Global Digital Opportunity Corps

Is Japan’s concern about the digital divide really a ploy to jump-start its languishing?

July 27, 2000

Is Japan's concern about the digital divide really a ploy to jump-start its languishing?

Picture this: a group of international high-tech bosses sitting together in collective compassion for the electronically less fortunate citizens of the world. Later on, these big wigs met up with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to press their point: the G-8 countries need to do more to bridge the digital divide. Incidentally, among the high-tech CEOs in attendance were the CEOs of Toshiba and Sony, two of Japan’s largest consumer electronics firms.

By yet another coincidence, their proposals have been drawn up on the Japanese government’s request. One of their ideas consists of a “Global Digital Divide Opportunity Corps.” Its officially ascribed purpose is to “frame the international debate in terms of a ‘Global Digital Opportunity,’ and to launch and support initiatives that would enable developing countires to seize the opportunity.”

In view of the Japan’s economic situation, however, one has to ask the question what the real purpose of this display of “compassionate computerism” is. The country’s economy grew a mere 0.2% last year, and Prime Minister Mori is in dire need of something to get the economy growing again. Japan can ill afford another Prime Minister whose economic revival strategy fails miserably.

And yet, all efforts to stimulate the domestic economy have not worked. Under these circumstances, it is only natural to come up with a new scheme that could trigger sales prospects beyond Japan’s borders. Exports of computer technology and electronics seems to be the preferred way out.

Is the “Global Digital Divide Opportunity Corps” not in fact the start of a “Global Digital Business Opportunity Corps” for Japan — an attempt to use the need to computerize the world into a prop for the Japanese economy? At least, one imagines, the effort might result in more impressive social gains than those created by the export of PlayStations and Nintendo games.