Digital Divide a Threat to Indonesia’s Unity, President

JAKARTA ~ The yawning divide between the haves and the have-nots of the digital revolution is a “threat to national unity” and even world security, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said.

Yudhoyono told an audience including Microsoft chairman Bill Gates last Friday that information technology posed “formidable” challenges as well as great opportunities for developing countries like Indonesia.

“There is a real danger that the world’s poor will be virtually excluded from the emerging knowledge-based global economy, with dire consequences to global peace and security,” he said.

“In Indonesia… we can ill afford a digital divide across and within communities. There is a threat to national unity that we must effectively manage.”

He said the world’s most populous Muslim country was rolling out digital technologies as fast as it could but there were still millions of people in the vast archipelago who had no access to computers or the Internet.

“We need to prepare our society for wider use of information technology. We need to open the minds of our people to innovation and to wean them away from overdependence on the wealth of our natural resources and a tradition of paternalism,” he said.

The president was addressing the closing day of a conference co-sponsored by Microsoft and designed to bring together leaders of government and the technology industry from around the region.

Gates spoke of his vision to bridge the digital divide and make information technology more accessible in poor and undeveloped countries, especially in areas of education and health care.

“We need to come together with government and industry partners to make that happen,” he said.

Filed under: The Nation

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