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Clinton calls for IT to fight terrorism

Bill Clinton kicks off WCIT 2002 by saying that information technology should be used to bridge the digital divide and make partners - not terrorists - of developing nations

Addressing a gathering of over 1800 delegates from over 55 countries at the 2002 World Congress on Information Technology, former US president Bill Clinton called for developed nations to use IT to bridge the digital divide, and use technology to make partners -- not terrorists -- of developing nations.

"You can make a compelling argument for technology having created a more interdependent world, but so far we have failed to create a more integrated world," Clinton said.

He pointed out that during his presidency, technology had been responsible for 30 percent of US economic growth, and emphasised the importance of technological development for debt-burdened countries.

"There are some places that simply could not accommodate such growth because they don't have so much as a telephone line," Clinton said.

While calling for debt relief on the proviso that it be invested in information and telecommunications infrastructure, he also pointed out the role technology can and has played in the prevention of terrorism.

"One of the most important aspects of the technology and the Internet is the ability to monitor people who might be terrorists," Clinton said. "One of the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks had over 30 credit cards and over half a million dollars in debt, and since the attack we have been able to track all of (terrorist) Mohammad Atta's safe houses."

Emphasising the capacity for technology, and in particular the Internet, to bring societies closer together, Clinton wrapped up the speech with a dual vision of what the world might look like if world leaders fail to find ways to distribute access to technology more widely. "We are looking at a world in which our children replace the walls that have been torn down with barbed wire and live in fear of what is on the other side," he said, "Or one which allows many nations to make use of technology to live happier healthier lives."


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