Can the Digital Divide Offer Dividends?

10-17-00 2:55pm Update: Ericcson has just announced the winners of the Ericcson Internet Community Award (ERICA). The Internet and wireless company is presenting the awards to five charitable and non-profit organizations to further their development of projects involving implementing Internet technology to better the lives and communities of those they serve.

Each of the winners will receive $100,000 in Web development services from Ericcson’s Internet Solutions division.

The winners are: The Fiji School of Medicine, Fiji; The Gould League, Australia; National Downs Syndrome Society, USA; Pathways Community Network, USA; and Rhodes University Mathematics Project, South Africa.

The featured companies will be presented with their awards this evening at a ceremony at the Experience Music Project.

Update 10-17-00: Executives from VisionCompass, Nokia and were on the first panel this morning at the Digital Divide Conference. The panel’s title was: Applying Digital Technologies Where They are Most Needed. Robert Bismuth, president and CEO of VisionCompass, for example, outlined how the state of Andhra Pradesh in India uses digital technology to track its state development mandates and reports its progress directly to its citizens.

Update 10/11/00: has just learned that Seattle-based Viatru, formerly, has been selected to be one of the companies featured at the upcoming Creating Digital Dividends conference.
Attendees at the conference will have the opportunity to learn more about Viatru’s business model which
supports small producers in developing communities in their efforts to create responsible and sustainable businesses. Viatru recently helped Tully’s Coffee to identify and work with an artisan group in Lima, Peru. The artisans worked collaboratively with Tully’s to design and produce a new line of ceramic coffee mugs based on a design that was transmitted to the artisans via the Internet.

While discussion of the “Digital Divide,” the increasing disparity between those with and without access to technology and information, is rampant on the political and academic level, in the business world the topic is rarely mentioned.

Members of the World Resources Institute think that is a mistake. The group will be hosting the Creating Digital Dividends Conference in Seattle.

The conference, which will run from October 16th to 18th, will take a different perspective on the topic. While current discourse has generally centered on the negative implications of a widening gap, WRI’s conference will also discuss the potential opportunities accessing these markets may bring.

“This conference is aimed at trying to narrow that gap by looking at the positive side of the digital divide,” says William Ruckelshaus, Chairman of the WRI and Principal at Madrona Investment Group. “There is potential both for business and the poor in the developing world to benefit from the advent of information technology.”

Ruckelshaus was clear on noting that the implementation of these technologies can further the causes of development, which in turn will spawn the protection of natural resources, along with other related issues.

The invitation-only event will feature such Internet luminaries as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Real Networks CEO and Chairman Rob Glaser, and founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. will be at the conference providing full coverage.

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