada's International Development Research Centre
(www.idrc.org.sg). PAN has launched e-commerce services for textile and
handicraft manufacturers in Bangladesh and Nepal.
Developing countries should also track and participate in international
fora framing e-commerce policy, said Magda Ismail of Egypt's Ministry of
Communication and IT. Such fora include the World Trade Organization
(WTO), U.N. Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), World
Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD), and U.N. Conference on Trade and
Another key organisation for all countries to participate in is the
International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (www.icann.com)