NetAid combines music, 'Net to end poverty

Rock music concerts have been used to raise funds and awareness for many causes. Now, that musical approach to relief -- combined with the worldwide reach of the Internet -- is taking a huge global leap in what organisers ambitiously hope will lead to the end of 'extreme poverty' for millions.

Rock music concerts have been used to raise funds and awareness for everything from the plight of U.S. farmers to the perils of rising rates of substance abuse in Russia. Now, that musical approach to relief -- combined with the worldwide reach of the Internet -- is taking a huge global leap in what organisers ambitiously hope will lead to the end of "extreme poverty" for millions.

Dubbed "NetAid," the event will include three concerts on Oct. 9, with shows open to the public at Giants Stadium in New Jersey and Wembley Stadium in London, and an invitation-only show at The Palais des Nations in Geneva. Tickets for the New York show go on sale Sept. 8, the same day that http://www.netaid.org, the Web site for the effort, goes online. London tickets go on sale Aug. 24. There will be 110,000 tickets available for those two public shows combined.

NetAid is intended to become an ongoing event aimed at raising awareness of global poverty and related issues.

The October concerts will be simultaneously broadcast on television, radio and the Web, though organizers said today that it will be suggested to those viewers who tune into television that they instead log on and watch via the Internet. The NetAid Web site will be able to handle 124,000 simultaneous live streams and some 60 million hits per hour, or 10 times the peak reached during the last Olympics and the Men's World Cup last year.

The list of artists who have signed on to the cause covers a range from relatively new acts like Bush and Jewel to rock legends Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend to pop superstar Celine Dion. Producers said that they cannot announce which artists will be performing where and that those details will be provided when tickets go on sale. A dozen or so other artists are expected to perform, organizers said.

Network equipment vendor Cisco Systems Inc. and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) announced NetAid at a teleconference today. Financial services company KPMG International and Web-technology vendor Akamai Technologies Inc. also are sponsors.

Organizers repeatedly noted that some 1 billion people worldwide survive on less than US$1 daily, but that this also is an era when unprecedented numbers are being lifted from poverty. It is possible to achieve the goal of halving the number of those who live in poverty globally within the first decade of the upcoming new millennium, said Mark Malloch Brown, administrator for UNDP.

"The political will to achieve it is for the first time in human history doable," he said of that goal.

The NetAid movement will focus on specific areas related to poverty, including basic needs for food and shelter, assisting refugees and other victims of war and disasters, human rights, environmental and natural resources concerns and debt relief. The NetAid Web site will provide educational information and details about how to contribute funds and otherwise become involved. The site will further offer links to other related Web sites.

The NetAid Foundation is also being established, though Brown and other organizers emphasized that money is but one part of the project.

Some artists involved in the effort have agreed to make documentary films to highlight successful anti-poverty programs, and those who are performing have told producers that they appreciate they opportunity to speak out about issues that matter to them.

"Artists have responded to the fact that it's not primarily about raising money and it's not one shot, it's going to go on for many, many years," said Don Mischer, president of Don Mischer Productions and a producer involved in the project.

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