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Media (R)evolutions: Internet penetration and income inequality

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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.

Growing inequality is one of the defining challenges of our time. Seven out of 10 people live in countries where the gap between rich and poor is greater than it was 30 years ago, Oxfam reports. Inequality has also been on the radar of World Economic Forum topping its annual survey of global risks this year.  Christine LaGarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has also recently warned that rising inequality is choking economic growth, and leaving “a wasteland of discarded potential”.

What role can the Internet play in helping to address inequality?  The Internet can be an enabler of equal opportunity and broad-based growth because, among other things, it can:

Unfortunately, over four billion people are not connected to the Internet; ninety percent of them live in the developing world. The following graph from Web Index shows, there is a very strong correlation between per capita income and access to the Internet, with the steepest increases in Internet penetration taking place as average income rises from $0 to $10,000 per year.

 Internet Penetration and Income Inequality

The Internet’s contribution to development is strongly correlated with wealth, in part, because access is still heavily skewed in favor of those living in high-income countries. However, digital divides also exist within countries because the skills needed to fully benefit from information and communications technology, like the web, can be unevenly distributed among population groups. According to the IMF and OECD, the Internet revolution is increasing the wage gap between the very highly skilled and everyone else, making technological progress the single biggest factor driving income inequality in both advanced and developing countries. 

 Internet Penetration Rates and Income Inequality

Thus, while the benefits of internet access are clear for promoting shared prosperity, unequal connectivity and access rates can actually create the contrary dynamics for greater inequality.

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Source: Web Index


Submitted by Jorge Waldo San Martin Vargas on

Esto hace suponer que todo tiempo pasado fue mejor. También supone que la Globalización pone en evidencia la inequidad creciente. ¿Dónde está el cambio tan tenazmente perseguido por la Democracia participativa, la liberalización de la economía y consiguiente Socialismo del S XXI?

Si, de acuerdo, Jorge. Uno de las consecuencias de la globalizacion es la inequidad contemporáneo.  Y a veces es dificil para juzgar las causas o las correlaciones de estos tipos de relaciones.

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