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Rural Poor to Get More Web Access

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China will provide its underprivileged residents with greater access to the Internet by enhancing information technology services in rural areas, a senior government official said Saturday.

In an address to the 2010 Global City Informatization Forum, China's Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang said the priority for information technology service will be given to rural areas.

"The 'digital gap' between urban and rural China needs to be further bridged," he said. The information network will help to push up levels of rural production, healthcare and education.

China's online population, the world's largest, has reached 420 million. Yet the number of Internet users in rural China stands at 110 million currently, though more than 60 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people live in rural areas.

Critics said that the lack of infrastructure and funds contributed to the low level of Internet penetration rate in the country's vast underdeveloped regions, and the gap between urban and rural areas is still widening.

The broadening income gap between urban and rural residents also constrains rural residents' consumption of high-tech products.

Official statistics show city residents earned 3.3 times more than those in the rural areas on average last year, while in major countries of the world the ratio is between 1.5 to 1 and 2 to 1.

To address the problem, the government will invest more in the infrastructure of wideband information network, broadcasting network and Internet, Wan said.

Other measures include the wider application of information technology in the rural production and modernizing traditional production.

"The vast number of farmers will enjoy public services as their counterparts in cities," Wan said.

(China Daily September 26, 2010)

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