After the early hype, the discovery of a digital divide burst the bubble of euphoria about how ICT would change the world. Slowly, the benefits are starting to show through.
Microsoft UK recently made grants to Age Concern and Citizens Online totaling £177,500, together with additional software support, as part of the company’s new global Unlimited Potential programme. The grants are in line with a worldwide pledge by the technology giant to invest more than $1bn in cash and software over the next five years.
The UK charitable grants, which reflect the goal of the Unlimited Potential programme to help eliminate technology illiteracy, include:
- a mobile IT training facility run by Age Concern in the South West which will provide IT training facility for the elderly who cannot access existing services;
- an Unlimited Potential awards scheme in association with Citizens Online, which will support IT skills training for underserved individuals in community-based settings;
- the EveryBody Online project, which aims to improve capacity for IT training and encourage more people to develop further IT skills.
At an international level, Microsoft also announced a new partnership with the UNDP to boost computer literacy in developing countries. Pilot projects providing technology-enabled training for youth and adults in community education centres will take place in Egypt, Mozambique and Morocco. The UN says the project could potentially provide ‘shortcuts’ to bypass corrupt government and help technology companies to see the developing world as a real market to be targeted. Contact Amy Clarke, Microsoft, on 0870 6010 100 (http://www.microsoft.com/uk)
Cable & Wireless is donating £84,000 to the Internet Content Rating association to help the non-profit organisation develop and expand its labelling system for monitoring internet content. Meanwhile, the UK government launched a £700,000 campaign in early January warning children to be wary of internet paedophiles. The campaign consists of radio, cinema and online adverts urging young people to consider whom they might be communicating with online, particularly in chatrooms. Contact Katherine Smailes, Cable & Wireless, on 01344 818 324 (http://www.cw.com)
Forum for the Future published in December Making the Net Work: Sustainable development in a digital society. The publication written by the think tank’s Digital Europe team draws together the environmental, social and regional strands of the Digital Europe project and the case studies to present a big picture analysis of the opportunities for sustainable development in a digital society. The book shows how the growth in networks and the increased availability of information is affecting people’s lives and the environment. Contact Tim Aldrich, FfF, on 020 7324 3618 (http://www.forumforthefuture.org.uk)
The digital divide between the most and least developed economies is narrowing, according to The Global Information Technology Report, released by the World Economic Forum on December 9. The UScontinues to rank as the most ‘network ready’ country in the world, followed closely by Signapore and Finland. The UK (15) ranks behind Germany (11) and Japan (12), but ahead of France (19)and China (51). Eight of the ten worst countries in terms of internet infrastructure come from Africa. Contact WEF on 00 41 22869 1212 (http://www.weforum.org)
The mouse trap
Technology companies could face lawsuits, pressure group attacks and other new costs unless they do more to manage risks in their supply and disposal chains, warns a report from ISIS Asset Management released on January 19. The trend to outsource the production and disposal of computers, handsets and electronic components to lower income countries has exposed companies to operational and reputational risks from poor labour standards and hazardous materials. The study of 11 of the biggest companies in the sector judges Hewlett-Packard and Nokia as the best performers overall, although both are better at managing environmental challenges than labour standards. Siemens is the poorest performing category on both counts. Contact Hayley Frain, ISIS, on 020 7506 1402 (http://www.isisam.com)
Exclusion from the use of new technology places major restraints on an individual’s opportunities, argues a recent research paper by the Institute for Public Policy Research, which held its first annual e-Quality Festival at the end of 2003. Contact Emily Keaney, IPPR, on 020 7470 6156 (http://www.ippr.org.uk)
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 74 – March, 2004