Digitally disadvantaged strive to get online

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According to statistics from the UN, only seven out of 100 countries in the developing world are connected to the Internet, a significantly lower number than in the developed world where 54 out of 100 countries are online. However the situation is improving, with internet connectivity in developing countries rising at an average annual rate of about 35 percent between 2000 and 2004.

In 2004 in the developing world, there were only 18.8 mobile phone users per 100 inhabitants compared to 76.8 per 100 in the developed countries. And although broadband markets are growing fast; 158.9 million subscribers worldwide by the end of 2004, Oceania and Africa had only 1.1 and 0.2 percent of subscribers respectively. However, despite this digital doom and gloom, the number of internet users in the developing countries is growing: increasing by 43 percent between 2000 and 2001; 49 percent in 2001-2002; 25 percent in 2002-2003; and 30 percent more by 2004. Africa also managed to add 15 million new mobile phone subscribers in 2004.

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The latest initiative – which is aiming to develop a global decentralised “network of networks” operates in four areas: health, education, poverty reduction through new enterprises, and citizen participation in government. Intel has already been involved in bringing Internet access to remote areas of the world. Its most recent project involved creating a wireless, high-speed internet network for residents in the Amazon as part of its Intel World Ahead Program. This is an initiative that plans to invest more than USD1 billion to speed-up access to technology for inhabitants of developing communities. The Amazon project is designed to bring access to medical, educational and commercial knowledge resources through computers. Parintins, a town on an island in the Amazon River, is now digitally enabled – an achievement that is predicted to improve the healthcare and education of its 114,000 residents. The Amazon University is now beginning a telemedicine program, which is being developed jointly with the medical school of Sao Paulo University. This will give the town's medical professionals better access to the latest medical data, with video interaction between specialists providing faster access to second opinions.

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