Can the Internet end poverty? Share your thoughts


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When was the last time you unfolded a map on your last road trip? Or went to the post office to mail a letter? With a few swipes of your thumbs, you can pay bills, buy and sell stuff, hold conference calls, and talk to your friends and family. Whatever you need, and everything you may not know you need, there’s an app for that. If you’re plugged in, the world is, literally, at your fingertips.
But, according to the World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends, for 60% of the world’s population who are not plugged in, as digital advances race ahead, their path out of extreme poverty grows ever longer. Over 1.7 billion women in low- and middle-income countries do not own mobile phones. Women in South Asia, for example, are 38% less likely to own a phone than men. If the path out of poverty is lined with digital products, then gender inequality places women at a greater disadvantage.
Some jobs are threatened by this increasingly connected world, jobs that machines can do faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. What will the people who rely on those jobs do? 
Fewer than half of today’s schoolchildren can expect to work in an occupation that exists today. What can governments do to ensure kids get the education and training they need to compete in the digital global market?
20% of the world population is illiterate. What use is digital connectivity for people who can’t read or write?
What part must government, policymakers, and the private sector play in closing the digital divide and ensuring opportunities for all?
Experiences with the digital revolution vary widely, and we want to hear them all : the good, the bad and the gaping holes that need to be filled in order to end poverty. While the digital revolution paints a rosy future, that’s only part of the story. Share your stories about how the Internet has changed your life . Use the hashtag #digitaldividends to join the conversation. 

Join the Conversation

Dr Mahesh Chander
February 01, 2016

Thanks for the good question ! yes, internet can help end poverty by increasing number of well informed public, who can take better decisions fast, for self and society.

May 23, 2019

It's not so easy for a developing to educate all of its population like bangladesh.Development country and wellfare organization should help to train underdevelopment coutrys and get rid of povertry .

Mohamed O. Msekeni
May 23, 2019

Internet makes things easier, gives access, overcomes inconvenience and reduces costs.
Poverty has multi faces in terms of inability to be Educated, lack of access to Healthcare, disconnection from Government delivery, inability to engege in income generating activities like Business, Trade and Extractive works like Agriculture.
The internet can make those 5 poverty bone things above which were impossible before to be possible, by giving convenience, access and with saving time for less cost. Hence the internet ends poverty and brings prosperity.

Jody Paterson
February 02, 2016

I work with small development organizations in Central America - Honduras first, now Nicaragua - through Cuso International. While I certainly think the internet can play a role in tackling poverty in all kinds of ways - sharing of information, jobs (I just got an account with SiteGround, and all the live chat people seem to be from Central European countries), much quicker knowledge and intervention in a crisis somewhere in the world - what I see very clearly in my own work in communications here in Central America is the huge gap between the computer knowledge of the western world and those in developing countries. We've had 30 years to slowly get accustomed to computers and the internet, and our children step into a wired world at birth nowadays. Even those of us who were technology-phobes are now at least capable of all kinds of technological functions that we couldn't have imagined being part of when we first "met" computers. So finding ways to close that gap faster than the three decades that it took us in developed countries will be critical in countries where technology is still a largely unknown and mysterious thing to poor people, and access ranges from extremely limited to not at all. Not only is it a question of a lack of equipment, internet connection and even electricity, it's a question of not having had 30 years to develop a kind of comfort and innate knowledge of how technology works, how it can serve you, how to find your way around it. Even the culture of "life long learning" that helps older people like myself stay at least somewhat in touch with technology's constant movement is definitely not a given in the countries where I have worked. The thought of getting to know your way around a computer and the web is a fearful thought to the 50- and 60-something women I work with here in Nicaragua. I think we need a whole set of lessons or experiences geared at bringing people into the technological era, hopefully created by people who struggled to get there themselves and thus know what it took to get them around the barriers. And on another note, given the potential of the internet in development, there is a shocking lack of sharing of development tools that have proven successful in addressing poverty (or water shortages, better agriculture yields, inequality, violence against women, etc) so that people aren't always needing to reinvent the wheel when faced with virtually the identical development issues in another country.

Dr Mahesh Chander
February 02, 2016

In a distant dusty village in India, having no motorable road and electrical connectivity, a cow owned by a farm woman is sick & veterinarian is far off. Normally she would have lost her cow, but for her recently purchased mobile phone, she could connect with the vet and got the advice timely. In a remote mountainous terrain in North eastern part of India, yet another farmer finds leaves of his chilies curling, he takes photos of affected plants send them via whatsapp to the expert in nearest Agricultural University seeking advice, thus, could save his crop. Likewise, rather than travelling long distances to farmers’ fields, extension agents are increasingly using either mobiles or a combination of phone calls, text, videos, and internet to reduce transaction costs and interacting with farmers more frequently. The practicing vets find mobile phones quite handy to offer advice routinely to dairy farmers in India. The Government too have responded to this need and initiated a number of projects in farm sector to improve digital connectivity in India as also in many other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The WDR has rightly observed, public extension agents can overcome information barriers related to new agricultural practices and technologies, but such extension programs have been burdened by limited scale, sustainability, and impact. The possibilities of personal contacts of farmers with extension agents, thus, are very limiting in many countries. In India, for instance, of the 143,863 positions in the Department of Agriculture, only 91,288 posts are filled. Considering the large number of farm households in India, this small number of positions means that on average extension services only reach 6.8% of farmers. This limited personal access to extension agents prompts farmers to use other sources of information, like mobile phones and Internet kiosks, or asking other farmers and their input dealers for advice. It is now well established that the extension services delivery through personal contacts is neither feasible, nor cost effective. With over 101 Agri-research institutions and 71 State Agricultural Universities, the Government of India has elaborate arrangements for not only Research & Development in Agriculture but also host a gigantic mechanism for transfer of technologies to the farmers with 642 Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs-Farm Science Centres). Yet, over 59% of the farm households in India received no assistance from either government or private Agricultural extension services (the latest NSSO survey 70th Round). No wonder, agricultural productivity for major crops and livestock species in India is still lower than that of the world averages.
The latest report based on Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households in India ( indicated, over 90% of the small scale farmers (owning <2 ha land) continue to remain detached from new technologies and guidance from public research institutes. Of the 40.6% households who received extension assistance, only 11% of the services came from physical government machinery- extension agents, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and agricultural universities. More farmers depended on other progressive farmers (20%), media including radio, TV, newspaper (19.6%) and private commercial agents (7.4%). To bridge the gap, appreciably, the Indian Ministry of Agriculture is encouraging digital interventions in agricultural sector (… ). Recently two Mobile Apps were launched on Crop Insurance & AgriMarket. Also, there is tremendous increase in Farm Advisories sent to the farmers (947.76 lakh SMS) under National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture.
The total numbers of mobile phone subscribers in India reached 975.78 million in May 2015. The mobile tele-density had increased to 77.58% in May 2015.Number of Internet users in India is the 3rd largest in the world next only to China and the USA. Though the number of internet users is high, internet penetration is still much lower than most countries across the globe. Despite rapid expansion of mobile networks, connectivity still is not as good especially in remote rural areas. While an improved mobile and internet penetration with better connectivity in rural areas means startups venturing into the agriculture sector to solving issues concerning farmers. The entry of startups and private sector in agricultural sector is something very much welcome to make farming glamorous enough to attract rural youth and retain their interest in farming. Growing number of young farmers in India now own smart phones!
Agriculture is important for India’s development, since, it contributes to 18.6 per cent of India’s GDP, and approximately 59 per cent Indians derive their livelihood from the agricultural sector. But, the farmers in India are at disadvantage as they get only 30% of what the consumers pay for food items, compared to the farmers in developed countries, who get almost 70 per cent of the consumers’ price. Here the mobile apps can make a big difference by making the farm to market supply chain efficient. Many agencies both government and private sector are now providing mobile voice service to small scale farmers in India by sharing information towards improving agricultural production practices. Many KVKs too are providing such services via mobile phones, wherein, relevant and timely agricultural information on plant protection, agronomy, horticulture and animal husbandry etc. are transmitted to farmers over the phone.
Mahesh Chander, Head, Division of Extension Education, ICAR- Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar-243 122 (UP) India
The views expressed are personal, can not be attributed to institution I work with.

Osman Abbass
February 03, 2016

VERY INTERESTING TOPIC,I am Medical doctor, have specialist in public and tropical health, working with Patients Helping Fund, NGO, in Sudan, am very interested in telemedicine, YES for me internet can play a crucial role in ending poverty, for me using of telemedicine can help in solving many health problems, as for example here in Sudan mobile and internet are widely used. Still there are many challenges facing application and implementation of telemedicine, but still there is a hope.

February 08, 2016

no internet cannot end poverty to end poverty we need to change the vision and policies of the government towards the poverty we need to plan and work we must fight corruption,injustice to end poverty

Khalid Barau
February 10, 2016

The world globalisation is increasingly turning into a nightmare. I hate poverty, I hate injustice. It's very difficult to do away with this two giant obstacles in especially African region. But defeating unemployment and creating Job opportunity for growing number of our ages will surely make the world a better place. Internet has changed the world and so as the world will surely be a better place one day.

Dusita Meecharoin
February 15, 2016

I think that's the show broke the camel 's back.The Internet make to people's all can learn to world wide with knowledge everyday... The best for educations and learn to the international development of thinking ... Thinking Development , Internet Business Development , Internet Globle Development , Learn of the Internet Development of future forever ... It's possible at my good suggestin ... I agree with you fully ... You can challenge to price sale between international the world ... For me everything is perfect ...

Mark Condon
March 28, 2016

The Internet is slowly making its way to everyone. Efforts to create very economical smartphones / tablets, programs that share recycled phones and mobile devices, and projects that enhance the global network for Internet access with additional mobile towers and local Wi-Fi are advancing every day. Once these resources are in place, illiterate people will use the visual and audio aspects of digital resources to learn about the world beyond their homes and to learn to read and write. Anything that folks do, from providing free online picture books for new readers (e.g. and to developing videos in local languages will strengthen and extend learning resources. Crowd-sourcing to develop these kinds of digital educational resources is the future of basic education.

Joe Ho
August 22, 2017

The same question is "Can education end poverty". The answer is it depends on education quality, not education itself. Poor education is worse than no education at all. If we teach wrong things to our children, it create poverty instead of end poverty.
The same rules goes on the Internet. Can Internet end poverty ? It certainly depends how will Internet develop in future. It depends on how our government and us manage the Internet as well.
If Internet is full of content farm, advertisement, spamming content. It certainly not able to end poverty.
If Internet is full of pseudoscience or quackery it will make our society worse.
Pseudo-scientific concept may be the biggest friends of poverty. How we kill pseudoscience concept is the biggest issue.