How can digital connectivity truly transform economies and daily life for the poor in developing countries? And what does it take for people to get the most out of it? Listening to Omobola Johnson, former ICT Minister from Nigeria, speak at the recent Spring Meetings event Digital Revolution: Fostering Inclusion and Resilient Growth really inspired me, as she underscored the importance of achieving “meaningful connectivity” that truly unlocks the full power of internet access in developing countries.
ButAnd the most vulnerable need to be included in this push — they, too, need access.
Usage that drives resilient and inclusive growth, especially as developing countries struggle to recover from the pandemic and grapple with economic upheaval.
Here are some top tips for achieving meaningful connectivity that reflect the findings of the Development Committee paper on Digitization and Development discussed at the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings 2022.
Small businesses in remote areas need to be able to depend on reliable connections to enable digital financial transactions that drive their businesses and catalyze job growth.
Michael Miebach, the CEO of Mastercard, gave an excellent example in The Digital Revolution event about how garment workers in Egypt who once paid in cash, are now paid digitally, which means they can establish a credit record, apply for loans, and move their money safely. Concrete success stories like these rely on strong, efficient connectivity.
But if that connectivity comes with a price tag that few can pay, it cannot drive transformation.Equitable access for all can only be achieved with affordable services.
3. Access through devices
And citizens need to be able to access a strong, affordable connection freely, when and where they need to. Affordable smart devices are an essential ingredient to the digital development puzzle, as Ghita Mezzour, the Minister for Digital Transition and Administration Reform of Morocco highlighted during the event. She noted that
4. Digital Skills
President Kagame of Rwanda highlighted in the event that once citizens are online, we need to ensure they have the digital skills to make the most of their connection.
Spain’s Secretary of State for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence Carme Artigas made a powerful point in the Spring Meetings event about digital rights being a critical foundation for strengthening the trust of citizens to reach their digital potential.We must be able to trust that our mobile money won’t be stolen, our personal data is private and our identities are safe.
Achieving these five things will not be fast or easy but they will help drive equitable, meaningful access for all. As World Bank President David Malpass said during the event, Supporting this digital revolution is a top priority for the World Bank Group as we bring together government policymakers with private sector investors and opportunities to collaborate and unlock the potential of this Digital Revolution.