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Tech Industry

Clinton says use IT for growth, not terror

In Australia, the former U.S. president calls on nations to use information technology to bridge the digital divide and make partners--not terrorists--of developing nations.

ADELAIDE, Australia--Addressing an international conference on information technology, former U.S. President Bill Clinton called on developed nations to use IT to bridge the digital divide and 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 told 1,800 delegates from more than 55 countries at the World Congress on IT 2002 here.

He said that during his presidency, which spanned most of the 1990s, technology was responsible for 30 percent of U.S. economic growth. He emphasized 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--with the proviso that it be invested in information and telecommunications frameworks--he also pointed out the role technology can play 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 Sept. 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."

Emphasizing 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."

Jeanne-Vida Douglas reported from Australia.