Chinese officials encourage narrowing digital gap worldwide

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) – More than 20 ministerial-level officials from home and abroad called for countries to increase cooperation and improve technological innovation to effectively bridge the digital divide and to further build a community with a shared future in cyberspace.

Officials from China and 13 other countries, including Singapore, Nigeria and the Philippines, shared suggestions on narrowing the digital gap at a ministerial forum at the Fifth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, on Thursday.

The forum was hosted by China Daily and co-organized by the China Internet Development Foundation, China Telecommunications Corp and Zhejiang University.

Given that information connectivity serves as an important pillar for mutual political trust, economic cooperation and cultural compatibility in the internet age, the forum focused on narrowing the digital divide via economic developments and information sharing, and provided a platform for officials to discuss how to achieve the goal through international communication.

Zhuang Rongwen, head of China’s Cyberspace Administration, said half of the world’s population still do not have direct internet access.

“When we push forward internet penetration rates and increase cooperation on connectivity, we should also provide more funding and improve technological innovation to accelerate building of network infrastructure to help bridge the digital gap in different countries and regions,” he suggested.

Zhou Shuchun, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, highlighted the significance of bridging the digital divide amid the rapid development of the internet, saying the digital gap will be narrowed by pushing forward the Belt and Road Initiative.

“We hope the digital silk road can be a broad road to bring benefits to countries involved in the initiative, helping some nations turn around their poor conditions in development in bridging the digital gap,” he said.

Gao Tongqing, vice-president of China Telecommunications Corp, expressed hopes that the digital divide could be bridged through the initiative, noting it is an international way to address the issue.

As a country benefiting from cooperation, Shahzad Gul Aryobee, Afghanistan’s minister of communications and information technology, said his country appreciates China’s efforts in creating digital connectivity to boost mutual trust and collective governance, “as it can best contribute to a community with a shared future in cyberspace”.

He added that his nation is planning to connect the Wakhan digital corridor to enhance regional connectivity to expand the digital economy in the area with the mutual cooperation of China.

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