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Last Updated: Monday, 22 December, 2003, 12:10 GMT
How has information technology changed your life?
Delegates to a United Nations summit on technology have failed to approve plans to deliver internet and other technologies to the world's poorest regions.

Many of the tough decisions were deferred for two years, when the World Summit on the Information Society holds its second act in Tunisia.

UN chief Kofi Annan had said that "technology can improve the lives of millions of the Earth's poorest people."

But negotiators could not agree on key questions such as whether a U.N. agency should be created to govern the internet and whether to create a separate fund for projects to close the technology gap between rich and poor nations.

How have computers, the internet and mobile phones changed your life? Should information technology be available to all? Are there downsides as well as upsides to this technology? What has been the impact on business? Who should decide how the internet is run?

Due to the arrest of Saddam Hussein, our phone-in discussion on the "Digital Divide" has been postponed. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your e-mails. The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

I met my husband following a totally stray email in my inbox
Raluca, UK/currently in US
On a completely different note from all messages below: I met my husband following a totally stray email in my inbox (and then some months of electronic correspondence). It was a considerable life change. We've been happily married for three years now.
Raluca, UK/currently in US

Thanks to information technology, I can now get unsolicited and unwanted junk sent directly into my computer as well as through my letterbox and over my telephone line.
Pete Hazell, High Wycombe, UK

How has the Information Technology changed my life? Hmmm well I log onto 'Have your say' on a daily basis to read the views of people all over the world I would normally never have a chance to listen to. Need I say more?
Matt, UK

Considering the tremendous growth rate that the IT industry has experienced over the last 10 years, it staggers me to think of just WHAT will be readily available in, say, 50 years time! One fact cannot be denied, however - the growth of this technology has given nearly everyone much more CHOICE of how, when, where and why they do things! And that can't be a bad thing!
Alan Hall, Evesham, Worcs.

Its helped me keep my sanity, after living in the USA, where any news, other than local, and American generated, is as rare as rocking horse manure, to be able to read and receive British, BBC, newspapers and radio is truly wonderful, next step should be to make domestic UK TV available worldwide as opposed to the 150 channels of American "Sport".
Tony Sorace, Grenada

It's changed my life by providing me with both an income and more frustration than any human should have to handle!
Guy Chapman, Reading, UK

Easier by far. Now I have my Wi-Fi LAN connected to my SAN through a NAS head to store my SPAM away from my WAN. I have also converged networks for VoIP and have sorted MIB through my SNMP. All I have to do now is find someone who can what this all means and how do I turn my computer on!
Technohope, UK

I was a university training to be an architect, finished college and realised there's no money in architecture anymore so I retrained myself. Now I'm a full time pro. Web developer and have never looked back so you could say IT has changed the direction of my life entirely.
David Howe, Chelmsford UK

The frequent failures of computer systems to improve business and consumer transactions is very much related to the poor HUMAN communication between the sponsors, managers, software developers and end users. Instead of giving us more time, it just uses up time unravelling the mess or re-working the same processes until it works correctly. Often the final working system is a poor imitation of the original concept.
Karl Mabert, Beckenham, England

Not only do we need to give people access, we need to give them the power of Information Literacy
Sandra, Auckland, New Zealand
As a public librarian, we see many people who have Internet access, but do not know how to really use the Internet to meet their needs. It's a bit like having a car in the garage and not knowing how to drive it. Simply having Internet access does not guarantee the user being able to find the answers they need. We regularly give instruction to our customers on using search engine technology to their advantage. There's a lot of junk out there in cyberspace as well as a lot of good, credible and accurate information. The digital divide does not only exist between the rich countries and the poor, it exists everywhere. Not only do we need to give people access, we need to give them the power of Information Literacy - the ability to sort the good stuff from the bad and the skills to search and find the right information efficiently.
Sandra, Auckland, New Zealand

Information technology has totally changed the life of all the people in the world. Most of the people are happy with internet/mobile and computers at present life. But "How does the IT will help to the poor people" as all the human beings need shelter, food and water. Is there any way to help for poor people by IT.
Tandin, Bhutan

There is huge group of people who are only hesitant in use of Modern IT, mainly PC's because of language problem. Steps should be taken to provide "regional language interfacing" to all. It is technically very much possible now, leaving no other reason for delay.
Umair Sani, Karachi, Pakistan

Information technology links the world and Kofi Annan voiced legitimate concerns about the reliance on the English language. If we were truly globalised then the Internet must reflect this world's rich culture and heritage, and not phase out languages that are part of people's ethnic identity.
Prashanth Parameswaran, Malaysia

A lot of people here seem to think that the internet is about shopping and entertainment. That may well be the case for them but the main point is, I believe, the flow of information. The internet has enabled me to work at home rather than waste my time commuting, pollute the atmosphere and contribute to traffic congestion. Some aspects of my work still require me to be in a particular place but I have escaped that awful daily routine of travelling to and from an office. Thank you, internet!
kulu, Basingstoke, UK

The greatest thing that happened this century is the down of the Internet. It brought the entire world into on tiny village. From remote village in New Zealand to a jungle corner in West Africa, news is relayed instantaneously. The greatest of it is the instant message. My life has been great with this invention.
Anthony Emechete, United States

The use of internet and email is already helping our planet by reducing demand for paper. Newspapers, magazines, books, and junk mail are inexcusably wasteful and put terrible pressure on forests. Even people who prefer to read on paper can print just the articles they want from a publication instead of buying the whole thing and wasting most of it.
Matt Simon, Boston, US

Information technology brought our family closer together
Lidia Tkatchenko, Canada

My grandparents live in a small village in Ukraine. There is no phone line there. A year ago they bought a mobile phone. Grandmother keeps it in her pocket at all times. Before that my cousins had to drive grandmother to their apartment in the nearby city at a prearranged time so I can talk to her.

Now I can call my grandmother from Canada whenever I feel like. I keep in touch with my other relatives who live in different Russian cities by e-mail since they have Internet now. Information technology brought our family closer together.
Lidia Tkatchenko, Canada

The UN would be well advised to focus on supporting the creation of intelligent and efficient distribution networks for food, water, electricity, gasoline, medicine and education.

Without these systems, an economy simply cannot succeed. It requires a successful economy with visionary leadership to lift the wretched from abject poverty. Kofi Annan should read the Wealth of Nations.
Heath Clarke, Corona del Mar, CA, USA

Well as I know, from my childhood I never forget to listen BBC Hindi because if I lost then I never listen that broadcast. When internet comes then I never worry to forget to listen any broadcast because on Hindi website, that particular broadcast available for next 24 hours. So I can say that internet keep me up to date as I can read the latest news on BBC website too.
Deepak Kumar Vidhyarthi, Muzaffar Nagar, India

35 years ago and out of university I discovered computers. Since then I have not looked back - IT has flown me around the world, and given me a great career. Now I use those vast years of experience to advise others on how IT can help them in their businesses and lives. IT will soon also be providing me with a decent pension. Changed my life? IT was and still is my working life.
Brian, Aldershot UK

Computers make some tasks easier, but generally my life is not much different than before I had a PC or a mobile phone. IT has resulted in dramatic changes in the human experience, but no corresponding improvements in the human condition. The major downside to the emerging Information Technology is that it has led to the overload of data, which, paradoxically has brought about a poverty of knowledge.
David, Milwaukee, WI, USA

No one can deny that IT has changed the life of each and every human being on the planet. IT has its advantages and disadvantages, however, the advantages are much greater than the disadvantages. If i talk of my life, I would be useless if there was no IT. Being an imports manager for a company, my work has in terms of time has been reduce to a faction of what it could be if there was no IT.
Ravi Bhensdadia, Christchurch, New Zealand

It must benefit the worlds' poorest people - just look at the help lines which when I phone for computer help here turn out to be based in a far off country, there's a classic example of how technology can bring employment to the poorer parts of the world. Not that they are undereducated either, they now their stuff and it always amazes me I have to speak to somebody thousands of miles away
Hazel Waterer, Chorleywood, UK

A hungry stomach does not need computers
Hamza Sheikh, Houston, TX
Everyday people all over the world throw away food that could feed millions of children in poor countries. We haven't solved the problem of hunger yet and we want to bridge the digital divide? A hungry stomach does not need computers.
Hamza Sheikh, Houston, TX

I think computer/Internet/Mobile phone is only next to Oxygen and electricity. These mediums are so cost effective and blessing for countries who missed a generation of electronic development. Computers/Internet is the single most factors in quick development in healthcare and human development. Downside is few country control all the resources for Internet/Computer.
Raj, USA

Having gained a BSc in Computer Science and currently studying for an MSc in E-commerce, in a 'richer' country, I haven't been in relevant employment for well over two years. I am now beginning to think that the internet and all its hype has been a complete waste of time for me and thousands like me.
Anish Chohan, Coventry

Information Technology is, as its name implies, an educational tool or a resource. As governments aid providing agencies plan and provide for public education, they should include it in the curriculum. Its use is like using knives, matches and TV. Education in its proper use is very beneficial.
Hussein Kayhan, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

IT is a tool to solve problems not an end in itself. How will all this proposed technology help with corruption, poverty, poor health, lack of roads or phones lines. There is a lack of clear thinking here and we are seeing a case of the cart before the horse.
John, Cambodia (expat)

Just another communication delivery device.....
Margaret, USA

How has IT changed my life? Absolutely fundamentally! 20 years ago, I was a scientist working for peanuts as a University technician. Seeking a change, I became a Programmer, then a Consultant, and more recently I started my own IT business, which now employs around 25 people. By the way - it's widely predicted that within 5 years the majority of pages on the Internet will be written in various dialects of Chinese - Kofi Annan please take note!
John, England

The net is important, yes, but surely delivering a basic standard of living is the first priority?
Lisa, London, UK
I don't mean to be funny, but if I was hungry and living in poverty, I'm not sure that having access to eBay would make all the difference. The net is important, yes, but surely delivering a basic standard of living is the first priority?
Lisa, London, UK

Ensuring education teaches IT lessons based on open source and Linux technology, and that governments deploy it and encourage its use. It is not just the immediate benefits of low costs, flexibility and reliable software that open source provides, but the long term jobs creation and economic benefits from having home-grown IT people who can maintain and improve the open source software deployments in their countries.
John Corry, London, UK

With all the problems facing the world, wars, revolutions, starvation, enslavement and trafficking of women and children, drugs, terrorism, AIDS, economic recessions and inequities, global warming, it seems to me that figuring out how to get everybody in the world on the internet should be a rather low priority. Most internet use is strictly for amusement and is of very little benefit so in those countries where it might be of value to a limited number of people, it would most likely get into the wrong hands anyway.
Mark, USA

If the rich nations wrote off the crippling debt burdens of the developing nations not only would they be able to afford IT infrastructure they would be able to afford clean water and electricity too.
Alan Cox, Swansea

Proficiency in information technology and anything related to computers have been a means for many less fortunate people to establish successful careers. Hence, providing opportunities for education to poor people can help bridge the digital divide. Technology is a vital resource now and in the future, and it is essential that everybody has access to this. Limiting access to technology by only rich people defeats the purpose of technology. Technology is supposed to expand our world, not limit it.
Janet Paulin, Philippines/Australia

The IT boom in India is a living example of the benefits of bridging the digital divide, what happened in India should be allowed to be duplicated else where so that MNC can come in and invest. Education and a willingness to explore the unknown by the leaders in the disadvantaged nations are the key ingredients for bridging the gap.
Abdullah Saeed, Male', Maldives

Access isn't the main issue, it's training
Dan Kimbrough, Syracuse, NY, USA
In dealing with the Digital Divide, access isn't the main issue, it's training. We can install networks and computers on every inch of the earth, but unless we train people in how to use the access, we've done nothing but waste money and proven those who feel that there is no divide right. We must train people and show them that computers and the internet are integral to all societies and then they will join the fight to make sure the entire world is connected.
Dan Kimbrough, Syracuse, NY, USA

While personal information technology doesn't make much sense, having community access to useful information (medical care, agriculture, and others) is useful. If it can be updated and added to via the internet, and is available in the native language, it would be an unparalleled resource for helping disadvantaged peoples develop.
Jason, Hong Kong

IF this provides them with access to market, especially rich first world markets, it will help. For example Save the Children's well established project to allow Jordanian women to sell duvet covers they make in New York.
Michael Grazebrook, Paris (ex-UK)

We can't even feed the population never mind provide technology the only people this will benefit are corrupt governments and business.
E Sloan, England

The Internet and its technology will come about naturally as a society evolves and builds better communications. Talking about bridging the digital divide in countries with poor housing and healthcare is very much putting the cart before the horse.
Jimmy, Ealing, UK

I think the under developed country are learning much from the net. Also it keep the world small. It has to further grow rather than come to stand still
Saminathan, Kinshasa, DR Congo

I'm sick to the stomach of these massive corporations pretending to be the bringers of good things and freedom...forcing their technologies further and further into areas of the world that should be left alone. Communities that have lived for thousands of years without digital TVs and computers etc should be left in peace...who are we to say they need modernising?
Lee, Stockton

Information and its accessibility has always been key for mankind
Andreas D, Aachen, Germany
Information and its accessibility has always been key for mankind. From Gutenberg's printing technique, the Luther Bible, newspapers and yes, the internet. It is also key to understand your own socio-political environment and the power structures, one is living in. We have so far never managed to help the 'under-developed' countries to jump over one evolutionary step. So why should we again even try to succeed in world-wide Internet access, before managing to achieve world-wide supply of unbiased radio and newspapers?
Andreas D, Aachen, Germany

The only people I can see this whole thing benefiting is online businesses, and of course spam emailers. As soon as an Afghan kid can buy things cheaper over the net than from the local farmer, say, who is going to get the custom? And who is going to be forced further into poverty? I say this whole deal stinks of corporate America!
Cashy, Telford, England

The digital divide can be easily broken if rich nation would just extend their assistance to poor nations. Some of the old digital facilities that are already becoming junk in rich nations can be presented to poorer nationals as gifts. Also it is necessary to carry a massive campaign to create a general awareness of the importance of digit logy to the world today. This will lead to massive education and the imbibing of digital culture worldwide
Wole Akinyeye, Ibadan, Nigeria

Let the leaders of Africa realise that the money that goes into funding conflicts can be used to address not only the digital divide but also a whole lot of other issues. The rest of the world is only too eager to help. But God helps those who help themselves
Vishnoo Rath, Stockholm, Sweden

Kofi Annan seems to have missed the point of the internet
Jay Schlackman, Stevenage, UK
Kofi Annan seems to have missed the point of the internet when he criticised it by saying that "much of the information on the web is not relevant to the real needs of people." This is not the sole purpose of the web - one could argue that most of the books in any bookshop are not relevant to the real needs of the people. Many of them are for entertainment, many are for learning, and many are for niche markets, just as with websites on the internet.

The internet is simply a publishing medium; it is, and should be, open to anyone to publish what they choose (within legal reason). The internet can be used to make a difference to people's lives, but this is not its only purpose, and as such Mr Annan's remarks are misguided.
Jay Schlackman, Stevenage, UK

Maybe it shouldn't be bridged. There will always be cultures who for one reason or another are not suitable for advanced technology at the present time. They need to develop more socially and culturally so that these things won't be wasted or used to keep the poorest of the poor down by local criminals.

Bridging the digital divide will be achieved by investing in education and create literate societies. Education is the man key of development, but same time we have to know that technology doesn't solve all problems. Poor People need food, clean water, freedom and PEACE.
Laddy, Zir, Ottawa, Canada

Get real and start helping these people out the way that we should be
Tim, USA (expat)
This might be one of the most ridiculous ideas ever to come from the UN. In nations where people have no food, no water and no sanitation we're proposing internet cafes and mobile coverage? Get real and start helping these people out the way that we should be.
Tim, USA (expat)

Digital divide? Here in the USA there are people in lower income neighbourhoods that choose to spend their income in areas of fashion, flashy mag-wheels, and video games. There are some "must have" tennis shoes that are priced close to a low end PC. Having access to the WWW does not automatically force a person to jump into cyber-land.
Mark Flores, San Diego CA, USA

The digital divide is not just between countries, it is also within countries. I have an e-mail address, which makes me unusual among my friends, but even I haven't the slightest idea how to download an MP3 file! I tick the box when asked if I have internet access, but this is the first time I've looked at the net for two months.
Lesley Devizes, UK

Talking about Internet access for people having no access to phone lines and electricity? A little silly, don't you think?
Mkondrac, Washington DC, USA

The best way is for the poorest countries to sit down and discuss it amongst themselves rather than show their poor planning on a world stage. If helped these poor countries will use their funds for corruption and anything bad in between.
Mangaliso, Lilongwe, Malawi

Without an infrastructure in place, where will these basic services come from?
Matthew Trow, Johannesburg

There seems to be a lack of understanding judging the amount of comments saying forget the digital divide, the people need basic services. Without an infrastructure in place, where will these basic services come from? Must they always come from charity? If the digital divide can be bridged it will mean the creation of thousands of jobs that can bring in wealth to support millions of people. The booming IT industry in India is an example of the success of bridging the digital divide in a Third world Country.
Matthew Trow, Johannesburg, South Africa

It's good news that people from around the world are meeting to discuss Information. Information should be shareable and equally important to all as where the necessity is. Leaders will deliver speech, ministers will talk, activists will protest or support, businessman will see but who will work. We all should participate to inform and get informed. That will make the void complete!
Gautam N, Kathmandu, Nepal

Access to information is vital for development as well as for empowerment
K Tjoelker, Den Haag, Netherlands
Access to information is vital for development as well as for empowerment. Digital technology is but one of the many ways to gain access to information and for using it people need to be able to read and write. It is important to put first things first: basic education for as many as possible. But in this rat race for new technology, the biggest rats are speeding along in Ferraris and people on foot will be outdistanced more and more. So it is important to create opportunities for the poorer people of this world and to help them use these opportunities.
K Tjoelker, Den Haag, Netherlands

The number of people who actively use computers and the internet is exaggerated. Most people with access to a computer only use a very limited number of its functions. In general home computers are used for games, E-Mails and swapping MP3files. I doubt the level of impact on society is as much as Dell and HP would like us to believe.
Mike, Basingstoke, U.K.

The main thing that should be looked at here is schemes to pick up older computers from offices which are upgrading, as these machines are usually perfectly capable for web browsing, writing letters, etc. These can be prepared and shipped to those most in need of them - whether that is in this country or another. The poor of the world do need food and water and shelter, but they also need to have some opportunity to become part of the modern, technological culture, so enabling this needs to be considered in addition to food/shelter provisions.
David Burton, London, England

Technology doesn't solve all of life's problems. Time to get back to basics. The poor of the world need food, water, shelter and freedom, not cell phones and the internet.
Alona, UK

Doesn't the world have greater concerns than whether or not a Somali can surf the internet? As far as the various problems the developing world has, their lack of broadband internet access should rank fairly low. How about we first tackle poverty, famine, and AIDS, then we can take on the Yahoo gap.
Morgan, USA

I am sure people in Ethiopia are not concerned about keeping up to date via internet and mobile technology when they don't know where there next meal is coming from
Michael Jonsson, Birmingham, UK
This is just another sick attempt to exploit another market. I am sure people in Ethiopia are not concerned about keeping up to date via internet and mobile technology when they don't know where there next meal is coming from. Millions die each year from starvation and malnutrition and world leaders and the mockery that is the UN sit, debate endlessly and do nothing.
Michael Jonsson, Birmingham, UK

The big companies should admit how cheap some models of PCs and mobile phones are to produce, and should sell those at 0% loss/0%profit to the countries in the world that most need them. Maybe, most of the children will get better jobs in life because of the chance to get educated better by having access to PCs for example, and becoming a loyal customer later in life of the brand that helped them in such a way.
Kiril Petrov, Bulgaria/Kampuchea

Make it as close to free as possible. That means the infrastructure as well as the technology. Since this involves billions of pounds, it will never happen. The other method would be to raise everyone out of poverty so they can afford it. UK is currently 3rd poorest in Europe, so that's not going to happen either!
Mark Serlin, London UK

Free, Open Source, GNU license software should be officially promoted and encouraged. If the administrations begin to use it extensively, users will follow and, therefore, not-so-rich countries could participate on the global network on a more equal basis.
Pablo Dopico, Krakow, Poland

How about getting a sense of reality. The great and the good labour under the misapprehension that the internet and technology are the answer to anything and everything. Having access to the latest technology is meaningless if the biggest problem is basic survival! Improving education, health and welfare should be the biggest priority.

There cannot be access to the Internet without access to energy, so the first step if a democratization of the distribution of energy. Second, a drop in computer prices and arrangements between states and technology providers would facilitate the spread of the Internet. For that to be more effective, an alliance between a planner, the UN, NGOs, which would work for this plan on every country and associated companies that would provide the technology in return for short-term marketing and medium-term profits could be a good idea.
Samuel Nobre, São Paulo, Brazil

The free flow of information is crucial to advancing the prospects of the poor
Glenn Barker, Victoria, Canada
The free flow of information is crucial to advancing the prospects of the poor, and educating the rich as to the latter's plight. Just as the printing press freed much of Europe from abominable indoctrination by giving the layperson a chance to educate themselves, the Internet offers the modern equivalent. Open communication is key to human salvation. We must invite all to the forum, or we damn ourselves.
Glenn Barker, Victoria, Canada

How useful is digital technology to someone who can barely read or write? To someone who cannot find enough food or clean water? Who has no basic healthcare? Surely there are a great many rather more important issues to deal with - food, water, healthcare and education first, then computers will logically and naturally follow. Summits aren't needed for this. In any case, having spent some time working in Africa, it is clear enough to me that high technology is already available there for the people who need it (note, need, not want - the two aren't the same).
Euan Gray, UK (in USA)

Food and freedom before mobile phones is my instinctive, scoffing, first reaction. However, thinking twice, it is undeniable that greater access to information technology can make a Third World people more free - just look at how Robert Mugabe keeps his people in the dark by refusing them independent media. Information technology can educate people to just how bad their rulers are, and encourage change for the better. As to who should pay, I'm sure the hi-tech companies would love the chance to invest in new markets. They can only grow. There's no need for outside funding if the companies really do care about the freedom of information that their products enable.
Daniel, England

We need to make sure that the poorer countries are not exploited by the richer ones. Take India as an example. Their computer programmers are paid peanuts compared to a western programmer, yet they do the same job to the same quality. There is a real danger that ICT services could become the next wave of 'sweatshop' labour in these countries.
Rich, UK

Information about the world remains incomplete with the large chunks not brought into the networking. It is in the interest of the developed countries that the real knowledge about them is brought into the network. Forget the politics, and this will be done.
Buroshiva Dasgupta, Asmara, Eritrea

Yes, technology can transform lives, but not always for the better
Luke, UK

Yes, technology can transform lives, but not always for the better. How arrogant of us to think that we need to bestow this technology on the poor people of the world thinking that will solve all their problems.
Luke, UK

Informed people are the foundation of any civil society. When the masses are uninformed, due to lack of education or censorship by a repressive regime, corruption finds its way into government. ICT Technology is the only means for people of all economic classes to stay informed; and thus, the only means to ensure civil societies can exist in all parts of the world.
Mike Rivard, Washington DC, USA

It's not only technology; it's also about the policies that the governments around the world formulate as citizens of the world. The wrong policies can easily make the best of technologies fail to produce the intended results. How can you get rid of various tariff and non-tariff barriers that obstruct free flow of goods, labour, technology etc among the various parts of this world?
Raju, India

If the UN was more effective in implementing stability and education - jobs and the need for technology would automatically follow
Msmo, London

People are dying of famine, disease and war in poor countries. If the UN was more effective in implementing stability and education - jobs and the need for technology would automatically follow.
Msmo, London, UK

It really all depends on the willingness of the rich and the elite in developed nations to empower the poor. No strings attached.
Dolphin McCall, France

Technology will change our lives and we are waiting for that day.
Mohammad Ziaul Ahsan, Dhaka, Bangladesh

If there were no subsidies in (primarily) Europe and the USA, the third world countries' economies would immediately improve through agriculture and they could then begin to afford to bridge the divide themselves. It is our selfishness in wanting cheap food at the supermarket that prevents them, so it's up to us to subsidise them in another area by selling technology below cost.
Brian, London UK

Give a man a fish...etc. Give him a computer and he nicks my job!
Colin Harrison, England

For the cost of 3 or 4 months of a satellite link, PC's can be implemented in a LAN with a knowledge database server simulating the Internet, which knowledge can be updated from time to time through CD's. Then we need a room and electricity. There is no need to wait for the ideal solution to be like a developed country and meanwhile have no progress at all. The greater divide is in remote areas where telephone networks are not available and other means of communication are too expensive. The solution requires capital and the countries with the larger divide are also those with fewer resources and no electricity in large portions of the country. So, adopt a humble beginning or have nothing.
Artur de Freitas, Johannesburg, South Africa

In many developing regimes, knowledge is power; the value of collaboration and mutual learning to enrich a society has been relegated beneath a defensive grip by leaders on the trappings of power. This is a fundamental cultural issue which cannot be solved other than by a uprising of public desire to rebel. Look what happened in China when authorities tried to control web access to sites with "adverse" publicity - ultimately leaders are like King Canute trying to repel the waves.
Andy Millward, UK

The digital divide will be bridged in exactly the same way the "poverty gap" will be: with respect for the rule of law, property and human rights, and good governance. As long as corruption, patronage and negligence reign in the developing world, the world's poor will remain poor.
Damian Leach, UK

Technology may just be part of the answer
Vit, USA
Technologies like the net bring education and ideas - dangerous things. Yes these people need food, water and shelter. However, they will never be free until they are educated. Technology may just be part of the answer.
Vit, USA

One possibility could be a communication bridge available through the virtual infrastructure that satellites provide. The problem is the high cost of satellite phones (in excess of $1000) and monthly service charges. If there were a way for the UN to provide low cost phone sets to remote rural areas or poorer countries and subsidise this service it would eliminate the need to build out expensive land based systems. Surely this would be a quick and low cost way to improve the conditions of many people.
Gordon , USA

While the 'digital divide' is very real, shouldn't it also be an opportunity for all to examine what more advanced countries are actually doing with their computers? Flooding countries with millions of computers is a wasteful exercise if there is no use or need. Yes computers are useful and their use should be carefully considered in all countries.
Matthew, Canberra, Australia

What we need to have in developing nations is to improve on literacy
Michael Okello, Nairobi
What the internet offers is information and communication, both of which can only be achieved in a literate society. What we need to have in developing nations is to improve on literacy so that we can begin to enjoy the benefits of being in the information age.
Michael Okello, Nairobi

Make hi-tech products accessible to the poor through price adjustments, tariff avoidance and subsidy. This would have a real multiplier effect by making information accessible.
Million Kibret, Addis Ababa

Look at India. The divide has lessened, but the jobs are predominantly call-centre based, with the real decisions being made by the wealthier nations. That may be the pattern, but as long as there is freedom to think with the new technology, jobs will follow - India has a growing number of SMEs providing software services.
Graham, Leeds, UK

The world's poorest in rural areas would benefit more if the money was spent on basic infrastructure such as better roads, water systems, electricity and basic telecoms. Money spent on internet access and IT would surely primarily help the middle classes in these countries more than the poor.
Gabriel Hughes, London

Exposure to IT and internet facilities can bring dramatic changes in their lives
Sachin Vats, India
The biggest problem of poor countries is that they aren't able to look beyond their internal problems. Be it poverty, ethnic clashes or civil unrest, people are engrossed totally in them and precious man-power is wasted in fighting an unending battle. Obviously their main problem is lack of food and employment but it's a time tested fact that any other country however rich and generous it is can't support all the people of another country all the time through donations. The people of poor countries have to generate sources of income for themselves. Exposure to IT and internet facilities can bring dramatic changes in their lives because of their versatile applications in all parts of life.
Sachin Vats, India

Anything the UN promotes should be looked on with scepticism. Talk is big but actions really do speak louder. I have no doubt they will issue some pompous communiqué at the end of the summit and the situation in the poor countries will not change one iota. Getting rid of the corrupt governments of most African nations would be the first step to concrete results. From there the possibilities are endless.
Keith, USA

Global digital divide solutions should be a part of the UN's Eight Millennium development goals, or, at least modelled along the same formula or principle. Providing digital-information technology to everyone or every nation that needs it, requires time, effort, patience, innovations and thorough understanding of the dynamics and challenges facing the potential providers and recipients, as a lot of poor countries not only lack the resources, but are also diverting scarce means and ends to wars and other dubious, wasteful discreditable ends.
Igonikon Jack, USA

Has everyone gone mad? What the poor people of the world need before anything else is food, clean water, shelter and access to health care.
Martin, Bracknell, UK

It's easy, open source! Forget Windows, but introduce Linux into developing nations. The rich West can donate their so-called obsolete hardware to these countries, free of charge, on which Linux will quite happily run. Bob's yer uncle, the digital divide bridged. Problem solved.
Paul, Manchester, UK

Paul has got it right! Computer Aid International, a UK charity has shipped over 25,000 fully refurbished PCs to schools in developing countries, and will supply with Linux installed if requested. So if you are getting a new PC for Christmas, or if your company is upgrading its computers, why not donate the old ones?
Sara, London, UK

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