Bridging digital divide by fostering digital inclusion and economic recovery
If the pandemic has highlighted anything, it is that connectivity is synonymous with a lifeline and an opportunity. The level of connectivity an individual or a household has directly determines the quality of education and health care they receive. This also influences a person’s ability to establish and maintain a livelihood while also obtaining government and other critical services. So what happens to those that aren’t connected, and how much can we expect our economies to grow if equitable access to the internet is not available?
As of today, nearly half of the world remains unconnected. The inability to connect those roughly 3.4 billion people over the next 10 years of the digital age risks the effects of the digital divide becoming unrecoverable. In short, we are running out of time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged governments at the federal, state and local level to entirely re-evaluate their IT needs. Governments have re-imagined the continuity of core functions and delivery of public services while working to implement solutions that could enable new capabilities in digital technology. However, additional progress and objectives must focus on digital inclusion; not just because it is the equitable thing to do, but because inaction from this point forward will dramatically contribute to the widening of the digital divide.
The benefits of bridging the digital divide go beyond social responsibility. There are distinct economic returns attached to getting the unconnected online. As a global society, the ethical and economic dimensions of universal connectivity are not mutually exclusive but complementary.
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