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Developing countries face digital divide: study

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The World Economic Forum said Wednesday that the BRICS countries, despite their booming economies, are lagging behind their rivals when it comes to capitalizing on Internet technologies.

The Switzerland-based non-profit group released a report highlighting that the world’s most developed countries dominate the top of a “networked readiness” list while the highest ranking BRICS nation was China in 51st place.

The acronym “BRICS” is used to refer to surging economies in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Although BRICS are fiercely competitive in the global arena, they are hampered by challenges when it comes to adopting information and communications technology (ICT), according to the “Living in a Hyperconnected World” report.

A lack of skilled workers and shortcomings in institutional environments for businesses were cited as factors stifling entrepreneurship and innovation.

The forum’s chief business officer Robert Greenhill said the Internet was causing a shake-up for traditional organizations and “we are beginning to see fundamental transformations in all areas of the economy and society.”

Sweden was ranked highest in networked readiness, followed by Singapore, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Norway.

The United States was in eighth place, with Canada and Britain rounding out the top 10 list.

The Networked Readiness Index combined data from publicly available sources with feedback from a survey of more than 15,000 executives.

Filed under News BRICS United States Tech Technology Singapore Finland Denmark Switzerland Netherlands Norway Canada Britain China Internet Brazil Russia India South Africa

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Can the Brics create a new world order?

By Simon Tisdall 

Brics summit in New Delhi, March 2012

Today’s one-day annual summit of the so-called Brics countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has received scant attention in the west. That may be because the grouping has achieved little in concrete terms since its inception in 2009. Critics deride it as a photo-op and talking shop.

But this neglect, or disdain, may also reflect the fact that the Brics, representing almost half the world’s population and about one-fifth of global economic output, pose an unwelcome challenge to the established world order as defined by the US-dominated UN security council, the IMF and the World Bank. The truth of the matter probably lies somewhere in-between. The five national leaders – presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, Hu Jintao of China and Jacob Zuma of South Africa and their host in Delhi, India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh – are not noted for iconoclastic radicalism.

Rousseff has been the most outspoken, insisting that developing countries must be protected from the global “tsunami” of cheap money, unleashed by the US and the EU in the wake of the financial crisis, that was rendering their exports less competitive. “We will defend our industry and prevent the methods developed countries use to escape from crisis resulting in the cannibalisation of emerging markets,” she said this month.

Brics boosters project a grandiose vision. India’s commerce secretary, Anand Sharma, said this week the group sought nothing less than “to create a new global architecture”. But commentators interpret such ambitions as essentially anti-American hot air. Pointing to a signal lack of substantive policy agreements, they suggest a desire to counter Washington’s global dominance is the Brics’ sole unifying objective.

"There are calls to establish a permanent secretariat and even a development bank in an effort to bolster the grouping’s political impact,"wrote Walter Ladwig of the Royal United Services Institute. “But this focus on institution-building is misplaced. It is the fundamental incompatibility of the Brics nations, not their lack of organisation, which prevents [them] acting as a meaningful force on the world stage”. Ladwig continued: “Beyond the issues of economic governance, in many key areas the Brics nations are actually in strategic competition. Within Asia, India and Russia are potential obstacles to China’s presumed regional dominance. At the international level, Russia, Brazil and India desire the emergence of a multipolar international system in which they are major actors, with the latter two seeking membership in an expanded UN security council.

"In contrast, China aims for a bipolar world in which it serves as the counterbalance to American power." So far, Beijing has opposed India’s bid for a permanent security council seat.

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Filed under News BRICS New World Order Brazil Russia India China South Africa World Government

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Brics’ move to unseat US dollar as trade currency

South Africa will this week take some initial steps to unseat the US dollar as the preferred worldwide currency for trade and investment in emerging economies. 

Thus, the nation is expected to become party to endorsing the Chinese currency, the renminbi, as the currency of trade in emerging markets.

This means getting a renminbi-denominated bank account, in addition to a dollar account, could be an advantage for African businesses that seek to do business in the emerging markets.

The move is set to challenge the supremacy of the US dollar. This, experts say, is the latest salvo in the greatest worldwide currency war since the 1930s.

In the 30s, several nations competitively devalued their currencies to give their domestic economies an advantage over others. 

And this led to a worldwide decline in overall trade volumes at the time.

The north will be pitted against the entire south in a historic competitive currency battle – whose terrain has moved to the Indian capital New Dehli – where the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India China and South Africa) nations will assemble next week. 

China seeks to find new markets for its currency and to lobby to internationalise it throughout the Brics states.

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Filed under BRICS Dollar News Banks Wallstreet Brazil Russia India China South Africa New Dehli US Dollar

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