Apparently they're setting up a new global fund to help "shrink the technology gap between rich and poor nations." See:

Africa seeks gadget lovers' cash

I get the feeling that there are too many people who think that throwing equipment at the Digital Divide is the way to solve the problem. Sure, everyone might have a computer… but what the hell are they going to do with it??

In Baltimore I worked with an HP funded group doing an evaluation of their 'Digital Divide' related programs. One of the most interesting concepts that came out of the research was the idea of 'dropping boxes.' The people I worked with used the term to represent the idea of providing technology with no purpose – pulling a truck up to the corner and kicking boxes of computer hardware out the back. It was a recognition of the fact that technology with no purpose, no relevence, does nothing to solve the problems of the Digital Divide.

I'm surprised, then, that more Digital Divide reasearchers aren't focusing on making IT more culturally appropriate. Most of them think making something culturally appropriate means translating it to a different language. (hah!) I think of it more as understanding how the perceptions and behaviors which surround IT and information differ cross-culturally, and adapting technology and its implementation to suit that. You're sure to read more about this from me in the weeks to come …