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Swiss Official Suggests Global Tax on Information
    2007-05-22 05:56:23     Xinhua

Swiss Communications Minister Moritz Leuenberger called on Monday for a global tax on information to help bridge the digital gap, Swiss Radio International (SRI) reported.

Leuenberger said the levy would serve to finance new information and communication technologies in regions where people have little or no access to the internet.

Non-governmental organizations have welcomed the move, which they say caught them by surprise, describing it as a "necessary step in the right direction," SRI said.

The Swiss communications minister unveiled his proposal at a United Nations meeting in Geneva on technology and development.

Leuenberger even went as far as to state that bridging the digital gap was as important a challenge as tackling climate change.

"Today more than half the world's population don't even have a telephone," he said. "And four out of five people don't have access to the internet. They are cut off from information and any possibility of exchanging information, training or improving themselves."

"If we don't want these people to leave their countries, we must do something to ensure that the gap doesn't grow wider between those who surf the internet via high-speed ADSL and those who have to walk 10 kilometers to the nearest phone box."

Leuenberger said the proposed information tax could be raised, for example, on paid-for information and computers. But he stressed that low-cost providers would be exempt.

Leuenberger's chief spokesman Andre Simonazzi told SRI that the money would be used to finance internet development and build educational content in countries that had yet to travel far along the information superhighway.

He added that it was the first time Leuenberger had publicly expressed the idea, and details of how and on what a tax would be imposed had yet to be thrashed out.

"Now we need to see whether this idea can be developed and whether it is realistic," Simonazzi said. "We also need to see whether other countries will pick it up."

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