As most of the developed world thrives through connectivity, there are still more than 4 billion people globally who don’t have internet access.
According to the World Economic Forum, over half of the world’s population is missing out on the life-changing benefits of the worldwide web, from education and healthcare to financial services.
The World Economic Forum states that there are four areas that should be fulfilled in order to provide internet access, highlighted in their Internet for All report.
The World Economic Forum is pushing governments to “improve infrastructure coverage and quality, provide financial assistance to those who cannot afford to get online, and set up public Wi-Fi”
Infrastructure: The main reason people can’t access the web is due to their internet connection, or lack of it. 31% of the global population does not have 3G coverage, while 15% have no electricity. In sub-Saharan Africa two thirds of the population do not have regular electricity, and nearly a quarter of people living in South Asia the same. What’s also important is whether local governments can provide connectivity to its people.
Affordability: 13% of the world population live below the poverty line, so the cost of connectivity and the devices needed are mostly unaffordable.
Skills, awareness and cultural acceptance: 15% of adults globally are considered illiterate. In some countries, men are more likely to use the internet than women due to cultural differences. Understanding and education on how to use computer technology is key.
Local adoption and use: Roughly 80% of all online content is only available in 10 languages, which about 3 billion people speak as their first language. To encourage a wider web audience, catering for other languages is important.
The World Economic Forum is pushing governments to “improve infrastructure coverage and quality, provide financial assistance to those who cannot afford to get online, and set up public Wi-Fi.”
The Forum’s report also highlights how awareness of the internet’s value is fundamental. It recommends including ICT onto school’s curriculum, provide training to communities and encourage public-private collaboration to close the digital divide.
The Forum’s Internet for All initiative provides a framework for both governments and businesses to work toward. The program is being “implemented in an initial project in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia, where 75 million people (67% of the total population in these countries) currently have no access to the internet”.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is also working with governments, local and international organizations, and members of civil society to get more people online, and to offer them affordable internet access.
According to Africa Business Communities, these types of initiatives are already taking shape. The Internet Society has announced that it will hold the first ever Africa Regional Internet and Development Dialogue on May 8-9, 2017 in Rwanda, in partnership with UNESCO and Republic of Rwanda.
The two-day forum will “bring together experts including government and inter-governmental organization officials, business and educational leaders from throughout the continent to discuss how Africa can use the Internet to advance education, innovation and job creation.”
Most of us take our cell phones, tablets, and laptops for granted. Accessing the internet isn’t easy for those in third world countries, and by allowing them access to the worldwide web it will hopefully improve education, healthcare and the economy.