China Development Gateway (www.chinagateway.com.cn), an Internet information portal jointly sponsored by the World Bank Group and the China Internet Information Center, will be officially launched Tuesday in Beijing. What are the objectives of the Global Development Gateway as well as its country development gateways? How are the existing country gateways working? And, in particular, what about the China Development Gateway? These and other questions were recently asked by china.org.cn of Austin C. T. Hu, deputy chief of Mission in the World Bank’s Office in Beijing.
china.org.cn: What is the Global Development Gateway (GDG) and what are its objectives?
Austin C. T. Hu: The Global Development Gateway is one of the key programs of the Development Gateway Foundation, which aims to bridge the “digital divide” between developed countries and developing countries. The Development Gateway Portal offers users access to development information, resources, and tools, providing a space to contribute knowledge and share experiences. The Gateway helps users navigate the growing amount of information available online, and empowers virtual communities of learning to address key development issues. Registered users can submit content on a topic page and receive e-mail alerts to let them know about new content available on a specific topic or focus of their interest.
AIDA (Accessible Information on Development Activities) is the largest online source of public information on development activities in the world, offering information on over 350,000 planned, current, and completed projects and programs from over 200 development agencies. AIDA allows users to search activities by country, topic, source of funding, or status.
The Development Gateway Market (dgMarket) is a global marketplace providing information on donor and government-funded development activities. Donors and government agencies can directly post tender notices and other procurement information on development projects. Companies can set up a detailed profile to obtain automated e-mail alerts whenever a tender notice that meets their specific business interest is published. The full text of tender notices is available to paying subscribers or can alternatively be purchased on a per-notice basis.
To sum up, the Global Development Gateway offers a way of using the power of the Internet to connect people, knowledge and poverty reduction.
china.org.cn: What are the country development gateways? What are their objectives?
Austin C. T. Hu: Country gateways are a network of locally owned and managed public-private partnerships with the World Bank Group, are the country-level components of the Development Gateway. Their mission is to facilitate innovative and effective use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies in the country to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development. Country gateway portals help communities, organizations, and individuals build partnerships, create and share local and global development knowledge, solutions, and opportunities, and work together to reduce poverty. By participating in and launching diverse online and offline initiatives, country gateways enhance transparency, efficiency, dynamism and sustainability of the development process in their countries.
china.org.cn: How have the existing country gateways been working?
Austin C. T. Hu: In the start-up phase (April 2000 to June 2001), the Country Gateway Program, operationally under the auspices of the Development Gateway Foundation, consulted with stakeholders and prospective donors to build partnerships and obtain feedback on the portal site development and the proposed work program. The technology infrastructure, applications, proposed content management system were established and the first version design of user interface, design and brand was completed. During this phase, around 20 country gateways have been created, most of which were countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region (identified earlier as a pilot region). Pioneer countries from other regions include China, Pakistan, West Bank and Gaza Strip, Morocco, Namibia, Uganda, Colombia, and Peru.
In October 2001, 15 Country Gateways submitted applications and seven of them were awarded the infoDev implementation grants. They were: Kyrgyz Republic, Namibia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and China. China did an impressive job completing all the deliverables for the planning stage within four months, in comparison with an average of eight months of other grant winning countries. But since others started earlier, they made bigger progress on documentation, partnership building and public relation campaign.
In addition to these seven, there are currently 34 other country gateways at different portal development stages: Some just received new planning grant; some are finishing their planning deliverables and will apply for the new Implementation Grants under the Foundation's Grants and Investments Program. An allocation of US$1.25 million was approved by the Board of the Gateway Foundation in April 2002. And the country gateways, which applied last October, but failed, are eligible for reapplying. Take the East Asia and Pacific region as an example, Vietnam has just signed the planning grant, and Pakistan and India are applying for the implementation grants.
All country gateways have portals in both English and local language. Some of them already have created a link between their portals with the Global Development Gateway portal to exchange information. Global Development Gateway is now available in English, Spanish, French and Russian. China is working on the language interface and platform to better integrate the China portal with Global Development Gateway as well as other country gateway portals.
china.org.cn: How is the China Development Gateway working? What are the expectations that the Global Development Gateway has from the China Development Gateway?
Austin C. T. Hu: The China Development Gateway aims to provide a two-way communication channel to enhance international communication and cooperation and contribute in integrating China in the global economy; and provide a framework to promote e-development within China. The China Development Gateway plans to develop and publish a wide variety of content. And the services the China gateway plans to provide include, for example, information services, project management services, technology development and consulting, travel services, advertising and policy consulting and so on.
China Development Gateway successfully completed the planning stage, and the Global Development Gateway has high expectations from China Development Gateway as it can potentially reach a large population and have a huge impact on poverty reduction and sustainable development. There are several issues that are particularly important for the China Development Gateway during the next phase (now to end of June 2003):
First, all major technical components, related services, and the support organization should become fully operational; high-priority information functions, features, and tools should be in place; besides, it should focus on more content and navigation in Chinese.
Second, It should expand and integrate the E-Bookstore, E-Procurement (subscription e-mail alerts, online billing, and personalization features. Bidding documents, contract awards, and consultant database should be offered; E-Government, and AIDA database are also expected.
Third, products and services for all target markets should be operational; it should be able to extend marketing and outreach campaigns as new products are released; and it is recommended that it focus on capturing and meeting demands for Development Gateway products and services.
Fourth, more public relations and fundraising activities need to be done and more strategic thinking on the financial viability is required because it is vital to assure its sustainability after the implementation grant.
Fifth, more local-level involvement will be further encouraged. It is one of the main functions of the gateway to leverage the resources between areas of different development levels. The portal should provide a vehicle to address local needs and generate demand-driven content. All stakeholders, including government, private sector players, NGOs, civil societies need to be invited to contribute to the discussions and consultations.
(By Chen Chao, china.org.cn staff reporter, May 27, 2002)