Who pays to bridge the digital divide?

Rich and poor nations have agreed on bridging the digital divide, but they have yet to work out who will foot the bill for reducing the gap.

    Internet use is spreading but rich countries remain well ahead

    The 169 countries taking part in the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva, still disagree on a plan of action to be adopted by delegates, Marc Furrer, head of the Swiss Federal Office of Communication said.

    "The minimal consensus is that we have to see solidarity, (but) what we don't agree on is whether we should create a special fund or not," he told reporters.

    The fund which would help make technology such as television, internet and mobile telephone more widely accessible is close to the hearts of developing countries, especially in Africa.

    Scepticism

    However, the European Union and Japan in particular are "sceptical", said Furrer, who will be heading host country Switzerland's delegation.

    Nations in the North, plus private industry have to be persuaded to contribute to the fund, he added.

    About 12,000 people, including some 60 government leaders are expected to attend the 10-12 December  summit in Geneva, home to the United Nations' European headquarters.

    They hope to set out a global framework so that all countries can benefit from the information age, a term used to describe modern life with its mobile phones, Internet access and televisions.

    Discussions between delegations to try to hammer out compromises before the summit ran late into Saturday night and are due to resume on Tuesday.

    Compromises

    But while problems remain over the plan of action, a draft declaration of principles has been drawn up, the Swiss official added.

    Compromises have been reached over previously thorny issues in the declaration, such as freedom of expression, the role of the media, intellectual property and governance of the Internet.

    On intellectual property, delegates reaffirmed its importance "to encourage innovation and creativity in the information society," according to the draft declaration.

    Negotiators also underlined the importance of freedom of the press and freedom of information.

    SOURCE: AFP


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