Negroponte: Internet is way to world peace
November 25, 1997
Web posted at: 8:26 p.m. EST (0126 GMT)
BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) -- Tired of all the hype about
the Internet? Well, think again -- one respected Internet
guru says it will bring world peace.
Nicholas Negroponte, head of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology's Media Laboratory, told an information technology
conference in Brussels on Tuesday that the potential of the
global computer network has actually been vastly underrated.
"I have never seen people miss the scale of what's going on
as badly as they are doing it now," he said, predicting that
the Internet would do no less than bring world peace by
breaking down national borders.
Twenty years from now, he said, children who are used to
finding out about other countries through the click of a
mouse "are not going to know what nationalism is."
Negroponte faulted European countries outside of Scandinavia,
including France and Germany, for not climbing on the
Internet bandwagon, saying they were on par with the Third
"It's almost as if somebody took a big, thick, black magic
marker and drew a line separating Scandinavia from the rest
of Europe," he told the conference, sponsored by the European
He specifically criticized German phone giant Deutsche
Telekom for raising local phone rates and thus deterring
children from tapping into the Internet.
"Access by kids to the Internet should be like kids breathing
clean air," he said.
Negroponte said the U.S. administration was among those who
had underestimated the Internet's impact, citing its
prediction that electronic commerce would be worth $300
billion by the year 2001.
The figure will actually hit $1 trillion by 2000, fueled by
the 1 billion people who will be using the Internet by
then, half of them in developing countries, he said.
Negroponte, author of the book "Being Digital," said
forecasters were understating the Internet's potential
because they were not taking full account of children's
growing "digital literacy."
In the United States, he said, 85 percent of all teen-agers
have access to a personal computer at home and virtually
every 14-year-old is "digitally literate."
"One of the reasons people underestimate the consequences is
they forget how quickly children grow up," he said.
Negroponte said he was focusing much of his energy on
spreading the digital word to developing countries, working
with a foundation named 2B1 that finances educational
Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.