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Learning Network Dissolves North-South Barriers

The World Bank yesterday launched a telecommunications system that connects distance learning centers (DLCs) around the globe, bringing together development practitioners in an unprecedented exchange of views. World Bank President James Wolfensohn, along with participating partners worldwide, electronically launched the Global Development Learning Network (GDLN), spanning multiple time zones, overcoming technology gaps, and encompassing many points of view.

"What we are participating in today is a result of technological advances, and another example of globalization at its best," said Wolfensohn at the launch. "We are using technology to ensure that everyone has equal access to knowledge."

World Bank President James Wolfensohn delivers opening remarks
at the GDLN launch

Participants from Thailand's Chulalongkorn University discuss globalization

GDLN network members at Ghana's Distance Learning Center listen to
the discussion

World Bank Vice President for Europe Jean-Francois Rischard speaks on GDLN's potential

By harnessing the latest technology tools, GDLN members are linked through a web of high-speed communications technologies. They are part of a worldwide exchange of learning activities, through courses, seminars and discussions on key development issues. Using interactive video, electronic classrooms, satellite communications and internet facilities to help break down the digital divide, the Network allows people everywhere to share their know-how and experience, regardless of time zones, distance, or national boundaries. GDLN members and the World Bank are now building partnerships to share leading expertise on key development issues.

Wolfensohn was joined in a multi-site visual dialogue by partners in 16 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Europe. GDLN membersincluding governments, international, civil society, and private sector organizations, academia, and research institutionsunited to embrace the creation of GDLN and its knowledge sharing capacity in support of sustainable development. The number of sites equipped with DLCs expected to increase to 50 countries by 2002.

"The reality of globalization is that it is an unavoidable, irreversible makes cooperation and dialogue necessary, and the GDLN is the most appropriate way of exchanging experience and ways and means of development.” said Senegalese Prime Minister Moustapha Niasse. “Distance learning is a tool that can cross oceans and mountains to bring technology to the countries of the South.”

Outgoing Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez echoed the Prime Minister’s views. "Globalization is a fact of life and an irreversible process, something we have to deal with that has advantages and disadvantages, opportunities and challenges,” he said. “Our challenge is how we can be part of a new type of society based on technology. How can we make the transition from the industrial revolution to the technological revolution? Making the transition from one stage of history to the next is possible due to technology itself. As a consequence of the technological revolution it is possible to skip stages of development.”

Participants in the launch held a panel discussion on globalization and the voice of developing nations in the global economy. Many members emphasized the opportunities globalization presents, while others spoke of its risks, including the danger of a widening of the gap between rich and poor. All agreed that globalization is a force that cannot be stopped, and praised the GDLN for its potential to help bridge the divide.

Other participants stressed that the GDLN changes the possibilities for dialogue; no longer will it only be North providing knowledge to South. The GDLN makes South-to South dialogue simpler and more feasible. Through the Network, Thailand can now share experiences with Tanzania, and Cote d'Ivoire with China. “It is up to each one of us to push the envelope beyond just training and learning--dialogue amongst developing countries is key,” said Singaporean participant BG Yam Ah Mee, Deputy Secretary for Development, Office of the Prime Minister.

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