How to Close Global Connectivity and Digital Divide?

Digital Divide

Bringing underestimated population to digital mainstream

Today’s world is connected entirely to the internet. From smartphones to smart devices, everything is running through internet connectivity. However, this connectivity infrastructure can be varying among countries and markets. According to a report from International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 87 percent of people are connected in the developed world compared with 47 percent in developing nations, while only 19 percent in the least developed countries. One UNESCO report noted that only just 55 percent of households globally have an internet connection.

This number indicates that most of the people in the world don’t have an internet connection and remain offline. The COVID-19 crisis has also exposed this digital divide to a greater extent, even in developed nations. In the United States, for instance, 21 million people, over 6 percent of the country’s population, have no high-speed connection. On the other side, the number extended to 13 percent in Australia.

McKinsey categorized countries into four distinct groups, with China and India as separate, special cases. The management consulting firm considered Japan, South Korea, and the United States as pioneering nations in connectivity. These countries are already starting to deploy high-band 5G networks in certain parts of major cities. Canada, France, Germany, and the UK that closely follow the pioneers are classified as leaders. The firm categorized Brazil, Poland, and Turkey into followers segment, while Africa and places such as Bolivia and Iran, which have a limited basic connectivity infrastructure come in trailing markets.

According to the report, China is developing and deploying advanced technologies faster than any other country, intending to move over one-quarter of all mobile subscribers to 5G by 2025. On contrary, India is emerging as the world’s most mobile user, digitizing faster than any other trailing market.


Closing Global Connectivity and Digital Divide

Since 3.7 billion people have no internet access currently, this can prevent individuals as well as societies from harnessing the full potential of capabilities that information and communication technologies deliver. Undoubtedly, the rapid growth of digital technology is increasingly reshaping people’s daily lives and work. But its inaccessibility in some parts of the world can restrict overall growth. To this effort, it is essential to devise robust actions to foster physical access to the internet that can ensure a truly inclusive information society.

It requires strong leadership at the global and local levels to ensure more coordinated efforts among governments, local authorities and actors on the ground. There are numerous agencies and GSNs that have already initiated programs to address the technology gap, with the aim to bring groups access to the Internet.

For example, US State Department “Global Connect”. In 2015, the U.S. State Department launched a new initiative called “Global Connect,” which seeks to bring 1.5 billion people who lack Internet access, online by 2020.

The Connect 2020 Agenda, which is a shared vision of an information society, empowered by the interconnected world, where telecommunication/ICT enables and stimulates socially, economically and environmentally sustainable growth and development for everyone, includes two specific targets (2.1B & 2.2B) for the LDCs.

Internet for All” is another initiative from the World Economic Forum for stimulating internet access and adoption.

In wrapping up, the internet and access to it continue to have the potential impact on driving societies, helping business leaders to develop innovative business models and assisting governments in addressing critical policy concerns.

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