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Digital Divide

What we'll be doing at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress

Doyle Gallegos's picture
For a week every year, Barcelona, Spain becomes the mobile capital of the world as thousands from around the world convene in the city for the Mobile World Congress (MWC). In 2014, 85,000 participants attended the MWC, including more than 1,800 exhibitors, 4,500 industry CEOs, 139 government delegations and 22 international institutions).
 
The World Bank is sending an information and communications technology (ICT) team, led by Senior Director Pierre Guislain. While there, we will immerse ourselves in the latest research, trends and conversations about mobile communications. Our activities, discussions and investigations are being led by our quest for “Broadband Access for All,” which is one of our Global Practice’s strategic areas – as well as the primary theme for this year’s MWC. We believe that connectivity equals opportunity, and are working with clients and countries around the world to close the digital divide.
 
We focus on technical assistance, infrastructure, partnerships and policy solutions to help ensure that broadband Internet is not only accessible, but also affordable for all. Our Senior Director’s speech and panel discussion at next week’s meetings is titled “Elements and Enablers of Mobile Affordability: What is required to achieve affordable access to mobile broadband for everyone?”
 
One of the MWC’s key elements, and one of particular interest to our ICT team, is the Ministerial Program. This is a forum for government and telecommunications regulators and representatives to debate current problems, learn from emerging trends and engage with international organizations and operators.  We will be holding bilateral meetings with government ministers, industry stakeholders, potential donors and others to discuss real-life projects, ongoing challenges and solutions, and collaboration opportunities.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Discarding Democracy: A Return to the Iron Fist- Freedom in the World 2015
Freedom House
For the ninth consecutive year, Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual report on the condition of global political rights and civil liberties, showed an overall decline. Indeed, acceptance of democracy as the world’s dominant form of government—and of an international system built on democratic ideals—is under greater threat than at any point in the last 25 years.  Even after such a long period of mounting pressure on democracy, developments in 2014 were exceptionally grim. The report’s findings show that nearly twice as many countries suffered declines as registered gains, 61 to 33, with the number of gains hitting its lowest point since the nine-year erosion began.
 
Digital Inclusion: The Vital Role of Local Content
Innovations, MIT Press
The journal features cases authored by exceptional innovators; commentary and research from leading academics; and essays from globally recognized executives and political leaders.  The current issue contains lead essays entitled “Building a Foundation for Digital Inclusion”, “Inequitable Distributions in Internet Geographies”, and “To the Next Billion”.  It also includes case narratives entitled “A Mobile Guide Toward Better Health” and “A Social Network for Farmer Training” and more.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 
Tightening the Net: Governments Expand Online Controls
Freedom House
Internet freedom around the world has declined for the fourth consecutive year, with a growing number of countries introducing online censorship and monitoring practices that are simultaneously more aggressive and more sophisticated in their targeting of individual users. In a departure from the past, when most governments preferred a behind-the-scenes approach to internet control, countries are rapidly adopting new laws that legitimize existing repression and effectively criminalize online dissent.

Is vote-buying always bad for development?
International Growth Center
Elections in the developing world suffer from considerable problems such as ballot fraud, low voter education. electoral violence, and clientelism. If developing world elections do not revolve mainly around policy accountability, there could be important consequences for economic development

Promising uses of technology in education in poor, rural and isolated communities around the world

Michael Trucano's picture
don’t worry: your solutions -- and possibly your salvation – have finally arrived!
don’t worry: your solution (salvation?)
has finally arrived!

One persistent challenge for educational policymakers and planners related to the potential use of informational and communication technologies (ICTs) in remote, low income communities around the world is that most products, services, usage models, expertise, and research related to ICT use in education come from high-income contexts and environments.

One consequence is that technology-enabled 'solutions' are imported and 'made to fit' into what are often much more challenging environments. When they don't work, or where they are too expensive to be replicated at any scale, this is taken as 'evidence' that ICT use in education in such places is irrelevant -- and possibly irresponsible.

That said, lessons are being learned as a result of emerging practices, both good and bad, in the use of ICTs in education in low resource, poor, rural and isolated communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific that may be useful to help guide the planning and implementation of educational technology initiatives in such environments. (It may even turn out that the technological innovations that emerge from such places many have a wider relevance …. but that is a topic for another discussion.)

Products like the BRCK (a connectivity device designed and prototyped in Nairobi, Kenya by many of the people behind Ushahidi to better address user needs in places where electricity and internet connections are, for lack of a better word, ‘problematic’) and MobiStation (a solar-powered 'classroom in a suitcase' which features a projector and lots of off-line educational content developed by UNICEF Uganda) remain notable exceptions to the lamentable reality that, for the most part, ‘solutions’ touted for use in schools in e.g. rural Africa, or in isolated communities in the Andes, are designed elsewhere, with little understanding of the practical day-to-day realities and contexts in which such technologies are to be used. Many people who have lived and worked in such environments are quite familiar with well-meaning but comparatively high cost efforts often informed more by the marketing imperatives embedded in many corporate social responsibility efforts than by notions of cost-effectiveness and sustainability over time or the results of user-centered design exercises.

The Highs and Lows of the Global ICT Landscape

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

For the last twelve years, the World Economic Forum and INSEAD have been publishing The Global Information Technology Report (GITR), which features a Network Readiness Index (NRI) that measures the ability of countries to leverage information communication technologies (ICTs) for growth and well-being. This year’s GITR, which focuses on jobs and growth, covers 144 countries. The assessments are based on a broad range of indicators that include Internet access, adult literacy, and mobile phone subscriptions. As noted in the report, the growing availability of technology has empowered citizens of both developed and developing countries with good access to the digital world. However, this year’s GITR has some sobering news about the state of ICTs in many parts of the developing world. Despite some positive trends, the report shows a sharp digital divide between impoverished nations and richer economies.

#2 from 2012: Media (R)evolutions: Global Internet Use

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on April 4, 2012

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

UN
Over two billion people now connected to Internet but digital divide remains wide

“While citing the rapid development and growth of the Internet, a top United Nations official today urged greater efforts to bridge the ongoing digital divide and ensure that everyone around the world can harness its benefits.

There were 2.3 billion Internet users worldwide at the end of 2011, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, said in his address to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which opened in Baku, Azerbaijan. In addition, mobile broadband reached more than 1 billion subscriptions, while the use of fixed broadband was estimated at 590 million subscriptions.

“While this progress is surely significant, we have a long way to go in our collective efforts to bridge the digital divide,” he told participants, noting that only a quarter of inhabitants in the developing world were online by the end of 2011.”  READ MORE

Addressing the Digital Divide

Tanya Gupta's picture

Perhaps the biggest challenge to harnessing technology for economic development is addressing the digital divide.  How can we do so?  This is a big question and to answer it comprehensively by looking at all the work on this area is beyond the scope of this blog. However let’s look at a few obvious ways of overcoming the digital divide:

(1) Development projects that focus on, and are relevant to the poor.  The Monitoring of Integrated Farm Household Analysis Project (IFHAP) was conducted every five years from 1996 to 2007 in the thirty-three (33) major rice- producing provinces in the Philippines.  The study noted the potential of mobile phones as key tool for information dissemination in agriculture as they are widely owned. In 2007, 90% of the farm households surveyed owned at least one mobile phone.  I agree with the authors of this study that while policy, infrastructure, and digital divide do indeed aid in assessing readiness; a social dimension is also present, which we ignore at our own peril.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

ICT Works
Avoiding the Digital Divide Hype in Using Mobile Phones for Development

"To all of you digital divide warriors out there – nice work. With over 483 million mobile phone subscriptions in low-income countries - an estimated 44.9% penetration rate, few will deny the success of your efforts to expand mobile technology in the developing world.

Rapid mobile growth rates further exhibit success in dissemination, and stats such as, “There are more mobile phones than toilets in India,“ and “There are more mobile phones than light bulbs in Uganda,” make us smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside."  READ MORE

The Folks With the Laptops

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

A quick note from the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010, happening in Santiago, Chile. This is a unique gathering of bloggers, citizen activists, and NGO representatives who have come together to discuss citizen media for two days. All of them enthusiastic about digital and social media and excited about all the great possibilities - you would think. In the very first session, discussing the citizen media landscape in Chile, the issue of access quickly emerged as a central problem.

The Global Voices crowd acknowledged that this kind of summit can only be held by the information elite, those who can't even imagine a life without Internet access (entering the conference auditorium, the only thing I saw in the gloom at first was the bluish glow of several hundreds of open laptops). For digital media to have real political relevance, and we all agree that there is a huge potential, the digital divide must be bridged. Otherwise you will have those people participating in public dialogue whose voices could have been heard anyway because they are members of a country's education elite, often interested in politics and willing to communicate with politicians.

 


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