Despite the rapid spread of internet, mobile phones and other digital technologies, the majority of people in the developing world are yet to reap the benefits of this digital expansion, as highlighted in the newly released World Bank report.
According to the report titled ‘World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends,’ authored by Co-Directors, Deepak Mishra and Uwe Deichmann, the benefits of rapid digital expansion have been skewed towards the wealthy, skilled, and influential around the world, who are better positioned to take advantage of the new technologies. It highlights that the anticipated digital dividends of higher growth, more jobs, and better public services have fallen short of expectations, and that 60 percent of the world’s population remains excluded from the ever-expanding digital economy.
Over the years individual success stories have emerged, but the report argues that the effect of technology on global productivity, expansion of opportunity for the poor and middle class, and the spread of accountable governance has been less than expected. It cited disparities in the availability of internet and its use, which indicates a glaring mismatch that the number of internet users worldwide has more than tripled since 2005. However four billion people still lack access to the internet.
The report’s finding is consistent with the extent of internet use in Botswana, which has been estimated to be less than 15 percent. This is in contrast to the significant investment that government has injected in infrastructure that supports internet connectivity. The availability of such infrastructure is yet to be translated into improved access to internet in the sense of its affordability. The report advises that to reap the greatest benefits, countries must create the right environment for technology: regulations that facilitate competition and market entry, skills that enable workers to leverage the digital economy, and institutions that are accountable to people, which proves that the availability of infrastructure does not guarantee access to it.
“Digital technologies can transform our economies, societies and public institutions, but these changes are neither assured nor automatic. Countries that are investing in both digital technology and its analogue complements will reap significant dividends, while others are likely to fall behind,” advances the report.