Published on Digital Development

Top 5 tips for achieving meaningful digital connectivity that drives resilient, inclusive growth

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Students at Catholic University of Peru use their laptops to do their homework
The World Bank Group aims to expand the traditional focus of digital development from one driven primarily by access to one focused on meaningful usage. Photo © World Bank/Dominic Chavez

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.    

But what does “meaningful” connectivity mean? For me, it means having access and the ability to apply the #powerofdigital to today’s most pressing challenges with innovations like remote learning, telehealth, e-government services, and more.  And the most vulnerable need to be included in this push — they, too, need access. Poor people, rural villagers, the elderly, and people with disabilities all need to be able to connect to health care, mobile payments, food delivery, and e-commerce. 

The World Bank Group aims to expand the traditional focus of digital development from one driven primarily by access to one focused on access and usage, but not any usage — meaningful usage.  

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. 

1. Connectivity 

Connectivity needs to be widespread, reliable, equitable, and fast to increase efficiencies and provide citizens with the tools they need.   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.

2. Affordability

But if that connectivity comes with a price tag that few can pay, it cannot drive transformation.  Government policy needs to establish an enabling environment that attracts investment and competition among private sector operators and providers that drives down costs for consumers.   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 in Morocco digital connectivity is widespread but the Moroccan people need access to more affordable devices so they can use the connectivity available to them.   

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.  Laying the foundation for our digital future requires preparing youth with skills for the jobs of tomorrow.  In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 230 million jobs will require digital skills by 2030. 


Once meaningful connectivity is achieved, it must be safeguarded to ensure that citizens’ virtual rights reflect their rights in the real world.  We must be able to trust that our mobile money won’t be stolen, our personal data is private and our identities are safe. 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.  With so many aspects of our lives moving online, from work to government services, shopping and education, users need to know that their digital interactions are reliable, safe, and secure. 

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, investment in digital connectivity pays for itself from the resulting productivity and economic growth that comes along with it.  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


Digital Development at the World Bank 
Digital Development Partnership 


Riccardo Puliti

IFC Regional Vice President, Asia and the Pacific

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