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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 09:57 GMT
Africa urges more computer funds
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade
Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade: We need digital solidarity
Several African heads of state are in Switzerland to attend the world's first information summit.

The leaders of Mali, Mozambique and Senegal are expected to call on richer nations to provide funds to give people access to private computers.

But the African leaders' demands have already been thwarted.

On Tuesday, governments failed to agree on a special fund to help bridge the digital divide between rich and poor nations ahead of the summit.

Instead, they agreed on a compromise "Digital Solidarity Agenda" to be formally endorsement by about 150 governments at the Geneva summit.
We launched the idea of digital solidarity because we can't buy this equipment, we can't afford it
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade

"Every country sees that we need new resources to bridge the digital divide," Switzerland's top negotiator Marc Furrer told journalists, admitting that Western countries were dubious about whether another, separate international fund was needed.

But the Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, said that African countries needed the fund to benefit from the digital revolution.

He said he was ready to turn not only to governments but private companies, individuals and city authorities in the West for investment.

"We launched the idea of digital solidarity because we can't buy this equipment, we can't afford it," he told journalists.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is also attending the summit, only days after he withdraw his country from the Commonwealth.

Figures flawed

But a UN body has suggested that the so-called "digital divide" may not be as wide as was believed.

The International Telecommunication Union said the flawed statistics on internet use worldwide were giving a misleading picture of the situation across the world.

"The number of internet users in most developing countries is usually based on government guesstimates or vague estimates", said Vanessa Gray, co-author of the report.

Part of the problem was that most internet surveys are carried out in industrialised countries by private companies.

By comparison, not a single net study has been carried out in 59 of the poorest countries, said the report.





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