Internet summit: great ideas but too little money
By Hanns-Jochen Kaffsack Nov 17, 2005, 20:08 GMT
Tunis - Ten years after the internet began to change the world, almost one billion people are 'online', and the United Nations intends to raise this number to three billion by the year 2015.
Despite the increase, however, large areas across the world continue to be without access to the 'World Wide Web'.
A tour of the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, which is running in Tunis from November 16-18, shows a large range of projects aimed at closing the digital divide between poor and rich - only the question of funding remains open in many cases.
Farmers in the West African country Benin could receive market updates about the prices for their products via text message, under a scheme which collects price data for 25 products from 64 local markets and sends them to traders and farmers via an information system called Infoprix.
In Tanzania, a website in Kisuaheli plans to provide disadvantaged groups, and especially young people, with information about AIDS and pregnancy advice.
Computers were available in hospitals, youth centres and schools, explains Romeo Bertolini of the German Development Ministry, which is active in the region.
Indeed, the enormous interest in bridging the digital divide is obvious from the crowds of people who are attending the Internet Summit.
Besides the project for 'Electronic Agricultural Assistance' in Benin, the German Development Agency GTZ is presenting another pilot scheme for four Latin American countries at a stall that is packed with visitors.
In Honduras, the local authorities of Comayagua are supported by a system named Met@logo, aimed at helping communication for small and medium firms. 'Company permits which used to take months or years are now being processed in two to four weeks,' GTZ spokesman Hannes Karkowski said.
Self-help groups have also been working to reduce the gap in information technologies in the Third World.
Young people and women, in particular, were using the new opportunities, said Lansana Fofana from Mali. More than 100 multi media centres with phones and email access had already been set up in Mali, and a supermodern one was now intended for Timbuktu, she said.
Whether education or health issues, the fight against hunger and poverty, production aids or early warning systems for natural disasters - the information summit offers a platform for exchange about numerous technological opportunities.
While ideas are shared with many countries, however, money is still very much in short supply. The digital solidarity fund launched by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade needs more aid to turn the schemes into reality.© dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur