Asian Ministers Vow To Narrow Digital Divide

Will support joint IT study and research projects

Thirty Asian and Middle Eastern nations agreed June 5 to try to bridge the IT divide between rich and poor countries through shared expertise and joint research projects. The declaration on IT came at the end of the sixth meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), attended by foreign ministers and other minister-level officials or deputies. Members agreed to speed up efforts to establish or improve IT infrastructure.

They vowed to "support joint IT study and research projects among member countries while encouraging strong partnership in the IT field both at the government and private levels."

The ACD also pledged to tackle the downside of new technology including the use of the Internet for terrorist incitement and recruiting, cyber attacks, online piracy and Internet addiction.

South Korea, one of the world's most wired societies with 70% of homes receiving broadband Internet, earlier offered its support. "Korea will not spare efforts to support countries in not only building advanced network infrastructure... but also in introducing e-government services," Information and Communications Minister Rho Jun-Hyong said in an opening speech. Prime Minister Han Duck-Soo said South Korea would organize education programs for IT experts or send Internet youth volunteers abroad.

ACD members are Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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