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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 11:31 GMT
Davos diary, day six
Bill Gates, Jean Messier of Vivendi and Nobuyuki Idei of Sony
Debating the digital divide
The World Economic Forum in Davos is the meeting place for the movers and shakers of the globalised economy. Writing exclusively for BBC News Online, Vernon Ellis, the international chairman of management consultancy Accenture, reports his daily Davos experience.

Day 6: Monday, 29 January

My day was dominated by a discussion of the digital divide. So perhaps I had better explain what it is.

Actually, it is not a good term. The fundamental divides, within and between countries, are socio-economic.

Vernon Ellis, the international chairman of management consultancy Accenture
Vernon Ellis
The premise is that because digital technologies can have such a powerful impact on economic growth, and on development needs like health and education, those societies without access to the internet will fall further behind.

It is better to talk about digital opportunities, the title of a plenary session in which I spoke this afternoon.

I was heartened by the consensus on the panel, chaired by Rahul Bajaj of India's Bajaj Auto. We know what the problem is. Now it's time to do something about it.

Help for education

And things are happening - as was stressed by fellow panellists John Chambers of Cisco and Carly Fiorina of Hewlett Packard - particularly in the vital field of education.

At the same time, Toshiba's Taizo Nishimuro stressed that we must listen to the developing world's views rather than offer prescriptive advice. And we had a chance to do that listening to the other two panellists.

The intellect and dynamism of Bolivia's young Vice President Jorge Quiroga, and the passion of Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade reminded us of their fierce desire to seize the digital opportunity.

G8 Taskforce

Earlier in the day, most of my time was spent at meetings in and around the G8 Dotforce established by the Okinawa summit of world leaders last year.

Taking advantage of the presence of several members of the Dotforce at Davos, the Forum arranged for others to join us for an informal meeting.

There is a lot to be done to come up with firm recommendations before the leaders of the world's leading industrial countries meet again in July in Italy.

I am the UK private sector representative and it has been a pleasure to find how respected are the British government's policies on development and globalisation.

Later in the evening, watching BBC World News, I saw the heated press conference between the Forum and some major non-governmental organisations.

It seems very odd to complain of police suppression of free speech when all these groups are, rightly, given platforms at Davos.

At the same time, it is obvious that some protesters were hell-bent on disruption. All rather sad.

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