Seoul: South Korea, one of the world’s most wired societies has offered to share its expertise with other Asian countries to help bridge the region’s IT divide.
The offer came as foreign ministers and other minister-level officials and deputies from 30 countries in Asia and the Middle East attended the opening ceremony here for the sixth meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD).
“Korea will not spare efforts to support countries in not only building advanced network infrastructure but also in introducing e-government services,” Information and Communications Minister Rho Jun-Hyong said in an opening speech.
Organizers said South Korea’s resolve would be illustrated in a declaration to be adopted later. The nation has 70% of its homes connected to broadband Internet.
IT is a main theme of the meeting but South Korean officials said other issues such as North Korea’s nuclear programme would also be tackled.
Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram urged Seoul to lay the groundwork for bridging the digital divide. In response, Prime Minister Han Duck-Soo said his country would organize education programmes for IT experts or send Internet youth volunteers abroad.
The divide must not translate into “a rift in the economic and social opportunities of our constituents,” he said, adding that the information gap between the haves and the have-nots is more glaring in this age of instant information access and sophisticated communications technology.
According to him, ACD should become a regional forum to forge “collective economic strategies” to maintain Asia’s competitiveness. ACD which is the brainchild of Thailand’s former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, was inaugurated in June 2002.
It is the first and only body covering the entire Asian continent though critics say its membership is too diverse for it to be meaningful.
Han urged the international community to support six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, saying stable security is the precondition for the region’s continued economic development.
Other ACD members include Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.