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United Nations Reports: The Digital divide is widening between poor and rich countries

GENEVA (AFP) - The "digital divide" between rich and poor countries is growing with developing countries still far behind in the use of broadband internet, the UN trade and development agency has warned.

Developed countries are expected to reach a broadband penetration rate of 28 percent in 2008, while developing countries languish on just 3.0 percent, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in a report issued late Wednesday.

"The diffusion of information and communications technology (ICT) in developing countries is growing but ... such countries lag far behind the industrialised world in the application of ICT and its use by businesses," UNCTAD said in its "Information Economy Report 2007-2008."

The gap has widened for broadband "due to the fast pace of technological development" and associated high costs, UNCTAD official Anh-Nga Tran-Nguyen said.

UNCTAD has already highlighted broadband as a vital tool in economic development, saying last November that it is so vital for businesses that it should be considered a utility comparable to water and electricity.

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