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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 12:36 GMT
Web pioneer opens digital divide summit

By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor in Geneva

Kofi Annan and Tim Berners-Lee
Web pioneer met UN head at the Information Society summit.
As world leaders meet to consider the future of the internet, the man who took it out of the lab and into the mainstream took centre-stage.

At an event to mark the opening of the UN technology summit in Geneva, Tim Berners-Lee was reunited with the machine he used to invent the web.

With UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at his side, he used the world's first web server to send an e-mail to more than 80 schools worldwide.

"I hope we can all use the web to realise that other people are just like ourselves even if they speak different languages or have different abilities," said the message.

'Just a program'

Back in 1990, the British researcher came up with some computer code that allowed scientists at the particle physics institute, Cern, to easily share research findings across a computer network.

The technology he invented, which he dubbed the world wide web, sits on top of the internet and has helped it permeate almost every aspect of life.

"When I invented the web, I just wrote a program," said Mr Berners-Lee in Geneva.

"I just put a few things together," adding modestly that he was building on the work that others had done.

The original web server
The machine where it all started
In an event heavy with symbolism, the man responsible for an information revolution used a piece of the internet's history to send an inspirational message to schoolchildren across the world.

"When you are learning about the web, you may be faster at learning to use computers than your teachers," said the message.

"But listen to their wisdom about how to behave and what to believe on the web."

"This event reminds us how young and full of promise the web is," said Mr Annan as he stood at Mr Berners-Lee's side.

"It should serve as a challenge to us and to encourage all of us to stay connected."

Money troubles

Leaders from 150 nations, business chiefs and development activists have gathered in Geneva for the World Summit on the Information Society.

The aim of the conference is to look at ways of spreading the use of the internet and other technologies across the world.

But the run-up to the event has been marred by disagreements over who decides how the internet is run and over money.

African countries are angry that richer nations have refused to provide funds to bankroll technology projects in the developing world.


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