NEW YORK (AP) Poorer countries can raise their living standards by changing laws, building technology infrastructure and training workers to use the Internet, a report released Monday concludes.
The document urges countries to copy successful programs that use information technology to create jobs, lure investment and sell high-tech products and handmade crafts on the global market.
The 86-page report, Creating a Development Dynamic, came from the United Nations Development Program, along with the Markle Foundation, a New York-based charity, and the global management consultancy Accenture. Together, the group calls itself the Digital Opportunity Initiative.
This is not about technology for technologys sake, said Vernon Ellis, Accentures international chairman. We need to encourage local entrepreneurs to use information technology to generate the wealth that can fund a whole range of social needs.
The plan recommends poorer countries adopt new policies in five areas: technology infrastructure, human skill development, entrepreneurship, government policy and the creation of local Web content.
The report also cited as models several successful projects that use the Internet, wireless telephones or business incubators.
They include the Bangladesh Village Pay Phones project, which makes small loans to buy cell phones in 1,100 villages in largely phone-less Bangladesh.
Entrepreneurs who buy the phones set up small call centers, taking messages and renting phones to farmers. The UNDP says farmers who use the cell phones to check crop prices and weather earn 10 percent more for their crops.
In El Salvador, a group is using interest-free government loans to build 100 Internet-equipped telecenters by the end of next year. The centers, equipped with 30 computers, should be profitable in just over two years, while creating jobs and expertise that will ultimately raise incomes in the country.
The development report was released amid a flurry of attention over the so-called digital divide, the technology gulf that separates the computer-literate rich from the worlds poorer masses.
Mondays report is meant to provide solutions to problems raised in a separate report completed in May that is scheduled to be considered by the Group of Eight countries meeting in Genoa, Italy, starting Friday.
We think we came up with the blueprint of how to do it, said Mark Malloch Brown, head of the U.N. Development Program.
The G-8 is expected to endorse a separate document written by its own committee, the Digital Opportunities Task Force. That plan aims at broader development goals without offering specific solutions.
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