University of Toronto G8 Information Centre

Digital Opportunities for All:
Meeting the Challenge
Report of the Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force) including a proposal for a Genoa Plan of Action

11 May 2001

Contents
Foreword
Part One - The Challenge : Digital Opportunities for All
Part Two - Meeting the Challenge through Concrete and Creative Action
Part Three - The way forward : proposed Genoa Plan of Action
Appendix - Genesis and history of DOT Force

Foreword

This report is the result of a unique international collaboration. The Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), created by the G8 Heads of State at their Kyushu-Okinawa Summit in July 2000, brought together forty three teams from government, the private sector, non-profit organizations, and international organizations, representing both developed and developing countries, in a cooperative effort to identify ways in which the digital revolution can benefit all the world's people, especially the poorest and most marginalized groups. The "digital divide" is threatening to exacerbate the existing social and economic inequalities between countries and communities, so the potential costs of inaction are greater than ever before.

Over several months, through a rich and unprecedented mix of plenary meetings, informal consultations, meetings with stakeholders, and electronic outreach to broader audiences across the world, the DOT Force has examined in depth the challenge of bridging the digital divide and harnessing the power of information and communications technologies (ICT) and global networks to assure opportunity, empowerment and inclusion for all. The DOT Force has analyzed the underlying causes of the digital divide, the poverty-reducing and empowering potential of new technologies, and the complex mix of strategies, policies, investments, and actions required to create digital opportunities for all while addressing key development imperatives.

It has charted the relative roles and responsibilities of various actors - national governments, the private sector, non-profit organizations and community groups, international organizations, and individual citizens - in creating digital opportunities for all. It has mapped the interdependence among these actors and the challenges facing them, and the need for novel forms of partnership and cooperation among them in the creation of a multi-stakeholder "development dynamic".

The DOT Force concluded that, when wisely applied, ICT offer enormous opportunities to narrow social and economic inequalities and support sustainable local wealth creation, and thus help to achieve the broader development goals that the international community has set. ICT cannot of course act as a panacea for all development problems, but by dramatically improving communication and exchange of information, they can create powerful social and economic networks, which in turn provide the basis for major advances in development.

By enabling these new networks to collect and share local knowledge and information, ICT can provide new and more efficient methods of production, bring previously unattainable markets within the reach of local producers, improve the delivery of government services, and increase access to basic social goods and services. There need therefore be no trade-off between investment in ICT and the achievement of development objectives.

ICT can thus help to ignite a virtuous circle of sustainable development. But misapplied, they can result in marginalisation of the poor and the unconnected. In order for their development potential to be realised, all stakeholders - governments and their citizens, business, international organizations, civil society groups and individuals - need to work together towards achieving real change. As with all other development challenges, ownership by developing countries themselves and other relevant stakeholders will be indispensable.

Ensuring the participation of local communities is essential if ICT development is to flourish on a global scale and the fruits of the networked economy and society are to be reaped by rich and poor alike. The establishment of administrative and economic systems based on predictable and transparent rules, most especially good governance, which promote free development of ICT, is the key to success. The DOT Force also recognizes that a rapid response to the so-called "digital divide" in accordance with the rapid pace of ICT innovation is essential, and reaffirms the need for a multi-faceted and multi-layered effort by all stakeholders.

Most importantly, the DOT Force has identified priority actions that must be taken - by national governments and their citizens, the international community, the private sector, non-profit and community organizations - in various forms of partnership, to make this opportunity a reality. The members of the DOT Force greatly appreciate the opportunity afforded by the G8 Leaders to build upon the foundation of the G8 Okinawa Charter on the Global Information Society. Under each of the priority areas identified in Okinawa, the DOT Force has identified detailed actions that should be taken:

The members of the DOT Force are convinced that the basic right of access to knowledge and information is a prerequisite for modern human development. ICT must be embraced wholeheartedly by the broad development community at the earliest opportunity. Specifically, this will mean fully integrating ICT in G-8 and other donor development assistance policies and programmes, as well as enhancing coordination of multilateral initiatives.