April 19, 2000
Contact: Geoffrey Kirkman, Harvard
Contact: Kendra Collins, IBM
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International Herald Tribune
Center for International Development at Harvard University Assists Developing Countries to Join the Networked World
Washington, DC -- Developing world nations urgently looking to partake in today's rapidly evolving digital economy now have support from Harvard's Center for International Development (CID).
Readiness for the Networked World: A Guide for Developing Countries, sponsored by IBM, will be officially released today as part of a major initiative by CID to guide and assist developing nations down the complicated path to participation in the Networked World.
The Information Revolution can dramatically improve the lives of the 80 percent of the world's population that lives in developing nations, according to CID research. But the Guide warns that it may never happen without a concerted effort by business people, community leaders and policy-makers in developing countries to create the necessary conditions and infrastructure for entry into the global networked community.
Without such a cooperative effort, the productive use of technology will be limited to industrialized nations, and the digital divide and the gaps in living standards and opportunities between rich and poor will only grow wider.
"While the growth of the Internet and the growing 'digitalization of society' are much heralded events in more developed countries, many leaders in developing nations are left wondering how they can participate in the rapid change going on around them," says Jeffrey Sachs, Director of CID.
Today, around 75 percent of the approximately 275 million people online reside in North America and Europe, which only hold 20 percent of the world's total population. Much of the rest of the world wants to establish a greater online presence, and reap the efficiency and productivity gains of the new technologies, but the best path to do so is not clear.
"As an information technology company that does business in more than 164 countries, IBM has a unique perspective on what it takes to get emerging countries and communities Ready for this digital economy," says Christopher G. Caine, IBM's Vice President of Governmental Programs. "We are already beginning to see developing countries that have put Readiness plans to work experience the benefits of the Networked World."
The Guide helps communities in the developing world to understand the components of Readiness and their interaction, and offers them a way to perform a systematic assessment of their communities' Readiness. The Guide helps to identify areas in need of improvement and helps communities to develop a strategic approach to preparing themselves for the Networked World.
Using criteria from the Guide, leaders develop a detailed picture of their community's access to the network, use of information technologies in the educational system, integration of the network in society and economy, and the appropriateness of their network policies. They can then build upon that framework to determine the next steps they need to take in order to better capture the benefits of the Networked World.
Much of the focus of the Guide is on development issues that have been discussed for years - education, reform, trade policy, infrastructure - but now policy makers in developing nations have a real desire to become a part of the Networked World, and recognize that they need to move on Internet Time.
Geoffrey Kirkman, Managing Director of the Information Technologies Group at CID, points out, "This is a huge issue and a unique opportunity in time. It is paramount for developing countries to get involved in these issues. This is the future, certainly of the world economy, but also the global society. Developing countries need to act fast if they want to participate in the Networked World."
The Information Technologies Group at CID conducts research and provides advice and training to developing world leaders on issues surrounding e-commerce and the Networked World.
An online version of the Guide, including an interactive self-assessment tool, is available at http://www.readinessguide.org.