Governments worldwide must boost internet accessibility in order to nurture democracy and economic development, entrepreneur Loic Le Meur said at the prestigious LeWeb technology conference in Paris which he founded.
The conference brought together some 3,500 of the world’s top digital experts and entrepreneurs from 60 countries to discuss the state of the technology industry and its relationship with economic growth.
“Stage one is to help provide those tools to help people express themselves and get more democracy,” Le Meur told AlertNet, the global humanitarian news service run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The next stage is economic development…”
But, while delegates focused attention on how to develop internet technology and smart phones, others outside the conference have pointed to how the more accessible, standard mobile phone can aid social and economic development.
Millennium Development Goal 8 – one among a framework of global targets set in 2000 by the United Nations to be met by 2015 to try and alleviate poverty – stipulates that new technologies, especially information and communications technologies, should be made available to all, in cooperation with the private sector.
Currently, at least 5.4 billion of the planet’s seven billion people have access to mobiles, which means the MDG 8 target is achievable…
Further development of the existing technology used for text messaging known as SMS (short message service) on basic mobile phones could help African farmers get their products to market in Europe for example, said Raul Zambrano, an ICT policy advisor…in New York.
“Most people have a simple, basic SMS voice phone – there are only about 15 percent of people in Africa who can use the Internet,” Zambrano added. “Most of those people are in Egypt and South Africa, the big countries, but in the smaller, poorer countries like Malawi and Mozambique there are very low penetration rates,” he told AlertNet…adding that by 2015 about 80 percent of people will have a device which can connect to the Internet.
Developing countries also need Internet service centers where people can undertake basic business transactions and access basic documents such as birth certificates, land titles and passports to help achieve other MDG targets, he added.
RTFA for details and differences. The Millennium Development Goal is something the best geek journalists [like Om Malik] have been covering for a spell. I expect there will be more coming as the swell of discussion and decision resulting from the conference gets out online.
Much of the developing world is skipping the landline infrastructure and going straight to cellular communications. Software developers already have systems in place in much of South Asia for online banking using SMS. Developments in agriculture marketing and sales can be accomplished without smartphones. That doesn’t mean they are better – but, adequate also often means sufficient.