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B2B site looks to bridge global digital divide

The World Resources Institute unveils a business-to-business marketplace to help foster economic development projects in developing countries.

A Washington-based think tank plans to use the Internet to connect corporations with non-profit groups and private entrepreneurs around the world in an effort to bridge the digital divide.

The World Resources Institute unveiled a business-to-business marketplace Thursday to help foster economic development projects in developing countries. The marketplace is an added component to the group's Web site,, which was born out of the Digital Dividend conference held in Seattle last year.

A global effort has evolved during the past few years to close the gap between those who have access to technology and the Internet and those who do not, a situation known as the digital divide. Proponents of the marketplace hope the site will give more corporate backing to organizations working to close the gap in developing countries.

One-third of the 350 organizations listed on the Web site are projects that provide computers and telecommunications services to low-income urban centers and rural towns and villages. Some 75 for-profit companies and 40 government agencies have signed up.

The Web site "links entrepreneurs and other organizations in the developing world to digital corporations in America and Europe," said Allen Hammond, WRI's chief information officer. "It will promote sharing of experience, enabling partnerships and forming an online community."

Although the site will initially act as a clearinghouse where information is shared and exchanged, Hammond said there are plans for the venture to become a full-blown marketplace for companies to buy and sell goods and services.

Registration is free. Clicking on an individual project name will bring up a short description, contact information and basic data on the organization. Other links access documents, news, informational links and photos about the project.

Edwin San Roman, chief executive of online baked goods company Tortas Peru, said in a statement that he expects "to expand his network and generate new business," by becoming a participant of the marketplace.