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Tuesday, 13 July, 1999, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Internet increases global inequality - UN
The Internet is still largely in the hands of rich, white males
The Internet is contributing to an ever-widening gap between rich and poor which has now reached "grotesque" proportions, according to a new report by the United Nations.

The annual UN Human Development Report says the effects of globalisation and increasing economic integration have led to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer in nearly every way.

In particular, it highlights the part played by the unequal spread of new technologies such as the Internet and biotechnology.

The UN report says the Internet provides enormous benefits in terms of improved information and contacts.

However, it is mainly used by educated young white males with access to money - so they benefit, while others are left out in the cold.

The report condemns the polarisation between those who are able to take advantage of the benefits of economic globalisation and technological advances like the Internet, and those forced to suffer its effects.

It says that, for inequalities to be reversed, the rules of globalisation need to be rewritten.

Signs of increased globalisation include:

  • drug-smuggling
  • money-laundering/other organised crime
  • pop culture
  • the Internet
  • the spread of epidemics
  • police cooperation
  • trade and business
The report warns that, as globalisation has speeded up, the ability of the world's leaders to cope with the human consequences have lagged behind.

The report's main author, Richard Jolly, says: "The world is rushing headlong into greater integration, driven mostly by a philosophy of market profitability and economic efficiency".

"We must bring human development and social protection into the equation."

Widening gap

UN statistics provide vidence of the widening gap between rich and poor:

  • In nine years, the income ratio between the top 20% and the bottom 20% has increased from 60:1 to 74:1.
  • Eighty countries have less revenue than they did a decade ago.
  • The assets of the 200 richest people exceed the combined income of 41% of the world's total population.

    The report calls for a code of conduct for multinational corporations and wants new economic institutions to reduce the risks of financial crises like the one in Asia in 1997.

    And it says there should be a more coordinated international effort to deal with other damaging aspects of globalisation, such as the drugs trade and money laundering.

    Meeting human needs

    The UN report also ranks countries according to how well the authors think they meet human needs, using measures such as economic output and social indicators such as health and education.

    Canada has the highest quality of life
    Canada is top of the index for quality of life - as it was last year. Norway is second, followed by the United States. The bottom places are taken up by African countries, with Sierra Leone bottom.

    The UK has moved up four places in the table to 10th, climbing above France.

    In its conclusion, the UNDP calls for more technological aid to be delivered to poor countries, warning that they risk being left out in the rush to monopolise the world's knowledge.

    The report also calls for strong governance - a set of rules and institutions at every level - to preserve the advantages of global markets and competition, while ensuring that globalisation works for people, not just for profits.

    Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker on the implications of the report
    Dr Richard Jolly talks to BBC World Service
    See also:

    28 Sep 98 | Business
    24 Jan 99 | Anaheim 99
    06 May 99 | Asia-Pacific
    08 Jun 99 | debt
    21 Jun 99 | Americas
    12 Jul 99 | UK
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