HP Puts Focus on Developing Countries

In an effort to narrow the "digital divide," Hewlett-Packard on Thursday said it will begin a new initiative helping to provide technology and working to build markets in developing countries.

The venture, which is called e-Inclusion, will seek to place some of HP's business focus on developing markets in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America, the company said in a statement. In 2001, the Palo Alto, California-based company plans to target $US1 billion of its products, along with partner products and services, to be sold, leased or donated through special programs in developing nations.

In addition, e-Inclusion hopes to assist 1,000 rural communities and provide "measurable social and economic benefits" globally. The initiative will focus on health, education, information-based jobs, access to markets and financial services. Efforts could include promoting existing remote telecenters, equipped with solar-powered computers and high-speed Internet connections that can be used by local residents and businesses.

The Internet and other information technologies hold the keys to sustainable economic growth, said Carly Fiorina, HP's chairwoman, president and chief executive officer, in a statement. The same forces, however, also can affect social and economic disparities, she said. How much of each the world experiences depends on how companies approach sustainability and the deployment of technology across markets, cultures and continents, she said.

HP is forming an advisory board to guide its efforts. Members of the board include: Joel Birnbaum, chief scientist at Hewlett-Packard; James Moore, chairman of the policy board at GeoPartners Research Inc.; Barry Bloom, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health; Luong Ung, a Cambodian activist and Sam Pitroda, chairman of WorldTel Inc.

HP, based in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at http://www.hp.com/.

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