Die Überwindung des digitalen Grabens
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While at first sight access to information technology might be regarded a secondary priority in development cooperation the widening of the digital divide – that is the gap between industrialized and developing countries with view to the spread of information technology (IT) across the population – will hamper further development. Access to mobile phones, internet and other IT networks particularly supplements efforts to develop e.g. the small scale business sector, health service provision and education in less developed areas that lack in infrastructure in these sectors. From a legal point of view the problem of the digital divide can be approached from two different angles. One is the area of human rights and the question whether the right to information – guaranteed in various international treaties – encompasses also an entitlement to the technical requirements to exercise this very right. In result, while the respective state must not hinder access to such technologies, the right itself provides no such entitlement. The same holds true for the right to development. The other angle is the realm of international trade law and the question of reducing legal obstacles to bridging the digital divide. The current regime of copyrights and patents does not allow for a general non-application of protective rules for development purposes but a human-rights sensitive interpretation of the provision to further the development in developing countries and the one regarding technology transfer might lead to the result that developing countries have a right to table the issue of a possible exception for IT development within renegotiations of the TRIPS agreement. In addition, a further solution to bridge the IT gap could be an international treaty in which industrialized countries enter into an obligation to transfer funds – e.g. a certain percentage of their own IT expenses – for IT development to developing countries.