World leaders, pop stars, U.N. development officials and technologists promoted a U.N. Web site last week aimed at getting the rich to help the poor.
President Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former South African President Nelson Mandela joined Bono from the Irish rock group U2, hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean of the Fugees and rocker David Bowie in support of netaid.org.
"This will be one the largest Web sites ever built to help fight poverty," Clinton said via satellite. "A farmer in Africa will be able to find out more about fighting drought and a school in Indiana will be able to communicate with one in Indonesia."
The site was created through a partnership between Cisco Systems Inc., the world's top supplier of Internet equipment, and the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), which has been working to move Third World nations online.
"This is meant to be something of a Yellow Pages for aid to those living in poverty," said Bono.
Wyclef and Bono released a bouncy new single created for NetAid, called "New Day," in which Wyclef raps and Bono croons in a mix of styles as divergent as the people working on the project.
Wyclef, who came to the United States from Haiti as a child, said he remembered what it was like to live in severe poverty.
"I was a kid on an island with no shoes, and no clothes, and the only shower came from the rain," he said. "We'd dance in the rain, and it gave us spirit. My grandfather said "You can be anything' and it gave me hope. That's what we want to give people is hope."
NetAid is gearing up initially for a series of three celebrity-studded fund-raising concerts to take place in New York, London and Geneva on Oct. 9.
While many people in poor countries have never even heard of the Internet,NetAid brings a new cyber-twist to benefit concerts such as Live Aid, Farm Aid and Band Aid, which used star power to draw attention to poverty.
Next month's three overlapping concerts are to be Webcast at the NetAid site, with the concerts acting as a means of promoting the Web site, which will remain as means to connect those who can provide donations, time or expertise to those in need.
"If someone donates money or expertise to a project to build a bridge, our people in the field can film that bridge being built to show the progress online," said Robert Piper of the UNDP.
Bono, a veteran of efforts aimed at eradicating poverty such as the Live Aid effort to feed the poor in Africa, said he was attracted to NetAid because it supports the elimination of debt of the poorest countries.
"We are not going to just hold hands and the poverty is going to go away," he said. "I'm suspicious of the warm and fuzzy feeling we have here. If we don't pull this off it's just a bunch of technocrats playing Disneyworld on the Internet."
The NetAid concerts will also feature stars including George Michael, Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend, Jewel, Puff Daddy and Celine Dion will also be broadcast on radio and the BBC and MTV television channels.
Cisco says the site will have 10 times greater viewing capacity than any previous Web broadcast.
"I love that figure," said Bowie. "It is ten times more HUGE."
Up to 60 million visitors to the Web site every hour will be able to see and hear the performances.
"Nothing like this has ever been done on this scale before," Piper said.