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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Okinawa
"Leaders expressed concern at the growing digital divide between rich and poor"
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The BBC's Robin Oakley
"This is the most expensive G8 ever"
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The BBC's Nick Robinson
"This summit is likely to be remembered for the arrival of President Putin"
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Saturday, 22 July, 2000, 00:58 GMT 01:58 UK
G8 focus on digital divide
Computer screen showing G8
The Japanese want to open up computer access to more Third World countries
The world's leading powers are being urged to address the so-called digital divide on the second day of the G8 summit in Japan.

Summit host, Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori, wants to highlight the gulf that separates rich and poor countries in their access to information technology.

It is just one of a wide range of international, economic and political issues being discussed by the leading eight industrial nations - the US, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Canada and Russia.

They also want to launch initiatives to tackle infectious diseases which are estimated to kill 13 million people each year in poorer countries.

Too little

Aid campaigners have already criticised the leaders after their first day of talks on the Japanese island of Okinawa for failing to speed up moves to cancel Third World debt.

Summit members acknowledged that too little was being done to give debt relief to the world's poorest nations, but said they were still committed to wiping out $100bn in Third World debt.

Now Mr Mori is expected to announce plans for another $15bn worth of Japanese aid over five years to promote the use of information technology in the developing world.

The aid would be intended to pay for the training of ten thousand IT experts in Third World countries as well as help prevent crimes committed using the internet.

Mr Mori says information technology is the key to development in both rich and poor countries.

But G8 leaders are well aware that the poorer countries have relatively little access to this technology so Mr Mori wants the summit to agree to co-operate on addressing the digital divide.

Some representatives of developing world debt campaign groups are dismissive of the plan, believeing that is far more important to reduce the burden of foreign loan repayments than invest in IT projects.

Earlier in the summit Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who has been taking part in his first G8, met US President Bill Clinton

They pledged to work together to control intermediate-range missiles and improve the exchange of data from early-warning systems.

But they avoided direct reference to their differences over the American project to develop a nuclear-missile shield.

Mr Putin also saw British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who said London is offering more than $100m of aid to help Russia destroy chemical weapons and dispose of unneeded plutonium.

Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin discussed arms control at his first G8
Mr Putin briefed Mr Clinton on his recent visit to North Korea, which offered to scrap its missile programme in return for assistance in space technology.

The Russian president indicated that he would push for a debt rescheduling deal for Russia. But the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, said Russia was benefiting from rising oil and gas prices and did not need generous treatment.

The G8 agenda also covers the scourge of Aids, illegal diamond trafficking and the safety of genetically-modified foods.

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Find out more about the G8 summit in Okinawa

Key Stories:
On the agenda:
See also:

21 Jul 00 | Business
Digital divide - Japan style
21 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair frustration as debt plea fails
22 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Russia offered cash to scrap weapons
21 Jul 00 | World
In pictures: G8 summit
21 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Clinton pledge on Okinawa military
20 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Debt pressure on richest countries
20 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's 500m summit bill
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