After three days of talks, leaders of the world's seven largest economic powers, plus Russia, failed to agree on any specific action to bridge the growing technological divide between the world's richest and poorest nations.

At the conclusion of the G8 Summit on the Japanese island of Okinawa, leaders made a commitment to further study the issue and take it up again at their next meeting, in a year's time in Italy.

Global importance Going into the summit, Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori pledged to make the digital divide on information technology one of the key themes of the summit. Early last week, he held a series of meetings on the subject with business leaders from the world's largest companies and the world's poorest nations. The group stressed the importance of a clear plan to tackle the problem, and the need for the G8 nations to take the lead.

Mori said: "We came up with the Okinawa Charter that calls on world to participate in IT, and I believe this Okinawa Charter will play an important role in the future development of the world economy."

Promoting e-commerce The Charter outlines the G8's aims and ambitions for conquering the digital divide, and establishing other policies that will help the growth of e-commerce and the Internet. However, it has little in terms of concrete plans and resolutions, according to observers.

The G8 leaders resolved to establish a study group, the digital opportunity task force, called dot-force, to look into the issue. A report should be ready in time for the next G8 summit - in Genoa, Italy, in one year.

Speaking last week, Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, stressed the need to pledge funds and make a real commitment. He said: "We hope that G8 leaders will make commitments that are not only commitments in words, but commitments in action."