First, I would like to introduce myself. I have worked in customer service

in large computer firms and have also worked (as a volunteer) with a CTC

project in Philadelphia. I also spent two months volunteering as a

technical expert for a small telecenter project in Puerto Rico. All of

these experiences contribute to my thoughts about closing the digital

divide globally.

 

In my view, one of the most important recent trends is what is loosely

called “private-public partnerships”, meaning that non-profits and

for-profits find common interest in collaborating toward a specific goal.

 From what I can see, the willingness of countries like the United States

nd others to fund development projects in poor countries keeps declining.

At the same time, the interest of for-profit companies in investing in poor

countries is increasing. I do not want to commit my current employer to

anything, so I will leave out the name of the company for which I work, but

I have seen increased interest here in at least exploring markets in Asia

and Africa.

 

I also think that the private sector has something to offer when it comes

to planning and executing a project, within the United States or outside ­

which can help non-profits who are trying to design and implement IT

projects overseas. On the other hand, non-profits often have a better feel

for the local community, the culture, and the “soft” side of projects.

Based on this experience (and I would be interested in hearing if others

agree), I think one of the most productive things the G8 can do is to set

up ways for companies and non-profits to link up, learn more about each

other, and work collaboratively to put together projects that serve both

social-development and profit objectives. Putting together some

facilitation program like that would probably bring more money into

development in a more effective way than just setting up one more

“development money pot” that everyone scrambles after. For example, the G8

could set up some program that would:

 

(1) Help non-profits get their message/activities out to companies that

might be interested, maybe through an online database,

 

(2) Provide “seed” funding for new collaborative efforts between companies

and non-profits,

 

(3) Encourage the World Bank and other development organizations to set up

a program to support this kind of private-public partnership for closing

the digital divide,

 

(4) Help non-profits and companies see ways that their interests overlap.

For example, another way of looking at a market analysis is that it is a

kind of needs assessment. There could be a website where a company that

wants a market analysis can go to find a non-profit who can do a needs

assessment instead of the typical marketing firm.

 

Of course, there are many other ways this could be done. The specifics are

not that important. What is important is for the G8 to leverage whatever

they do so that it continues after the “politicos” have decided they don't

want to fund it anymore. That means getting for-profits and non-profits

together to undertake projects independently of the government.

 

Thanks for listening!

 

Brad Remekers

Bremekers@hotmail.com (my personal address)