DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Helping Reduce the Digital Divide

By Gary Garriott

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

The Internet computer system is helping many people start and operate businesses. But to use the Internet, a person has to learn how to use a computer. A person also needs a telephone line or satellite connection. However, about half the world's population have never even made a telephone call. And most poor people do not own a computer. For these people a "digital divide" exists.

Two meetings were held in the United States to discuss what can be done. One was called the "Digital Dividends Conference." It was held in Seattle, Washington. Officials from large American information technology companies attended. Representatives from non-governmental organizations, or N-G-Os, also attended.

These people are working to make it easier for poor people to use the Internet. Many American companies provide money to N-G-Os for their programs. Microsoft is the largest computer software company in the world. It has set up an organization to give money to many N-G-Os.

The head of Microsoft, Bill Gates, spoke at the meeting. Mr. Gates has given hundreds of millions of dollars to help people in developing countries fight diseases like malaria and AIDS. He said that people have to be healthy before they can use computers and the Internet.

Another conference was held at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D-C. It was called "Voices of the Poor." It was supported by the British Department for International Development. About one-hundred people from N-G-Os and poor people's organizations from around the world attended. They told about using the Internet to teach poor children about computers and business in many places around the world.

They also told about how providing wireless telephones to poor village women has changed their lives. The women are able to sell telephone services to other people in the village. Everyone who attended the meeting learned that many organizations around the world are using computers and the Internet to help reduce the digital divide.

You can get more information about what is being done to reduce the digital divide from the group VITA. Its Internet address is www. vita. org.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Gary Garriott.

Voice of America Special English