Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard and Sun Microsystems are among a group of hi-tech companies that will help developing nations boost health care, business development and education with the latest computer and communications equipment.
The Global Digital Opportunity Initiative, formed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Markle Foundation, plans to advance the use of information and communications know-how to help countries harness digital technology.
Partners in the two-year project have committed an initial $10m to fund the work, and have agreed to provide resources and expertise.
Requests for help have come from 45 countries of which only 12 will be selected, according to project officials.
Mark Malloch Brown, UNDP administrator, explained that information and communications technologies play a critical role in helping developing nations achieve basic goals.
"Now it is time to get the job done," he said. "This initiative is now poised to take action in concert with all key national stakeholders to create a dynamic policy framework for development."
AOL Time Warner, Brameen Bank, PicoPeta Simputers and TAG International, along with the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Telecommunications Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, are also supporting the initiative.
Five consultants from the project started work in Bolivia last month. The team will travel to Mozambique this week and Tanzania by the end of February.
Zoe Baird, president of the Markle Foundation, said that appropriately deployed new technologies offer an unprecedented opportunity to meet global development challenges.
The initiative was announced at the close of the World Economic Forum in New York.
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