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Global Network Readiness and Resource Initiative Launches At G-8 Summit in Japan.

Business/Technology Editors

TOKYO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 24, 2000

Coalition of founding partners includes the Markle Foundation,

World Economic Forum, Center for International Development at Harvard University, IBM, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations

Foundation

Group to respond to developing nation requests for assistance in formulation and implementation of National Information Infrastructure

strategies

The Global Network Readiness and Resource Initiative, a public-private partnership of leading companies, foundations, academia, non-governmental organizations, and multilateral agencies intended to help create digital opportunity for developing nations, launched its program today in response to the G-8 Okinawa Charter on the Global Information Society.

With founding partners Markle Foundation, World Economic Forum (WEF), Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University, IBM, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and United Nations Foundation (UNF), the coalition plans to invite all categories of development partners and others to join this undertaking. The Global Network Readiness and Resource Initiative will enable developing nations seeking strategic guidance in policy, regulatory and network readiness development to access leading-edge resources as they become full participants in the global information economy and society.

"The challenge of bridging the digital divide is a daunting one," said Klaus Schwab, President of the WEF, "but we must recognize that priority be given to this issue by developing nations themselves and by all stakeholders in the industrialized world." Zoe Baird, President of the Markle Foundation said, "This innovative public-private partnership represents a powerful resource that enables developing nations to access the expertise they seek on the front end of the information revolution. The potential significance of that in terms of economic and social development is enormous."

The Global Network Readiness and Resource Initiative will consist of two major components. First, through a partnership of private and public stakeholders, the development of country-specific network readiness and self-assessments based on the pioneering work of CID Network Readiness Guide for the Developing World, as well as readiness initiatives by APEC, World Bank and others as the initial step in establishing the enabling environment to attract major investment in information infrastructure and matching information technology to the basic development needs of health, education, environment, trade and others.

Second, the initiative will create a Global Task Force to deliver pro bono advice to developing nation governments and private sector entities on crafting the appropriate strategic mix of telecommunications competition, public policy to support Internet and electronic commerce growth, and enabling entrepreneurial environments for social and economic development. The Global Task Force will be staffed by leading experts from the private and public sector.

"There is a tremendous hunger in the developing world for information and advice on how to more fully participate in the Networked World. Developing country leaders are looking for exactly the kind of support that this kind of initiative will provide," said Jeff Sachs, Director of CID at Harvard University.

About the coalition partners

The Markle Foundation works to realize the potential of emerging communications media and information technology to improve people's lives and promotes the development of communications industries that address public needs. Markle is the largest U.S. philanthropy devoted exclusively to working in the public interest as the information revolution unfolds and recently announced a $100 million commitment to grants, investments and projects that seek to do so.

The World Economic Forum is the foremost global partnership of business, political, intellectual and other leaders of society committed to improving the state of the world. The World Economic Forum is an independent, impartial, not-for-profit Foundation that acts in the spirit of entrepreneurship in the global public interest to further economic growth and social progress. In January 2000, WEF formed a task force on the Global Digital Divide after private discussions among several chief executives of information technology and media, communication and entertainment companies at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The Center for International Development (CID) is Harvard University's primary center for research on sustainable international development, and a world leader in promoting a cross-disciplinary approach to problems of sustainable development. Earlier this year, the CID published "Readiness for the Networked World: A Guide for Developing Countries," a self-assessment tool that developing country leaders can use to improve their strategic planning relating to information and communication technologies. The Guide's methodology and the CID's experience in advising developing nations will be core components of the Global Network Readiness and Resource Initiative.

IBM is working to help governments and private sectors around the world to become full participants in the Networked World. IBM sponsored the Center for International Development at Harvard University to create "Readiness for the Networked World: A Guide for Developing Countries," and led a private sector task force within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group that developed the APEC Readiness Initiative "E-Commerce Readiness Assessment Guide." These guides are being applied around the world to help communities and countries better prepare for the Networked World.

United Nations Development Program - UNDP is the United Nations' principal provider of development advice, advocacy and grant support. It also serves an essential coordinating role, helping public and private sector donors to work more effectively with each other, with host governments, and with civil society, enabling a more focused and productive use of aid resources. UNDP, which has a global network of offices in 136 countries, will provide critical support and leadership for this project.

United Nations Foundation - The United Nations Foundation and its sister organization, the Better World Fund, were created in 1998 to administer a $ 1 billion gift from businessman Ted Turner to support UN causes. The Foundation's priorities currently include the environment (biodiversity and climate change), women and population issues, with special emphasis on adolescent girls, children's health, and peace, security and human rights. In joining this coalition, the UN Foundation anticipates that it can be helpful in facilitating this and other related efforts in the UN system.
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