New information technologies are among the moving forces of
economic development around the globe. A United Nations study
says many developing countries can benefit from these technologies.
The U.N. report shows the Internet is opening new business
opportunities in developing countries. Kenya's farmers use
the Internet to sell coffee beans in Japan, and India is
becoming a powerhouse as a call center for U.S. companies.
Last year, the U.N. report finds, 32 percent of the world's
nearly 600 million Internet users were in developing countries.
And that number could grow by 50 percent by 2008.
UNCTAD deputy Secretary-General Carlos Fortin says great
benefits can accrue to poor countries that become part of
the information society.
"The message is, information and communication technologies
can be a major adjunct to developing policy and a major instrument
for development," he said. "This is an area of great interest
to developing countries, and confirms that we should make
an effort to identify ways in which we can help developing
countries improve their access and their presence in the
field of information and communications technologies."
The report finds some developing countries are using the
Internet to reach markets for their agricultural produce
that would be inaccessible to them without such technology.
It says the farmers are able to sell directly, avoiding the
middlemen, and keeping a greater share of the profits.
It notes India, with its skilled English-speaking workforce
and salaries up to 80 percent lower than in developed countries,
has captured a dominant share of the international outsourcing
market. It says other emerging economies are able to attract
similar business, including Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Romania,
Russia and Vietnam.
Still, the report says, the vast amount of the $300 billion-a-year
electronic commerce takes place in the developed countries,
and what it calls the digital divide between the rich and
poor countries may even widen.
The United Nations says one way to help span the gap is
to make computers and software more accessible to users in
the developing countries.