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World Econ Forum: Digital Divide


This year's meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland is paying particular attention to the digital divide, the gap between rich and poor countries in access to information technology.

The process of economic integration and trade known as globalization is at the heart of this year's World Economic Forum. The new Mexican president, Vicente Fox, told a meeting in Davos Friday that he embraces globalization, but said Mexico and other poor countries could embrace it more tightly if they had greater access to technology, which can create jobs and fuel economic growth.

He said his government would do all it can to make use of new technologies. "Information technologies will be at the center of my administration's agenda," he said, "so that the information and communications revolution will reach every town, business and home in Mexico. We will make Mexico highly attractive to investors, both domestic and global companies."

Mr. Fox said he is determined to make Mexico the next success story in the world economy. He hailed as very positive his country's six-year-old free trade agreement with the United States and Canada.

But Mr. Fox also stressed that Mexico has 40 million people who earn less than $1.00 a day. The theme of poverty amid global plenty was echoed Thursday by Indian Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha. He suggested that multi-national corporations and rich countries must do more to bring technology to the poor. "The south (poor countries) is not looking for charity," he said. "We are looking for equal opportunity. We are looking for necessary help to build our capacities in order to take advantage of those equal opportunities."

Even among the poorest countries represented at this year's economic forum, there is a great desire to attract investment from abroad. China, having obtained $350 billion of foreign investment in recent years, is looked on as a model by several developing countries.

The World Economic Forum consists of dozens of simultaneous panel discussions daily over a six-day period. Among the most popular panels are those featuring the leaders of high technology companies. Yahoo's Tim Koogle, the president of the world's most popular Internet search site, said despite recent problems, the Internet is a transforming global technology that can bring information and computing power to people in every country.

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