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Ministerial and Other Meeetings

First Meeting of the
G8 Digital Opportunity Taskforce
(the Dot Force)
(Summary)

30 November 2000

Main Points

The Digital Opportunity Taskforce (dot force) was established based on the Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society, which was adopted at the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit. The taskforce will examine concrete steps to bridge the international digital divide, and prepare a report for the next G8 Summit to be held in Genoa, Italy in 2001.

The inaugural meeting of the dot force was held in Tokyo from 27-28 November, with the participation of representatives from the governments, the private sector, and non-profit organizations (NPOs) of the G8, as well as developing countries, and international organizations. (Chair: Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoshiji Nogami)

At this meeting, discussions centered on (1) stocktaking of the current situation of the international digital divide, and (2) the future work schedule of the dot force. In relation to the latter, it was agreed that with the aim of producing a report by the end of May 2001, a second meeting of the dot force would be held in a developing country in February or early March 2001, with a third meeting planned in Italy at the end of May 2001.

1. Main Conclusions of the Meeting

The dot force is the first attempt by the G8 to create a forum attended by not only concerned government officials and representatives from the private sector of G8 member countries, but also international organizations and developing countries. As such, an important challenge for this first meeting was to create a united feeling and cohesive power as a forum for all. As a result of the discussions that took place at the meeting, it was perceived that the diverse participants shared a significant degree of common awareness on the issue, and the following points were confirmed as future plans for action.

  1. Basic Principles for Action

    1. Ownership: Without confirming itself as a sub-organization of the G8, the dot force should contribute to the bridging of the international digital divide while demonstrating its significance.
    2. Active participation of the parties concerned: The dot force, which already comprises a broad range of stakeholders, should secure, through various means, the positive participation of non-member stakeholders.
    3. Action-oriented: Discussion in the dot force should be action-oriented, directly correlating to the specific actions being taken towards bridging the international digital divide.
    4. Eliminating "either/or" approaches: It was agreed that in the development of IT in developing countries, an "either/or" approach to IT development as opposed to other development goals should be eliminated, and that a means should be found to combine development goals with IT development.
    5. Complementary with other international efforts: It was agreed that the dot force should endeavor to fill the gaps in existing international efforts aimed at eliminating the international digital divide and make efforts to strengthen coherence.

  2. Policy Areas for Attention

    The policy areas specified for dot force discussion were identified as below:

    1. Policy environment
    2. Access
    3. Knowledge (human resources development, languages, contents, etc.)
    4. Application of IT (e-commerce, e-government, etc.)

  3. Report Drafting Process

    1. Schedule for the drafting of the final report: The following schedule was compiled bearing in mind the preparation process for the Genoa Summit, and with the aim of completing a report by the end of May 2001.

      December 2000 Agree on the outline of the report
      February 2001 Prepare the first draft of the report (by the joint secretariat of the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP))
      Late February-early March Second dot force plenary meeting (to be held in a developing country. Discuss the first draft of the report)
      Late May-early June Third dot force meeting (to be held in Italy. Adopt the final report.)

    2. Informal consultations: Members are encouraged to voluntarily organize informal consultations to contribute to the report drafting process.

  4. Participation of Non-member Stakeholders

    1. Dialogue with non-member stakeholders should be sought using opportunities provided by related international conferences.
    2. Members themselves are encouraged to contribute to the further engagement of stakeholders. (Representatives from some developing countries stated that they would make efforts to hear the interests and concerns of non-member countries in their regions, and business representatives from G8 countries expressed their intention to consider holding dialogue with businesses active in developing countries.)
    3. From the viewpoint of reflecting the Asian perspective in the discussion, the e-ASEAN secretariat, the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) were invited as ad hoc participants in this meeting at the discretion of the host nation.

2. Main points of the discussion related to the stocktaking

The panel discussion on the first day of the meeting was used for the stocktaking of the international digital divide, and covered the following points.

  1. The representatives of the developing countries took a generally realistic position and stressed the following points as their basic views concerning the spread of IT in developing countries.

    1. It is necessary to further both a top-down process based on the creation of an IT-friendly environment by the government and a bottom-up process from the level of citizens.
    2. In order to allocate the necessary resources (including aid) for the promotion of IT in developing countries, it is essential to raise the awareness of political leaders.
    3. When promoting IT in developing nations, it is important to ensure that the introduction of IT is directly linked to wealth creation. Therefore, promotion of the establishment of local business is vital.
    4. It should be noted that the digital divide in developing nations is not solely the matter of information but is also related to other serious social disparities.
    5. In terms of human resources development, there is a broad range of needs, from improving the information literacy of the general public to training IT engineers. While development of human resources in developing nations should be sought, there is also a need to promote exchange by dispatching able personnel from developing nations to advanced nations.
    6. In multi-lingual countries, the translation of IT-related content into local languages is an important issue.

  2. Business participants pointed out that, (a) the hard-and-fast rule from the standpoint of business is that investment is only made in areas that are potentially profitable and therefore governments of developing nations must establish an IT-friendly environment, and (b) the role of the governments of advanced nations and international organizations is to provide seed money to reduce investment risk for companies.

  3. Participants from NPOs pointed out that NPOs play an important role in spreading IT on the community level, and expressed their hope that a portion of international aid be allocated to the activities of NPOs. In addition, they pointed out the importance of technological innovations that make affordable access possible in promoting IT in developing nations on the grass roots level.

 


Source: The Government of Japan

 


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