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CNN Live Event/Special
The Digital Age and How it Sky-Rockets Growth; Ghana Communities Stuck On Wrong Side of Digital Divide; Children in India Internet Savvy
Aired June 03, 2001 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, HOST, "OUR INTERACTIVE WORLD": An extraordinary gathering of journalists and business leaders, as CNN plays host to a global forum that looks at the high-tech revolution creating our interactive world.
Hello and welcome to you; I am your host, Michael Holmes.
Well, we live in a more connected world than we could have ever imagined, but you know, there is a reality here. Just a tiny fraction of people -- you would be shocked at how tiny -- have made so much as a telephone call, let alone send an e-mail or surf the Net. For those of us lucky enough to benefit from the digital age, today we're taking the opportunity to ask:
What can we do for those being left behind? Does it matter?
We'll be asking our panel here joining us here today. With me here in Atlanta, we have the chairmen of Cisco Systems, Accenture and Worldtell; also the president of the AOL-Time Warner Foundation, joining us in Atlanta.
We'll also be going to be going overseas. We will be having in Washington -- you can see there, the president of the World Bank in Hong Kong, the chairman of the E-Assian Task Force. Also, the founder of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh will be joining us a little later.
First though, we want to take a look at how this revolution has changed the life of just one man: me.
HOLMES (voice-over): Did you ever stop to think how far the digital age has brought us? Just four decades ago, computers took up entire rooms, even calling other countries required patients and lots of money.
Today, wireless phones make it possible for us to speak to anyone anywhere on earth; and my high-powered computer now generates e-mails that join with trillions of others, criss-crossing the globe each year. In the life of the world, this digital revolution has taken place in the blink of an eye. Most of it happened in my own lifetime and it's revolutionized my life. 1977: I began my career at a newspaper in Perth, Western Australia, punching out stories on chattering typewriters.
By 1982, I moved into a career in television, where the fax machine made life easier. Nearly 20 years on, I write here at CNN on computers linked with others around the world. My cell phone is the size of a credit card. And I keep in touch with friends back in Australia, through e-mail and a personal family Web site.
But for my mother, who lives 18,000 kilometers away -- that is her on the right -- I use a Web camera on my computer to make small videos of my children and then send them to her in an e-mail.
Yes, I know I'm lucky. Just a few percent of the world has Internet access, out of 6 billion people.
But imagine if everyone could share in this digital revolution. Imagine if we were all connected. Imagine the possibilities.
HOLMES: Indeed, imagine.
And before we get to the panel, I want to bring in and introduce to you, my co-most of the day and the moderator of our online chatroom, Tumi Makgabo. Thanks very much for being with us, of course, although that is your job.
You will be looking at the online chat. For those of you watching at home, perhaps you have a computer with you; go to cnn.com/interactiveworld -- interactiveworld is one word -- and we are also video streaming this program live, too.
Tumi, your digital moment. When was it when you first realized that technology was changing your life?
TUMI MAKGABO, CO-HOST: Actually, Michael, for many people sitting here today and probably many people watching, it might seem like it was yesterday. But for me, it was about a year and a half ago, when I was still living in Johannesburg in South Africa.
My sister moved to Minnesota here in the U.S. and that was actually the time when I began to communicate via e-mail with anybody on a regular basis. And it suddenly dawned on me a year and a half ago that I could actually have a chat with her for prolonged periods of time, via the e-mail service, at real time -- otherwise, whatever time a day she was sitting at the computer -- 3:00 in the morning usually for me. And it was not going to cost me an arm and a leg. And for me, that indeed was a breakthrough.
HOLMES: Major developments for both of us in our lives. I want to get to our panel now.
John Morgridge of Cisco Systems, 15 years ago your company did not exist. What to you has been the single most significant development of the digital age?
JOHN MORGRIDGE, CISCO SYSTEMS CHAIRMAN: Certainly, in my opinion, it's the evolution of the Internet. The Internet is the center post of a whole new communications ecosystem. And if you think back, I can -- perhaps you can't -- to 1955, when I sat in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and looked at the first test pattern. Strange how a test pattern could be interesting to a young man in high school.
And look at what has evolved in television over the last several decades; the same will be true with the Internet. And it will reach all of us -- touch all of us, in perhaps a more personal way. A far more personal way than television did.
HOLMES: And quicker?
MORGRIDGE: And quicker, because the pace has changed. This revolution is on a pace of decades, not centuries, and so, it will change our lives, as it has already yours in a mere two to three years.
HOLMES: Absolutely. A hundred dollars and you can build a Web page, and it's not hard, if I can do it.
MORGRIDGE: That's right. There you go.
HOLMES: I want to bring in Sam Pitroda now, chairman of Worldtel, a company committed to development of telecommunications worldwide.
You've got a fascinating story, I have to tell people here -- you made your first telephone call when you were in your early 20s, and now, you are, so far, on the other side of the digital divide. I want to ask you, what bothers you most about that divide?
SAM PITRODA, WORLDTEL CHAIRMAN: I think it is unfortunate that a lot of us do not recognize the fact that IT is all about openness, accessibility, connectivity, networking, democratization, and as a result, it brings about social transformation. It is not about urban, elite, exotic, fancy technology. It's about problem solving.
The same set of problems in developing world whether it has to do with water, literacy, health, all of these problems require IT. So, IT is not just about corporate productivity, efficiency, cost reduction, and that is the main issue.
HOLMES: You raised about five points that we will get to during the course of the next hour, all of them good ones. OK, another member of our panel here in Atlanta is Vernon Ellis, the international chairman of Accenture.
Now, you're the company's first international chairman, which says a lot about what we're doing. As we heard earlier there, just a tiny percentage of people are onboard this technological juggernaut that has enveloped a lot of our lives, but has not touched the vast majority of people. Do you see that in your business, in business in general, as an opportunity or as a problem? VERNON ELLIS, ACCENTURE INTL. CHAIRMAN: Well, I think it's definitely a problem for the world, because there is a social economic divide here, as Sam said, and if these new technologies can help generate growth, can generate health and education, then it can make for better societies. And if we don't do that, the increasing social division and poverty.
But looking at the opportunity side, there are huge opportunities with these markets. As you mention, well under half of the world have not made a telephone call. And a lot of people in those countries are well cut off from the technology. But if it can be used as an engine, not just to address health and education, but the other aspects of generating business, to create wealth accumulation on the ground, and that will actually build longer termed markets.
HOLMES: It's achievable?
ELLIS: Absolutely. I believe it is very achievable.
HOLMES: All right. Now, we have had our correspondents and reporters around the world, also contributors, some of them here today, who have been out getting stories to illustrate just what it is we've been talking about, and we will continue to talk about.
Let's look at Ghana, a prime example of a country in digital transition, a place where the have nots still far outnumber the haves when it comes to technology. But perhaps not for long. Let's have a look.
VALERIE MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Ghana, West Africa, people live on little more than a dollar a day, putting them squarely on the have-not side of a growing digital divide. In fact, fewer than five percent of the world's Internet-linked computers exist in the developing world.
Recently, high-tech companies have been stepping in to help bring the information age to poor nations. Internet equipment maker Cisco Systems is putting its muscle into education.
JOHN MORGRIDGE, CHAIRMAN, CISCO SYSTEMS: The digital divide is really a reflection of an education divide. And education is often also influenced by economics.
BRIGITTE AGBETSOAMEDO, STUDENT, CISCO NETWORKING ACADEMY: The world is becoming a small village. And networking is becoming very important.
MORRIS: This class has just opened in Accra, Ghana's capital city. The goal is to have 660 trained technicians by the end of the year.
MORRIS: Nii Quaynor, CEO of Network Computer Systems and Ghana.com, was one of the first to see information and communications technology, or ICT, as critical to Africa's future. QUAYNOR: Too often, we ask, "Do you want water, or you want ICT?" But the young says we want both. Whatever you give me, I use. In fact, if you give me drums, which are also wireless, I will use it. All we want is more and more infrastructure so that we can spread our networks on the continent.
MORRIS: But some say the rush to bring technology to the developing world is misguided.
BILL GATES, CHAIRMAN, MICROSOFT: There are things those people need at that level other than technology.
MORRIS: At the end of the day, the haves and the have-nots still exist. But the drumbeat of progress grows louder. And for people with access to technology, the world of possibility is a little closer.
HOLMES: Just one of the many stories we will be bringing you from around the world, some of them will astound you, they're terrific stories. Now, I want to bring you Tumi Makgabo, who's been moderator in our online chatroom, and it's been busy in there. You have been doing this for about an hour now, what do you have for us?
MAKGABO: It's actually very interesting at this point. People are very clued up as far as technology is concerned, probably more so than I am at this point in time. But the general sense, at the moment, is people seem to be thinking that a lot of large companies which, at this point in time, trying to expand into the developing world, need to do a lot more for economic interests. They need to provide equipment, perhaps at lower costs.
And that's kind of what the sense is in the chat at the moment. A lot of people more concerned about the responsibility of large companies taking more so of that responsibility, and taking the initiative into the developing world. So that is quite something we'll be watching throughout the next hour.
HOLMES: You hit on a important point there. And the chatters are, too. It is a question that is raised time and again, when it comes to the whole issue: and that is universal access, the term that means bringing the world together by everybody having access to everything.
Kathy Bushkin, president of AOL-Time Warner Foundation, let's bring that to you. Universal access. A-is it possible, and B-any time soon?
KATHY BUSHKIN, AOL-TIME WARNER FOUNDATION PRES.: I think that anything is possible, and only if we set our minds, will we get there. It's funny, I don't think we should ask, should we have universal access to electricity?
And we're beginning to stop saying, well, you do not need universal access to the telephone, the Internet will be such a huge component of democracy-building, economic growth, education of young girls, that we cannot pass it by. So I think that every country will have to struggle with all of the changes it will bring, countries will not be able to have sovereign laws, when we're in a globally connected world. That's going to put a lot of challenges on governments.
And we will need to address the fact that we have a digital divide right now -- a divide right now, and technology could make that worse. Or we could use it to make things better. And luckily, the technology is coming along so fast that we will be in a post-PC world, that for a lot of countries, will make going to that step much easier.
HOLMES: That is very true, OK.
Now I want to bring in now one of our international guests, joining us from Manila, Muhammed Yunus.
And Mohammed, a question for you. You head the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh -- they have done some terrific work. We've done a digital divide, there's a digital divide, there's no question about that. And you have you seen that up close in your own country. But one important issue is divides within divides.
Even in technologically rich countries, you have rich verses poor, old verses young, men verses women. To you, which is the most important of these divides?
MUHAMMED YUNUS, GRAMEEN BANK FOUNDER: I think that access to information, is very important, definitely, because the world is changing very fast because of the information technology, so, if you leave a great mass of people in the world, out of this success, you are creating a very explosive situation.
One part of the world moving very fast and the large part of the world staying where it is, so I would say this is very important in that sense. And we don't have to, because the information technology comes in a way you can spread it out, this is a technology which comes in bite size for everybody. It's not a mega technology, goes in one lump. You can piece it in lumps in a bite-size way.
This is what we try to do through Grameen Bank, for instance, bring mobile phones, cell phones, in the villages of Bangladesh, to bring the cell phones to the poor women in the villages to get into telecommunications business, selling over the telephone.
HOLMES: And guess what? We can show people about that. Perhaps one of the best examples of how business and government can work together, to narrow this digital divide, can be found in Bangladesh. The Grameen phone company has provided, as we just heard, free mobile phones to business-minded women and the opportunity has changed their lives in ways you can never have thought imaginable. Here now, one woman's transition into the digital age. Have a look at this story.
YUNUS: Woman is looked at as someone who stays hyped, stays behind the closed door, she is not out in the open. Now, she is not only in the open but she is in charge of the rest of the world with that telephone.
HALIMA KHATUN (through translator): I get calls as early as 7:00 in the morning, sometimes as many as 10 or 12.
YUNUS: First they become very curious; what is this?
KHATUN (through translator): I was baffled by it in the beginning. Then, they said, when someone comes and gives me a number, I just have to look at the numbers and punch them, but nothing happens until I punch this big button.
YUNUS: They can use the phone and do things in minutes, which would have taken hours and days to do.
KHATUN (through translator): I call the wholesaler that sends supplies for the store my husband and I own. We call him directly. Before, we would have to send a message and wait.
YUNUS: Information technology can change people's lives, particularly poor people's lives in a dramatic way.
KHATUN (through translator): I feel far independent. Before, my husband could have said no. Now, he can't stop me from going anywhere I want.
HOLMES: Mohammed Yunus changing the fabric of that society. An extraordinary story, I'm sure you'll agree.
Vernon Ellis, you have a comment?
ELLIS: It follows directly on from that, because I don't -- when we talk about universal access, it's not about putting a PC in every home, it's not about giving Internet to everybody directly, it's about using technology in the environment. It's much more than that.
Companies certainly can play a role. But I noticed, as part of the task force looking at this, things moved on, from looking at the big companies to providing free technology or low cost technology, to providing the environment which technology can be used by people, that's what is important.
HOLMES: And that was a great example of it, too.
I want to go to Robert Romulo, standing by there. Chairman of the E-Asean Task Force company of Hong Kong.
You have been dealing extensively with governments in the region; you know what you're talking about when it comes to this. Tell me, what do you need and from whom in order to foster a user-friendly IT environment?
ROBERT ROMULO, E-ASEAN TASK FORCE CHMN.: I think that the first and most important is a government in the developing country that has the political will and vision to empower the people with the use of the Internet. That is the most important.
HOLMES: At this stage, I would also like to bring in our other guest via satellite, James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank.
When you travel the world for the World Bank and see countries that have not yet embraced or even started to embrace the IT revolution, what do you say to the leaders of those countries? What advice to you give them? I know you don't tell them what to do, but what do you suggest?
JAMES WOLFENSOHN, WORLD BANK PRESIDENT: Well, I suggest, as it was earlier said, they create a environment in which the Internet revolution and technology revolution can flourish. It has to be done as part of an overall program. The Internet is not the solution alone to poverty, it has to be put within the framework of the approaches that the government is taking on legal systems, on it's approaches to education, and health, and so on.
But what has come out in the earlier examples is that technology can greatly accelerate the access to information and the knowledge to transparent government. And I say to the government leaders when I visit them, this is your way in which you can leverage the interests of the poor people in your country, and as part of the overall program, you really must get on the train.
HOLMES: All right, everybody stay with us. We will have more to talk about; we are just starting.
The IT revolution is a good thing, isn't it? Not everyone says so, the obstacles to creating this digital world, when our panel from "Interactive Forum" continues, stay with us.
HOLMES: Welcome back.
It is one thing to want technology and another thing to be able to pay for it. It's a vital question. I want to put it to Sam Pitroda.
If a country has not yet taken advantage of the digital revolution, a common argument is, we cannot afford it. Not just, we can't afford it. We might have a civil war going on in our backyard. We can't feed our people. We can't give them fresh water. And we can't house them. Those people are saying, what do we care about technology? What would you tell them?
PITRODA: I think that technology is all about problem solving. Take, for example, assess. Access does not necessarily mean telephone in every home. Like in India, we put in 750,000 public phones, and created national access for everybody to make a phone call.
You also need to worry about local language, local content, local applications. What works in the Western world does not work in the developing world.
HOLMES: A lot of people nodding here in this panel here on that point, that's a very good point.
Let's go to the audience now. We have a distinguished group of journalists here from around the world.
John, you have a question. John from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
JOHN: Yes, you know, I listened to a lot of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) intentions in here, but I really want to know just how it will work, how it will be put to practice?
HOLMES: How do you do it? Kathy, let's start with you.
BUSHKIN: Well, I think this is a challenge as several of us have said for government and businesses together. This is probably the first time that the problem is so big, that not one sector of our economy can take it on together.
The focus on communities brings the NGOs to the table as well, which is a tremendous benefit, because we can start seeing this as a community technology. Bill Gates was on the screen and said, we can't have -- we can't be worrying about IT until we feed people. But Jim Wolfensohn's World Bank did a study and 20,000 people said, the first thing they want is to have a voice and access to information, and I think that will drive increasingly a sense that this is not about technology, but about the way countries are going to work with citizens.
HOLMES: The clock is killing us. I wanted to bring you in John quickly on that point.
MORGRIDGE: Well, I just want to tell the story, 1999, I went to the Philippines, and launched the first academy Cisco training academy at the Technical High School in Manila. Today, there are over 5,000 students in the Philippines taking that course.
At the G-8 meeting last fall, John Chambers made a commitment to put academies in the 25 least developed countries of the world. Today, in Africa we have schools underway in 28 of the countries, that is in about 4 months, because we started in January.
The beauty of the Internet, is that it can take assets that are not necessarily applied directly and bring them together to solve a problem; there is no other medium really that can do it that effectively.
HOLMES: You are talking grassroots stuff, too.
I want to go to another report we will bring you today. China is one country where technology has been warmly embraced, at least by the common man who can afford it, wireless technology in particular. But the political establishment in Beijing is another matter altogether, and we briefly touched on this. Let's have a look at it: it has long been argued that blocking certain information from the population at large is justified in the national interest.
Now China is hardly alone in that. What the West calls censorship is common in many countries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): China's communist government is struggling with ways to regulate the Internet which falls outside of traditional means of media control. Internet service providers are required to keep logs on what everyone is doing online.
Some local authorities have installed technology and Internet cafes to block politically undesired sites, and more than a few people have been jailed for what was posted on the Web. With an estimated 30 million people online, it is getting harder to keep track of who is reading what. And it's relatively easy to access officially blocked sites by dialing into so-called proxy servers outside of China.
The number of Internet users in China is doubling every six months; the number of Web sites is growing as well.
China's leaders recognize the power of the new technology, but they are facing a dilemma: they cannot strangle Internet traffic, without also jeapordizing the openness needed to link China economically with the rest of the world.
HOLMES: OK, welcome back.
Now that was another great example of what we are talking about. I want to go to Roberto Romulo.
You dealt with China before and other countries who perhaps do not embrace the technological age in the way that we in the West might think they do. What are the problems you'd find? And what are the positives? I mean, who is to say we are right?
ROMULO: Well, you know, you can't stop or censor the Internet. That will move forward regardless of what you do. In Asean, we are talking about half a billion people, and what's interesting is, despite the various forms of government, all ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian nations, have made a firm commitment in what was called the E-Asean agreement.
And basically they said they will have a seamless environment in the world of Internet by making sure that in the laws and regulations are similar basing it even on the U.N. model log, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and so forth. So I am relatively comfortable that censorship will never continue. Yes, it's a challenge, but the more you empower the individuals, the less you will be able to control it.
HOLMES: Interesting point.
I want to go back to our audience now. We still have a couple of questions to get through -- Salin from Kenya?
SALIN: Yes, the Third World, especially in Africa, governments sometimes consciously are stopping or holding back technology. Why do some countries fear technology, and what it can do for the people?
HOLMES: Vernon Ellis, do you have an answer to that?
ELLIS: There are a number of reasons.
One is, obviously, censorship, and fear of what it will do to democracy in some countries. Others are worried about the revenues of their state-owned telephone companies. Or they fail to realize I think that there is much more can be gained by opening up, some liberalization. Because that will generate the enterprise which could then actually fuel their (UNINTELLIGIBLE) much more in the future. It's a very short-term view.
HOLMES: I want to bring in James Wolfensohn again of the World Bank, I want to ask you this. Is there a Western arrogance at play here? Do we in the West look at this whole thing from our own myopic, perhaps bias point of view? If a country says we're not interested, who are we to say, they should be?
WOLFENSOHN: Well, I don't think we can force technology on developing countries. But in fact, what I am experiencing is quite the opposite, the demand is coming from the developing countries themselves, and from poor sectors of the community themselves.
I visited slums and villages in many, many countries where you see computers, where you see Internet operating, where you see the phones that Mohammed Yunus had, and so, it is not really something for us to grant, but an opportunity for which we should respond to, and the demand is coming from poor people themselves, who know that this is a tool that can help get them out of poverty.
HOLMES: Let's take another short break now, and when we come back to the "Interactive World" forum, all the technology and the profound way it is changing our lives for good.
HOLMES: Welcome back to the CNN Center and "Our Interactive World" forum.
In the audience today, some of the world's finest journalists attending the CNN "WORLD REPORT" conference, which has been going on here all week. And also, our panel experts tackling the challenges of bringing information technology to the world.
Tumi Makgabo is our co-host for the hour. You know, Tumi, in the last few days, you and I have talked a lot about this program, and we talked about how it's effected our lives and you made a fascinating point that I'm going to get you to talk about. The cultural impact that you personally have seen in South Africa; tell me about that.
MAKGABO: One of key things in South Africa is obviously that the majority of the people don't have access to e-mail or Internet. So that actually wasn't the problem. The problem began with television. Now, what has been happening, the culture, the moral fiber, and the value systems of many black communities in South Africa are being affected purely by television because television is bringing American culture, European culture, English culture, into their living rooms.
And now, parents are having problems communicating and understanding the values that their children now have, as a result of media intervening in their daily lives and that has caused a bit of a problem. So, many people are wondering, what is it that companies, be it television or Internet or ant of the major IT companies going to do to ensure that culture is preserved within an environment where people have access to the world?
HOLMES: We have seen some processtive (ph) examples of changing the social fabric.
Kathy Bushkin, your area is this. Is the Internet too American?
BUSHKIN: Well, right now, it very American; about 80 percent of all Web sites are in English. But that's the opportunity and it's time for countries to recognize that we are not seeing them as markets as much as indigenous producers of content. There is no one side fits all when it comes to the Internet, or the kind of content that's on it.
And there's a $7 trillion market that is out there for e-mail commerce that desperately needs participation by all sorts of countries to be involved. So, I think there is a serious issue, and it gets to the point that community access -- community access is a big piece of what we are dealing with.
But so is training and skills; so is giving people the understanding of how important it is. And finally, understanding that content must be local.
HOLMES: Vernon and John, you both had points to make on that issue.
ELLIS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), only 10 percent of the world speaks English. So, content as Sam said is very important. And getting that local culture. Government can play a role here I think with access centers, with e-government. We in fact are involved in the electoral system in South Africa, which is putting more technology in the hands of people in villages.
It could be by phone or local center. There's a variety of applications here, a variety of possibilities of getting this under way. Television too, digital TV eventually.
HOLMES: John Morgridge?
MORGRIDGE: I think that the most interesting point is that the Internet is a broad landscape of special interests, where communities can come together electronically. I will give you just one example: Iceland, which is very connected, and they are trying to relearn their language. They are now putting on language classes over the Internet so that they can go back and master Icelandic. I think it's an opportunity to preserve culture, once you embrace and understand how to apply it.
HOLMES: Sam, very quickly, you had an example too you mentioned in the break.
PITRODA: In India, we have millions of water pumps. And these pumps go bad every once in a while and you need to repair. So the biggest problem we had was to print booklets in 15 different languages to teach people how to repair the water pump...
HOLMES: And district them.
PITRODA: And distribute them. Logistics are so bad, but invariably, by the time you get this book, it's in wrong language. So, if we put all of this on Internet, you have access to it any time, any place whenever you need it. For that, you don't seed a PC of your own.
HOLMES: Grass roots, grass roots. Seems to be the theme here. There's barely a corner of earth that some kind of device: computer, mobile phone can't penetrate.
Let's go to a remote village in Mongolia, far from the capital, Ulaanbaatar, where we found our next story, where the IT revolution hit there, contact with friends, families, doctors, politician was rare and exceedingly difficult. Have a look at how times have changed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Today, Karcarin (ph) is a small town about 400 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar, the modern capital. The place people go to log on is the town's information service center in the governor's office.
Waiting for his turn to use e-mail, 57 year old Budgi (ph) is a regular customer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Since e-mail conventions, we can easily and quickly get in touch with one another.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting connected in a vast land like Mongolia is a challenge. One solution is to leap frog traditional infrastructure by using digital technology. This offers the possibility of bringing information to 2.5 million people scattered across a country half the size of India. Literacy is 96 percent, and providing access to information is pivotal if the economy is to grow.
HOLMES: Standing by, Roberto Romulo, you know, when people are running businesses, like John or Mr. Ellis, they are there to make money and that is fair enough. And their shareholders demand that.
But do you think there is also a need for more corporate responsibility to do things that are good for people on the ground? We are talking about changing lives and social fabrics. What does business need to do? What is its responsibility?
ROMULO: My friend, Mr. Ellis will have heard this term: it's called enlighten self-interest. You do something good for individuals, I think will you get it back in cash at some point in time.
Let me give you a example: the Coca-Cola company from Atlanta has come up with a new project in the Philippines, it will be a pilot and will then happen in Malaysia and eventually in China. It's called e- venture; they're putting Internet access to remote locations in the Philippines. Some 20 this year and another 75 next year.
During the school day, it's accessible by students. After school, the community has accessed the world of Internet. It opens up the world even to the deprived to Internet. It make them feel like they are part of a more meaningful global community.
ROMULO: In turn, they understand Coca-Cola.
HOLMES: Got a question here from the audience. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, all these profound technological advances and the whole digital trust have very obvious advantages that we have been learning today. But there are some ominous down sides. For example, microchips being produced that are replacing entire workforces and putting nuclear technology into a briefcase. Will this ultimately compromise the human condition? And how can we address these issues?
HOLMES: John Morgridge, that's right up your alley.
MORGRIDGE: That's a very heavy question. I think that probably the best answer lies in looking back, rather than looking forward. This is not the first time we have been challenged as a world community by technology. You know, the atomic bomb is now over 50 years old. So, we have faced those issues before and I think, the net has ultimately been positive.
And I think that's what we will see in the future. Certainly, it will change, and have impact, but that doesn't mean we cannot control it, direct it, and have it be a positive, rather than a negative.
HOLMES: What he was talking about, the loss of all these jobs, this whole change. Do we need to re-train? Sam, you had something?
PITRODA: If we had followed that argument 100 years ago, when automatic dialing was invented there were lots of strikes; all the operators went on strike, telling that if you allow people to dial their own number, we will lose our jobs. If we had listened to them then, every human being in this world today would be telephone operator.
HOLMES: Good point. We want to go now to another story we brought in from one of our bureaus from around the world. If the digital revolution is supposed to make us all more reachable and, as we've discussed, potentially more profitable, what better place to start then Quagadougou, a slow in coming, but the revolution is reaching one the poorest places on earth; it's a fascinating story, have a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Most people farm right off their own land to feed their families, but crops and other plant life don't grow easily here with little such little rain falling and farming methods virtually in changed.
One man saw the potential good that technology could do for the farming community. A priest, who has preached the faithful for over 30 years, used a computer to publish a magazine for local farmers, a computer he considers invaluable today.
FATHER MAURICE OUDET: It's a formidable tool. I couldn't go without it now; we have already uncovered this resource with different languages. We are getting it established.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The magazine's content comes from farmers around the country who share experiences and offer tips. Information found on the worldwide Web is also included. In an effort to educate as many farmers as possible, it is published in several languages.
Father Maurice is hopeful that learning better farming methods will lead to better food harvest.
HOLMES: James Wolfensohn of the World Bank. Let's go back to you. The case of Father Maurice is just one example of IT doing something. Now, how do you then expand these effects? What I'll talking about is, how then do you move it from the next village, to the next town, to the next city, to the next country?
WOLFENSOHN: Well, what we are doing is to gather information from indigenous people and local communities such as Father Maurice just spoke of, and we're making it available on the Web in Africa, for example. We have it in English, French, and Spanish, but we have it in Swahili (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
And last month for the first time, the hits in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) exceeded the hits in French. So, what you must have is the availability of the information and then, the ability to distribute which is coming rather rapidly -- not, of course, in every house but in community centers throughout the continent. It is still very small, compared to the developed country but the availability in information in local languages that is relevant in the local communities is really the key to the extension of the reach of this information.
HOLMES: Another recurring theme.
Tumi Makgabo from the chatroom; what is happening?
MAKGABO: Well, Michael, actually a very interesting question: the conversation seems very focused still on creating infrastructure within many developing countries, because that means taking away money from education to pay for IT. It means taking money away from health care to pay for IT.
One question that could perhaps be put to James Wolfensohn of the World Bank is that of debt relief, because that money used to pay debt could be used to address these issues, not just health care, but also IT and development in a sense -- James?
WOLFENSOHN: Originating from debt relief, essentially will get to social programs, education and health, and within the context of education, it is possible that funds could be spent on IT. But we are facing the sort of issues of goals, education and primary education, which is critical in many of these countries. I believe IT will added into these programs, but in the first instance in the poorest countries, it's likely the money will go to basic services, but on the side, we will build the infrastructure for the use of IT and technology.
HOLMES: I want to go to another one of our stories. Before the IT push came to Veerampattin, a small fishing village in India, the local fisherman used to bank on good weather and a lot of good luck for a profitable catch. In this report, we will show how a simple computer shook up an entire local industry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's early in the morning and the men of Veerampattin village on India's southern coast are only just returning from work. It's hard work. And it can be dangerous.
For centuries, fisherman here have relied on good luck to bring in a large catch and to escape bad weather. But now people in small village of 7,000 are using something new to improve their luck. Computers.
A couple of years ago, with a small grant, they set up this information shop. A steady stream of villagers use it now to keep up with the world.
Every morning, volunteers download data on climate and rainfall in the region, on wave heights and on fish populations of their shores and broadcast the data over these megaphones on the beach.
Mogalin has been fishing all his life. He goes into the information shop quite religiously to check the next day's forecast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Last year, there was a big cyclone here. But because, I had been to the information center, I was prepared for it, and I came home early.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being prepared is what is making the men and women confident. They say they are convinced the future is all computerized and they are glad the information revolution hasn't passed them by.
HOLMES: These are really terrific stories. Sam, I tell you, if those villages on that macro level have been so well served by technology, what about the village down the road? They are the have-nots now, and are they being further disadvantaged?
PITRODA: Absolutely. The idea is to increase coverage. If you find an application which is really productive, you have to multiply it. And this is a classical example.
HOLMES: Are me meddling, though?
PITRODA: No, I don't think so. I don't think so. The same thing can be said about telecom, IT. You can go on and on. The issue is: you need infrastructure, applications, content, and access. For all of these, you need technology, management, investments and human resources.
Unfortunately, a lot of this stuff is with the Western world, and that's why there is a digital divide.
HOLMES: When we come back, I'm going to be asking our panel to provide some closing thoughts, and Mr. Ellis, when we come back. Stay with us.
Let's get straight back to questions. The time is ticking.
Vernon Ellis, how do we get the infrastructure that is quite obviously required -- we've established that -- how do you get it in there?
ELLIS: I think you have to start with understanding, there isn't just infrastructure. There are many examples, of putting very sophisticated telephone exchanges into a country, and then a few months later, it falls flat. Because the human capability isn't there, the revenues aren't there to sustain it.
You, need, as Sam said, you need content and policy framework and the right kind of enterprise conditions there. And, by the way, you need human capability. If those are there, I think the investment through infrastructure will come. It's not about difficult tradeoffs to investing in infrastructure or investing in health.
HOLMES: You're talking about a whole lot of resources.
John Morgridge, how do you do that?
MORGRIDGE: Well, certainly I think it's been our experience; what you try to do is leverage resources that already exist. We had one good example, I guess it was in India, of using the classroom beyond regular hours, in order to train the populous. We might even try that here in the United States, because we have a lot of wired classrooms that the lights go off at 3:00. So, it's a key of bringing together the various parties and then focusing on the problem and capitalizing on assets. It may be policy that has to change, but it's not an either/or kind of a situation.
BUSHKIN: And I think companies won't invest if they think the telecommunication structure will always limit the ability of the technology sector to grow. It's truly a silent censor in a lost countries that is keeping it back.
I also think -- you just made a great point about the U.S. We may sound like we have this problem solved in the U.S., and now we're just taking our knowledge elsewhere, but in fact, there is a serious digital divide in this country as well. While there's 60 percent penetration of computer use and Internet use among African-Americans, it's more like 30 percent; Hispanics, 25 percent.
And worst of all, single moms about 20 percent. There's a group that could really use it. We have some work to do here with community access, training, and making sure people understand how critical this technology is.
HOLMES: As we said, divides within divides. I have to bring James back in here, too. One of those divides is old versus young. We do have an aging population; do you think it will have impact on bridging the digital divide?
WOLFENSOHN: It will, but the younger people of course will carry forward developments, as it happens in my family -- I go to my kids when I need help. I think that will happen in developing countries as well. We are also, however, as you saw from some of your examples, reaching out and it's amazing the speed with which older people are adapting in rural communities, the use of the computer.
There will of course be the age divide, it's no different in developing countries than it is in our own country.
HOLMES: Good point. Sam, you had something to say?
PITRODA: I think we must recognize that this is a borderless technology. Unfortunately, it is being implemented by governments and people mindful of borders and there is a contradiction.
HOLMES: Do you think -- this is sort of an open question to all of you: do you think we got too focused, particularly here in developed countries -- on having this sleek telephone, my credit card- sized phone, and all the whiz-bang things we have.
What sort of responsibility do we, as a developed world, have to put our energies more into those have-nots, the enormous percentage of people who have nothing, while we are getting smaller telephones and HDTV?
ROMULO: But the investors will not be looking international investment; they need to be really assured they will make money on it. If they don't...
HOLMES: Good point. You said, when you are looking at a country that has nothing, companies should not see poor people.
PITRODA: They should see opportunities. And a more companies are seeing that. It sounds right: it is a longer term investment decision and sometimes that is hard to justify.
And also, we need to attack the conditions of business, though, which is much wider than technology. It goes to corruption, it goes to application of commercial law, and other things. They have to be right, too. If we can work together, I think the environment of technology to make an impact will be that much more proficient.
HOLMES: John, is that realistic? How difficult is that? You have to get these governments on side, these difficult governments sometimes. Is that tough?
MORGRIDGE: I think it's hard, because they look at in a very short term kind of view, and in the sort term, they see a lot of problems with doing it.
Certainly, we have experienced it in this country. I mean, it's not just other places. We have argued over access in this country now for ten years. And in terms of what -- how we are going to solve the problem in the last mile. Who will do that? How much access will there be to it? Not necessarily by the individuals but by companies that want to use that access. So, it is a worldwide problem. Ours is perhaps a little unique. Each country is a little unique.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)
MORGRIDGE: I did want to correct one thing. Just because you draw Social Security, does not mean you are not Internet savvy. Actually, access to the Internet is bi-model and it starts peaking again at about age 55. The retirees have the time to waste to actually master it.
HOLMES: Right. As we get close to the conclusion of our program, what do we really know for certain? We know the digital divide is there, it is serious, and if left unaddressed by business and industry, governments and communities, the gap between those with access to technology and information and those without, will only widen. The ramifications will worsen.
We also know that some amazing things happen to those who cross over and get connected. We've seen some of those today. And the potential is greatest for the world's young people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): She is all of five. She spends more than six hours a week at this computer kiosk in a not-so- well-off New Delhi locality called (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
She can now write her name using this pain brush program. She goes to school, but her parents could never afford the luxury of a computer. Now they spend all their time curiously poking around one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I like to paint, to play games, and to watch cartoons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The founder of the project believes that kids learn some thing better on their own. Two years ago, he put this computer in a Delhi slum, behind a glass screen with an improvised mouse, and called it the hole in the wall experiment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I wish to produce and what it seems to be producing, are children who cannot be intimidated by a computer. And I think that that is important. That non-intimidation is important, to close the digital divide.
HOLMES: Sam, before we go, you often speak of vision. Tell us about how important that is.
PITRODA: I think it is important to provide access to a large number of people to really address local problems with local content, local applications, and local commitment and involvement.
IT is equally important for water, literacy, sanitation, health, and i want to reemphasize the fact that IT is not about exotic, fancy, foreign urban applications. That's the key.
HOLMES: That is the key.
We have been talking grassroots, we have been talking broad vision, too. But that is going to do it for us at the moment. It's amazing how fast an hour goes. To our panel, thank you so much for your important contributions this hour, both here in Atlanta and also around the world.
To my colleague, Tumi Makgabo; and myself, Michael Holmes, thanks for watching.
Good-bye from CNN Headquarters in Atlanta.
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