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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 8, 1999
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                              OEOB Studio

12:20 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. I am delighted to share this historic moment with you, with President Mandela, with Prime Minister Blair and all our friends supporting NETAID.

The launching of this website represents a truly important new front in the struggle against poverty. Information technology has been vital to the prosperity achieved by many nations this decade, including ours. The people of the world have never communicated better or more easily, and that has spurned countless new ideas and opportunities.

But it's also a fact that this prosperity has been very uneven within and among countries. The democratic promise of the Internet, therefore, is not yet fulfilled; because vast populations around the world still have no access to computers at all. Through USAID, the United States government has pledged millions of dollars to build Internet access in other countries, especially in Africa.

But the gulf between the haves and the have-nots is growing much too quickly. Today, we build a bridge across that gulf. NETAID is the creation of a remarkable partnership combining the international reach of the United Nations development program and the powerful resources of the private sector.

I want to thank Cisco Systems' John Chambers, as well as the other technology companies. Thanks to them, one of the largest websites ever built has been created to spread information about extreme poverty and to help concerned citizens do something about it. The site will be available around the world, including places where Internet access has been limited, so that a farmer in Africa can find out more about fighting drought; a woman hoping to start a business in Bangladesh can find investors from other countries; a school in Indiana can raise money for a school in Indonesia.

I commend all the sponsors of NETAID for their generosity and vision. And likes millions of people, I'm looking forward to the simultaneous concerts on October 9th.

Some people say the rise of the Internet will inevitably bring the world together; some say it will inevitably widen the gap between rich and poor nations. But nothing is inevitable. We have a choice about the future we will build. NETAID sends a powerful signal that we intend to make the Internet an instrument for bettering all our lives, not just those wealthy enough to afford a computer. The millennium should be a time for joining and common purpose. Today, we do just that. NETAID will make our global village more responsible and a lot more global.

Now, it is my honor to be the first person from North America to log on to the site. And thank you very much.

Back to you, Mr. Secretary General.