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Rural Technology Now Covers 90% of Counties

China's "Spark Program", which is aimed at popularizing the use of modern technology in rural areas, now covers more than 90 percent of the country's counties, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) announced on Sunday.

"Since the program started in 1986, the ministry has carried out more than 150,000 technological programs nationwide, including nearly 20,000 state-level projects, which have played a key role in advancing technological skills of Chinese farmers," according to MOST minister Xu Guanhua.

Xu said it was imperative to provide farmers with more opportunities to learn how to use modern technology as the plan aims to help Chinese farmers find better jobs in the agricultural sector.

A national census showed that 90 percent of China's estimated 900 million farmers have never received high school education. In addition, only five percent of the rural labor population has received formal and institution-based technological training.

Liu Yanhua, vice-minister of the MOST, said the "Spark Program" has contributed to improving the skills of young rural people, building a nationwide network for distance education and encouraging rural enterprises to participate in international projects.

China hopes to fundamentally restructure the rural economy and modernize farming while at the same time help more farmers find jobs in cities.

Local governments have invested a total of 14.3 billion yuan (US$1.79 billion) in the program, while public sponsorships have contributed 363.1 billion yuan (US$45.4).

(Xinhua News Agency October 16, 2006)

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