China speeds up narrowing the digital technology gap

UPDATED: 16:42, June 21, 2007

"By 2010, all the towns and townships in China's rural areas will have broadband service." Vice Minister of Information Industry, Xi Guohua, made the remark in Jiangsu province on Monday. He said in order to narrow the gap in digital technology between the cities and countryside, China will speed up the popularization of broadband service in rural areas.

There are 144 million households in China using the internet; 97 million of them are using broadband. Due to the imbalance of economic and social development, there is a big gap in digital technology between eastern and western regions, and urban and rural areas. According to a survey issued by the ministry in January, by the end of last year, 20.2% of the people in urban areas are internet users, while the number of internet users in rural areas only accounts for 3.1% of the total population, creating a gap of 6.5 times. People in rural areas are facing 'information poverty'. It is urgent to narrow such a gap, said Xi Guohua.

As early as 2005, the central government had placed the improvement of information technology in rural areas on its agenda for building a new socialist countryside. Last year, the 2006-2020 National Information Development Strategy also proposed that public internet service be provided in a village or a township community free of charge or at a very low cost. The services will include e-government affairs, education and training, medical and health care, and help and relief for the elderly.

Xi Guohua said the construction of a rural information industry has been one of the key projects of his ministry in recent years.

Currently, 98.9% of administrative villages in China have telephone services. By 2010, the fifty thousand small villages, with just over twenty households each, will have telephone services. This means that all the rural areas will have telephone service coverage. Meanwhile, all townships will receive broadband services.

Xi Guohua promised that China will speed up the construction of broadband services in rural areas in order to narrow the digital technology gap between rural and urban areas. At present, there is still much to be done for rural areas to catch up to the level of services in urban areas. Xi said that in fact, there is a great demand for broadband in rural areas that will be a great potential market for the industry.

By People's Daily Online

People's Daily Online ---