Asian nations vow to boost computer and Internet usage to end poverty and other social ills.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

January 14, 2004

2 Min Read

HYDERABAD, India (AP) -- Technology ministers ended a summit Tuesday by pledging to pool their resources to beef up computer and Internet usage as a way to end poverty, illiteracy, and other social ills in Asia.

The ministers from 32 mostly Asian countries said at the meeting in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad that projects that have successfully increased access to technology in some countries will be introduced in others.

Russia and Israel attended the meeting, which focused on Asia.

The countries will also share Internet bandwidth and software to cut costs, said Arun Shourie, India's minister for communication and information technology.

"What you are going to see is increased cooperation between our nations. In the months to come we are going to take up several projects and implement them on a regional basis," he said.

Among the projects highlighted at the summit were wireless telephones that can connect remote villages at a fraction of the cost of conventional phones and mobile Internet kiosks mounted on bicycles that can travel from village to village.

Some Asian nations have high rates of Internet and computer usage, but many other nations lag far behind. India, with a population of more than 1 billion, has a computer ownership rate of just nine computers per 1,000 people. The global average is 27 computers per 1,000 people.

Meanwhile, some Asian countries said they were looking to emulate India's success in winning technology work from Western companies.

"We are small. But we have a young work force, well-skilled in information and communication technologies," Abdul Moyeen Khan, Bangladesh's science and information technology minister, said Tuesday.

Several hundred U.S. and European companies farm out software-writing and back-office work, such as payroll accounting and customer-service calls, to firms in developing nations where wages are lower and skilled English-speaking workers are plentiful.

India is expected to earn $13 billion for the year ending March 2004 from technology outsourcing, Shourie has said.

Kamal Thapa, Nepal's minister for information technology and communication, said the Himalayan kingdom was laying fiber-optic cables, churning out 5,000 engineering graduates each year, and liberalizing investment rules to allow foreign companies to open offices there.

Mongolia has built a software park in the capital, Ulan Bator, to house software companies catering to Western firms, said Byamba Jigjid, the North Asian country's infrastructure minister.

Bahrain will hold the next Asia IT Ministers Summit in 2005, followed by Myanmar in 2006, Shourie said.

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