UN proposes email tax

Fees would fund expansion of Net into developing countries

The United Nations wants email users to subsidise the extension of the Internet to Third World countries, according to a report released by the UN Development Programme earlier this week. Essentially, the report calls on governments to introduce legislation that would require Net users to pay a tax of one US cent on every 100 emails the send. Such is the volume of email that, had such a scheme been introduced in 1996, it would have generated $70 billion in that year alone. Given the quantity of spam we're now all being subjected to, the mind boggles at how much revenue would be generated now. Whatever funds were generated, however, it would be enough to give developing countries the help they need to catch up with developed nations and so "offset inequalities in the global community", as the report puts it. A worthy goal, for sure, but we can't help wondering whether the real winners here would be the telecoms companies who would be contracted to create all these extra connections. However, the report argues that leaving the expansion of the Net into the Third World to market forces will simply not allow the technology to spread far enough sufficiently quickly. Still, the report admits the UN can't enforce such a tax itself, and with most Western governments keen to encourage Net use in order to promote their countries as preferred territories for e-business, they're unlikely to introduce such a tax unilaterally. ®

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